Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Beaucoup Oeufs

     While lying in bed one morning in Madagascar’s capital city Antananarivo trying to pronounce Antananarivo and scratching my various mosquito bites, I discovered a small hard lump on the bottom of my foot. Very small, but we had learned after seven months in Africa that little things could turn into something big so off we went to the clinic, which turned out to be a maternity hospital. This will become significant later. Through pantomime and our very minimal French I bared my sole to the doctor and tout suite she had me up on the gurney in her office/operating room. An attending nurse smeared my foot with betadine and the doctor placed the business end of her scalpel over the lump. I pantomimed "Ow! This will hurt! No anesthesia first? Numb the foot, s’il vous plait! Me no likey pain." The doctor pantomimed back, "We don't normally do that here; I’ll cut slowly and see how much it hurts. It's just a sharp knife, you big sissy!"

     While charades are being played between the hospital staff and me, Scott is flitting around the doctor and my foot, trying to be helpful while cheerfully proclaiming, "Maybe it's a maggot!" He said this in English though so they ignored him - until he brought out the camera. Then they were all smiles, pantomiming that copies be sent and becoming very cheerful. So everyone was cheerful but me. The doctor began to cut and all I could think about is the scene from Gone With the Wind when the Confederate soldier who is on the table about to have a leg amputated yells, "Don't cut! Don't cut!" while Scarlet looks on in horror. I think I even whispered, "Don't cut!" but I said this in English and my head was buried in the gurney table pillow so everyone ignored me.

     Camera clicking away, doctor cutting away, me looking away, when suddenly the doctor shouts " Voila!" Scott aimed the camera and said with anticipation, "Is it a maggot? La maggot?" The doctor, smiling for her close up said, "Non! Beau coups oeufs!" Which for you non-francophone types like me, means “lots of eggs.” My Mom always said what a good host I was but this was ridiculous.
“Eggs? In my foot?” I asked with horror. "Je deteste oeufs! Unless they're over easy with bacon on toast."
The doctor and nurse pantomimed a little insect drilling a whole in my foot and laying her eggs. I could tell it was their most interesting delivery of the day.

     I most likely acquired the stowaways in rural Madagascar or more likely in the garden of Karen Blixen’s home outside Nairobi in Kenya where pregnant insects like to live I guess. It's a lovely place and if I were a creepy bug I'd live there too.

     Making the most of my oeuf extraction, I thought it would be best to recover on a tropical isle. We flew to Ile Sainte Marie 25 miles off the NE coast of the Madagascar mainland and transferred by dug out canoe to an even smaller outer island, Ile aux Natte. The tiny island had a small troop of ruffed lemurs that are black and white with a very long black bushy tail and a white beard ala Uncle Remus. They leap from tree to tree looking like energetic koala bears. It was mating season though and of the six lemurs on the island there is only one female so there was a lot of yelling and screaming and crying going on when a suitor was rejected. The female was very particular and when her current mate fought off another male making advances, a big verbal fight ensued and the rejected lemur, I swear, cried while the winner gleefully groomed the tail of the female. We could hear them all the time, and see them most of the time, from the balcony of our simple bungalow on stilts over the Indian Ocean. We stayed longer than planned but we were enticed by the turquoise blue sea, the blindingly white sand, and the love struck lemurs. Ok, the real reason we stayed was because it took us awhile to adequately sample all twenty of proprietor Pierre's homemade flavored rums. Punch Coco was the hands down favorite.

     My foot was good as new after a week, sadly still size 9. We our left tropical paradise and made our way inland via bush taxi to visit some of the seventeen national parks and take a canoe trip in the south. We had to do this mostly by bush taxi because rebels blew up train track over much of the country in 2000. Africa is not easy to get around but it’s people, flora and fauna make it well worth the trouble. Just make sure you keep your shoes on.