Friday, October 28

face mask

unbraiding my host mom's hair.  the stuff on my face is this special mask that many of the sakalava women here wear everyday... it appears bright yellow on their faces and its a protection agains tthe sun.  you make it by rubbing this special kind of wood on cement with a little bit of water.

Thursday, October 27

mahajanga encore

our ride to church... picture me squeezed in there and a malagasy man pulling us up hills in this tiny posiposy... although im glad i can say that i have taken a posiposy in mahajanga, this was not the most enjoyable ride of my life!!! i felt so terrible for the poor man... but it's a huge part of the culture here and no one really thinks much of the incredible physical labor that these men bear in the intense heat. 

boarding the ferry in the mozambique channel on our way to kantsepy... if there was anyway we were going to die in madagascar it would have been on this boat!!!!!
annnnnd we have arrived safely!
beautiful sand bar right next to school

walking on water!
she cray cray

Tuesday, October 25


my baby - christian.  he thinks im his mom - no joke. talk about being color blind!!!!
munchin on a mango pit while i do my homework


outside my house - host mom and sister (crazy crazy crazy child...)

Saturday, October 22


in swahili : MJI ANGAIA, which means cite de fleurs.  i have found paradise!!!! this place has been my favorite thus far in madagascar.  the best way to describe it is an african key west... tropical, extremely hot, brightly colored buildings, bananas and mangos everywhere you look, the beach!!!... life is good here. and mahajanga is definitely known for its way of life: moramora, or slow-paced & laid back. it is different from tana in almost every sense, and although i love love love living there, our two weeks in mahajanga is definitely appreciated.  whereas in tana where we were all told by our host families to be scared for our lives if we were out on the streets past five oclock, and where we couldnt pull out our phones on the street - and god forbid pull out our cash!!!, we can breathe in mahajanga a bit better (and not just literally, although thats been really nice too the lack of pollution here!).  Walking back from school to our homestays at night is possible here!! in fact, ben and i have been walking back at night every day and stopping for brochettes on the street from our fave gasy gal... sooo liberating!

fresh mangos and bananas mmmmm... this is our classroom.
my neighborhood in mahajanga

jadebabe... dressing the mahajanga part. outside our classroom.


on our way to mahajanga, we made a two night pitstop to camp in ankarafantaska, a national park home to some crazy exotic animals.  lemurs were everywhere and always hanging out in the trees right next to our tents and the dining area, and we even got to see some of the little tiny mousy lemurs sticking their cute little heads out of the trees when we passed by on the trail. we also got to do a night walk through the woods which was really really cool - i have NO idea how these guides can pick out chameleons the size of a lima bean in the pitch dark and covered by trees and brush, but they can! its some type of bizarre gasy talent...

this guy has a cool looking black ring around its neck

soooo close!!

a few highlights: malagasy smores (delicious but extremely weird), nary's guitar requests: emmy lou harris & shania twain, pig screeching lemurs at night, bear in boots chez jade, louis' rations, playing gasy dominos

Wednesday, October 12

fam pic

i love this picture- this is my immediate family in the rural village... they asked me to take this of them but they all look incredibly pissed! herizo (13), nathalie (11), anita (8), liantsoa (6), tina (3 or 4), and my parents with their religious certificates (not sure for what...)

Mihinana ankizy i Dave

 = Dave eats children.  
This was the rumor going around the villages (or at least made its way to Jimmy’s homestay parents who then got a french speaker to relay this urgent piece of information to him) about the vazaha Dave in the next town over who was unfortunately hunting down and eating all of the children in the village - or whichever ones he could sneakily get his hands on!!!  This was absolutely not a joke, and jimmy's parents were really concerned that our academic director Roland should know asap about Dave's misbehavior. Apparently, Dave's daily walks by himself indicated to the villagers that he was on the prowl for scrumptious malagasy children... so weird, right?
Other rumors got passed around between villages as well: Laura was really sick in the hospital (not true at all), maddie was terrified of a mouse, dave was really sick until he saw charlotte (although this was definitely 100% true... the lovebirds), emma was calm....?! i mean yeah i guess i was calm but what the heck kind of anecdote is that to pass along? talk about lost in translation?

