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Madagascar Part 2: A Lot Of Pictures but Not A Lot Of Words

ANTSIRABE:  When I Grow Up

She was such a fantastic woman. 

From the moment we arrived in the compound, with all my bags and luggage, she came spinning out of the kitchen with arms spread wide.  

“Welcome!”  she grinned as she shook my hand, embraced me, and ushered me into the dining room almost all at the same time. 

As a Swiss-Canadian (but mostly Swiss) she had decorated the guest house accordingly.  Wood paneling, wood stove and furniture with a long wooden dining room table. 

“I didn’t want to put small tables in here.  I want everyone staying in the Guest House to eat together.  Like family – whether you know each other or not!”  She chirped and scurried off to the kitchen. 

She has lived here for many many years now.  Antsirabe, Madagascar is home. 
She speaks fluent Malagasy and French and several other languages including English and Swiss. 
She designed and supervised the building of the whole place.  Guesthouse, Great Hall, Kitchen, dining and living areas for the workers. 
She treats the workers like family and they love her to death. 
She taught them how to cook and to make cheese and jam – the best strawberry jam this side of the world I would say – and bread … and now they make it themselves.  Without her help. 
She is always highly spoken of by the natives because of her love and care and generosity. 
She is a grandmother to everyone. 

She is one of my new heroes. 

She has had heart surgeries and several other ailments due to her age but she speaks of them as if they were the common flu. 
She has no time for worrying or making herself comfortable or going back to Switzerland to “retire”.  
She says, “This is home.  Why would I want to be in Switzerland?!”  And she shakes her short bob of grey hair back and forth in bewilderment at the idea. 
She would think of doing nothing else.  
She is in this for life. 

She is incredible. 

And faithful.
And full of spunk. 

I spent several evenings or meal times just listening to all her stories. 

She has so many stories.
So many experiences. 

Such a raw and tangible faith and trust in her God. 
And after just a few days of staying with her, I decided something. 

I decided I want to be like her when I grow up.

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This beautiful lake what has many every creepy stories to go with it!

 

The table spread in the Guest House

The table spread in the Guest House

BEST mode of transport ever... but these guys need to be strong!

BEST mode of transport ever… but these guys need to be strong!

In a cultural museum - showing the progression of this kind of transport

In a cultural museum – showing the progression of this kind of transport

Malagasy musical instruments.  So cool!

Malagasy musical instruments. So cool!

Antsirabe :)

Antsirabe 🙂

FINALLY learned how they do these paintings!  Will absolutely be trying this when I get home!

FINALLY learned how they do these paintings! Will absolutely be trying this when I get home!

The natural spring hot bath (and awkward massage) incident.

The natural spring hot bath (and awkward massage) incident.

English conversation practice with these amazing young people

English conversation practice with these amazing young people

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My welcome meal .... um, yes please!

My welcome meal …. um, yes please!

At the lake

At the lake

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FIANARANTSOA:  Almost Laughable 

“They are on their way!  Should be here by 8:00am so we need to be ready to go!” 

No problem.  Today I was born ready!
Today was the day we go to see the RAINFOREST!

And I was so excited. 

9:00 a.m. they are still “on the way”. 
But its still ok.  We can still make it.  And the sun looks like it is coming out so maybe it will be a nice warm, sunny day.  Perfect. 

10:00 a.m. 
Patience is running thin and considering the distance of the drive I am beginning to become frustrated on the inside.  I had wanted to just take the bus but they insisted we take a big fan so everyone can go which is a much more expensive option.  And now I regretted agreeing to that. 

10:30 a.m. “We are on the way, you better be ready!” 
Um, yes.  We have been ready, for HOURS! 

So we grab our stuff and head out to the road. 

11:00 a.m. 
Still standing on the road taking deep breathes.  Still waiting. 

FINALLY, that big beast rolls around the corner and we are off.  Well, after getting gas, and fixing a small part on the van and picking up several other people… then we are off. 

And I convince myself “It’s still ok, as long as we are going.  You are going to see the RAINFOREST today!  Just let it all go.” 

11:30 a.m.  POURING RAIN

That seemed to come out of nowhere I might add, and by the time we reached the rainforest it was cold and wet and still raining. 

And I was wearing shorts and flip flops. 

And to top it all off, the price to do the rainforest tour is (of course) through the roof – much higher than anticipated.  But what can you do?
“I didn’t come all this way to do nothing.” 

And so I paid it, and four of us headed off on the soggy rainforest tour. 
And it was amazing!

We saw lemurs and lots of incredible plants and foliage. 
The view point was non-existent because of the rain but I had to admit… the RAINforest in the RAIN?  Kinda cool! 

Ok, SUPER cool!  AMAZING cool. 

But not at all as planned. 

And I was reminded of my devotion I had read in the morning and it was ALL ABOUT things not going as planned.  Next time I will take that as a warning for what’s about to come. 

I had no idea when I read that that I would be immediately tested in EVERY AREA … ALL DAY!
But I was. 

And actually, at the end of the day I could look back and it was almost laughable. 

