Wow. How to convey the experience of the last week in a blog post of a few hundred words? I don’t think it’s possible, even for the most gifted writer. So you’ll have to come to Madagascar and experience it for yourself 😉
Well ok, I’ll try to at least give you a glimpse.
I spent the last week staying with a host family in the village of Ampilanonana, about 5km outside of the small town of Betafo. The countryside was absolutely beautiful, and the village lifestyle is something I miss already. The pace of life was very peaceful – moramora, as they say here in Madagascar – for example, the only clock in the house was half an hour fast and I don’t think my family was even aware of it. Just sitting and watching the sky for sometimes hours was not considered strange. Men would work in the fields all morning until about 2pm, and then come hang out at my host family’s store front playing dominoes till the sun set. Women spent a lot of the day cooking and washing laundry, but also participated in watering the crops and some of the steps in harvesting rice. No one ever seemed stressed, although granted I couldn’t understand most of what they were saying so I don’t know for sure. On Sunday the tiny church in the centre of the village was filled to capacity – mostly with women, for some reason, although most of the men weren’t working. The church service was 4 hours long – because no one has anywhere else to be, I guess.
While staying with my family I got to milk the cow, wash the dishes, peel vegetables, play soccer with my brothers (to the amusement of all passersby – if being vazaha wasn’t enough, girls don’t generally play soccer here). I also learned to make mofogasy (literally translated “Malagasy bread”), a type of slightly sweet rice flour doughnut made on the fire – I was quite proud the first time when my mom had to go down and attend to the store and I managed to flip all the mofogasy and save them from burning myself. My family also showed me around a bit, introduced me to some of the family, and took me to the market. There was still a lot of down time, though. It got me thinking about my lifestyle in the US – the mindset that everything needs to be done as efficiently as possible, and that one always needs to be doing something productive. On one had one could view life in the countryside as purposeless, but on the other hand, how many of the thing we occupy ourselves with, how many of the “purposes” we create for ourselves in the US, have any real inherent value? Is the calm life or the busy life better, or are they just two different but equally good approaches? I’m planning on going back to the village for the last month of my program to do my independent study project, so I’m sure I’ll have more time to ponder it :).