Tuesday, October 11


"time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana" -Roland Beaumont Pritchett

Sunday, October 9

back to tana to lala

My host mother in tana was so excited to cook me omby tail on Sunday (cow tail)… it was pretty funny/sweet.  “Emma!!!!! Guess what I got today to cook for you?!?!?!” I was immediately wary… ummm “poisson sec?” was my response, preparing myself for the worst.  She laughed… “no, don’t be silly. Omby tail!!!” Tail? I just hoped it didn’t still have hair on it.  I responded with a smile, “Merci beaucoup…! Je suis impatiente d’essayer…”  It turned out to be pretty delicious, pretty much the same as every other piece of omby meat I’ve eaten… who knew!?!
Another funny thing my host mother in tana said the other day was about the Asian members of our SIT group.  Cassie is chinese, ivana is from the Philippines, and chie is half Japanese, but all three are American.  We were talking about going back to the United States or something, and she asked me if the Japanese girl missed Japan.  I was like… what??  I said that Chie has never been to Japan.  My host mother was so so so so confused, and so was i. I realized during our moment of confusion that she didn’t understand how any Asian could be an American.  I tried to explain this to her, but was not successful.  She just kept asking, “but have you seen her do karate? Because all Asians do karate, no matter where in asia they are from.”  I tried not to laugh, she was dead serious.  First of all, what?!?! Second of all, why do you care about whether the Asians in my group do karate???
I’m really going to miss Lala’s ridiculous commentary.  The other day, I had a stomach bug and she said: “ohhhh, I know.  It must be the cold wind.”  I was like, “yeah, must be… that makes sense.”

Rice Overload & Questionable Hygiene

This was one of the most worthwhile experiences ever. I had the best time, and didn’t want to leave my family when it came time to head back to tsiroanomandidy… I could have stayed there for who knows how long.  There were definitely some bizarre/funny moments that kind of made my time there exciting… like the time I ate pretty much every part of a chicken except for the meat… I had no idea what I was eating, but my dad kept placing vague looking parts onto my plate and I just smiled and hoped for the best.  It was actually really good… is that weird? 
On that note, food was definitely different in the village than what I was used to with my family in tana.  It’s clearly no lie that the Malagasy are the largest consumers of rice per capita in the world… for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I was presented with a full plate of rice piled half a foot high… literally.  It was overwhelming at first: during the first meal I remember feeling like I was going to explode after eating half of the rice… but I didn’t know what to do because I didn’t want to be impolite refusing the rest, especially since the 3 year old had eaten more than twice what I had.  All the kids, in fact, were scarfing down just the most obscene amounts of rice with these huge spoons… and the whole week I couldn’t get over it… where does all that food go? Do they ever get full??? And when we would have katsaka (corn – it’s cooked like a stew, very different than what I’ve had in the states.. it’s not sweet so they often cook it with grounded up peanuts or sugar if its available), I was asked the funniest question.  I ate half of my HUGE serving (I wish I had taken a picture of it) and while the rest of my family was on their second and third ginormous plates of corn, my host father looked at me kind of puzzled and said “tsy zatra?” which means “you’re not accustomed to it?”  Like all this time it was totally understandable that I couldn’t wolf down pounds and pounds of rice at each meal, but why couldn’t I do that with corn? 
Also, the loaka (accompaniment to rice) at every meal was very small compared to back in tana, meaning that the majority of what I ate all week was plain rice… which I was totally cool with since I love rice.  I’m pretty open to eating really anything… I like to try different foods and figured that I would definitely be eating ‘out of the ordinary’ things during this homestay especially.  But the ONE thing that I was worried about… the dried fish.  I’ve mentioned this one other time in my blog, but the dried fish stench here is the worst smell I’ve ever experienced.  Like dead carcasses covered in manure.   And dried fish is EVERYWHERE, in every market, pasty white/grey, stale little fish piled high everywhere you look.  I don’t understand why people eat it, considering its horrible smell and the fact that it’s literally just like eating bones, not to mention the fact that the fish are usually caught in the most polluted bodies of water imaginable.  And of course, my rural homestay family prepared dried fish every day while I was staying with them… at first I was like, okay this is fine, I’ll just take only the small tail pieces so I don’t have to eat the heads too.  But this didn’t end up being an option, because my host dad would go out of his way to take out the biggest, full fish every time and place it on my plate.  Obviously I really appreciated his generosity every meal with food, he always wanted me to get the most food and the best of what was offered.  But the fish… oh my goodness, it was a challenge.  The taste actually was not unbearable; it was the smell that I had to get over… and the bones.  But every day I did it!!
I found that privacy was not a real thing in the village.  Not that I was dying for some alone time – I definitely wasn’t – but when it came time to bathe… hmmmm, questionable.  There was one “shower” located in the village… it was a three-sided structure made out of sticks and straw, etc.  The open side looked out onto the beautiful fields and mountain… but it was a three-sided shower.  And it came up to my shoulders!  Every time I tried to wash off, it was just a hilarious experience.  I had to keep my ears and eyes peeled for anyone that might walk by while holding a towel in front of myself while pouring water from a bucket on me.  My little brother and all the little girls and boys in the village would stand around it and try to peek through the straw, and often would come into the shower and just stare at me.  One time, there were literally 10 kids just looking up at me in the 4x4 space.  I had no idea what to do!!! I was just laughing so hard… like here I am, naked except for a tiny cloth, soap covering my hair, and unable to move do to all these kids staring silently up at me. I don’t have the gasy language skills to tell them nicely to please leave me alone for at least 5 minutes.  I just kind of stood there for a bit laughing, until one of the elders caught on to what was going on and immediately yelled something in Malagasy to shoo the little guys away… and they all ran out of the shower laughing and screaming, and of course returned a few minutes later.
kids in my village

nearly peed my pants i was laughing so hard... this is a game where there is a boys team and girls team and they sing songs at each other and banter back and forth and then pick one person from each side to battle like this... the little guy in the hat of course won.

