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.|