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Madagascar Part 1: “To The Man Singing” and “Barefoot Freedom”

AMPARAFARAVOLA – To The Man Singing.

To the man singing at 5am on a cold dark Madagascar morning, 

You’ve impressed me. 

And not in the sense that you have done anything spectacular or out of the ordinary.  In fact, it is the sheer reality that this is so normal to you that has caused the impression. 

It was cold.  So.  Cold.  I could see my breath.  And we were on our way to catch the bus to the capitol city.  Our tickets were bought and we stopped by the two small candle-lit stands to grab a bite.  The stand of the lady we bought from, and yours. 

I don’t even think you could see me, your back faced me, but I could see you.  I watched you.  Seated on your small wooden stool, bent over the fire making sure the pastry was deep-fried properly.  

It was silent.  Only the sound of fire crackling and the occasional clink of spoon against cup as the lady in our booth prepared our coffee.

I asked the lady how early she has to get up to begin selling.  It was 5 am and she informed me that they usually begin to cook around 4 am.  “Worst job ever,” I was thinking to myself.  I was barely functioning at 5 am and I didn’t have to build a fire or haul water to wash the cups … and there is no guarantee of a sale.  I imagined myself in this same job and concluded that I would be a miserable person to be sure.  

Then I heard you. 
You began to sing.  

At 5 am you broke the silence and began to sing.  In the freezing cold, unearthly hour I heard you sing. 
It was in Malagasy but I recognized the tune as an old hymn.  How Great Thou Art, I think. 

And I was stopped in my tracks, and my selfish thoughts of how “terrible this job would be”.  I have no doubt you were tired.  I have no doubt you find this monotonous.  I have no doubt you were cold and wondering how many customers you would have that day.  

But you sang.  And I listened.  And you had no idea. 

So here’s to you.
And thank you. 

For teaching me a lesson.

For being cheerful when I would have been grumpy.
For not complaining when you had every excuse to justify it.
For being present in that moment.  
For being the picture of wholeheartedness.
For being a shining example of an attitude of gratitude even when you thought no one was watching. 

But I was.  And I learned. 

I learned that what I’m doing is for the most part – irrelevant.  It is rather HOW I am doing it.  And with what attitude.  And that willingness makes all the difference. 

I learned all that. 
Just from you singing at 5 in the morning. 

The view of Amparafaravola from one of its highest points at sunset

The view of Amparafaravola from one of its highest points at sunset

The BREATHTAKING countryside where YFC has land and has begun farming for sustainability

The BREATHTAKING countryside where YFC has land and has begun farming for sustainability

"I planted these trees with my daddy when I was a boy" - Ravo (YFC National Director Madagascar)

“I planted these trees with my daddy when I was a boy” – Ravo (YFC National Director Madagascar)

The land belongs to his elderly mother and she is so happy to have her son back to look after things.  This is Casava growing in this photo

The land belongs to his elderly mother and she is so happy to have her son back to look after things. This is Casava growing in this photo

Rice drying, waiting to have the casing removed so it can be sold.

Rice drying, waiting to have the casing removed so it can be sold.

"Jesus and English - my two favourite things!"  The Chief of Amparafaravola

“Jesus and English – my two favourite things!” The Chief of Amparafaravola

Modelling my gifts from the church who invited me to speak for a few hours one Saturday

Modelling my gifts from the church who invited me to speak for a few hours one Saturday

My amazing English class - love these kids!

My amazing English class – love these kids!

SO PROUD of these guys they are so determined and doing SO well with English!

SO PROUD of these guys they are so determined and doing SO well with English!

Ravo and Lalasoa and their son Mike - my amazing hosts for the week!

Ravo and Lalasoa and their son Mike – my amazing hosts for the week!

A boy and big pigs

A boy and big pigs

Pineapples

Pineapples

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This little guy could crack a whip like no one's business!

This little guy could crack a whip like no one’s business!

Best Climber.

Best Climber.

This child though.

This child though.

MORAMANGA:  Barefoot Freedom 

“Do I have to wear shoes?”  Probably one of my most frequently asked questions. 
“Of course not!  This is the village!”  Probably the most favourable answer I’ve received since coming to Africa.  

And so I took of my shoes and did not put them back on again for the next two days. 
And I felt so FREE! 

And I realized something.  Shoes do serve a purpose.  To protect.   To keep your feet clean and dry and for the most part injury free.  

In some ways you could say there is a certain risk involved in going barefoot.  Like you are setting yourself up to get dirty, and very possibly hurt. 

But I went barefoot anyway.   

These feet ran down dusty paths, across train tracks and stones.  Got caught on bushes and thorns.   Squished in the clay and stomped in the mud so it would be come soft enough to make bricks.  They jumped in puddles, felt the rough wood of the truck bed and the unfortunate pain of a brick being thrown from the top of the pile.  The warmth of the sun.  The 10 degree cool of the night in which they nearly became numb.  They were covered in dirt and mud, and bumps and bruises. 

But they were free. 

And people always wonder why?  Why go barefoot when you can wear shoes? 
And as I look down at my filthy, worn and tattered feet I just grin and reply “It makes me feel free.” 

Because I’ve decided to feel pain is better than to feel nothing at all. 
To be free is better than to be protected. 
To look spent is better than to look beautiful.  
Because to be spent is actually to be beautiful.  

So what if it brings dirt and scrapes and bruises?! 
So what if it makes me look worn and tattered?!

At least I have felt.  
At least I have experienced. 
At least I am spent and I am free.  

And as I slip my feet back into my shoes, there’s something I vowed I’d never forget;
My two glorious days of barefoot freedom. 

The OH SO PEACEFUL homestead :)

The OH SO PEACEFUL homestead 🙂

Cooking German food ... in the freezing cold darkness

Cooking German food … in the freezing cold darkness

YUM!

YUM!

WORK!  So excited to WORK!

WORK! So excited to WORK!

Our sweet ride to go pick up bricks!

Our sweet ride to go pick up bricks!

Papaya

Papaya

This view was absolutely out of this world.  Could NOT get enough of it!

This view was absolutely out of this world. Could NOT get enough of it!

And then a huge piece of metal got stuck in our tire.. and we had to run home ... TIA.

And then a huge piece of metal got stuck in our tire.. and we had to run home … TIA.

Learned how to make a mud hut!  SO cool.

Learned how to make a mud hut! SO cool.

Making bricks.. FINALLY!

Making bricks.. FINALLY!

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