Friday, June 29, 2012


"What did we do today?" I asked Ioan.

I was just finishing the last bits of my getting ready to go to bed routine (right up to 'get into bed and write world') when I realized I couldn't remember what we'd done!

Which is only because it was such a long day.

We set off to Lemuria Land today, stopping first at the ilang-ilang distillery (translated as flower of the flower, ilang-ilang form a perfume base), We saw how it was made— 500 kilos of ilang-ilang cooked with 300 liters of water to make 12 liters of oil. The picking takes 4-7 hours (80 women working), the cooking another 12 (20 men working— they put the flowers and water in, take the oil out).

Next, we met Napoleon, a 200 year old tortoise from Seychelles, whose 200th birthday was… today! He's blind, but he loves being petted. Just think! We, who went to the Gal├ípagos Islands to see lots of tortoises, finches, sea lions, and other animals, petted a 200 year old tortoise today, in Madagascar. And he liked it! He raised himself up and pressed his thin, strong neck into our hands as if we were the ones doing him a favor!

I can describe tortoise skin as something like rougher elephant skin— they're both hard and leathery, but the tortoise is a bit dirtier.

Next, we went around to the reptiles to see the snakes, frogs, lizards, etc, and to wait for our guide, Emanuel, to find the lemurs. Some lemur species are brought from the south of Madagascar to the 'zoo,' where they stay in one of the cages for 3 months before being set free. The Sifaca lemurs Emanuel found are just one sort of set-free lemur— we fed them banana pieces from our hands, holding them up to the lemurs.

They'd either take it directly from our hands with their mouths (always gentle— though sometimes their small canine teeth scraped, they never bit), or other times reach a hand out to hold our hand in place and then take the food. We even got one hanging upside down with its feet to reach a banana with its hands, but that was the exception rather than the rule.

It was amazing to see how quiet they were about it, too. No hooting, no crazy jumping (Sifaca lemurs 'dance' across treetops, zigzagging as they jump from branch to branch instead of going straight)— just an extended hand, as if they were preparing to kiss the inside of it, and then gently taking the bananas from our finger tips.

It was a superb, fantastic experience.

Ileana and I came back from the restaurant at 3:30pm and began putting together the beginning of the camp presentation. We have the introduction almost finished— one paragraph out of three, and the footage all thought out. After three hours of work, we have exactly one minute of video.

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