The Malagasy language has a lot of dialects. What they all have in common is that each word ends in a vowel. The names for things are quite long because the name is supposed to be descriptive of the thing, place or person. For example Andrianampaoinimerina means – the prince in the heart of Imerina. Or the name of the capital city is Antananarivo – ’city of thousands’

The center of the Merina people was Ambohimanga. We visited there. The kings palace is not all that big. Traditionally it was one room with an 8 meter high ceiling. If a visitor came, the king would climb to the top of the roof and queen would receive him. He would listen to the conversation below and if he wanted to see the visitor, he would throw down a pebble. This is where the words 'eaves drop' comes from ... just kidding. Anyway. The visitor would have to go out, the king would climb down, etc etc.

When the queen had visitors, she would watch them carefully through eight mirrors to see if anyone were trying to poison her (eight stands for ’enemy’). She also had a cupboard with a secret panel which she could escape through if necessary. In other words the royalty lived in constant fear.

Another interesting anomaly: the king had twelve wives. They lived on each their own hill up to 20 miles away. They would take turns staying with the king for one month of the year.

On one of our trips we came to an area in shadow because of an overhanging rock. At the entrance was a tree with a little pool of water on its roots. On the edge of the pool was a glistening black frog with a bright green back (mantella frog). I bent over and took many photos. When I straightened up, I looked around me. There were caskets everywhere. Our guide, Jean Claret, said that these were his ancestors. The oldest was from the 1600’s. Sometimes they bring offerings. If one of the dead had had a craving for beer, they brought that. If they had liked white cloth, they brought that.

I notice that many dwellings have a pile of rocks. Most of the houses are made of leaves and wood from the forest. Maybe sometime in the future they plan to build something more substantial. It makes present giving easier. ’What do you want for Christmas?’ ’A rock.’ It would represent a kind of wealth. I bequeath my rocks to my daughters. This is probably all nonsense.

On the road to Antananarivo we passed through Moramanga (mora – cheap, manga – slaves). Curious town. There were hundreds of rickshaws – some motorized, some tricycles and some drawn by humans. It was the only town in Madagascar where we saw rickshaws.