A year and a half in, and things look pretty much the same. It’s been awhile since my last update, mostly just because things have been so NORMAL that I haven’t felt that I had anything compelling to write. But then I realize that my “normal” isn’t actually normal, so here I am again. In my last entry, I talked about attending a Malagasy savatra, or circumcision party. After that, I headed off to Tana for my Peace Corps Mid-Service Conference. It was a great time catching up with my old Peace Corps friends, and refocusing a bit on the Peace Corps goals. Then I rushed back down to the South for my second cultural education in as many weeks…a wedding! And who doesn’t love a wedding?!
In this case, the bride was my friend and fellow Peace Corps volunteer Jess, who married her longtime boyfriend Haja. We ventured out to a small village called Faux Cap, about 170km west of Fort Dauphin. Naturally, the drive took the better part of 10 hours. But it was worth it. Faux Cap is situated on the 2nd most southern tip of the island and is probably the most beautiful and isolated place I have ever been. Jess and Haja had a traditional Antandroy wedding that we all were honored to participate in. Probably the most unusual part of the whole ceremony, besides the fact that the bride is basically bargained off by her father to the groom’s family, was when the groom had to refuse each of the bride’s sisters. It reminded me of Goldilocks and the Three Bears…each of us “sisters” was presented, and Haja refused each of us in turn. “No, not her, she’s too tall.” “No, not her, she is far too short.” “No, not her, she talks to much.” (Guess which one was mine!) Finally, Jess came into the room, to which Haja exclaimed “Yes, that one, she’s the one!” This whole exchange kept the entire room in gales of laughter, and was only slightly demeaning to us lowly bridesmaids. The ceremony was complete when we carried all of the bride’s possessions to the groom’s house, where we had a big meal and a party to celebrate. I was struck by the simplicity of the ceremony and the joy with which each part of it is carried out. Haja’s family welcomed us Peace Corps volunteers like we were Jess’s actual family, and put so much care and happiness into even the smallest detail of the event. From our hair and makeup, to the way we carried Jess’s belongings back to Haja’s house (on our heads of course!), his family instructed us on it all. The wedding was so fun and I feel so special to have been a part of it.
After a week of hanging out on the beach post-wedding, I headed back to Mahatalaky. Things here were and still are very normal. So what’s this “normal”?? I get up every day to the sounds of kids playing and roosters crowing and go to sleep every night not too long after the sun goes down. I work a few days a week at the health clinic teaching women about prenatal care and malaria and helping the nurse in whatever ways I can. On my off days, I hang out. I read, I make collages, I go for bike rides, I paint my nails, and sometimes I just sit and think. I eat a lot of rice and speak a lot of Malagasy. I get excited about fruit seasons. I both plan ahead (in my brain its already February 2013) and look back at what’s already passed (how has it already been 16 months??). I still learn a lot almost every day. That’s what my normal is here. Sometimes it’s boring and I feel like there’s nothing to do, and then sometimes it’s crazy and I wish that it would just even out! Madagascar is constantly throwing me for a loop, and although I had hoped that after this long I would be better equipped to handle it, I’ve learned that sometimes things just are the way they are. I feel so content and settled here that my whole perception of “normal” changed. Someone crashed a moped into my hut? Normal. Five frogs are hopping around inside my house during a rainstorm? Normal. A woman gives birth across the hall from where I work at the health center and is so quiet I don’t even notice? Normal. I haven’t washed my hair in a week? Oops, normal. Even all the animals are normal now, but I still hate them. I’m not really sure when things stopped feeling new and just started feeling regular, but it happened, and I like it, although it does make me question my ability to ever assimilate back into the Western world. So that’s why, in a nutshell, I didn’t really feel like I had anything to blog about. I’m working on a new malaria education and prevention initiative in Mahatalaky that I’m really excited about, but the details are still a little in the works so I’ll hold off on introducing it. Let’s just say for now that PHELT has been reincarnated and my dream lives on! Now here’s to hoping that ‘STRIKES’ don’t become a “new normal” in 2013, haha!
One thing that is trying to become “normal,” but I refuse to allow to, is persistent rain. This time last year, I was sweating it out in the most tropical climate I had ever experienced. This year, I am still in leggings and most days the sun doesn’t even come out! It’s like an infinite rain cloud settled over Mahatalaky and refuses to go away. A month ago, a steady 3-day downpour washed out the road and almost prevented me from attending my good friend’s going away party. Yesterday, I soaked through my hand-me-down raincoat running the five-minute’s distance between my house and the church. You heard it here first, global warming is real and it is happening! So without further ado, here are my top five reasons why I hate the rain:
1. In America, when it rains you curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and your favorite movie, and relish the excuse to stay inside. In Madagascar, you actually can’t leave the house, even if you wanted to. The movie option is out too, due to lack of electricity. So basically a persistent rain leaves you with a couple options: the first, stay inside and read. I already do that all the time. The second, stay inside and stare outside wishing that the rain would stop. That’s usually what I do: sit in my doorway and stare forlornly outside and dream of last year when I spent every day wishing it would be just a little bit cooler. Remind me of this post in a few months when I write a “Top 5 Reasons I Hate the Sun” post.
2. Rain disrupts everything. School, work, transportation, cell phone service. The kids have nothing to do, so they come bother me. They just stand in the door and stare, or they try and scare me. The latter is the worst, because oftentimes they are successful and then I am really embarrassed.
3. The road gets washed out and then no one can come or go. Namely, me. I hate the feeling of being trapped somewhere and when the roads gets washed out I am reminded of how rurally I live. The worst part is when it stops raining because the bad weather has actually made a terrible road more terrible. Oh Mother Nature, you fickle being.
4. Persistent rain or drizzle means getting used to constantly feeling a bit damp. My clean clothes are damp, my dirty clothes are damp, my blankets are damp, even my hair is damp. You might as well just forget doing laundry, because it will never dry. So its just weeks of wearing semi-damp, semi-dirty clothes day in and day out.
5. When you move to an island, you have certain expectations. Those expectations usually include beaches, sun, ocean, and surfing. I am lucky enough to hit three out of four (I still haven’t miraculously developed an ability to surf), but I can’t enjoy any of them when it rains all day and I have to content myself with sitting inside. Rain, rain go away, come again some other day, little Moni wants to play!
And that just about wraps it up. I wish everyone in the U.S. a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. If all goes according to my plan, I will be baking my first ever turkey all on my own! That will probably deserve a blog post, let’s be real. Here’s to hoping I don’t burn anything down! Bisous from Madagascar.