Archives for the month of: August, 2013

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Neny  usually has hot water ready for my “ladusy” (shower). It is very very nice of her to heat my water for me. Sometimes I’ve woken up hoping not to have to take a ladusy because it is cold, but I can’t say no to already warmed water. Once i commit to taking a ladusy, i actually really enjoy myself. I’ve become a PRO at taking a complete shower + shaving with only using one bucket of water outside. My host family is very very loving and kind. They are very happy and I am grateful to be sharing these weeks with them. Sometimes, I stop to realize how wild it is where I am, having a Malagasy meal with my host family in Madagascar. Rufa, the youngest sometimes runs over to me when she sees me walk from class. I spend a lot of time with her and Neny and Yancing repeating Malagasy kitchen vocabulary. It sometimes takes a few days of ongoing repetition for me to retain new information. A lot of verbs begin with the letter “m” and I mix them up sometimes. I’ve gotten better on listening for words and identifying them once I hear them. It’s still wild to me  that after all the time I spent studying, learning and talking about cultures, societies and communities in my sociology classes, that I am now living in it. I am learning a new language and living in a new culture. Woah. The other day I had a moment to think about why I joined the peace corps. And while all the reasons I’ve stated about being intrigued about learning about humans and cultures and communities and connecting with people are very true, I also had another thought. I joined the Peace Corps to grow as a person, to learn more about  our world and to hopefully help others learn and grow in my own process. There is something about the human  experience that really intrigues me. I’ve truly enjoyed my days here so far.

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On skin care. One morning I walked in to greet Neny before my run. I found her wearing a face mask while she sat cooking rice and heating water. I thought it was cool. I thought about it on my run. I remembered feeling judged the times I’ve sat with antioxidant masks on my face. There really isn’t much that separates “the developed” world from other places. Even among the busy days of fetching water, preparing meals, cleaning, hand washing clothes, watching the kids, going to the market, and selling fried bread and coffee at the episerie, Neny is just like other Nenys. I was honestly a little shocked to see that. It never crossed my mind that my Neny, who’s feet and hands are printed with the hard work she does every single day would ever be sitting by the fire with a mint scented mask setting on her face. I didn’t have the skills to communicate with her that morning, so I asked my language teacher to teach me to ask her what was on her face. I did. We had yet another bonding moment. She said she had blemishes on her skin, and said that was why she needed her face mask. She also asked if I put masks on my face with my Neny in the US. I said I did with my sister and friends. Beauty is a universal force that holds us all together. Beauty all around, especially in the heart. Two more nights left of living with my host family. Dada sung a beautiful melody with veluma and Stephanie while Neny and I washed dishes in the dark.

