Saturday, October 5, 2013

Learning By Watching

I’ve been doing a great deal of watching while I have been in Madagascar. When you cannot always understand what is being said and you do not have enough language to ask what to do, you watch. I have learned the order the women I share a table with serve themselves by watching. I have learned the precise way to scoop rice onto a plate, smoosh it down, and place the appropriate amount of laoka (side) on top. I watch each greeting so I know when a handshake is appropriate and when kisses on each check should be used. While walking on an uneven path I stare at the person’s feet in front of me so I know exactly where to step. Almost everything I do, I watch someone else first. However, I am fortunate enough to be living alongside amazing women who not only want me to watch them but also want to teach me and then watch me do it!

If you are part of the Thanksgiving! Lutheran Church (T!LC) community in Bellevue, Nebraska, you may be thinking this sounds similar to the “D Square”. I was thinking the same thing! The “D Square” is short for discipleship square. T!LC adopted this from 3D Ministries ( Each side of the square represents a stage of discipleship. The sides are as follows, I do, you watch; I do, you help; you do, I help; you do, I watch. The “I” refers to the person teaching and the “you” to the person learning. If you look at how Jesus taught His displaces you will see this progression. What’s really cool is that the young women here without realizing it have successfully taken me through the square.

As I’ve said, I’ve spent a lot of time watching while I have been here. A good portion of that watching time is spent on the porch of my house, where all the cooking happens. We have a small oven and a gas stove in the kitchen but the students must cook on a charcoal stove so in solidarity, we prepare our meals on the charcoal stove on the porch. Elliana, Paulette, Hanta, and Rova work like a well oiled machine to prepare a delicious meal. I always try and ask, “afaka manampy?” can I help but they always reply with a smile and a no.

Salina told me that we had an excess of sweet potatoes so the young women were going to make a cake. A cake out of sweet potatoes? I am intrigued. I asked Salina to let me know when they would begin to prepare it because I wanted to watch. I heard a soft knock on my door and it was Rova inviting me to watch. So like usual, I stood in the kitchen and watched the women work with such precision. Two of the girls beat eggs and sugar together until it was completely smooth while the other two peeled and mashed the sweet potatoes. It came time to add the sweet potatoes to the mix and I heard one of the women say something to me I didn’t understand but I picked up one word “manampy”. Help, manampy means help! I put it all together when I was handed the whisk. I was so happy to be asked to help prepare this cake! Paulette began spooning in the sweet potato as I cautiously whisked it all together. Occasionally, she would spin the bowl or take the whisk from me and smooth out a clump. Next, came the flour. Paulette added the flour to both my bowl and Rova’s bowl who was also making this cake for the first time. It became a competition to see who could mix in all the flour first. I mixed, and mixed, and mixed as Paulette watched me and cheered me on with “tsara be!”, very good! I’m pretty sure Rova let me win but all the women continuously called me the winner, as I had taught them the words winner and loser earlier this week. We poured the batter into two cake pans a placed them into a large pot that sat on a charcoal stove. What’s really cool is you put the lid on upside down and add charcoal to the top of the pot too. It sits like that for an hour or so before it is “vita” finished. In the meantime we finished cooking dinner all while singing, laughing, dancing and teaching each other new words. I have come to love the time we spend on the porch together. The next morning we enjoyed our sweet potato cake for breakfast. The women made sure to tell Salina which cake was mine and everyone praised me for how it turned out. I couldn’t help but smile although knowing I wouldn’t have been successful had I not had their help.

I wish I could say I have processed through the D square and picked up on everything as quickly as I did with the sweet potato cake, but I haven’t. It is a process that takes time. However, I am so blessed to have women who are patient with me and show and tell me over and over again until I understand. Even when I forget the next day they smile and repeat the process. That is the beauty of living in a community of believers. Each day they forgive me for forgetting yet again, give me the grace I don’t deserve and lovingly and persistently teach me again. 

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