In Doany, clocks and watches are almost nonexistent. The people move at a carefree pace, keeping time only with the movement of the sun across the sky until it slips behind the mountains to the West. I am grateful for this rhythm, as I am notorious for being late despite the fact that I always keep my watch running ten minutes in advance. One would think that this absence of timekeeping would wreak havoc on the organization of meetings, schedules, and planning, but in the end (sometimes after several attempts) everything works out with a relaxed attitude and a little bit of understanding. Patience is definitely a virtue essential for life in Doany.
Perhaps it is partly due to the fact that school is not in session yet (the first day of school is actually tomorrow) that the pace of the villagers and certainly the children seems especially non-pressed. In any case, it would be nice if this attitude continues even after our schedule becomes more defined with the work of environmental education in the local schools.
This Sunday afternoon, we had a rendez-vous with Mama Rosalinda (the mother of Rosalinda and Liana, two of my friends who are students at the school next to our home) who had graciously agreed to teach us how to make her famous cake à la banane which we have loved ever since the first morning we discovered it at her little stall in the center of town. We had fixed the rendez-vous for somewhere around 2pm at her house, although we did not know exactly where that was. But she, like everyone else in Doany, knows precisely where we live, and had assured us that her house is just across the way from ours, and that all we had to do was ask for Mama Rosalinda and we would find her. Such vague directions as this are commonplace here, and they always seem to work.
It was already fifteen minutes past two o’clock, and I had begun to stress out that we were late for our meeting. We had taken our time, stopping for a cup of sweet coffee at a roadside stall before going to the market to pick up the ingredients as instructed by Mama Rosalinda—twelve bananas, baking soda, and two kapoakas (little tin cans previously containing things like condensed milk, which have become a standard unit of measure in Madagascar) of rice flour—that’s it! But the boys assured me that there was nothing to stress about, that rendez-vous around here are not exact, and what was important was that we kept our appointment in the end.
We arrived chez Mama Rosalinda around 2:50, and sure enough, she was there and greeted us with a warm smile. No problem that we were almost one hour late! She prepared the fire in the outdoor kitchen next to her home, and she showed us how to prepare the batter which is mixed in a wooden apparatus resembling an enormous mortar and pestle. Mama Rosalinda let me do the mixing, but lifting the pestle which is taller than I am and made of solid wood was not particularly easy! I have quickly learned that the women of the “brousse” (the bush, the areas outside of the cities of Madagascar) are stronger than the average woman, judging from the ease with which they can walk many kilometers over mounting trails without breaking a sweat, or carry several litres of water on their heads along with a child wrapped in the folds of a colorful lamba, the traditional piece of clothing throughout all of Madagascar.
The neighbors were amused to see me attempting the cake à la banane, and Mama Rosalinda giggled as a small audience of children assembled themselves on her front porch to watch the lesson. But the batter only took a few minutes before it was ready for the “oven” constructed out of a metal sheet placed over a big cast-iron pot. In no time we had a beautiful cake which we shared with our spectators and of course the family of Mama Rosalinda. A relaxed Sunday afternoon well spent before a packed schedule to begin in the coming week!
Alexa Markel (Madagascar 2014)