Saturday, November 24, 2007

November 15, 2007 by Nicola Jane Barratt

Hey all,

Sorry it's been a while - had a fabulous time with Amy and Rick last
month. They arrived and flew up to Nosy Be for 4 days, diving with sea
turtles and whale sharks. We met them in Diego Suarez, at the
northern tip of Madagascar. Next morning we hired a Landcruiser and
driver to take us to the Ankarana Special Reserve. This place
consists of spiky eroded limestone towers called Tsingy and an
associated cave system. We climbed the Tsingy and smiled at the
lemurs hopping along ahead of us and the ring-tailed mongoose who was
hoping one of the babies would fall into his mouth. The giant bat
cave was totally "Indiana Jones" - thousands of bats could be seen
with flashlights, their eyes glowing red in the dark. There were
small, medium and large varieties hanging from the ceilings, chirping
constantly and a few flying around our heads. Whilst scrambling
through the passages, the guide warns us not to touch the walls, then
shines his light to show us the wall covered in giant spiders! The
Sakalava people hid in this cave for 2 years when the Merina people
were trying to conquer them (I wouldn't have lasted a day with the
chirping and the wings brushing past my hair and the guano everywhere-
did I mention that there's a crocodile infested river running thru the
cave?). We stopped to pay respects to some of the Sakalava who died
here – there is a pile of skulls and other bones with some coins that
the Sakalava leave who come to visit their ancestors.

We also drove out to a beautiful beach at the Baie of Sakalava. This
is a kite-surfing and windsurfing hotspot. The wind was blowing pretty
hard, but the water was turquoise blue. We were the only ones
strolling along the white sand beach, watching a few lone hopping,
spinning and flying thrill seekers out at the reef break. We wished
Pete Schneider was there to enjoy the wind and waves! We will never
forget Laady, our Malagasy guide, who took great pains to showed us
how untimely, lazy, and charming a Malagasy can be whilst
overcharging, lying and getting lost! The fresh fish, curries and
cold drinks were fabulous.

Halloween was good this year. Tigi won the best costume contest for
his age (a week of paper mache and paint for me), while Jackson won
the pumpkin-carving contest with his depiction of a witch stirring a
cauldron. Jeff's birthday has come and gone – we made a plan with a
local artist to make table tops out of giant ammonites as a

We have been hot on the trail of new jobs – a rollercoaster of
emotions – trying to determine the pros and cons of living in places
we've never visited - lots of letters, phone calls and emails to
exotic locations – Nanjing (China), Dubai, Buenos Aires, Rio de
Janeiro, Caracas, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Moshi (Tanzania), Bangalore,
Tashkent, some place in Spain – questions to ask, questions not to
ask, weighing the opinions of friends, family, colleagues, bloggers,
travel agents, tourists and school administrators - but the winner
this time – taking first place due to the high pay and benefits, great
housing, high academic standards, world class sports facilities,
proximity to beaches and mountains, attention to safety and security
………… and opportunity to witness peace in the making ………. Is KARACHI,

OK – before you start screaming- we have spoken with the Head of UN
Security here who got the scoop from Karachi for us. He says that the
security is tight –movement is resticted often, but everyone is
totally safe, at all times. Because we will be living on-campus with
full use of the resort-like facilities, we aren't worried about
restricted movement. The Director of the school speaks to the US
Embassy Head of Security weekly for updates and implements changes in
routine and safety precautions accordingly. Remember - CNN loves
hype – it sells advertising, but protest marches are the heart and
soul of political change. Also remember that 300 people die every day
in the US in car accidents and this never makes the news. Our US
gov't wants us to believe that life in other countries in incredibly
dangerous compared to life in the US –so you will be happy driving for
3 hours per day, working 80 hours per week - but we must try and
separate actual risk from perceived risk. When people make plans to
mitigate real risk, life is safer than when real risk is ignored.
Quality of life, for us, means a great education for our children,
lots of time with family during the school year and during the
holidays, saving for retirement, healthy and fun options for leisure
time, and a dynamic work environment. Karachi has all this and the
opportunity to live within a 1000 miles of the Taliban!

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