Pousse-pousses, aerial photographs - and, yes, some lemurs, too
I was not placed in a village at the end of a 7-hour car ride on a very bumpy road, living in a wooden hut and being the evening entertainment programme for all the local children.
Instead, I worked at the WWF office in Toliara, a medium-sized town in the south west, enjoying the comforts of a cosy city studio apartment, and spending my lunch breaks on the busy fruit and vegetable market.
This is not so say that I have any regrets about my time in Madagascar. The project I worked on - Aerial surveillance of protected areas - is a highly interesting one, aiming to prevent slash-and-burn deforestation in a range of protected areas in the south west, through taking aerial pictures and localising deforestation clearings on them.
Whenever the evaluation of the aerial photos, geolocalisation of the clearings, and creation of patrol maps risked to become slightly dull, I could look forward to participating in one of the field patrols which we conducted regularly, relying on the photos to visit villages close to the new clearings and to discuss with the locals the harmfulness of this agricultural practice.
In between weekends spent exploring the fascinating spiny forest ecosystems of the south west, going snorkeling by pirogue, eating grilled seafood at the beach and learning Malagasy through karaoke songs, I had time and occasion enough to learn appreciating the hospitality and incomparably warm-hearted nature of the people of Madagascar, facing poverty and deteriorating political conditions with a never-waning optimism.