Monday, March 31, 2014

I'm Blessed

I’m blessed to have bills.

I’m blessed to have student loans because that means I was able to attend a four-year private liberal arts college and pay for it later.

I’m blessed to have medical bills because it means I was able to seek medical attention when I needed it and not when I could afford it.

I’m blessed to have rent to pay because it means I have a place to live.

I’m blessed to have a water bill because I have running water 24 hours a day.

I’m blessed to have an electricity bill because I have lights when it is dark.

I’m blessed to have a gas bill because it means my house can be warm when it is cold and food can be easily prepared daily on a gas stove.

I’m blessed to pay for garbage removal because it means I don’t have to find a place for it and it is no longer in my living space.

I’m blessed to have car troubles because it means I have a car that can break down.

I’m blessed to “barely make ends meet” each month because in the end, the ends still meet and I am blessed more than I recognize.

I am blessed to have bills.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Amboaloboka- Eat Fresh!

One of the many things I love about Amboaloboka, the school I live and work at, is the fresh food. A good portion of what we eat comes straight from our own backyard. The students are encouraged to practice their gardening skills by having a small garden of their own. We have three plots of land, one for each class, in or around our property. The teachers from Fa Fa Fi, the agriculture department, teach the girls how to start and maintain a garden. The school provides the land, the seeds, the water, and the time for the girls to practice their gardening skills.

Most of the students at Amboaloboka tend a garden because it is a way to earn money. Yes, that’s right, the school buys their produce! The girls pay a monthly fee for their education and the food cost is wrapped up into that fee. When a crop is ready to be harvested, the student lets a teacher know and the school or my household will buy the produce and eat it for dinner! Between the three plots of land there are carrots, green peppers, another type of pepper called sakay be, green onion, ginger, greens, lettuce, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, green beans, red and white (we’d call them green) grapes, and pumpkins! All of which are delicious! We also have a couple banana, orange, papaya, and avocado trees right outside my house. Those however are first come first serve and go pretty darn quick!

I think this is such a great idea! The students get hands on practice and guidance from their teachers. I’m confident that when girls go back to their community they will be able to start a garden and provide for their families. The students also benefit by being able to make a little money. Some students put the money towards tuition, others save the money to be able to travel home at breaks, or treat themselves to a coke or new clothes. And of course, it is always rewarding to enjoy the fruits of your labor. The girls take great pride in their produce, as they should, because it is delicious.

I am hoping I will have learned enough this year to start a little garden of my own someday. Eating fresh food and with the seasons is something I have really come to appreciate and will miss greatly! I mean, taking fruit right from the tree, what’s better? 

Monday, March 10, 2014

My Shades

I brought two pairs of sunglasses to Madagascar. I brought two because days before leaving Omaha I lost my favorite pair and like the American consumer I was, immediately bought a new pair. As it would be I found the new pair before I left and decided on bringing both.

Hardly anyone wears sunglasses in Fianar. I don’t know how they do it. When I lift my sunglasses to have a conversation with someone I get the absolutely worse case of squinty eyes followed by a fit of sneezing. Yet, somehow most everyone here gets by without them.

A few weeks ago I put my sunglasses on top of my head so I could successfully flag down a bus to pick me up at an “unofficial” stop fully knowing that the bus wasn’t really going to make a complete stop for me. I jumped up and held on, waiting for people to scoot forward so I could actually stand in the bus. (Don’t worry, mom! I do this all the time now and my bus worker friends would never let me fall off! And let’s be real, I’ve already made friends with all the bus people. J ) In the midst of our shuffling my sunglasses fell off my head, out of the bus, and on to the street. I was ready to say my goodbyes to them, there was no way I would hop off the bus to get them but to my surprise, two men on the bus and one man on the street rushed to rescue them. I continuously thanked them and secretly was really happy I didn’t have to part with those quality Wal-Mart sunglasses.

The next day, they broke.

Although my family here mourned my loss, I knew it would be okay because I had brought another pair! Last week, I was on retreat with the other MADA-GAR 7 UPS. We enjoyed God’s marvelous creation and each other at Andringitra National Park. One day we were hiking and out of no where I hear a “pop” and a lens falls from my sunglasses. Now, I was a little bummed but knew ultimately I’d be okay and I could survive without.

So the last few days I’ve gone without sunglasses. My eyes are in a continuous state of squint and between the sun and the changing of the seasons I am constantly sneezing but I realized the barrier those two dark lenses creates. I’m conscience about taking my sunglasses off when I talk to someone but while I’m walking around they were always on, always hiding my eyes. And I never realize how much they hid until I went without. These past days more people than ever have greeted me and I believe it is because they can see my eyes. I assume it makes me more approachable.

However, I decided I needed to replace my shades and so I bought another pair. I went to these two ladies who have quite the selection whom I pass almost everyday. They were happy to help me pick out the perfect pair. Actually, the women selling fruit nearby and the man-selling cell phone chargers wanted to help me too. Although we all had some different taste in style we all settled on a pair. It was a community affair. As I put on my new sunglasses I couldn’t help but think about the lenses, figuratively and literally, I see Fianar through and the lenses I am seen through in return. And though I can’t go everyday without my sunglasses, I try to let them be the only tinted lenses I see and experience Madagascar through.

Written March 6, 2014