The town of Besatra seems to separated into 3 sections: Center, East, and West, with a possible sector to the South. The center is marked by a large tree (kili be) where the town gathers. The fokolany’s (president’s) house is near the center. The livestock seem to be protected by the houses around the cattle pen formed by cactus. They have other livestock―sheep (with their incessant godawful bleating) goats, chickens, ducks, and other animals (dogs, cats) but the cattle is definitely another pillar of their community and livlihood.
Kalaha, the fokolany (village leader or president) of Besatra, led us out through his fields today. Here, they grow casava, rice, sugar cane, pumpkin, eggplant, corn, mango, bananas, watermelon, and sometimes peanuts, tomatoes and peas. Children begin working the fields when they are 4 and the busiest times are August – October. The entire family helps to manage the field and bring in the crop. Fields are owned by families and upon marriage the father of the bride will give part of his fields to the groom―staring a new family plot. Agriculture is obviously a main focus here. The fields are arranged by rows of mounds, so not altogether unfamiliar. They use oxcarts to transport to and from the field.
There are children everywhere! They call me Natana and Doug something that sounds closer to Dog. Many of the youngest ones are naked with the older ones only slightly more clothed with old frayed rags. I believe the adults receive the best first and the children get the leftovers, that’s the way the meals work. It sounds almost malicious until you remember the high mortality rate in poor countries and that most of those deaths are children. If they make it through childhood then more resources are set aside for them. The ones who can will go to school tomorrow―if the teacher comes (she lives in another nearby town, Betioky). But the others who cannot pay will be left to run around. They are eager to lead us around, teach us words and stare at us. We are new and exciting to them.