Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Reality Sets In...

An old radio situated on a table outside the school room on the Filofito compound, where I live and work. (Taken 19th of September, 2013 By Ian Stitt)
The early morning view of the Malagasy highlands covered in fog/ smog, it was taken from the taxi brousse going from Tana to Fianar.  This was the first day of travel in the two day journey to Toliara.  (Taken 12th of September, 2013 By Ian Stitt)
                It has been a little over 10 days since I have arrived at my placement.  The reality of the position that I committed to back in January has begun to set in.  It is a reality that although tough to swallow has already shown its rewards.  There is beauty in this place, beauty that is not on the surface, but deeply imbedded in the litter covered soil.  The Malagasy are a complex people, a people with well formed assumptions and fears of anything not predictable.  The silence that permeates the air between us strengthens this thought.  Things often go unsaid, especially on my part.  This may be the toughest part of this experience.  For it feels as if my true self is not seen, not understood, not realized.  If you have ever removed a leg of a table then you know that this table is still functional but unsteady.  This is my metaphorical existence, having the crutch of a majority, more than necessary, existence.  This is a cold thought.  It was best stated in the book How Coffee Saved My Life: and other stories of stumbling to grace by Ellie Roscher:

The view of a small malagasy village and rice fields located in the highlands of Madagascar.  This was taken while I was with 3 other Mad YAGMs on the taxi brousse to Fianar.  (Taken 12th of September, 2013 By Ian Stitt)
“I got through the first few days calling up courage from moment to moment.  I observed without understanding a word.  Every now and then I would try to talk, each sentence a struggle, an embarrassment, a cry for help.  I was herded around, never really knowing what was going on.  I ate, slept, and breathed.  Such automatic acts became victory enough (p21).    Success was redefined.  Going from an abundance of friends, food, family, power, and comfort to none, my situation felt like a primeval struggle for survival.   Every day was new and scary and exciting and exhausting (p22).” 
Life is slow here, things progress minute by minute.  The American experience of reality, where days fly by, is not useful in Madagascar.  Though, this may just be my experience of Malagasy life.  Regardless love abounds, there is a beautiful relationship between parents and kids.  I can’t explain this experience other than by saying that the
The view from my taxi brousse window of some fields while on my way to Toliara from Fianar.  (Taken 13th of September, 2013 By Ian Stitt)
glimmer in a mother’s eyes as she cares for her child is cross cultural.  Older children take care of the younger.  Community is abundant and since the day I arrived I have been accepted, as much as a Caucasian can in a Malagasy family.  I am treated like a son of my host mother, Jeannette and also a guest of honor.  Though I would say that the honor is all mine.  I spend my nights while the power is out in the yard watching the beautiful and enormous amount of stars or laughing with Mickael and Raian as we kick around a ball made of what seems to be bags.  Mickael and Raian joke that it is a “Malagasy ball”, though deep down I know this to be a sad statement on the realities of Madagascar.  It is an enlightening experience to laugh and play with these two young boys without any words.  These are the moments that seem to make up for the inevitably long days, 3-4 hour church services, and unending heat. 

The road I took to get to Toliara, may be the only one to Toliara, taken after a restroom break on the 11-12 hour journey.  (Taken 12th of September, 2013 By Ian Stitt)
The usual 6:15 wake ups to Malagasy hiphop dance music has been a difficult transition.  Though, it did prepare me for the first teen cultural emersion.  I was asked to join the kids of my family for a night at a dance festival, by the ocean.  It was an interesting feeling to be the only white guy, taller than most, at a young adult (loose term for any kid who wanted to attend no matter the age) festival.  I got to experience the tapa tapa (twierk) dance along with many of the others, still nameless to me, that my host brothers and sisters had shown me in the days preceding this event.  There is a tragic disconnect between present American culture and the culture seen on music videos and advertisements.  The adoption and integration of false American cultural fads can be seen in every part of young Malagasy life, from the big belt buckles and flashy jewelry to the orange Mohawks.  Semi-comical and yet tragically real is the realization that I have become embarrassed by the younger American generational fads, just like my parents. 
This is an image of the Little boy and his mother in the seat in front of me on my bus to Toliara.  I was making faces at him when I took this.  (Taken 12th of September, 2013 By Ian Stitt)

Madagascar in all of its complexities and beautiful facets is still a dream.  It is unimaginable that my existence here, though short, will last an unimaginably long, rice filled, year.  However, it does help that Milou, the puppy, has taken a strong liking to me.  She curls up and falls asleep usually near my feet as it gets dark every night.  It is comforting, though the fear of getting bitten by the ticks that are thriving on her is a bit disconcerting.  This is especially true for my host sister, who remarks that nearly every one of the bites, itches, or tickles of my skin is a result of the bugs from the dogs.  This does not stop me, for I see it as a calling to show the Malagasy that their abusive nature with dogs is not necessary and is actually counterproductive.  My host mother agrees when I say that the Malagasy and especially the family look to me as an example of how to treat the world.  It can be seen in the fact that trash is no longer
This little girl is related to the young boy and his mother in the other photo.  She had bad car sickness and was getting sick the whole ride, though she smiled through it.  (Taken 12th of September, 2013 By Ian Stitt)
being thrown on the ground but into a pile to be burned and the fact that the dogs are no longer being kicked.  Let’s hope it continues!  

This is a view of the front of my humble 2 room house on the Filofito compound.  It is nicely located on the back side of the school room and next to one of my host sisters houses.  (Taken 19th of September, 2013 By Ian Stitt)

Jeannette, my host mother, is a medicine maker and these are a couple of the workers standing on the machine they use to extract the herbal remedies from the plants.  (Taken 19th of September, 2013 By Ian Stitt)

This is the dog Tolie, looking as cute as ever while relaxing in the shade on a hot Malagasy day.  (Taken 19th of September, 2013 By Ian Stitt)
This is Milou playing with a piece of fabric that she found on the ground.  She has taken a liking to following me around and falling asleep between my legs.  (Taken 19th of September, 2013 By Ian Stitt)

These two are my loves, Tolie and Milou(the puppy).  They have stole my heart and I am currently training them to sit and lay down.  It is not an easy job for these two!  (Taken 19th of September, 2013 By Ian Stitt)

This is my host mother Jeannette and her grandson Joshiano.  Joshiano does not know how to crawl or walk yet but loves to dance and mumble.  (Taken 19th of September, 2013 By Ian Stitt)

1 comment:

  1. I love your blog! Thank you for sharing your journey! It is incredible. And Wilson would be so happy if you brought him back some friends.