Africa · Madagascar · The Nomadic Life

In Case of Emergency, Exit Through the Window: A Malagasy Bus Ride

From my vantage point squished in the backseat of a taxi-brousse meant for the smaller bodies of Malagasy passengers, I wasn’t able to see the man until he was halfway out the car’s window, shoving himself out head first with a hot pink Jan sport-backpack in tow.

“He’s saying ‘fuck this! This brousse is never going to leave!’” The Peace Corps Volunteer taking us to her site translated for us between laughs of amused disbelief. “Oh man, look at Drunky there! This other dude is slapping the crap out of him!”

The man, who couldn’t be much bigger than my 5’3” self, was swaying under the excessive amount of toka-gasy (the Malagasy equivalent of moonshine) in his system, and limply taking a battering to the face by another man – equally small and equally drunk – trying to shove him back into the open door of the brousse.

“So Drunky there is saying that the bus is never going to leave because the driver has run off somewhere,” which was true, “and this other guy, who I’m pretty sure is drunk too, is trying to get him back into the brousse. But look at them! He’s not even defending himself! That other guy is just giving it to him,” the volunteer narrated as we watched one Gasy man slur insults while slapping the other’s face. Drunky leaned against the van to keep from falling, but otherwise did nothing but slur about the brousse never leaving in response.

Meanwhile, other passengers were shouting at the pair, clearly preferring Drunky’s decision to throw himself out the window of the car than to sit next to him for a 6 – 10 hour long brousse ride. Within minutes, the driver was back, joining in on the shouting and successively slammed the door shut and revved the engine… without Drunky.

Finally, we were off at a slow crawl through the crowded brousse station with Drunky left to stagger back towards the ticket counter, luggage still strapped to the top of the van. As we pulled out, the brousse fell silent and Drunky’s seat was taken by a young, teenage girl who came running up to the brousse just before we were about to turn out of the station.

“Damn. Lucky girl,” the volunteer commented, and on we rolled, out of the dusty capitol and south towards the bandit-ridden roads off the RN7…

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