Planet Baobab

I spent a bit over a week in Madagascar. When I flew in, I was sitting near the emergency exit and the flight attendant explained how to open the emergency door. It was the first time I’ve had a flight attendant ask me: “If I’m incapacitated due to a crash, please take me with you when you exit the plane.”

Unfortunately I missed out on some parts of Madagascar that I wanted to see because Air Madagascar had cancelled all of their domestic flights due to a strike. I still got to Morondava, but I had to endure a 14 hour bus ride to get there. It was one of those trips where you don’t want to drink too much – only a couple of toilet stops (where you have the option of pissing behind a wall). We stopped at one place for petrol and more than 20 people swarmed around the van, trying to sell things. About half of the people were selling bags of raw carrots. A few people on the van bought some bags. Sadly, no one bought anything from the woman selling kitchen whisks.
We arrived into Morondava around 10 at night. I hadn’t booked any accommodation because I wasn’t sure if I was going to flying that morning. There was a beach bungalow place I was going to check out the next day, but since it was late, I just wanted to stay at a cheap hotel near the bus station.
The minivan driver spoke a tiny amount of English and I speak a little bit of French. He asked where I was going, and I said I was going to check a hotel across the road. He shook his head vehemently and made a throat cutting gesture. (And he wasn’t trying to get a commission at another hotel).
I ended up at another nearby hotel. I asked if they had any rooms.
The receptionist replied – “You must look at the rice.”
– Excuse me?
– You must look at the rice.
He pointed to a sign showing the PRICES of the rooms. Since I just wanted a bed for the night I got the $8 a night room.

In Morondava I visited Kirindy Forest, which is supposedly the world’s most biodiverse area for primates. Basically there are a whole lot of lemurs hiding in trees.

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There were also some owls hiding in trees.

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And I also met a fossa – a kind of lemur-eating cat.

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I also visited the Avenue of the Baobabs (in Australia similar trees are called boabs) and watched the spectacular sunset there.

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Once you’ve travelled a bit, you realise that foreign cultures aren’t that different and there’s a shared universality to the human experience. Life in Madagascar isn’t that different from life in Australia. Pretty much every day in Melbourne, cheerleaders stop me and ask me to take their photo.

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Madagascar is not somewhere you go for fine cuisine. Restaurant menu options will usually consist of choices such as:

Spaghetti: Bolognaise
Spaghetti: With Garlic
Spaghetti: With Butter
Chicken: Grilled
Chicken: With Sauce
Some restaurants also offer Chinese cuisine. That usually means
Chicken: With Chinese Sauce

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The Last Khan’s Elephant

My Mongolian story, The Last Khan’s Elephant was published in issue 2 of Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things.

The cover has a beautiful illustration and the book is full of beautiful interior illustrations.

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Posted in My Writing, Writing Tagged with:

US Road Trip

After Orlando, I flew to Chicago and joined up with a small group tour – a camping road trip that ran from Chicago to San Francisco. Along the way we stopped to visit such wondrous attractions as the world’s only corn palace.

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In South Dakota we visited 1880 town where things ended badly.

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We visited the Badlands.

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The Crazy Horse Memorial is much bigger than the Mt. Rushmore memorial. It has been under construction for more than 60 years and still isn’t close to being finished.

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In Wyoming we visited the Devil’s Tower, which you might recognise from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

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Doing my part to prevent forest fires.

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Yellowstone National Park

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Grand Teton National Park

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This is what happens when I’m put in charge of getting dessert.

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Antler Arch in Jackson

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Salt plains in Utah

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Yosemite National Park

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San Francisco

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After the tour ended, I went to the wedding of some friends and then went up to Seattle. The Chihuly Museum has some amazing glass sculptures.

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I also visited the EMP Museum which has lots of music displays and science fiction displays.

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Swords from The Princess Bride and Highlander movies.

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I finished the trip by visiting friends in Spokane. The weather was really nice for wandering around Manito Park.

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