this game was basically weaving through people to make a giant hug...

tanala be!!!!!! chameleons everywhere

Saturday, October 8

prettiest baby

tina with face paint


nathalie and tina


One of my favorite parts of the week was when we went down to the basin of the mountain (ambohobihi) to do laundry in the creek/river. it was unreaaaaal, so gorgeous… tall golden grass on either side of the red dirt path with the huge mountain in the near distance, kids racing in front of me to get there first. 
sister (julio) chasing after her omby

sister (anita) and other village kid

sister (julia) on top of the hill we climbed


We left the hotel bright an early Thursday morning to head further into the bongolava region for our highly anticipated rural homestay excursion…  this entails a week living with a homestay family in a rural village with no electricity or running water, few (if any) french speakers, and miles separating each of us.  We were all so excited beforehand, knowing that this was genuinely a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity, an experience that none of us will be able to have again in this particular fashion – but obviously, this week did not come without some doubt and anxiety for all of us.  I think the biggest thing for me was the language barrier that was presented to us… the thought that I would be living with people who I essentially could not speak to was really unnerving for a bit… I mean, we had been taught the basics: to eat, to sleep, to drink water, and where can I pee, please.  We had also been versed in rural-related activities like “mantsaka rano” (to fetch water from a source/well) and other things relating to preparing rice and corn to eat, etc… but the problem with Malagasy is that EVERYTHING sounds the same.  All regular verbs start with either min, man, or mon (or mis, mih, etc) and always have some ending that involves a lot of a’s and o’s… off the top of my head: mihinana, mandihy, mihira, mandroso, misotro, matory, mafianatra, masava, etc. So I decided to legitimately carry my dictionary around for a little while, and if somebody said something to me or I wanted to say something, I would just look up the word and see where that took me.  It was fun, actually, and although I clearly didn’t become fluent in Malagasy, I definitely expanded my vocab.  I also got really good at hand gestures!!!!
We had been told that we would be probably be doing a whole lot of nothing during this homestay, and I guess I was really confused by that statement… until I arrived at my village at 8am and sat around for the rest of the day.  Life in rural Madagascar is described as muuuuuuch more laid back, slow, “moramora” (as they call it) than city life.  I guess it has a lot to do with the agricultural lifestyle – people have to wait on the seasons in order to do their work a lot of the time.  For instance, my parents were always around (even though they are rice cultivators) because they have to wait for the first rain in order to work.  Instead, they sat outside of the house and talked with family or with neighbors… all day.  At first, the sitting and doing nothing was kind of tough- I was ready to do things and to see things and to be active!!! But I quickly learned that a huge part of the lifestyle involves a whole lot of ‘hanging out’, and that it was important that I accept it as part of my experience living in the village… and eventually, I found sitting all morning and afternoon was easy and enjoyable and I stopped thinking much of it.  But the kids, they played literally from the moment they woke at sunrise to the moment they fell asleep at sunset (because school had not yet started).  Oh, that’s another thing: everyone gets up at around 5:30am (including me, ha!!) and goes to bed right after dinner at around 7pm.  In my homestay family, I slept in the same room with my parents and my five brothers and sisters – one huge sleepover for a week!  And my favorite part of every morning was my littlest brother tina (3 years old) would walk over to my bed, lift up the mosquito net and peak in and say “emma?!” as a question, laugh, and then run in the opposite direction.  Cuuuuuutest little guy. 
our transportation to our individual villages

saying goodbye to the first group of babes!!

Tina, my baby brother

i added this picture to show that house right there is the one i stayed in.  these are a bunch of my siblings and village children playing a game.

Tsiroanomandidy (tseee row mahn deedee)

Before our rural homestays, we stayed in a relais in the town of tsiroanamandidy... a small urban center west of Tana known for its large cattle fairs.  Few pictures of the city:
bathroom break on our way... with our favorite driver nari

this is not a joke!!!!!!! he really is serious about that jacket

oooooooomby evvvverywhere

i just like this pic

with the mayor of tsiroanomandidy (check out the gasy the sash he put on just for the pic!) - note the obligatory framed photo of the president above our heads... this picture must be featured in every offical office in madagascar