Saturday, May 17, 2014

What's Coming Home with Me?

I can hardly believe that in a month and a half I will be stateside again. This has been an incredible journey that has really only just begun. I’ve learned more about myself and about God than I ever could have expected. I’ve learned and lived in another culture that is so rich and there are so many parts I want to take home and adapt. In big and small ways I’ve already taken on parts of Madagascar that you will for sure notice. Here is a brief look at what some of those might be.

-      English might not always come out of my mouth. I apologize in advance for speaking Malagasy to you. I worked really hard to learn the language and in some situations English escapes me and all that comes to mind is Malagasy. Ask me to teach a few phrases! I’d love to teach you!

-      When I shake your hand or give you something, I may grab my right forearm with my left hand. It is a sign of respect here and so I’ve grown accustom to it.

-      Eka. Three little letters that mean ‘yes’. It sounds cooler than just ‘yes’ so I may continue to use various of ‘eka’ to say ‘yes’.

-      If I have to pass in front of you, I may drop one arm real low and awkwardly duck down while saying “Azafady”, which in this case means excuse me.

-      Along with weird yes…I’ll make different noises for yes and no then you are used to hearing. The sound American’s make for ‘no’ actually means ‘yes’ here. The sound for ‘no’ is just silly and I love it. Wait until you hear it! 

-      I forever more with it rice with a spoon. I’m not sure how I ever ate rice with a fork before!
-      I may be a rice snob. Uncle Ben’s rice has nothing on Madagascar rice.

-      You may think I’ve developed some sort of weird twitch in my lips. Malagasy use their lips to point to things and people. The last week I’ve caught myself doing it too.

These are all pretty silly. I’ve picked up more than these quirks in my time here but some things are just worth waiting to see and experience for yourself. See you soon, friends.

Going in the Same Direction

My first ride on the city bus was not my favorite experience in Madagascar. Thankfully, the Mada-Gar 7 ups were still all together in Ansirabe along with our coordinators and our Malagasy teachers. The bus was packed full and there was hardly any space to move. It was overwhelming to say the least. I remember getting off the bus and saying, “Well, if I never have to do that again that’d be fine by me”! However, ask me today and I’ll tell you that riding the city bus is one of my favorite things to do!

Fianarantsoa is a really big city so riding the bus, although not a must, is preferable for some destinations. Although, I must give myself plenty of time to get to where I’m going. There is a bus stop about a ten-minute walk from my house. Sometimes a bus is there and sometimes I have to wait a little while. That particular bus stop is part of four different routes. Back in September, I was only brave enough to take on one of the routes. Today, I can hop on any of them and confidently navigate where I am going!

When a bus comes, I greet the man collecting the money and get on. Most buses have about five or six rows of two-seater benches on both sides with a tiny aisle between. There is also the best seat on the bus, right next to the driver. Typically, that seat holds two people. When all the seats are filled up, people must stand in the aisle and in the back of the bus. The stop by my house is one of the first, so I almost always have a seat going into to town but going back home, I’m more likely to stand.

There is a cool culture on the bus. If there is a woman who is pregnant or carrying a small child when there are no seats left, men, children, and other women will give up their seat for her. Same thing goes for an elderly person that comes on the bus.  On several occasions, men have even given up their seat for me. I love seeing people respecting and serving other people.

I always seem to make a friend or two on the bus. I sit down and usually greet a few people to make their stares less awkward. Eventually, someone wants to test how far my Malagasy goes and will strike up a conversation. I continue as far as my language skills allow which always gives the people around me great joy. Now I have group of bus friends between the drivers, workers, and other frequent riders!