It’s Christmas Time, it’s Christmas Time! Wait…it’s February already? Where has the time gone?!
For the holiday season, I ventured down to the humid South East, because nothing says Christmas like 100 degrees and a beach right? I made it a goal when I first arrived in this country to try and visit every region in Madagascar before my time was up in this country because unfortunately, I will probably not be returning to this country any time soon. I will not reach that goal, but I have succeeded in seeing as many as I can. The South East is only an 8 hour drive from my village (which in this country is nothing) and I was afraid I would never go down there if I didn’t go now.
Amy joined me on the travels and we hit up three large towns before getting to our final destination, Vangaindrano, the home of one of my dear friends in PC, Emily. First stop, Ranomafana, a national park near my village. We ended up showing up at the most inconvenient time, in the morning just after the lemurs had eaten, so we failed to see anything too spectacular.
Next stop, Mananjary, the home of a stagemate Monica D. Mananjary is a little off the beaten path, but I felt I owed it to myself to go visit this beach town. It is home to the children orphanage of Catja, whose primary purpose is to take in multiples who have been abandoned by their families. In the South East, as well as other locations on this island, giving birth to multiples, whether it be twins, triplets, or more is taboo. While the reasons vary and are numerous, one thing is constant–giving birth and raising one child is hardship enough, but giving birth to two, three, etc at one time is in their eyes, impossible. It’s no secret that I am a multiple myself. To think if myself and my two sisters were born in this country to a Malagasy family, it would be difficult to be raised together and to survive. However, we were blessed to be born to loving parents, who hit the ground running preparing when they found out they were expecting three. With that being said, I wanted to visit this orphanage, see and play with the children and just show them a smiling face. Who knows, maybe in years to come, if I am still not married and childless, I will return to this island and adopt a set.
We passed though Manakara, spending the night before transiting down to Vangaindrano. While the trip was only 8 hours maximum, the infrastructure was one of the worst I have experienced in country. It dumbfounds me how the road can be paved fairly well and then abruptly stop, 30km from a very large town, and then pick up again after. We transited the road a few days after a rainstorm, but I can only imagine taking that road just after it has rained when the road has flooded and the potholes have grown to the size of small meteorite impacts.
For being one country, there really is no uniformity. Nearly every town you go to has a different variation of Malagasy that is spoken. I would be trying to feed my ego if I didn’t admit that I didn’t understand an absolute word of what anyone said in Emily’s village. I have learned through time though, that because my tribe is Betsileo, the hillbillies of Madagascar, it is completely acceptable for me to just nod my head and say the Betsileo word for yes/comprehension that you are following the conversation/agreement eh eh (said fast without much pause between the two) while throwing in a few kai ve? (while the first word’s spelling may not be necessarily accurate, it translates to no way!/no shit!) and no one would ever know. Yes for being apart of a tribe that is so often made fun of by other tribes in by his country!
To both my and Amy’s enjoyment and glee, we arrived just one day before Emily’s cat gave birth to 5 absolutely adorable kittens. They were dubbed “Christmas kittens” and when we were no biking the 30km to see the beach, frosting cookies Emily made in her fancy toaster oven–something her electricity could handle and most definitely mine would have not–or just hanging out talking, we were staring at the precious little kittens who still had their eyes and eyes closed, nursing all day every day.
For my last big vacation in country, I was pleased by what I accomplished. I can honestly say I will leave this country without having seen everything that I really wanted to see in this country during my down time and allotted vacation days. I have stated this many times before, but Madagascar truly is a country like none other, with so much environmental diversity, indigenous animals and vegetation, and natural beauty. It will be sad to leave when my COS rolls around, but I will forever wear my Madagascar pendent around my neck keeping on of my two homes close to my heart.