If you’ve got money you’ll travel Madagascar by plane getting a bird’s eye view of the rectangular patches of rice fields in all possible shades of green. If you wish to see what’s in between the protected areas and beaches that you most likely came here for, you’ll hire a jeep and maybe even ask your driver to slow down as you pass through a village, to take a quick picture of a local woman – her face painted with a special white, yellow, or orange cream to better the skin. But nothing will bring you closer to the real – not as cuddly as might seem from afar, but nevertheless real – Madagascar, as a two (three, four, five) day ride in a taxi-brousse (bush-taxi, Japanese minivan with seating for fourteen passengers, but generally squeezing in twenty or more).

Though in the last three years many Madagascar roads have been paved, locals still only seldom see a vazah – a white person, a stranger – crammed in with the rest of the Malagasies in a taxi-brousse. On one occasion, when a radiator blew in my taxi-brousse, I passed the time showing a few local children the pictures from my guidebook. I was so enthralled with watching their reaction to images of chameleons and lemurs, I barely noticed that the whole village we just passed gather to see what the vazah was showing. I looked up and found out that an amphitheater formed around me – smaller children in the front, giggling teenagers behind them, and in the back, as if supervising but really curious, the adults.

The pictures in the book soon became old news when I pulled out the camera. From my days on the Rio Napo – a tributary of the Amazon, I knew children will be entertained by their own photographs much more than those of lemurs or monkeys. I didn’t think the adults will get a kick out of it as well, but women opened their eyes wide and stepped back a bit clasping their hands to their mouths, startled at first, but then also amused. Men tried to remain unfazed, as it is appropriate for adults of their age and stature in the community, but smiles spread across their faces when they saw themselves, their wives or children frozen in some funny expression on the little screen surrounded by silver buttons.

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. http://HopStopTravel.com