Trip Start Aug 15, 2012
11Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
My New Home in Ambovombe
What I did
From Saturday September 8 through Sunday the 9, my five fellow volunteers and I participated in a homestay located in a village outside of Antsirabe. The original plan was that each of the six of us would stay with a different family in the village, which would give us a chance to really practice our language and to view a side of Malagasy culture that living with a bunch of Norwegians doesn’t really provide
To start our trip, we all crammed into Austin and Tanya’s 4x4 at 9 am Malagasy time, which was around 10 am actual time. The flexibility of time is a very prevalent part of life here. After the usual winding roads dodging cow carts, pousse pousses (rickshaws), and other cars, we turned off over the sketchiest bridge I have ever ridden across, and thus our off road adventure began. The road leading to the homestay was a narrow dirt "road" lined with cactus and 10-foot high embankments. The road itself was never level the entire ride and some part of the car was always being scraped. Many more rural roads haven’t received an upkeep since the French left in the 1970s simply because there isn’t the money, so people just make do.
When we arrived at our parking place, one of the most prominent parts of Malagasy culture was shown to us: selfless hospitality
The house and the surrounding area were the picture of simplistic beauty, a description that could be used for much of rural Madagascar. The house itself had no electricity or running water, and all the cooking was done with charcoal. Most things they eat come from within only a few miles. I got to experience this first hand when they asked me if I wanted to help slaughter and prepare a chicken for lunch the next day. Here’s the trick: right knee on the legs, left knee on the wings, and left hand just below the beak. I’ve never felt more connected to where my food comes from, not even hunting and fishing. The yard around the house was filled with chickens, cows (zebu), and pigs
A large part of my time in Madagascar so far has been the language barrier. Malagasy isn’t the hardest language out there, but it will still kick your butt. I am getting better, but it is most definitely work. Another fun (sarcastic) part of language study is that there are many different dialects in Madagascar. We learned, under the tutelage of two great teachers, Jackie and Henri, the official dialect, which is spoken in the highlands near Antananrivo and Antsirabe
Through all the experiences I have had since I got to Mada, the common theme is just to have an open mind and an open heart whenever I encounter something new. Austin and Tanya told us our second day in the country to let go of all our expectations for this year. Expectations just slow down being truly plugged into the culture and community. Keeping this open-mindedness is a constant struggle for me when I just don’t want to eat any more rice or I just want to take a shower, but it is something I strive for everyday
The rest of orientation was a whirlwind of walks to the crazy market, staring down pointing fingers, taxi bousses, the great forward-thinking agricultural school of Tombatsoa, traditional Malagasy dances and songs, music, Norwegians, late night tea and shared stories with wonderful people, and play time with Austin and Tanya’s dog, Poba. It was the perfect transition from the states to this year’s adventure. Good times with better people.
On the morning of the 15, I jumped on a plane to Fort Dauphin and then jumped in a truck with a man named Tsila and his family for the four-hour dirt roller coaster ride to Ambovombe and the shack that will be my home for 10 months. It has already been quite the experience, filled with laughs, confusion, food, music, and learning. And since then, I somehow I ended up in Ambondro, Madagascar, for a region-wide boy/girl scout retreat. I was told I was coming about 10 hours before we left. It started by me hopping in a truck with TEN other people who I couldn’t speak to at 5 AM, and now I am here. I have already been asked to give impromptu speeches (in Malagasy) and teach bible camp songs (in English). Where am I? It’s actually been awesome because I met a Peace Corps volunteer who has helped me with lots of language and culture stuff
Overall, life is a pretty great adventure right now. Thanks for sharing it with me vicariously!
My phone number for this year is: 261340504630 . If you call me through Skype, it costs me nothing and it only costs 2 cents a minute, but it will cost me about a bazillion dollars to call you. Drop me a line sometime.
Also my mailing address for the foreseeable future is:
Austin and Tanya Propst c/o Luke Stappler