Dear mum, please order a Chinese for 4:45 on the 26th for Shredded Chilli beef. Thanks x

Team one has spent the last few days at AAF continuing the work from the previous groups.

One of our tasks was taking back tree branches and shrubbery which were extending over the stairs where the builders were planning new work. While this was happening the rest of our team were working on rendering the stairs which were built by the previous team in their last stint at AAF making them ready for use.

Another task we were given was to demolish an old water holder tower. We made a start on this with hammer and chisels as well as power tools to take down the concrete which the supports structure. The following two teams will be continuing this work by removing a concrete lid and finally removing and, if possible, preserving the brickwork.

On Wednesday afternoon, just after lunch, some of the Malagasy Scouts took us to a touristy shop in Tana where we had a chance to pick up some souvenirs for ourselves and people back home. After this we went to a local Pizza chain called Gastro Pizza. We were all very, very happy to see some familiar foods, with no rice in sight!

Tomorrow we will return to the seminary for our last few days at the Scout centre before leaving for our R&R

By Aiden


Updates from the Malagasy

Our colleagues in Tily Eto Madagasikara (one of the local Scout organisations) have been updating their social media with some of the work we have been doing.

You can see their Facebook page here or their Twitter profile here.

There are plenty of pics of the work we are doing, and there will also be videos and more content up throughout the next few weeks.

Thoughts of John

Another switch over day for the teams on the two projects and my team’s first work load at Akany complete, which flew past faster than ever with many amazing experiences; it definitely wasn’t without a few unique experiences along the way aswell. During most of our time spent at Akany we worked on constructing a new staircase at the back of the building from a stone platform which the previous team had aleady put together. For the materials used we ended up using more of a dirt/water slurry along with some Madagascan clay bricks, rather than a perfectly mixed concrete and high grade bricks that would more likely be used back home.
While at Aknay we always had our lunch with the girls that permanently stay there aswell as the Malagasy scouts which were kindly helping us with our work and taking the roles as our qualified boss and construction engineer of the building site. The food we had for lunch also needed a bit of getting used to as every day it was rice, rice and more rice with some other kind of vegetable and water.
On our second last night at Akany we had quite the football night when Madagascar were playing the Democratic Republic of Congo in the African football cup, this caused the whole of Antananarivo and most definitely including the girls at Akany to get pretty hyper during the game, it was great to see the keen support that the contry has for its international football team. This did make Madagascar scoring a goal extremely obvious when full city burst into cheers and certainly did escalate to the extremes when Madagascar won the game after the game going to extra time and penalties, when the fireworks were set off and the celebrations going well into the early hours of the morning which was certainly successfull at keeping me awake for a good couple of extra hours that night.
During this time the other two teams that were set up at the scout centre were also working away at repairing a brick staircase leading down to a Cub area that they have set up and also continuing construction work for the new dining shelter, while very similar to us getting well baked in the sun.
So far the expedition as a whole has been such a life changing experience and I’m sure it still has a full ton more to offer in the remaining few weeks, which everyone is eager to discover.

By John

The fished product and the team who made it.

Halfway through

We are almost reaching the midway point of the expedition but it feels like we’ve only been here for a few days. The work at Akany and the Scout centre is steadily progressing in the right direction so hopefully we will leave Madagascar with both projects in a much stronger state than when we arrived. It has been great to experience the culture and climate of Madagascar, especially for me playing football with no shoes with other Malagasy kids which was an unforgettable experience, even though it ended in my foot getting cut a wee bit. It was also great to see the unified passion of the Malagasy folk with respect to the national football team’s progression in the African cup.

The food is still a little odd to us but the local street food has been surprisingly tasty – especially the Mofo Menakely, a sort of doughnut ring that only costs 5p! Although, some of us were rather shocked by the fish served last night, that still had the head and eyes. The sun has been unrelenting recently which has made the work even harder as we have been sweltering in the sun. Not only is the culture different but the landscape is a drastic change from the Scottish environment, mostly because it seems to be coated in the red of the clay walls and roads with the occasional patch of grass or small group of trees. It is, however, very impressive to see the rice paddies that pepper the countryside and in the middle of the capital itself.

Overall, the expedition so far has been tough at points but it has also been very rewarding as we have been able to not only see but work in a completely different way of life and place.

