Thursday, 29 April 2010

Colours where we live

Sunset over Tana

A store at the marché artisanal

This plant has red leaves - all year round.

The beach at Nosy Bé

Monday, 26 April 2010

Buying at the Source - Factory outlets in Madagascar

You can buy this princess constume in Europe for about 30 euro.  It was made here in Madagascar.  We visited the factory recently and bought it for the equivalent of about five euro. 
There are other factories here as well.  There is a factory that makes clothes for Jacadi.  Take a look at this dress.  Jacadi is selling them at 69 euro a piece in Europe.  It's made here in Madagascar.  We bought one at the factory for a friends of ours back in Paris, for 15000 ariary - the equivalent of about 7 euro.  Actually, we bought another one too because at that price, why not? 

Here's another gorgeous one, also for 69 euro.  It cost us 7 euro, once again. 

While at the factory, I took a peek at the actual factory floor.  I wanted to know what the working conditions of these people were like.  The workers were mostly women - about 200 of them sitting down in chairs at sewing machines.  The factory floor was well-lit and the chairs looked decent.  Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take a photo.  They work about 45 hours per week.  And they probably make about 150 euro per month.
Should we feel guilty that we are exploiting people in a third world country when we buy these clothes?  My university friends would say that we should abstain from buying things from any of these places.  My thinking, having witnessed the conditions here as well, is that people would be far worse off if these factories didn't exist.  No, the working conditions are not perfect, but they are not what I would call Dickensian either - they get overtime, weekends, statutory holidays, and a ways that allows them to feed their children and buy school supplies.  They are unionized.  Do conditions need to improve for the workers?  Yes.  They need better wages and a shorter workday for starters.  As the economy of the country evolves, so will working conditions and wages.

Of course, as wages and working conditions in Madagascar improve, their products will become more expensive and the people in the developed world will, in turn, have to pay even more for them than now.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Adventures in Baby-Led Weaning

It's been five months since the Bambino has been eating solids regularly.  This time around, we didn't bother with preparing any purées or buying special baby food.  We didn't bother doing anything, really.  We just handed him the softest morsels of the food we were eating - pears, bananas, plums (when each of these has been in season here in Madagascar), potatoes, beans (I do smash the red kidney beans a bit with a fork because I don't want them to get stuck in his throat, chicken (cut into small pieces), red meat if I can get it tender enough, well-cooked broccoli, cauliflower and carrots.

The advantages of this method:

(1) Far less work in preparation  - in fact no extra preparation at all - baby just eats whatever you're eating.  We have been taking some small precautions in preparing our own meals - no salt added during meal preparation (we just add it at the table) and no egg white in the meals until now.

(2) No texture issues and no long-term addiction to purées.  The Bambino does not appear to have any of the texture issues that the Bambina had and still has - he will eat mashed potates and cut up whole potatoes.  He will eat food mixed together or separated.   And he loves anything with sauce on it.  Compare this with the Bambina, who has an aversion to any liquid food - so no sauce on pasta, no gravy on meat, vegetables cannot touch meat, rice must be plain.  Apparently, if you let them explore the food themselves from the beginning, kids are less likely to develop these kinds of food hang-ups.  I have friends whose three and even four year old won't eat solid food - only purées - because that's what the child was fed as an infant and he or she never got used to anything else.

(3) You are respecting your child as a separate human being who can feed him or herself at his or her own pace rather than treating your child as an oriface into which you shovel food.  A lot of children have food issues later precisely because they resent "being fed".

(4) Your child gets used to being an automous earlier on - with hands mind you, not utensils (at least not yet for the Bambino).

The disadvantages - it's extremely messy.  Lots of food ends up on the floor, especially in the beginning (age 6 months) when baby is really more interested in exploring than actually eating anything. 
And, contrary to what the Gill Rapley says in her book on Baby-Led Weaning, this method does not necessarily make for a less picky eater in terms of taste preferences.  The Bambino will not eat plain vegetables.  He doesn't have a texture issue with them - he won't touch them if they're puréed either!.  He just doesn't like the taste.  But then, neither do I.   If I am honest, most vegetables have to be sautéed in lots of butter (or olive oil) and garlic, salted, and / or covered in a lovely sauce and mixed with noodles or rice or potatoes for me to eat them.  The Bambino seems to take after his mom in this regard (but I do try to avoid putting salt in his food).

Here on Gill Rapley's Baby-Led Weaning guidelines if you're interested.