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|
|this game was basically weaving through people to make a giant hug...|
|tanala be!!!!!! chameleons everywhere |