Though Madagascar’s tropical forests and highlands belong to its lemurs and other natural treasures, the coasts are full of other primates: French men with the gorgeous Malagasy girls draped on them. The local bars belong to them as well, the restaurants too. It was pretty much impossible to dance in a club without gagging over a senior citizen groping a young girl inches away. One might look at it all as at a yet another devastating way in which the white man pollutes virgin international waters, but at second glance, if one manages to avert their eyes from the seemingly improper, it’s easy to see that it’s all only about survival.

The coast of Madagascar becomes lighter and lighter with interracial children. Men have their wives back home and their girlfriends here to vacation with. Some actually care about the girls and some pass them around like they were a carousel ride. I, for one, was very interested how exactly all these relationships worked and shamelessly asked every local English speaking vazah about it.

“…Yeah, Marco! You know, the guy with the short hands…” a blabbermouth dive shop owner eagerly told me. “His girl is that skinny chick "“ you’ve seen her. For a while there, she looked so sick! He was so worried… Heh, worried… He was shitting his pants! Hell! We were all shitting our pants!” He swallowed that last bit of the sentence and choked on it too realizing he was spilling a bit too much. “She ended up having… Eh… What do you call that? Um… Tuberculosis! Yeah… That’s what it was.” He said eventually and tried to change the subject, but I didn’t leave him much room to wiggle out of it. We spoke at length, and after layers of sex jokes and sarcasm have been peeled off, he said something that actually made a whole lot of sense: “…Call her a slut, and you’ll get slapped. ‘I am only trying to survive,’ she will say.”

Like everywhere, money is power. Local women have money, and local men are left on the sidelines to drive cabs and watch their women give birth to blond babies. I’d be surprised if there was no resentment. And I wasn’t surprised when a woman tourist ran up to me on the beach crying about a man robbing her of her purse with all of her money and documents.

Madagascar is a dream destination. It really is. However, one must never forget that this paradise we venture into is somebody’s home. Somebody’s island, the natives of which are just trying to survive. Madagascar is an adventure. Its treasures are special, unique, and worth fighting for. So it’s not surprising that we, as visitors, find ourselves having to fight for survival, a purse, or the right to be here and see it all as well.

Born in Ukraine, raised in Israel, and acquiring her higher education in the US, Sarit Reizin is proud to call herself a citizen of the world. However, to stay worthy of the title, she felt a nomadic lifestyle was in order, and in November 2005 left the comforts of the first world with no desire of coming back any time soon.