By Joe

Palaces Galore

Today all three Scottish teams and their Malagasy counterparts met up for a tour of the local area. We were led by Franck, Tily eto Madagasikara’s international commisioner, whose real life job is as a travel agent.We first visited the King’s Palace – a UNESCO World Heritgage site situated atop one of twelve sacred hills around Tana. This is the only hill to be seen from Tana which has not been deforested, so is still covered in primary forest. It was interesting to learn more about the history of the Malagasy monarchy and how it was influenced by missionaries from other nations (including our own). We learned about customs regarding burial, everyday life and addressing the commoners.After lunch at the seminary, we went on a bus tour of Tana with Franck as our guide. He pointed out various sites of interest including the town hall, a monument to the Malagasy soldiers who died fighting for France in the two world wars, and a stadium. We left the bus to visit the Prime Minister’s palace and the Queen’s palace. The former was originally made of wood but was rebuilt in stone by the Scottish architect James Cameron. It unfortunately burned down recently but the exterior still stands. The latter is now a school.We later visited the church where the first Scout group in Madagascar was formed and learned to distinguish between different types of architecture which had been influenced by different nations. There was an informal Malagasy lesson on the bus home and we taught the Malagasy Scouts a peg-based game which required no verbal explanation – who says there’s a language barrier?

By Kieran

Sam’s food blog

As the weather is getting very roasty-toasty it’s more and more important to think about what food you’re eating. So here’s your Malagasy food blog to get all the information about what’s yum and what’s dumb. From fermenty melon to condensed milk sandwiches, there’s absolutely everything.

The primary food we’ve been eating is rice – it’s large in both quantity and variety! You get rice with water, you get rice tea, you get rice cakes, you get rice the colour of sunburn. After the initial adjustment, the rice is incredibly palatable. One particular favourite of mine was a banana and rice cake, wrapped in banana leaf – not too disimiliar to a koogul.

For the Malagasy bread, it has many commonality with the Malagasy bricks, in that it’s cheap, crumbly and there’s not a lot to it. It has become a necessity to apply condiments to the outside of the bread, to maintain baguette integrity. The condiments for this bread have some variety, there is incredibly soft margarine, and ridiculously sweet marmalade (most marmalade I have encountered has a clear deficiency of bits although on one occasion there was some thinly sliced orange)*.

After conversing with a Malagasy gentleman, I discovered that it was traditional to only salt the non-rice portion of the food, known as lota. This custom has resulted in some extraordinarily salty potatoes. Now, by all means, these fried potatoes were exquisite and contained some vital slow-burning calories, although the rice was very necessary to soak up the excess salt. It’s interesting to see the unmistakably French influences that colonialism has had on Malagasy cuisine. On more than one occasion, I’ve eaten brioche and pain au chocolat and some foods have acquired their French name in everyday parlance.

I was quite interested by the variety of opinions regarding the French language and colonialism. The reactions ranged from a general indifference and acceptance of the French language, to a distinctive anger and adamancy that due to Madagascar’s high levels of debt towards the French government, that they were not truly independent. Yet this did not stop the Independence Day celebrations as we arrived into the country.

Regarding the drinks of Madagascar, most fruit or fizzy juices were almost intolerably sweet. One particular example of this is the local Bonbon Anglais, which was in someways more similar to icing than juice. It seems that Madagascar has not quite adopted the same sugar tax as the UK. To a large extent this is likely to act as a sterilisation for the subpar water quality.

The coffee, primarily drank by the vozaha (foreigners) and the elderly was very, very good. It was sufficiently strong and the chicory notes are most pleasant, although I have observed most of the Malagasy adding a sacriligrous quantity of sugar and condensed milk. On a similar note, many of the Magsaysay will produce a drink where they will allow a green tea bag to gently sniff the water before several teaspoons of condensed milk. Upon trying this homoeopathic tea, I discovered that it was drinkable yet somewhat acquired.

After experiencing the depth and variety of Malagasy cuisine I am both surprised and gladdened by the flexibility of the human digestive system and I’m looking forward to discovering new treats.


*NB, this controversial viewpoint is a personal opinion of Sam, and is not reflective of the stance of the rest of the expedition, who know that no bits is a far superior form of marmalade.

Tranom Bitsika – a photo update.

We realised last night that any pictures you have seen are of the AAF work. As it’s lunch over here at the Scout Centre we thought we would supply some.The long walk up and down the hill to supply water & bricks to the work sites. A morning ritual by now.Progress on the retaining wall for the car park & games area- ensuring that our work doesn’t get washed away.Working on the same wall.Before we started work.Tools used.We got a bit arty – football and Scout Centre.This is a Malagasy commissioner. We like his Gillet.Mixing concrete for the building work.

