Written by Hank Wooley.
Salàma from Tana! After a few days in Antananarivo and adjusting to the new time zone, it is becoming more and more apparent just how amazing this field expedition is going to be. This week we have been darting from place to place throughout the city to make sure everything is in order before the rest of the Madagascar Paleontology Project team arrives this weekend. Navigating Tana has proven to be a challenging adventure- even for the taxi drivers we’ve had the pleasure of riding with. People, chickens, dogs, scooters, and other cars blend together as our taxi whizzes through the city each morning on our way to the MICET (Madagascar Institut pour la Conservation des Environnements Tropicales) building. Antananarivo is truly a spectacular city. Its buildings, houses, and streets drape over a series of steep hills and broad valleys, physically separating the city into diverse neighborhoods and districts. The hills are so delightfully steep that we wonder how the taxis (pale-yellow Renaults and Peugeots from the 1960’s and 70’s, very clearly on their last legs) ever survive a day without completely breaking down. There are hardly any sidewalks and no stoplights, so whether you are walking or driving, you better have your wits about you.
But despite all this seemingly chaotic activity (at least to an American who has never been here before), the people of Tana are the most friendly, open people on the planet. Everyone is cheerful and smiles at me even when I try to stumble through the few Malagasy words I have picked up so far. The most amazingly patient and friendly people we have met in Tana have been the team members at MICET. The MICET team seems to be superhuman- not only have they helped us with everything we’ve had to do to prepare for our expedition, but they also have been simultaneously organizing multitudes of other outings, from primatology research expeditions to study abroad groups. Spending the past few days at MICET and seeing the scores of researchers and students pour through has made me realize the importance of Madagascar’s environments to understanding our planet, whether they are the tropical rainforests lining the eastern edge of the island, the baobab forests in the west, the ancient dinosaur ecosystems we are about to uncover, or the cities and towns that coexist with all these environments. It’s only Day 3 of my time here, and already Madagascar has been a transformative experience for me.
Stay tuned for more blog posts in the next week! We’ll be talking about dinosaurs, the history of Madagascar, and about all the amazing research that we’ll be conducting out here for the next three months. Rahampìtso-Kòa! (See you tomorrow!)
View of Tana from our Hotel
The MICET (Madagascar Institut pour la Conservation des Environnements Tropicales) Building
View of Tana from near the MICET building