As in, “The world is round (so we will see each other again)”. Last day in Madagascar. Tonight (well, tomorrow) at about 1 in the morning my flight for Paris takes off, and this time tomorrow I’ll be freezing near to death in France.
There’s been quite a delay in getting this up, but I’ve been in Morondava for the last few days soaking up my last fragment of time here in Madagascar.
There’s not much to report before Morondava. I was back in Tana working my little toosh off on my independent study project, which is finished, blessedly. I presented it without incident, and I think I did a decent job with the presentation, hopefully the paper too.
The only thing interesting that did happen is that I spent some time up in my old Tana quarter, Analamahitsy, to visit my host family for one last time and see my brand spankin’ new host nephew. My host sister Mi, whose belly I watched grow for the last few months, had a precious little boy. I’m a host auntie!
The trip to Morondava has been a lot of things:
1. A new town.
Morondava is a slow, hot little town on the central western coast of the island. It has a couple of paved roads, but other than that everything is molten sand. It’s a really pleasant place, actually. I’ve really enjoyed my stay here. That said,
2. A time to indulge
…We didn’t stay in the town like we normally do. We stayed in these wonderful resort bungalows right on the beach, as in, I can see the beach from the windows. We have air conditioning, showers with hot water, televisions, and two of our bungalows even had fridges. Let me stress: these things do not really exist all that much in Madagascar, and this is the first time I’ve lived in a place with AC and a working fridge since arriving. It’s a little overwhelming.
We also had nothing on the schedule but a language progress analysis by our head language intrustor (about thirty minutes) and a little chat with the Academic director (about thirty minutes). My days have gone something like this: wake up, eat breakfast, go to the beach, lay in the sun, read, go to the beach, eat, take a nap, go to the beach, lay in the sun some more, read some more, eat, have some cocktails/THB (Three Horse Beer, the Malagasy beer) with the girls, watch some TV, sleep.
Everyone in university back home: how was your finals week?
3. A time to enjoy sweet company.
When I saw the program list and saw that the trip was thirteen girls, I was nervous. I was expecting factions, cliques, cat fights. None of that happened, in fact, conflicts have been so minimal. I came here nervous with twelve strangers, and I’m leaving with twelve new dear friends. I have made a connection with each person on this trip and would call each of them my friend. As we disperse now all over the country, back to Texas, Washington, New York, Wisconsin, and other states, we wear a kind of experiential seal that connects us. This time would not have been the same if any one of them had not been here.
4. A time to reflect.
This experience has been a lot to me. I knew from the start that I was disadvantaged: zero travel experience, barely enough money to scrape by, and suddenly I’m dropped into this country on the other side of the world. At the beginning I felt like Charlie Bucket, just lucky to be here. I was taking a massive gamble, and I’m so glad I did. I’m realizing, as it starts to settle in that I’m going home, that this isn’t the end, it’s the end of one phase and the beginning of another. I have learned so many lessons here about life and love and family and how to be happy, and I know that at least some of those lessons will continue to shape the rest of my life.
I want to challenge French speaking students to look into this program (SIT Madagascar: Culture and Society) for the sheer brilliance of the staff and the sheer beauty of the culture.
But not even that. I want to challenge everyone to go and experience something like this, go to a culture completely different than yours. Not that there’s anything wrong with going to Europe, but try this too. Go somewhere completely and profoundly different from the US. Live in their homes, live in their families. Eat what they eat, sleep where they sleep. Learn their language, their politics, their jokes. Swim in their oceans, bathe in their streams, wash your clothes in their rivers, learn not to be afraid of their bugs (very me-specific).
How can you be so sure of your way of life, how can you even know or understand what it is, unless you understand other modes of life? How can you understand American haste without experiencing Malagasy “mora mora”? How can you judge the state of the world and the people in it without trying their perspective? How can you hope to understand the world (and shoot off your mouth like you do) when you’ve only seen a very narrow sliver of it? And the US is a very narrow sliver, and it makes me sad how many American are too terrified to leave their own backyards. There are hundreds of other cultures with completely different paradigms and perspectives. The world is so rich; don’t forget to breathe it in!
Start now. Do it young while it can influence the outcome of your life and—who knows?—the lives of the people you encouter. One human being can have such a huge influence. Even if you’re not young, it’s not too late to start experiencing, learning, and appreciating the world around you. One girl’s mom is here teaching English. Don’t make excuses. I’m not extraordinarily brave or anything; I just held my breath jumped. Anyone could have done what I did, especially with as many obstacles I overcame and as many doubts as so many people had in me. Of course, I had some crucial people who really believed in me, and they know who they are and how much I appreciate them.
Was this easy? No. In fact, it was the hardest thing I have ever done. But it was also the most rewarding, and even though I think I’m ready for home comforts and my friends, part of my is deeply devastated to leave. Part of me will always be stuck here in Madagascar, where I discovered a lot about how to live.
That said, you won’t hear anything from me for a bit, because I’m taking a vacation. From everything. James and I will be in Europe until the 31st of December and we’ll be back in Texas the first of January. See y’all then, have a good winter break. Send my regards to Austin, and tout à l’heure.