I am sorry I have not fulfilled my duties as an adequate blog keeper. I could offer a bunch of excuses, but the truth is I might just suck at this. I wish I had fully written down my experiences during training because that is when I truly fell in love. I fell in love with Madagascar and the people. I fell in love with my fellow volunteers and my new language. I fell hard, guys. (Incidentally, I did actually fall quite hard and might have a crazy scar to prove it, but that’s another and far less poetic story).
I have decided to retroactively make a post about training and then tell you about my new home after (I’ll be here for 2 years. I am sure I can get around to that eventually).
My first three months were incredible, confusing, beautiful and strange. I still marvel how quickly I was able to adjust to a new life.
At the very start we spent about 3 days at the incredibly beautiful training center before moving to our host families. Before our move our trainers taught us “survival language.” Which basically consisted of “hello” and “I’m full, thank you.” And then they sent us on our way.
I had arguably the best host family in town. Most of my memorable moments happened around the dining table. I ate 3 Malagasy meals a day with my family. Here’s what you need to know: Rice is the staple food here in Madagascar and is typically served with “side dish.” Food is usually just eaten with a spoon and drinking black coffee is weird, many spoonfuls of sugar are expected.
My Neny (host mother) was an excellent cook and my stomach had no problems adjusting to my new diet. But most importantly, meals were quiz time. My Neny would always ask me with a very quizzical expression, “what’s this?” And point to the food on the table. I would then have to tell her what the food was in Malagasy. And she would respond, “Ohhh,” as My host dad gave me a big thumbs-up from across the table. Her acting was superb and hilarious. I had language class with a couple other volunteers in a spare room in my new home and I swear she would hear the lesson through the wall and then at lunch slyly ask me questions I had just learned in my last class. My Neny taught me how to wash my clothes by hand, how to properly scrub my flip flops and how to cook rice. She was both my language teacher and my life teacher. My Dada (host father) attended all my peace corps events, laughed at the baby ducks with me and always told me I was “mahay” (smart/good) at Malagasy even when I was really struggling.
My host siblings were equally amazing and funny. On my first day at home stay, my host sister and my host brother took me on a tour of the town and made my potentially scariest day of training not so scary. My siblings taught me many words, numbers, took me on hikes, playfully argued with me about who had to do the dishes and are just amazing people. I am so thankful for my experience with my family. They are such wonderful and welcoming people who really made my time here special. After 8 or 9 weeks it was time to go, so with some tears and many fond memories I packed up my bags and returned to where it all began: the training center.
But first lets talk real quickly about logistics in living in Madagascar at my homestay.
Where is the water?
- Water had to be fetched from a well a few yards from our house. I’m not going to lie, I fell twice fetching water. Apparently cheap flip flops, water and mud are a bad combination. Who knew?
- Drinkable water needs to be filtered and chlorinated (ser’eau), unless you want worms or dysentery.
Where is the toilet?
- I used a traditional Kabone, which is basically an outhouse with just a hole in the ground. Ours was very clean and I did not mind it at all. However, I have since heard a story of a volunteer falling into their Kabone which has officially become my worst nightmare.
- At night if I had to go, I would use a “po,” which is a bucket with a lid. Despite the normalcy of using a po here, I always was filled with shame when I carried my bucket of pee down the stairs in the morning.
What about the shower?
- Bucket baths, baby! I would take a bucket, fill it halfway up with well water, go back into the house, have Neny pour in some nice hot water she made for me and bring it to the ladosy. The using a small pitcher I would pour water on myself. You get the picture.
- The ladosy is a small room separate from the house with a drain.
I think that covers the basics!
I think that is good enough for now. I am going to post this now and then post the second half later, once my thumbs have regained their strength (I am typing this on my phone). Hope you enjoyed the read! Veloma!