There are two very important people in my life here in Madagascar that I want to introduce to all of you. I’ve talked about them in passing but they mean so much to me that they deserve a whole blog. As the title suggest, they are my sisters but have also become my best friends. Their names are Hanta and Paulette. “Technically” speaking they aren’t my host sisters, as my host mom, Salina, does not have any biological children of her own. However, Salina has many spiritual children and Paulette and Hanta are two of them.
Paulette is a former student of Amboaloboka and now serves as a practicum teacher and helps keep Salina’s house up to tip top shape complete with delicious meals three times a day seven days a week. Paulette is primarily responsible for our 200 hundred chickens and their eggs. She and Hanta work together selling our eggs all over Fianar. The students, who are learning to take care of the chicken, pigs, and rabbits, learn under the supervision of Paulette. She even helped deliver 24 baby pigs after the first of the year! Paulette’s willingness to serve is incredible. She always has a smile on her face.
Now, a little bit more about our friendship! We began our friendship with my first time washing my clothes. There have been many times Paulette will get tasked with showing me where something is in town and we will spend a good couple of hours walking around together. Although my Malagasy is limited, as is her English, we always find a way to communicate. I love learning new words from Paulette. She will slowly sound the new word out and then continue to use it throughout the week or until I can remember it on my own. We have also found a new way to communicate, laughter. Paulette and I laugh constantly! It has become our unspoken goal to find new ways to make each other laugh everyday. It began with dancing anytime there was music on. Next, it turned into tickling each other. Every meal we eat our Fanafody or medicine of sakay (a perfect combination of spicy chilies, garlic, onion, ginger, vinegar, and salt). At some point we even made our own secret handshake that we do at the end of each meal. Recently, we have started making up our own songs in Malagasy to sing to each other. There are nights where our faces hurt because we have been laughing and smiling so much! Salina calls us Molly Mikilika and Paulette Mikiliki, that comes from the word to tickle, “Mikilikiliky” (me-key-Lee-key-lee-key). Although we have created our own pet names, I call her cookie and she calls me letchi after our respective favorite desserts. The end of each night we call out to each other, “Goodnight, cookie”, “Goodnight, letchi”.
Then there is my wonderful Hanta. Hanta just finished her studies at Amboaloboka last year and now is learning more from Paulette. Every morning Hanata goes to the market to get the food for the day. When she returns she prepares breakfast for us and then for the pigs! Hanta is also very good at sewing and enjoys making new things in her “free” time.
Hanta and I immediately bonded over music. When I finally got the courage to bring the ukulele out she desperately wanted to learn. For a while every night we would sit on the porch while we cooked and I would teach her. Now, she may be better than I am! We love taking turns playing and singing together. About a week ago, I came home from the cyber café singing “It is Well With My Soul” after being serenaded by Jon. Hanta heard me singing and started singing in Malagasy! We spent at least an hour if not more teaching each other the song in our respective languages. We’d sing the whole thing in English, in Malagasy, and then what I found the most beautiful was singing in our respective languages at the same time. This past Sunday we sang, “Blessed Assurance” (in Malagasy) at church. However, I can’t resist singing in English sometimes and neither can Hanta. So together in the midst of over a hundred voices singing in Malagasy our two voices were raised in English. One of the many things I love about Hanta is her eagerness to learn all things English and American. When it is just the two of us we always use this mix of English and Malagasy that I think only we could understand because when we are together we aren’t afraid of making mistakes. We support each other, teach each other, we ask questions and grow in more than just a language.
If you could only see the three of us together! There are times we laugh so hard we literally cry. When mom isn’t looking we take extra dessert. When mom isn’t home we have letchi eating contest! I could probably write a whole book on the silly adventures we have together. We always have a great time. I am so thankful for them and our friendship and the unique ways we have bonded. I love my actual little sister, Emily, very much and most days I love being her older sister but I’ve always wanted an older sister. I am so blessed to have two older sisters here in Madagascar.