All is well in the Southern hemisphere! In fact it’s almost spring here! So far I’m really liking this whole summer, spring, summer, spring rotation. While there are lots of things I miss, snowdrifts are not one of them!
I’m still settling into my host community and figuring out my schedule as far as work assignments but here are a few field notes from my month in Madagascar so far:
1. Dogs make great landmarks.
There aren’t really street signs here but there are lots of street dogs! And they generally maintain the same territory. So on my walk to church sometimes I find myself thinking, okay this is the right road because there’s the german shepherd mix and, oh look, there’s the really fluffy one, that means we’re almost there! In general, the Malagasy don’t have dogs as house pets. Our dog lives outside as kind of a guard dog but she mostly just keeps us safe from invading lizards. The dogs are all mixed breed, some more identifiable than others but most are medium sized with brown or black coloring. They are not mean or aggressive and usually just ignore all of the people walking by. They’re much more interested in food and afternoon naps in the sun.
2. Malagasy is easy.
After learning French, it’s wonderful to study a language without gendered nouns and conjugation! Did I mention that you change a verb from present to future or past by simply changing the first letter??
Example: Milalao (play) changes to Nilalao (played) or Hilalao (will play)
3. Malagasy is hard.
Most verbs start with M and after a while they all start to sound very similar. And although it’s turning me into an illiterate citizen, sometimes it’s just easier to learn how to pronounce a word without learning how to spell it.
Example: the word for God is Andriamanitra
4. The world is a really complex place.
I’m starting to see for the first time how interconnected everything is. How my decisions as a consumer in the US have impacted lives in the majority world, for better or for worse. Or how my geographical birthplace has predetermined so much about the opportunities I have available to me. And suddenly, statistics about poverty and healthcare and education are being replaced by real stories of neighbors and students. It’s a lot to process and I don’t have any solutions (that’s not really why I’m here). But I am learning and listening with an open heart and open mind.
5. Smiles and laughter translate very well across cultures.
Despite countless differences, there are still so many things that unite us as humans. These happen to be my two favorite.