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“Just BE”. I have now spent eight days in Madagascar. Five of those, I have spent at my host family’s home in a small village called Mantasou which is about a three hour bumpy ride from Tana. We had only four hours of Malagasy Language classes when we were dropped off to meet our host families for the first time. It was a pretty bizarre experience getting off the cars, most of the village there greeting us and everyone’s faces filled with anxiety. Most of us forgot to wear our name tags. I did. It was somewhere packed in my pack. We only had a few minutes to pack before leaving the training center. I was worried and hoped that all the miscellaneous things I would want for the next five days were somewhere in my pack. I was also nervous for what I was about to get myself into. Oh god. It just got real. I said my name when I noticed someone looking for a name tag on me. Then I felt an arm and there I was, greeting my host mom, Celina and Host sister Yancing. I looked around. I saw Cody as he asked if we were able to leave now. I replied, “yes, I think so,” and said “Ndao” (let’s go) and waved  “veluma.” (Goodbye) The walk down the road to the house felt overwhelming with different emotions. Here I was in Madagscar for only 2 days so far, with only four hours of language class and I was walking with my most family where I will be spending a total of four weeks with. It all had suddenly got REAL. . I wanted to cry, scream, laugh, anything. I felt like I needed a moment. I looked around. There were a lot of people  in the village who watched and observed us. Some greeted us, some smiled. There was a little boy who looked at me and literally started laughing right at me. I have no idea what he was laughing at. Perhaps he was  able to see my emotions, and was laughing at the fact that I had no fucking clue. Whatever it was, his laugh was freeing. I laughed right back. I laughed so free and loud. It helped me to get that out. We arrived and I met host dad dada (Zaka), host little sister Rufa and host brother Mamay. Yancing is 8, Rufa is 6, and Mamay is 13. We were all nervous. Especially me. They showed me my room which was furnished with a neatly done bed, a mosquito net, a center glass table with orange plastic flowers, and small tiny sofa chairs. All of the Malagasy that I was taught disappeared! Fuck I couldn’t say anything. Then loud African tunes played and we danced in their room. Def was not expecting that. But it was fun! We had tea and  bread together, I shared some prickly pear jelly and we looked at pictures from home to show them my family and friends. I helped prepare dinner with Neny in the kitchen. We sat in front of the small fireplace on the wall which is the stove while she cooked rice and beans and the cat slept in the ashes.wow. It was like something out of a cartoon. I so wanted to get a picture of that but refrained from getting my camera and instead be present with  all the newness. Dinner was good. it was an enormous amount of food!  The little girls led a prayer. I helped wash dishes with Neny with bar soap in buckets outside.
I helped get water with Neny and Yancing. It is about  a 7minute walk to the water hole. On our second trip back, I attempted to carry the bucket on my head because carrying one bucket was unbalancing and  tiring. It is easier said than done. I watched as Neny gracefully balanced  the bucket of water on her head and answered her cellphone while walking on uneven terrain uphill. Fetching water, not an easy task and something that happens at least every day.
Dada owns a market where he sells fried bread, coffee, salt, tobacco, sometimes vegetables, and candy right outside our home. A few days ago we helped Dada and Mamay dig a hole and burn ashes to put unripe bananas in. That day i did pull out my camera. Thankfully, Rufa loved being a photographer. I showed her how to use the camera and she took pictures all day. We usually have bananas or oranges after dinner everyday. Fruit tastes so good here! The bananas are small but full of flavor. So are the oranges. Today during language class, we practiced our Malagasy skills at the market.I bought four persimmons for 100ariary, which is about five cents. They were AMAZING! The food has been wonderful. We usually have rice for every meal accompanied by either beans, vegetables, and sometimes meat. So far,we’ve had beef, pork,and  chicken. One afternoon, during lunch We met the chicken that became our dinner that night. It was a beautiful blue and black feathered chicken. Dada asked if I wanted to kill it. I quickly responded no in the best way I could gesture and piece my  Malagasy  together. This all intrigued me though and I communicated that I’d like to watch. I had never seen a chicken killed. They enthusiastically motioned for me to grab my camera by running in for their photo album and pointing to the pictures. I hesitated to do so because something in me was not ok with taking pictures of this event,but I also respected their excitement in sharing a part of their culture with me. So I did. I helped Neny de-feather and dada took care of preparing the rest. I went off for my class and when I was back, a tasty dinner that we all partook in was served. During meals, Mamay is in charge of serving his sisters. I sometimes help him.
I always bring laughter to the table. Communicating sometimes turns into a mixture of a game of charades or pictionary. Sometimes I repeat everything like a parrot and other times I look like I’m having a stroke because I try really hard to remember how to say certain words and it takes me a while to finish my thoughts. Lol. They stare and laugh at me. Other times I piece words together from the dictionary which usually takes about ten or fifteen minutes. The kids usually laugh at me. And then we all start laughing really hard. other volunteers have said that they could hear my laugh from their homes sometimes and that they love it. They say we are fally  ( happy) fianakavi (family). Yesterday we got our cell phones. I usually try and tell my Neny what we learned at language class or what we did at the training center as best I could. I basically said that Peace Corps served us a phone again. That silly sentence alone was enough to make everyone laugh really really loud and hard for about ten or so minutes. It’s amazing that I have been able to understand most of what is going on. I speak in two word sentences for now but for the most part,  I get my point across.

Sometimes I wake up to the neighbor’s baby crying or to the neighbor’s pig squealing. I am in bed before stars are out and wake up at 5am. It has been fun interacting with my host family and being a part of their daily lives. The other night, I helped the girls grind coffee beans downstairs on the ground floor. I had never been down there. I actually thought that someone else might have lived there. But they keep their wood, extra rice,bicycle, and coffee grinder down there. I took turns with Yancing and Rufa grinding the coffee beans. It was fun but def not an easy task. The girls sometimes play kitchen together. They have miniature cooking steel pots just like Neny that they use to play with. image

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“All that matters will not change”

I am blessed and thankful to have been sent off on this epic adventure with warm embraces and love. I visited my sister in Colorado and met my new twin nieces. My brother and mom were there. It was wonderful spending time with my family and holding my nieces. When I landed in AZ, we celebrated EACHOTHER, and wished me well on my upcoming adventure. “I felt at home with my people at home.” thank you. Thank you to my friends who basically packed for me. Thank you all for the support.