I survived the cold rain in just my shorts and a thin sweater. 
I only got one leech on my foot as I braved the slippery slopes in my flip flops. 
I got to see the rainforest – and I was in AWE of that particular creation. 
I was able to swim in a hot natural swimming pool after … basically the hot tub was God’s idea.  (Go figure) 

But most importantly, I was able to come to the end of the day and say “What an amazing day!”

Even though NONE of it went according to plan. 

With just a slight change in perspective … the day went from being what could have been an unbearable disaster the situation turned into a complete success. 

I can even say it was almost laughable. 

Young leaders that I had the privilege of doing a session with.

Young leaders that I had the privilege of doing a session with.

Fianarantsoa from the top of a mountain.  BREATHTAKING!

Fianarantsoa from the top of a mountain. BREATHTAKING!

Making brownies for my friend's birthday ... half way through baking the power goes off .... and they STILL turned out even though we finished them three hours later after going out for pizza!

Making brownies for my friend’s birthday … half way through baking the power goes off …. and they STILL turned out even though we finished them three hours later after going out for pizza!

These beautiful people!  Hosts and young people ...

These beautiful people! Hosts and young people …

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Picnic with a view

Picnic with a view

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burning bricks...

burning bricks…

Lemur.... or you may be more familiar with our dear friend "King Julius"

Lemur…. or you may be more familiar with our dear friend “King Julius”

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The Rainforest ...

The Rainforest …

In AWE of this place

In AWE of this place

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my feet ... exhibit B - blood on right foot is from leech.

my feet … exhibit B – blood on right foot is from leech.

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The official tree of Madagascar.

The official tree of Madagascar.

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Giant natural hot tub ... basically

Giant natural hot tub … basically

 

ANTANANARIVO:  To Be Normal For A Day

NEW is fun. 
But NEW can be hard. 

NEW is a party.
But NEW can be lonely. 

NEW is energizing.
But NEW can be draining.

NEW can become normal.
But NEW can leave you feeling extremely abnormal. 

And this is where I find myself upon arriving in Antananarivo for my final two weeks of being in Madagascar. 

One more set of brand new people to meet. 
One more set of new ministries to learn. 
One more new city to navigate. 

But the most difficult thing of all? 

LANGUAGE!

I’m telling you. 
I have never wished I had paid attention in French class as much as I do now.

I’m considering visiting French classrooms across the country telling my heartbreaking tales to keep kids in French class  … 

Seriously. 

Language is SO crucial.

And you don’t realize it until it is taken away from us. 

The ability to communicate.  To discuss.  To share stories and laughter. 
And there is nothing lonelier than being unable to understand or be understood. 
And I was becoming tired.  
Because straining to communicate is draining!  
And I found myself wishing to be normal. 

To be normal, just for one day. 

And here in Antananarivo, I got that day!

One glorious day of swimming and laughing and dancing and taking photo after photo after photo.  Of being able to communicate with these brilliant YFC Volunteers who have worked so hard to learn English.  Of pizza and ice cream and goodbye songs and … 

And for one day, I felt completely at home. 

 

The day that I got to be normal = Ice Cream

The day that I got to be normal = Ice Cream

The day I got to be normal = swimming!

The day I got to be normal = swimming!

... and singing ...

… and singing …

... and shinanegans ...

… and shinanegans …

... and photo shoots ...

… and photo shoots …

... and a dance party ...

… and a dance party …

... and friendship ...

… and friendship …

... and sad songs about leaving ... but ALL OF US could understand each other.... and I felt SO normal.

… and sad songs about leaving … but ALL OF US could understand each other…. and I felt SO normal.

I felt completely normal.

Because God sees me. 
Because He knows me.
Because He knows what I need before I even know it.
Because He clears the path in front of me. 
Because He sends the most amazing people that I could never find on my own. 

And He granted me one day of normal. 

Location of the CDC Indian Ocean Islands YFC conference where I was helping with administration and of course ... ZUMBA!

Location of the CDC Indian Ocean Islands YFC conference where I was helping with administration and of course … ZUMBA!

Zumba session turned complete salsa.  SO fun!

Zumba session turned complete salsa. SO fun!

Malagasy dance.  So beautiful!

Malagasy dance. So beautiful!

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The whole gang!

The whole gang!

Spent a few glorious (freezing) days with these gems writing down all their thoughts (literally) at their ALT meeting.  YFC Africa? You are BLESSED to have this team!

Spent a few glorious (freezing) days with these gems writing down all their thoughts (literally) at their ALT meeting. YFC Africa? You are BLESSED to have this team!

Praying over the new building at YFC Antananarivo

Praying over the new building at YFC Antananarivo

Yeah... it was COLD!  And they drink tea out of bowls.... heck yes!

Yeah… it was COLD! And they drink tea out of bowls…. heck yes!

English class in Tana with the volunteers

English class in Tana with the volunteers

One of my many host families.

One of my many host families.

Mechanical School Class ...got to teach some English to them!

Mechanical School Class …got to teach some English to them!

our traditional wear... ya its the best we can do!

our traditional wear… ya its the best we can do!

Opening night of the conference.

Opening night of the conference.

Cultural wear

Cultural wear

This woman... <3  AMAZING!

This woman…

Another beautiful host family

Another beautiful host family

and still another ... I am really so blessed!

and still another … I am really so blessed!

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