Sunday, August 25, 2013

The adventure has begun!

“The adventure has begun!” seems like the appropriate thing to say though is inaccurate in capturing the true magnitude of the journey that I have committed to having.  To help you understand, I should start off with this:

The Bulstode Pub located in Hounslow Center, London where the Mad YAGM crew stopped for a pint and some fish and chips during the long layover at the Heathrow Airport.  (Taken on the 22nd of August, 2013)
My sister asked if I had meant to use the first Hobbit movie title and I explained that indeed I had.  I can explain this by stating that my journey seems to be one of similarity to the one taken by Bilbo in the movie/book.  It is not an everyday thing, to commit to a year of service in another country. It is tough, dangerous, amazing, and all the other descriptors you can think of.  I can liken it to a conversational journey.  YAGM claims that I am a missionary though this is in my humble, but correct, opinion wrong.  The connotation associated with the term missionary is one of being above the people you are working with.  This is problematic in the accompanying model in which I work.  I know that I am not better then these people and I hope to allow them to teach me.  This is a chance for me to work with and in a new culture and circumstance to better both those I work with and myself.  I guess that I should say that this may very well be a chance to redefine the term missionary as a walking hand in hand term.  Though, this is something for me to explore further over the next year.

This is the view from my balcony overlooking part of the city of Tana.  We were staying at the headquarters for the FLM (Malagasy Lutheran church) and the Norwegian Mission Society (taken on the 24th of August, 2013)
My experience to this point is maybe one that I did not expect.  I left my family for Chicago and all through my orientation in Chicago it seemed to be a struggle for me to define my feelings.  I have come to understand that I am scared, nervous, excited, and at peace with this chance, which as I have continually been told is a good place to be.  It would be a lie to say that there are not people at home who are holding me up but also calling me home.  I miss that which is my sanctuary.  The balance of new experiences and trying to build a foundation of strength and support here is tough.  I am admittedly a complex human with many deep and shallow facets to my personality.  The dualism is palpable. (If it is not clear to you now, it soon will be clear that I use Buddhism to understand my experiences.)

A view from a hill overlooking Antsaribe, Madagascar.  It was while on a short hike that this picture was captured.  It shows the highlands similarity to the foothills of Colorado, including weather.  (Taken on the 25th of August, 2013)
The 2.5 days in which I have been in Madagascar have been abuzz with new experiences and familiarity.  For the sake of my current sanity, I will explain just a little of my road to here.  We spent 3 days in transit visiting 4 countries on 3 continents (Chicago, USA to London, England to Johannesburg, South Africa to Antananarivo, Madagascar).  After 35 hrs of travel, we were greeted in Madagascar by Austin and Tanya at the Tana (short version) airport.  After the night there we traveled to Antsirabe, Madagascar which is about 3 hrs south of Tana.  The air here in Mada smalls of soot, dust, trash, and human/ animal waste.  Though, unappealing it is a fond reminder of my experiences in India.  It is a welcome experience.  One that almost wakes you from the mindless slumber of the daily fresh air we Americans are so familiar with.  It brings you to the present and makes you realize that life is occurring and the city is being used.  The dust and haze greets your nose with a tickle.  People gawk and yell “Vazaha” while kids giggle and point muttering and sometimes yelling at us saying “Vazaha, Vazaha, Vazaha” and greet us in French, although we are English speakers.  We reply with a Malagasy greeting of “Salama Tompoko- pronounces Salama Toupco (I think)” and as if that was unheard of most Malagasy smile and reply with more Malagasy.  The probable reasoning for this has to do with the lack of desire or need for French to learn Malagasy.  If you don’t know the French colonized Madagascar and have since granted them independence.  Though French are still the majority of white people the Malagasy interact with.  This will be a continual experience and I foresee it being a struggle. 

The food is rich and made up of a main portion of rice (huge portion), a side of meat with a salad containing seasonal veggies, and for desert is fresh fruit like papaya, pineapple, and bananas.  This is at least my experience of Malagasy food.  Delicious and filling!  More to come for the road is long the journey has just begun.
Much love!

Austin and Tanya’s dog Puba relaxing under some shade provided by a large Virgin Mary statue at the top of the hill we hiked in Ansirabe, Madagascar.  Puba was a street dog adopted and trained by Austin and Tanya.  (Taken on the 25th of August, 2013)