Saturday, February 23, 2013

Afaka Manampy, Part II

A few months ago, I wrote about a missed opportunity. (see blog Afaka Manampy.)

As soon as I passed the man struggling to get a heavy wheelbarrow up a steep embankment, I was disappointed that I had failed to help with a quick push. Although disappointed by my lack of response in that situation, I was eager to go out from there on, and act with an attitude of help. I adopted the phrase "Afaka manampy Aho." Can I help? Since then, this singular statement has provided some of he most meaningful, and interesting interactions I have had in Madagascar.

Laying bricks for a new house.
Bathing my Host Nephew.
Harvesting Cassava.
Setting up a Christmas tree.

The list goes on, and in most cases the interaction has been small, yet it has been the mutual working together that has opened the door for further conversation, relationship, and of course help. How eternally grateful I continue to be for any chance to make more connections and feel at home.

Then I got Afaka manampied!

Last week I was not feeling super hot. To put it simply, I had trouble leaving the porcelain. This unfortunate turn of events made it difficult to leave the house and so by Friday afternoon, after not leaving my room for two days I was itching for some extra stimuli besides a book. I decided to get up, and head out into the world. Intending to go to a cyber cafe, but really relying on previous experience that a little human interaction and physical movement can work wonders for an ailing body or mind, I put on my shoes, hoped for the best and headed out.

The fresh air, movement, and familiar faces were a great reprieve from the monotony of the previous days. About halfway down the road, I spotted a little girl named Neige who I have grown fond of. We first met in church, during a Christmas concert in December when she stuck to me like glue after I started making faces at her before the show. I found out she lives close to me and since then we always stop to chat and goof around when we see each other. One day on the way home, I stopped to say hi to her and she took the opportunity to help me learn Malagasy paddy-cake for the next fifteen minutes!

 This time she was up above the road with a few other people, spreading a large pile of cut grass around a field for cows to eat in the coming days. She stopped working as I got closer and I too stopped to say hello. After a brief conversation about health, church that week, and where I was going, we said goodbye, and I headed off. As I was walking away though, no less than ten meters or so, I could hear her yelling something to me. I stopped turned around and listened. Still unable to understand I walked close until i realized she was saying "Can you help us!"

Absolutely! I was thrilled to be asked to help, in English none the less! I headed back, was shown the goal, and began separating the large pile of grass into smaller, manageable piles to Carry over to a boy spreading them across the field. We chatted a lot over the next hour of work. I practiced my Malagasy, they practiced English. A lot of people walking along the road stopped to take in the foreigner working in the field. I was complimented as "Mazoto" or diligent. A few times we stopped so I could throw her into the large pile of grass. At one point this even attracted a number of other kids all desiring to be tossed. So I tossed kids and grass and joy. True to form after the activity, working, talking and laughing, I was feeling leaps and bounds better than when I had left my house a short time before.

As we finished up just before the rain, they thanked me for the help, and I returned the thanks, for asking me to stop. Then the two older people who we were working with, about my age, expressed their desire to help me with anything in the future should the opportunity arise. It was cool. Really really cool. I have reached a point in my life here and in forming friendships, that people feel comfortable asking me for help! Wow! Because honestly, that's it. Through ups and downs, moments of confidence, and bouts of doubt, I am finding out at very core level that to help, is the name of the game. And it is two way street. Whether helping someone to laugh, or being helped in  language. Giving directions, or receiving love, I am learning to count life by the relationships and interactions that provide opportunity to mutually benefit each others lives. The manifestation of this has been incredibly visible to me here. A friend back home said to me the other day that he wouldn't be surprised if I was learning and being helped as much as I'm teaching. I stopped and thought for a moment before saying no. I am learning way more that I am teaching, and as for being helped? At least twofold. Otherwise I would still be a very lonely, and quite confused in this foreign country, instead of being at a place where I can be called upon to help, and proceed with a lively comfortable conversation.
For starters!

I have talked bout this idea in various ways, throughout my Mada life, and even predating the journey here. It is a course of action that I  think best defines a purpose driven life. To be in positive relationship is to help. To help is to love. And what else is there? I plan on continuing to talk about it. Exploring it. Seeing how the thoughts change and evolve. And to believe in the profound effect a person acting in loving constructive relationship can have.

 “It's not enough to have lived.
We should be determined to live for something.
May I suggest that it be creating joy for others,
sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind,
bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely.”
Leo Buscaglia

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