Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Souvenir Hunting

After a breakfast of croissant, egg, coffee, and a glob of sweet milk from a can, I headed out to the Tana ATM (I have a Mastercard-branded CIRRUS card and can only access my account at one specific banking chain in Madagascar) and then to buy a stamp.

Not a postage stamp. No, it's one of those rubber stamps. But here in Madagascar, rubber stamps are handmade and purchased on-the-spot at small tables that stamp-makers have set up on the street. There's a group of them at the bottom of the giant stairs that lead up the cliff from the commercial downtown up to the residential and embassy neighborhood I was staying in.

I chose a stamp-guy at random, picked a sample design, and handed him my words to add to the stamp. I had a few orders to fill for my souvenir program. He had me spell out the words carefully on paper. No point in spelling a new stamp wrong!

The stamp-guy took the sample design of a lemur and chameleon, stamped it on a thin piece of rubber, drew a circle around it with a compass, then went to work with a bare razor blade.

His dexterity amazed me. He carved tiny hairs on the lemur and little back-ridges on the chameleon. But what also amazed me was the fact that he used his trousers as a cutting board. Noooo! But he didn't hurt himself. I noticed a few slices in his pants but he didn't cut anything but the rubber mat this time.

And when he was done, he used rubber cement to glue the rubber and a corresponding wooden pedestal that I'd picked out. Amazing.

And bargain-priced at $2.58.

I was pretty pleased with my souvenir-shopping score until my friend Peter innocently asked if I'd seen any lemur lamps.

No, I had not. And now I wanted one.


  1. Wow. Thanks for posting the photos. Very impressive, especially the lettering. He needs a mail order business.