Life in the village is the most sustainable I’ve ever seen: there’s no running water, so buckets are used for showers and washing; most people don’t have electricity, but those who do have solar panels which they use minimally; there is absolutely zero food waste, because even fruit and vegetable peels or rice husks are consumed by the cow or the chickens, and almost nothing comes in disposable packaging, so there’s almost zero waste production. In the village there is a primary school, a Lutheran church, and three mini grocery stores, one of which was in my host family’s house. For anything else one has to walk 5km through the rice fields into town. I never saw a single car enter the village except the one that picked me up at the end of the stay. Everyone in the village knows each other, and a lot of them are related to each other too.
My host dad was 35 (although I would have pegged him at 25 based on appearance), and my mom was 28, so I couldn’t really imagine them as my parents, but they were truly wonderful hosts. I also had 2 host brothers who were 10 and 6. None of them spoke more than a few words of French, so it was an intensive week of learning Malagasy. There were some moments when I was really excited about how much I could communicate and understand with the small amount of Malagasy I’ve learned, and there were other moments when I felt quite downhearted about how little I could understand or communicate. Through challenge of language coupled with the constant of uncertainty of what was expected and what was normal in this new setting, God’s provision for me was very apparent. There were times when my host mom somehow knew exactly what I needed without me even trying to ask – such as when I really didn’t want to sit still in the house anymore and she announced that we were going for a walk, or when I was unsure when the appropriate time to ask to take a shower was, and she announced that the bucket of water was already sitting waiting for me. There was also the Sunday when I was feeling especially frustrated about my inability to communicate when one of the pastors in training’s wife came to find me to practice speaking English, which she had learned at University. She even invited me to visit her and her family at seminary the next day, and later to spend a few days with them in their hometown over Easter. Despite communication difficulties, so many locals were such a blessing to me – it’s amazing how even in the absence of words people can come to understand each other. I am really excited to go back 🙂