Aside from seeing the animated movie one too many times with my four-year-old, I had never thought seriously about visiting Madagascar. Now, I am on a plane ride to visit this African nation and meet Dr. Rabary, one of our 2008 Honorees for the Health and Dignity of Women.
I am honored to be going, simply because I'm looking forward to meeting Dr. Rabary. From one phone conversation with Dr. Rabary and from reading her application, my first impression of this incredible woman is that she is a strong, dynamic leader who puts the welfare of the women in her country above her own personal safety and ambition. In addition, this trip provides me my first opportunity to see a UNFPA field program. I am very excited to see how UNFPA has made a difference in Madagascar and thus bring a more personal connection to my work in D.C.
Arriving in Madagascar: Finally, after 17 plus hours of traveling, I am in Tana, Madagascar. As I walk from the airplane to the terminal, I say a silent prayer that my luggage arrived and that I will find the driver that will take me to my hotel. As soon as I enter the terminal building, I am greeted by my driver—and I realize security is very different in Madagascar. He, along with many of the other travel agents picking up passengers, move freely between customs and baggage claim without anyone raising an eyebrow. He escorts me to the customs line and, after getting my passport stamped, sends me to get my luggage…which made it without incident! Considering that lost bags seem to be all the rage in the U.S., I'm extremely impressed.
As we drive to my hotel, my first glimpse is Tana by night. My impression is it’s 11:30 p.m. and there are an awful lot of people on the streets walking around. I quickly realize that Tana is a much bigger city than I had initially thought. In addition, I am struck by the poverty I see.
We reach my hotel and I am grateful to see Angeline has also arrived safely. We chat for a bit and make plans to explore the city tomorrow.
Saturday, June 28, 2008