1 week gone

WOW what a week. July 2nd marks 1 week into the expedition and what a week it has been. Over the past few days we have been as busy as ever. We spent Sunday resting, relaxing and cleaning. During the day on Sunday we went to a swimming pool complete with a football pitch and basket ball court which was a nice way to unwind. Then later on we came back and had to cleaned the dorm, toilets, etc. (yes I did clean my room mum) and do a wee bit of laundry. Monday had two major things:

  1. It was the 1st July and
  2. The first Team swap over occurred.

Team 2 moved over to AAF and Team 1 came to join us at the Scout Centre. For Team 3 it was business as usual heading straight to the Scout Centre where we continued to work on the retaining wall of sand bags and doing water runs. We also moved a lot of stones from the bottom of the hill, all the way to the top for the retaining wall the builders were building. All this lifting and carrying made Monday a muscle building day!
We also found time to start making the form work on the dining building so that we could start creating concrete pillars and supports for the walls and roof. It was fair to say we all slept well last night.

Tuesday started with the normal alarms going off but as Fisher is at AAF there was no LED light show to really wake you up. Instead a herd of elephants was supplied courtesy of Mark and Arran thundering about. Once breakfast had been demolished we slip, slapped and slopped (put sun cream on) and boarded the bus and went to the Scout Centre. The first task of the day was water moving (note we have been drinking a lot of water but this is need for the cement and concrete making as well) after we moved water we started putting steps into the hill side at the top as it was very steep making it very hard to walk up never mind lug a water carrier up it! As we were doing this the builders continued to make the retaining wall and started doing the concrete for the dinning building. We stopped for lunch which was rice, beef and a wee bit of salad (another nice meal). After lunch we continued working on the steps and providing water to the builders as they did the pour and before we knew it the bus was there to collect us and we boarded it once again for the hair raising return journey back through packed streets to our accommodation. were we had some time to relax, do some laundry and have a shower. At one point I thought the Spice Girls current come back tour had stopped in Tana, but it turned out just to be Arran singing in his shower.

Dinner tonight was red rice soup (you’ll find us talking a lot about rice) and meatballs another Malagasy meal. Which brings me to now, where I am sat typing out what we have been up to the past few days and realising that time really does fly. It feels so long ago that I was boarding the Lothian Airport bus. But roll on the rest of the Expedition if its anything like the past week than its going to be a trip of a life time. The next few days I will be continuing to work on the Scout Centre projects till Wednesday. From Thursday Teams 2 and 3 will swap over and I will be at AAF for the first time. I am looking forward to the change of scenery and tasks.
Look out for others blog posts popping up over the coming days and if you are enjoying it please share so that more people can discover that Scouting really does provide great experiences and skills for life!
It will be my shot at some point again to tell you more…
Matthew (Milson) Wilson

Swap over day at AAF

By Fraser

Yesterday was the first swap over for the team at AAF. As Team 1 headed off for their first day at the scout center, Team 2 arrived ready for work at AAF.

We were given three tasks so far; the first was the demolition of a wall for a new door in to the kitchen, the second was the removal of a section of concrete and brick to allow space for a new shower and finally the erection of a roof between the building and the neighboring wall.

The team have worked very hard for the last two days and the projects are coming on well.

Yesterday evening we went to the local supermarket for some snacks before our first dinner at the local cafe run by the girls at AAF.

The girls have been very exited to see us and it has been great chatting them, and answering all their many questions.

We are all looking forward to seeing what the next few days have in store!

A Sunday at AAF

Good evening all, a slightly shorter post tonight as Sunday is very much a day of rest and relaxation in Madagascar (so in the spirit of cultural exchange we joined in). The below is from the AAF team & is being posted with the sound of (very) wild celebration occurring across the city as Madagascar have just topped their group in the African Cup.

After a very busy few days, we visited a local church to celebrate a Scouting and Christianity’s role in our lives. We also welcomed 3 locals, into the worldwide family of Scouting, as new leaders

We then returned to AAF go have some quiet time, which we spent resting and learning more about the Malagasy language (including them learning some Scots) and building bonds with local scouts.

Pictures to follow when there is a better connection (think every Malagasy person is messaging their friends in celebration).