Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fantastic! Nearly a week in the country I am now calling home. 
     What a week it has been too.  Such incredible cultural and ecological differences. For example: We, ( the other 5 Yagms Austin, our coordinator and I) went for a short walk around Tana (antanarivo the capitol) the other day. The external stimulus was extreme. So much to look at! street venders everywhere selling everything from sunglasses to Kuba (mashed peanut and Banana loaf, Delicious!), Eye catching colors everywhere of billboards, cars, posters, trees, houses, shacks and the lake ranging from blue to black to yellow and red. The sound of honking never stops. horns are used for passing, letting someone know your there, thanking them for letting you pass and general exclamation  To expand on this the only rule of the road is there are no rules. Pass at will, drive as fast as you can and weave through people, taxis, taxi busses, bikes, sometimes on the other side of the road. Oh and honk for every action. Awesome. (this might make it hard to drive in the states again!) People are talking constantly to each other and to us. considering at that time all we knew was Salma! or hello! it made it very interesting, even intimidating at times. the kids call us Vasa or white and ask for money, although we have none! And the smell of the city is unlike anywhere else i have ever been. Salty fried food on the side of the road, thick exhaust, sweaty tiny haircut shacks, Sweet candy, Pungent trash, and a melting pot of who knows what else combine in a cloud of nose tingling aroma. The Plants Range from Massive 7 foot diameter 25ft cactus, to Bright Red flowers 10 feet tall. Massive plants with huge leaves, trees that are just sprouting green leaves from the end of brown banana like protrusions, and everything in-between. oh and this is the city. To top it all off we passed a government facility with AK-47 toting guards. Intense!
    After a day in Tana we headed down to Antsirabe where we will be spending three weeks of in country orientation, including language training!!! More NASCAR driving on the way down! And again a very many differences from the states. Here though I have begun to notice similarities as well. We went for a walk the other day. Starting out of where we are staying we headed through a market. Again very different. Here even more so noticing how we stand out. Everywhere we went we were clearly looked at for being the only Vasa around. I could feel myself tensing up and becoming uncomfortable. My jaw tightened up and was very aware of our "out of town" presence. More stimuli form everywhere. Kids with dirt on their face asking for money, people asking us for Pousse Pousse rides. ( little two person carts towed by a bare foot "driver") they were everywhere. Again more fascinating smells and sounds from the market. Heading out of town we passes a Futbol match and distracted the crowd from the game as all the heads turned to watch us. quickly we became more isolated as we were heading to a hill on the outside of town to climb.
     And now I was amazed. What happened next shifted my whole thinking for the week and I feel will be a blessing for my time here. As we walked up the hill the landscape turned into something very reminiscent of a Colorado forest! The trees were similar. the geography of a rising mountain looked like it could be in my back yard. It smelled the same and birds chirping sent me back to Maxwell Falls. I started to think of similarities rather than differences. And not to sound like a "change you life book" I began to think of the similarities the people here and I share. Once at the top of the hill I took time to think about this. I remember noticing once, and then being intentional, about the power of and how far a Smile ill go. This has been clearly reiterated to me in the few days I have spent in Madagascar, where there is a large gap in communication and many cultural differences. Kindness simply is a universal language that breaks down barriers and opens up opportunities for further, meaningful connections! So I decided to put it into practice. Coming back down from my Colorado forest into the city I smiled. Low and behold people smiled back. My tension dropped dramatically. Now this was not the case for everyone, and I still had many guards up, But the difference was tangible. 
      I am resolved to focus the commonality I share with the Malagasy people while I am here. The human experience is the same regardless of where we are. Our basic needs for love, companionship, heatlh, encompass thousands of miles. It is going to be difficult. I may want to give up at times. theres a distinct possibility that not everyone will respond. and at times I may not respond, but we are in this together. My mission for this year is to integrate into the culture and see how we are the same, while using our differences to make each other stronger. For now though I am warmed by the immage of a young man who we passed on the way out of town that I looked at and was intimidated by, who then gave me a smile once I smiled at him on the way back in.
Love in Christ,

Friday, August 24, 2012

So this is the first night in Madagascar! So pumped! It took 38 hours to get here what a load of travel. Feeling tired smelly and absolutely thrilled to be here. driving through the city today was an expierence. Very different. the roads have no common rules we expierence in the states. if you want to pass someone you should pass. no lights. no speeding laws. Loved it! sights, sounds, can't wait to get involved and start immersing in this culture which will be home! For now though im exausted so Im going to get the first horizontal sleep in two nights ;) Ready and willing Madagascar, thank god for safe travels and this unbelievable expierence.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Leaving the states!

So I guess this is my first official post! Heading out to Madagascar today!! The journey takes about two days so travel will be a lot of fun. Just spent an amazing week in Chicago at orientation, with an absolutely amazing group of people! I think im as ready as i will ever be, so jacked for this opportunity its going to be an amazing time. Definitely nervous but i think something would be wrong if i wasn't. SOOOOO here goes! Thank you so much to EVERYONE who has been with me on my journey! Friends Family, shout outs to RTLC and ELC. Without all of your love and support im not sure where i would be but it wouldent be nearly as good as this! SO INTO THE BREACH WE GO!!!