by Brian Jones, Community Research Coordinator, Madagascar
I can’t think of anyone who deserved a t-shirt more than Lôlô… a few hours ago he was in tears after one of our guys, Toto, let it slip to him that he hadn’t placed in the top 10 in the trash collecting competition, and so wouldn’t be winning a shirt. Seeing the instant-water works that were brought on, Toto was quick to reassure the weeping 6 year-old that there was still the quiz and various other games left that evening, plenty of chances for him to win one of these ridiculous Easter-egg coloured “Enteo ty afara” t-shirts.
When we were designing these shirts about a year ago we thought people might like them. We had no idea we were about to cause systemic mass hysteria in every town along the west coast of Madagascar where we do these turtle festivals. These things are bigger than The Beatles with mop-tops.
Andranopasy is one of the last villages we’ll be doing this festival in for now, and they’vealready heard about it from both their neighbours to the south, in Morombe, and to the north, in Belo-sur-Mer. With fishers covering hundreds of miles of coast regularly, they’ve had plenty of opportunity to see the purple, blue and green pieces of cotton with the slogan splashed across the front and back: ‘Enteo ty afara! Fano lany, Vezo manegny’,’Look to the future! If turtles go extinct, the Vezo will regret it.’(I assure you it’s much catchier in Malagasy).
It was no wonder then that one could literally hear the crickets chirping as Thomas went through his presentation about turtle ecology, the threats they face and their conservation. For a minute I thought everyone had gone home after a prolonged search for a functioning generator, but glancing over my shoulder, I saw roughly 900 eyes fixed intently on Thomas. The kids absorbing information like sponges, adults trying to look casual while scribbling into notebooks, elders trying to brush off the cobwebs and file away sea turtle numbers and factoids. All intent on the same mission; must win awesome T-shirt.
Back to our buddy Lôlô. To his credit, he didn’t give up hope and curl into a whimpering ball in the corner like a normal 6 year old might. He sucked it up, squirmed to the front of the crowd, and was the first to jump up when Thomas asked for volunteers to answer a question. Stiff competition– six other kids just as eager and quick to the draw have joined Lôlô. Thomas throws them a tongue-twister to thin the crowd—“Vorom-potsy fotsy fotsifotsy volon-tsofy”. The rest of the kids stumble. Amateurs! Lôlô is a rock, repeating it word for word. I watched his eyes, the kid didn’t even blink. Now comes his question, centre stage. Here it is, the moment of truth.
Thomas: “How many days does it take for turtle eggs to . . .”
Lôlô: “90 DAYS!!!”
Nailed it. Thomas couldn’t even finish the question.
Lôlô later confessed to Toto that he didn’t expect such an easy question.
“I thought he was going to ask me what the microscopic stuff in the ocean that a lot of different animals eat is called… it’s plankton, right?”
“Yeah… but wait, Thomas didn’t even mention plankton in his presentation this time” said ToTo impressed.
“I know, but I remembered it from the radio show you guys did, and the film you showed here last year, so I thought he might ask” replied Lôlô.
That’s one sharp 6 year old, and, who knows, future Blue Ventures Country Director?