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Shirtless in Sambava

The sartorial realities of our predicament set in Monday morning after a 4-hour night of sleep punctuated by the crowing of a local rooster outside who started sounding off at 3:30 a.m. The adventurously eager Ryan Britt, my roommate, was up at dawn to open the window, balance his Panasonic HD camera on the sill and record the sun rising over the cityscape 10 stories below on a time-lapse video capture. I have all my shoes, enough underwear and socks to last a couple days, toiletries and third-world meds, and one extremely casual change of clothes. I felt lucky compared to some others, especially to learn our bags, if they can be found, couldn’t possibly arrive until Tuesday night at the earliest, and near midnight at that. The last-minute money I spent on travel insurance was looking pretty good, but the possibility remained that a week’s worth of clothes for meeting with national media and government officials, including the president of the country, would have to be found at who-knows-where in our already busy daily schedule. Biblical customs were followed, with the well-off giving items to the needy (if the pants fit), but the shopping prospects in Madagascar for American-sized tourists are not rosy. We spent 90 minutes Monday afternoon at a shopping plaza, but found slim pickins in dress clothes for university administrators. I refused to pay $100 US for a dress shirt at several shops/tables at one place called Zoom. We had, overall, the best luck at a store named Jumbo, a Malagasy grocery with hints of Wal-Mart from back home. “Dr. Money, when’s the last time you bought a dress shirt and tie at the grocery?” I asked the rumpled-looking president as we rifled through a small display of wares. He laughed. In fact, we all laughed a lot today. Getting mad accomplishes little. Most Malagasy men are slight in size, so S-M-L-XL means little here to us. Long tall Texan Jack Rich is counting his blessings to have his own clothes. He’d be in a world of hurt otherwise. The relative of one of our Malagasy students is a tailor who has offered to make four of us a pair of dress pants by Saturday’s event. We may take him up on it.