“Did you sleep well in Mandritsara?” the locals ask us with a smile and a twinkle in the eye. Mandritsara means “sleep well” in Malagasy and this is a well worn joke in the rural mountain town in which our daughter, Caitlin, lives and works as a Peace Corps Volunteer. The other joke told in Mandritsara is that you have to sleep in many beds just to get there, since the town is remote and difficult to reach.
The road to Mandritsara is a bad as we heard with broken pavement, the evidence of previous mudslides, potholes that looked like they could easily swallow a small car, and my personal favorite, the stream we had to ford in our vehicle. (I can only imagine what this must be like in the rainy season).
Mandritsara, tucked into the mountains of Northwest Madagascar, was a welcome site, sprawling out over the valley (pop. 30,000). At the city gates, we were stopped by the police and asked about our visit to the area. Apparently we were not doing a very good job based on the time it was taking, so I said, “Peace Corps” and “C.S.B.U. (the clinic where my daughter works)” to which one of the men said, “Caitlin?” Once it was established that we were “Maman i Caitlin” and “Papen i Caitlin”, the parents of Caitlin, we were welcomed warmly.