My family mentioned this last week how much I had changed since coming to Madagascar when I nonchalantly mentioned I may need to drug Parasy to get her to Fianar and have this bump on her stomach looked at. I have to agree with them. I’ve been in country only three months, but have drastically changed from who I was before coming here. Walking the streets in Irvine sometimes scared me at night…after all it was dark! But here, where there are no street lamps, no distinguishable sidewalks in most cities in the country, and trash everywhere, walking home at 8p in Irvine wouldn’t faze me now. In comparison, life from an Orange Country girl to life in Madagascar wouldn’t even be on the same spectrum. “I needed a change of scenery,” I state every time people would ask me how I got to be in Peace Corps from a Hotel Management degree. I needed to take a break from the industry that I loved, or else I would end up hating it and I was already starting. And change of scenery it has been, in both the best and worst ways. Schedules don’t really exist here, it’s a ‘go as you please and wherever the wind may take you’ type of attitude. And I like that. No more working the same shift everyday, no more getting yelled at by guests over the stupidest things, no more feeling underappreciated for everything I put into my last job. If I am thirty minutes late to a class I’m supposed to teach because I was gossiping with the vegetable ladies, it’s no big deal. I only exited my house once today because I wanted to just have a ‘me’ day, “Don’t all vazahas do that sometimes?” they would ask. I rarely go a day here without someone telling me they are happy that I came to this country and I have already helped so much—I don’t know how much a few IT, English, and keyboarding classes can do that, but it is very touching. Yes I still have those days where I’m like “what the heck am I doing here?” but those days have become far and few since I got to my site.
Things that would have seemed crazy and absurd in the States, are completely normal here. Oh you have to go to the bathroom but don’t want to find a public restroom (and these actually rarely exist in country), just stop on the side of the road regardless of how populated it is, and go, no big deal. You’re selling pigs at the Fianar market, but need to transport them there…well the only rational thing is tie them up, pull them up on top of a taxi brousse while they squeal an ear-pitching sound and then tie them to the top. And add the chickens and goats too. For those that want to come visit, which I hope will be everybody because this country truly is amazing, but get ready for these things that will blow your mind:
(side note, I really like lists, and I find that I tend to put them in all my recent blog posts, so I apologize in advance, azafady!)
-Cramming more than forty people into a small church van (emphasis on the van part) even though it should really fit 15 max. (which although it’s crazy, it’s actually quite fun to see how many more you can fit in the car). That’s what we call a taxi brousse here.
-Trying to push (emphasis on push) your way though a mob of people worse than a sold out day at Disney on Market Days which is every Thursday—visual description: the tsena (or market) is angamba (maybe) 75 feet x 75 feet and even with 5000ish people squished in the space, you can always fit a few hundred more.
-Hitting a wall of stink when entering a tsena because they’re showcasing their dried fish in the window and it not only looks disgusting (all crippled up) but you’re pretty sure it’s the same fish that you saw three weeks ago.
-Walking through the market in Fianar and stepping in a puddle. You pray that it was just muddy water and not anything else.
-See that one cow walking down the road by itself and know you should get out of the way because that cow will take down everything in its path. There’s a reason it’s walking by itself and not with the rest of the cattle.
Those are the more pessimistic observations, but surprisingly I wouldn’t change them. They are what makes Madagascar, well Madagascar, and I truly do love this country. But in case you wanted more positive observations:
-The endless rice fields and hills that offer a picturesque view all day, every day
-Correcting a Gasy person who is telling everyone you’re just a typical vazaha and can’t speak the language in Gasy and then watch them their mouth drop open in astonishment.
-Making your way through the Frippe section at the market 30k from your village(clothes, clothes, clothes!), and run into someone in your village, stop to miresaka for a little bit, and watch the crowd around you have their mouth drop open in astonishment that you’re speaking Gasy.
-Pretty much anything that makes people’s mouth drop open in astonishment that you’re speaking Gasy.
-Walking through town trying to find your puppy who you had let run around this morning and she decided to be maditra and go on an adventure. You can’t find her, but everyone knows what your dog looks like, knows exactly where she is, and even picks her up to give to you (which if you know Mada, you know that people do not like dogs, they don’t treat dogs right by any means, but treat your dog differently because it belongs to the vazaha).
-Bike 30k to Fianar every week and just take in the view the entire way (well except for when you get to the Hill aka Grendel, when you curse at yourself as to why you decided to bike in the first place)
-Stand on your porch on Market Day and want to applaud the men and women who carry large and heavy bundles on their head. How do I know they’re ridiculously heavy? I tried to lift one and almost got a hernia.
-Head home after going to the market to buy produce and have to stop because the chickens are crossing the road (no joke intended, really happens), with the geese not far behind.
-Eat the most delicious oranges that you have ever had for only 1000a a kilo, a real steal in your eyes. In which case, you now average eating four of these huge oranges a day.
-Climbing a hill that seriously looks like it is perpendicular in Chacos and pat yourself on the back when you get to the top and you didn’t eat it.
So you see, I am a different person than I was a year ago when I was working for Disney and, well to be frank, very unhappy. My methods may be a little garbled at times now, but I think it’s for the better, don’t you?