I cannot even begin to express to you the sights, the sounds, the smells, or the people of Madagascar using words alone. Not even a picture would capture everything I have seen and heard. You might be asking, why are you even writing if you can’t put into words or a picture what you are experiencing? It’s because the most impactful moment I have experienced you can experience too.
On Sunday, our first morning in Antsirabe, I found a gazebo (I love gazebos!) overlooking a small part of the city to sit in and just spend some quiet time. It was pretty early but the town was already beginning to bustle preparing for Church. I began to listen to what was happening around me. Over top of the birds, cars, music, and conversations I heard children singing, playing, and laughing. I couldn’t see these children but their sounds brought me such joy. I could not help myself from smiling.
On several occasions, we have ventured outside of the Norwegian compound we call home for the next three weeks. The moment we step outside of the gate of our comfortable home we become, vaza. Foreigner. Everyone seems to stop and look at us. You can feel the conversations begin to rise among the Malagasy people. The children sometimes call out, vaza, vaza! And then, more often times than not they smile and giggle. As uncomfortable as all the attention might be I look at the children and smile back at them. Their reactions to my smile vary and sometimes make me laugh too. So then, without any words, we laugh and smile together. A smile doesn’t disappear within seconds so as I continue down the street I make eye contact with a shopkeeper or someone passing by and smile. Do you know what happens? Despite all our differences, the lack of language, and the uncomfortable feeling I’m sure we both have…they smile too.
The pure joy a smile and laughter can bring is powerful. I already know that I am going to continually use a smile and laughter throughout my whole year. So smile, wherever you may find yourself. It is universal and crosses all cultural barriers. Besides, who doesn’t love to smile? :)