The Hazards of Snacking in Madagascar
In Western society we think nothing of it. The concept of 'The Snack' was developed as a simpler alternative to a full meal. A meal takes time, preparation and effort. A Snack is a quick-fix for hunger. They are also more readily available than a full meal and can be purchased from the nearest shop at your convenience. Beverage-snacks can also be made in minutes, hot water boiled with the press of a button.
From arriving in Madagascar I have finally appreciated the extent to which we take snacking for granted, for at the Frontier camp in Nosy Be the act of snacking carries with it many difficulties of its own.
Condiments become rare commodities which must be protected from the other volunteers with a vicious resolve. The 'no name and it's fair game' philosophy has managed to catch out many a wannabe snacker. When a care package arrives at camp they inevitably contain a veritable treasure-trove of foods that are necessary to survival, for the Australians-Vegemite, for the English-Marmite, which will once again spark the epic debate of which one is truly tastier, with both sides refusing to concede.
Although snacks can be bought on camp, it is an arduous affair, a quest undertaken to find the much sought-after snack box key. Once the key is found the journey has yet to end. The snack box itself must be tackled, the lid prized open and one open is even harder to properly close. There is also a stark contrast between what one will find in the box depending on the time of the week. On a Monday (post re.-supply) you are spoilt for choice. On a Sunday the box is a barren wasteland of disappointment, where one might be lucky to find a dusty lollipop or lemon-flavoured Frego's.
The noodles that can also be purchased at camp make a mockery of the buyer by advertising a '3-minute preparation time'. If only the noodles here did not work on Madagascan time. The direction 'just add water' seems simple, or it would be where it not necessary to make your own fire from scratch. One you’ve managed to cajole the flames into existence you still need to fill the kettle which may or may not open depending on how it feels. Then you must tend to the fire as the kettle boils, lest it die. Thus this '3-minute affair' turns into an extended task that is not undertaken lightly.
Despite the many obstacles that separate you and your snack, the end result is far sweeter than one that is simply handed to you. The very fact that in this extraordinary place, miles from home, people carry Marmite here with them and thus a small taste of home is added to the experience you have here. Despite the difficulties posed by the odd snack-indulgence, there is something very satisfying about making your own fire the same way as the neighbouring villages and truly living the Madagascan snacking lifestyle.
By Bea Johnston, research assistant volunteer
Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.