New sights and new sounds
14.07.2007 -17 °C
June 17, 2007
I am spending my first night at my host family, writing you from beneath my mosquito net. As you can imagine, it's been a busy day, complete with a 3 hour plane ride from Johannesburg to Antananarivo, a 2 hour drive to Manjakandriana, a 1 hour orientation, and my 1st night with the host family. Though there are few words between us, I can tell that these are good people. The father is a pastor, his wife a teacher, his son a journalist, and his daughter a teacher, as well. The two women showed me around the house and flooded my ears with new vocabulary that I cannot now recall! The house is spacious, has an indoor pump, a tv, stereo system, and electricity. For dinner we had a rich noodle soup with beans, carrots, chicken, potatoes and for desert we had bananas and tangerines. The host father kept asking me questions in Malagasy, and all I could do was stare dumbly. I mean to remedy the communication barrier as soon as possible. My day starts early tomorrow at 5:30 am. I wonder if there will be a rooster crowing?
June 18, 2007
And indeed there was a cock crowing along with a cacophony of dog barks, taxi brousses rumbling through the uneven cobblestone streets, incoherent shouts and trains raging through the town. With no sign of mercy from my jet-lag or any relief from my insomniac daze, I lay in my little mosquito net-covered bed listening to the new world to which I was waking. Daylight brought more surprises to my eyes than the early morning sounds had given to my ears. Most of my day is spent in a classroom or with my host family, but I did manage to wander into the market with two other trainees. The scene overwhelms you immediately. To the left might be a stand featuring exposed raw meat dangling from a rod, and to the right women sell vegetables, clothes, and plastic toys from beneath tarps. On all sides, children laugh and men and women stare, most all of them either whispering or shouting Vazaha (meaning foreigner). Chickens and cowering dogs slink through the streets. Sewage and trash dot the land spaces that aren't occupied by houses or yards. Barefootedness seems to be the primary affordable style in footwear among most Malagasy in this city. While the stark evidence of poverty abounds, the mountains of this region roll with varying hues of green, exotic palm trees, and smooth boulders that jut out of the greenery like molars growing out of a person's gum. At the base of nearly every mountainous slope is a rice paddy gilded in moist greens and browns. It's beautiful here once you look past the initial shock of seeing signs of squalor.
So far, I have only found friendliness in the faces that I meet, which is only surpassed by the looks of curiosity. For some reason, in Malagasy culture, it is customary to announce the obvious. Walking down the street or through the market, you are a Vazaha, and regardless of whether I am French, English, or American, my pale skin will always either give me instant celebrity or unwanted attention during my stay in Madagascar. As I get ready for bed, I hear the dogs singing their songs to each other. In the room next to me, there is a chicken in a box, but by tomorrow she'll be laying on a bed of rice. Tomorrow is another day of me speaking and feeling like a child in this new language. I may not have fully adapted to this isolated island, but I'm learning. Wish me luck!