Family and friends, please be aware this blog post is somewhat morbid, and not the typical upbeat and entertaining posts I have been writing since in country. While I had seriously considered ending my service multiple times during the day, I have some amazing friends and support system in country and they have helped me through this event.
The Malagasy have no fears with being blunt. The last two days, I have been in Fianar researching a class I will be starting and a new project I wish to start (trying to figure out if exporting a very talented artist’s painting was viable). It was a rough taxi brousse ride, waiting an hour in the brousse to fill up and then another two hours on the road for a trip that should take no more than 1 hour because the brousse stopped for what seemed like every single person on the road who looked they might want a ride. I had every intention of going into my house and locking my doors, watching movies all day. However, I wasn’t even out of the brousse when one of my best Malagasy friends, Olivia, came up to me and said “Christina, I have bad news, my sister is dead.” I was absolutely in shock—her sister was only 5 years old, and I held her hand for three hours during Independence Day as we went from storefront to storefront singing to the mpivarotras. The only Malagasy I could muster up was “Miala tsiny” (Excuse me/I am so sorry). I knew that fomba in Madagascar was a little different than what I’m used to in the States, and I knew I would have to experience a funeral at least once during my service, I just wasn’t expecting it this soon, someone so young, and someone that I knew. Olivia told me that the Wake was occurring and I was to go see the body. My family and friends who know me well know death scares me so much. When people in my family die, I typically shut down and don’t show emotion, but on the inside I’m a mess. This however was complete opposite. I have never felt comfortable seeing dead bodies, and especially of a little child.
I entered the home where Ami was dressed in a white gown and placed on the table. I was told to sit and for the next hour, it took everything I had to not run out of the room screaming. I’d even go to say I am absolutely surprised I have not had nightmares from the last two days. The family insisted that I touch her skin to see she was already cold. And they really wanted me to attend the all night event where they sing and dance around the body, but I strongly declined.
The next morning I was fetched from my house at 9 am to once again visit the family, present my condolences and give a money offering, and sprinkle the body with what I assume was Blessed Water. I went with the women in my village to give the men building the coffin and digging the grave coffee and bread, a Malagasy custom when someone passes. I ate lunch with the family and couldn’t have been happier to see my friend Amber roll up in a taxi brousse. We had made loose plans that she would come to my village for “Happy Hour” because Savanna was returning from being away from site for nearly a month. After what had happened that day, I had sent her a pleading text message to come and come earlier because I didn’t think I could deal with everything that was going on. Her timing couldn’t be better. The community wanted me to attend the burial and church ceremony, and I was in no state to go. Amber threw out some remark that she needed to do official business with me and we locked ourselves in my house until Savanna and two other PCVs arrived.
I honestly think it’s impossible to describe these days in depth enough to convey my thoughts and the emotions that I felt. But I am so happy that I have some amazing friends and fellow volunteers that helped me get through the day and convinced me that if I slept on it, I would regret I ever contemplated leaving the country. Which I do.