The Fate of Paradise

Friday, October 13, 2000

Today, I have seen a place which I’m sure many people would call Paradise. While yesterday, I was majorly disappointed by what the trip offered, today, I had a blast for even less than half of the money. Xavier, the annoying French guy, a tour guide, a chef, a piroguer, and I took the pirogue along tiny rivers and across lakes all the way to the beautiful village Evatra. It was located between two bays. A small lake (fresh water), which was also the end of the river, on one side and the deep blue sea with beautiful waves on the other side. Behind the village, there were hills, light brown meadows leading to the hills, and a beautiful green forest behind the hills. All paths were either red earth or white, fine sand so you wouldn’t need any shoes. It was a little breezy so it was never too hot. The village was very calm and peaceful, with cute wooden houses built between coconut palm trees. For a while, we sat on some big rocks, watching the sea and listening to the waves while having some coconut milk (drinking directly from the coconut).

Where the lake meets the sea
Where the lake meets the sea

It was a 40 minutes walk to the other side, to Lokaro, a small island in another bay. On our way there, we met little kids who stopped, with mouth and eyes wide open, to see the big Vazaha and villagers, with baskets full of lobsters and bananas. They all greeted us nicely. Even in the village, life seemed so peaceful that it was inconceivable that words such as betrayal, hate, or murder even existet in those people’s vocabulary. We had to make a sad experience, however. There is one thing, the “snake in paradise”, which was introduced by the colonists several decades ago: money. The story is complicated but what it boils down to is the following: somebody we depended on decided to want more money than what he initially agreed upon (for no obvious reason). This matter sparked a huge argument in the village involving even another group of tourists and their tour guides. The problem is this: you can buy virtually everything, given the right amount of money. That is, money is not restricted to buying food only, for example, or just shoes, or just books. Therefore, many people become greedy because they can have everything they want with just more money. When we are beyond the point where people are still more important than money, we have lost peace and we do everything to protect our money. Evatra is still peaceful today but if things like that happen again - and it is likely that they will if more tourists with money discover this place - it will not be like paradise anymore.

I met this man from Sri Lanka the other day who has an office in Ilakaka, a town somewhere in Madagascar. At the beginning of 1999, Ilakaka was no more than two houses in the middle of nowhere. They found saphir there and there are now more than 100,000 people in this city, including millionaires, prostitutes, and criminals. People get shot there and this man’s office gets robbed every once in a while. All for the money.