Meet the family
Last weekend I moved in with my host family in Mahajanga, a coastal town where I’ll be staying for two weeks. This is the first of 3 homestays I’ll be doing as part of the SIT program. My host family is great. They all speak excellent French (as well as Malagasy), and they’ve hosted 6 SIT students (one at a time) in the past, so they are familiar with the peculiarities and cluelessness of study abroad students. My mom is a housewife, has a great big compassionate heart, and is always looking out for everyone. She rode the taxi-be (bus) with me to class the first day to make sure I got off at the right spot, comes into my room to close the windows when it starts storming in the middle of the night (which happens frequently – it’s the rainy season!), and dries off the baby puppies when they get drenched by the rain. She’s been a great help with my homework too, as we have many interactive assignments that often involve interviewing people.
The older of my two sisters is Tsiky, whose name means “smile” in Malagasy. She is 15, loves to sing (it’s impressive how well people who only speak Malagasy and French know lyrics to American pop songs!) and is very patient in answering all my many questions. In church she explained to me what was going on and helped me follow the lyrics to the songs. At least in return I can help her with her English homework!
My youngest sister is 10 years old, and her name is Haingu. Having grown up with study abroad students intermittently at her house since she was 6, she is skilled at playing tour guide and impressively mature and independent for her age. She’s the one who helped me use the public transportation system for the first time! Sometimes when we got off the bus onto the road she grabbed my hand – I couldn’t decide if it was for her own safety or to make sure I didn’t get lost – but either way I appreciated it. Holding hands with a small Malagasy girl was somehow reassuring , plus her presence did significantly reduce the catcalls that follow me wherever I go by virtue of being a white female. A few days ago I taught Haingu how to knit, and although the coordination was difficult for her, she kept coming back to it and trying again. Later she taught me how to play some of their games – a complicated version of marbles and a game that involves throwing, catching and picking up stones in a certain sequence. She had the cutest way of saying, “Tu comprends?” (you understand?) every time I looked perplexed as she explained to me – and the answer was often no! I was quite clumsy at both games, while Haingu is very adept and seriously skilled, so I need to practice!
Besides my mom and sisters, at my house there’s also the lady who helps with the house work, her adorable baby, and an entourage of dogs– including 5 puppies who are only 4 days old and still have their eyes closed! Unfortunately I’m having trouble uploading photos at this internet cafe, but hopefully next post I will have a picture of the entire family to show you!