Once again I wake up at 5AM. Thrilled I am not. I mean seriously it’s five AM. I beat the sun. Although, I can never be disappointed when I catch a sunrise. Every Alarobia (Wednesday) I head out for farm day, and today I motivate early to jump into a now nearly daily, and much needed morning, (or pre-leaving) routine: Misotro kafe (Drink coffee) and a Nalgene of rano (water), mivavaka (pray), give thanks, mihira (sing) or listen to a song, plan, let go of control, believe in myself, and stretch. Almost forgot to brush nify (teeth.) Somewhere during the morning process, while still a bit disgruntled by the early wake up, it is precisely that feeling which makes me smile. When I first started working at the farm, it was easy to wake up pre-sun, and I excitedly awaited heading out to mitery omby (milk cows), maka ville (cut grass), and do other odds and ends. Now, although I do still enjoy the work, I AM waking up early, to go to work. It’s not new, or fresh, it’s… Normal, and just one more grateful indicator of comfortability and progress while living abroad.
Upon finishing a supersized portion of rice and cow hoof soup, my morning at the farm was over. The day however was still far from being vita (finished.) The previous Monday, The other YAGM volunteer Sarah and I had completed our monthly climb near the town of Ambohimanga, or Blue Mountain. This beautiful place is covered with dense jungle forest, and beautiful views of Antananarivo. As it would happen, the beauty distracted me and I left my headlamp there! I thought if there would be any chance of recovering it, it was worth a shot. Never mind sentimental value, the practicality of it, pulse the joy my younger host-nephew gets plying with it were motivation enough.... And of course any excuse to go to a quiet mountain ala (forest) for this Colorado boy, I’m going to jump on! Well, getting there was a process...
I get to the bus station only to realize I have no vola (money). I walk home, get the bus fare, and come back to the station in Thirty minutes. While sitting at the bus station, a man comes and sits down beside me. We moved quickly through the regular opening talk, and soon I loose what he was saying. After a bit of struggling, I come to realize he is asking for my Passport! “Ummm Yeah, I don’t have that, I err live here, and um don’t carry that around!.. Ummm Uhhh.” He persists. Eventually another man I don’t recognize comes over. They exchange a few words, and the passport man gets up and leaves while the other man gives me knuckles and walks away. Good looking out!! Shortly thereafter I hop on a bus, (after missing the first two) with around 35 other people! It was a smooth ride until with about five kilometers till arriving, the bus breaks down. Not having any idea how long it would take to fix, or how long till another bus with enough room passed, I decide the hour walk sounds lovely. Surprisingly another bus comes by only about one kilometer into my walk, and in the interest of time I flag it down and jump onto the back. Literally. I stand on the back step and hang on to the door the rest of the way. Once there, I get off and push into the forest. My world is transformed from smells of gas, and food, car horns, and olona (people,) to vibrant greens, fresh dew on leaves, birds, and solitude. I take my time, enjoying the contrast. The adjustment for me from living in the tendremboritra (mountains) to a Tanàna (city) has posed its own unique challenges. I am really becoming connected to, and starting to truly enjoy the city I now live in, but my heart will forever be on a mountain. A few steep scrambles later plus some bush whacking and I arrived at the place I remember my headlamp being. Lo and behold there it is! But why leave now?
I find myself sitting alone, in the quiet of a forest for maybe the third or fourth time since arriving. I let my mind wonder. It is difficult to believe that were at the halfway point. The changes that have occurred are noticeable in great amounts. I know a plethora of people now. It is fun and easy to joke or have conversation with my host family. I am more comfortable teaching a class full of kids a language they don’t know, while I hardly know theirs. I have become content living in a city environment. Heck I can even milk a cow! I can remember walking down a street the first week I was here, grinding my teeth, feeling unnaturally uncomfortable, wondering when that feeling would go away. I don’t know when, but it did. Still there are many things that a half of year living here has not provided that I hope another half year might. A Malagasy wedding for instance, or getting a few kids somewhat conversational. I would love to understand a sermon in the Malagasy Fiangonana (church.) There are a few places I still desire to see, and finding a good, really good namana (friend) to keep in contact with upon return would be amazing. Maybe that person is already known to me. I am once again reassured, and reenergized to continue to plug in, work hard, and let the spirit move, when I am startled by a man coming out of the woods and promptly sitting down next to me.
|Chillin in the trees|
|The road turned to a river|
I’m quite cold now, and wet, and well still very smelly. Despite all the rain outside, the water at the house is not running. I set to work hauling water from the well, starting a fire in the kitchen, (we have a gas burner, but the wood chip shaving system heats much faster!) mixing boiling water with cold water to achieve perfect temp, and hauling it upstairs. I take a wonderful bucket shower, in a very methodical fashion. Wet everything, soap everything, and rinse everything. I have just enough time to dry off, get dressed, and make it downstairs before our Alarobia (Wednesday) night Bible study at the house starts. Every other Wednesday, and sometimes two Wednesdays in a row, a group of ten comes to our house to have a Bible study. The first time, I was asked unexpectedly if I had anything prepared... Leading further to my philosophy of always having something prepared. Game, song, Bible study, English lesson, always be prepared. (and still be ready for surprise).
This time however I was just there as a participant. We start with a Hira, (song) and then after praying head into the lesson. Jacoba (James) 3: 1-12 Taming the Lela. (Tongue) As we get into it, I do my best to pay attention and try to catch on to what is being said. But being a two hour lesson, I inevitably stop paying attention at some point. Usually one of my host sisters who can speak English, catches me up, and asks what I think about it, but most of the time, I am left to ponder the lesson and its meanings for me. This time, I’m particularly interested with the first verse. "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, for they will be judged more strictly." That’s a heavy statement, especially being a Mpampinitra (teacher) in many ways this year. The lives a teacher affects and the responsibility imparted should not be taken lightly. It goes on to talk about the tongue being wildfire, and being like a bit in the mouth of the horse, I am again reminded about the old saying “think before you speak.” How truly important that is. Not only so we don’t harm others with our words, which despite another saying can harm much deeper than sticks, but to be proud in what we say. This of course goes in hand with actions, but in a place where language is one of the more challenging aspects of life, I am struck by the necessity to think than speak. And why not continually use that gift to uplift other people? Whether by compliment or relationship, we interact through speech. Sometimes it’s not saying anything at all, other times it’s questioning, and many times it’s joking, laughing, and singing. I think of all the people I talked to that day. Friends, family, people I have never met, people who made me nervous, and many many more. The gift of speech can do good as well as harm, but for the day I am pleased by the words I spoke, and the ones I received. I hope to be more conscious of what I say, and to try even harder to speak from a place of love. Especially here. I want to practice speaking with more and more people. To use the gift of language to connect, help, and learn. Above all I find myself grateful to have people in my life to share the life experience with. Who I can learn from and teach. Who I can laugh with, and deeply connect with, say hi to, or simply smile. Just as long as we use the gift of tongue with the right intentions and with fore-thought to the effect, life goes much smoother. But thank god that when we do slip, there is always another chance to speak love.
Finally Bible study ends, we sing another song, say our goodbyes, and my family and I sit down for a 10PM dinner. Were all reraka (tired) so when they ask about my day, I give them a quick rundown, but leave out details. I tell them it will be good conversation for later. We finish, bid each other a Sauva Mangy (good night) and head off to our respective rooms. Lying down that night I am tired, but content. Another day living in Madagascar has provided me with stories and lessons, challenges, and joys. Not unlike the rest. I look foreword to sharing more stories, thoughts, and days as the year goes on.