Saturday, March 26, 2011
As we head to South Africa for a cluster meeting and community development/disaster relief training, I have been reflecting on some of the skills Madagascar has been teaching me over the last year and a half. Due to my time here on the island, I can now:
1. Divide by 2000 very, very quickly. The exchange rate between Malagasy ariary and US dollar fluctuates, but is always in the general vicinity of 2000ar/dollar.
2. Drive stick shift on sketchy (curve, pothole, animal, and people-filled) roads. And how try to “counter-attack” start the car while someone (Heather - ha ha!) pushes the car…in the rain…great friend. :-)
3. Kill roaches (and other such various and sundry disgusting creatures) without yelling, “Daaadddddyyy!” Although I expect to revert RIGHT back to my old ways whenever he or my little brother are around. *grin*
4. Speak Malagasy. Yeah, that’s a pretty big one. I am not “fluent” by any means, but it still thrills my heart to see the surprise and joy that comes across the peoples’ faces here when they realize I am speaking their heart language.
5. Dig out sand fleas from peoples’ feet (my own included – and that, my friends, takes talent. ;), give IV meds by candlelight, create and teach medical lessons, and other such odd medical talents. :P
6. Not stop at police checkpoints. Legally! It’s a fine art and I’m not quite 100% yet, but if you don’t make eye contact till the right time and then smile and wave while not slowing down, 9 times out of 10 the police will wave you on through. When my parents and little brother come next month, I’m going to try for a 100%. Not because I am scared of the police, but because I am scared my little brother will try to buy their AK47s off them...and succeed. ;)
7. Minimalize. When you carry out everything you need to the village, you learn how to need very little. However, our car does get quite full, still, when we do our re-stocking trips for 2-3 months at a time!
8. Be an e-pen-pal. I LOVE IT! Very few things brighten my day like getting a personal email from a friend! I love getting updates on life in America and all over the world. :0)
9. Never think normally again. Seriously, yesterday I asked Heather a question mentioning the border crossing from Kansas to Missouri. It’s up in the air whether abnormal thinking is a good or bad thing, so, being the optimist that I am, it goes here on the talent list. :D
10. Siphon gas. Again, legally. :P The closest gas station is over an hour away, so we keep some on hand in case we ever get too low to make it there! Along with the gas theme, is cooking with a gas stove/oven and learning how to change out propane tanks without blowing myself up. ;)
P.S. While holding a chameleon is something I have done first here in Madagascar, I don't exactly consider it a talent. This pic just made it up on here because I don't have one of me siphoning gas or killing bugs. :P
Monday, March 14, 2011
An older woman in my church everyone just calls “Grandma” has been absent the last two Sundays. A couple weeks ago someone mentioned she was sick, so after she didn’t show up at church yesterday, I decided to go visit her.
Whistling gaily, I climbed the hill to her house. This is when terror struck. Well, actually six terriers. They all came running at me with the express purpose of chomping my ankles off. Sure, there were a lot of them, but I knew I could kick them away to save my life, if need be. Then came a growl and a deep bark. I slowly raised my head from the throngs of yappy dogs to see a huge German shepherd bounding towards me.
Now before you bite your nails or pee in your pants in anxiety, I didn’t die. There was no blood loss. No pain. For while I was contemplating whether to climb a tree or jump onto a large object, the smallest, sweetest woman you can imagine saved my life by calling off the dogs.
Heart still pounding, I chatted with this woman for a few minutes (she’s Grandma’s housekeeper) till Grandma heard me outside and invited me in with a booming voice. “MONDROSOA!” Forty-five minutes of very animated conversation later, I said I needed to go home. On my way out, she responded as excitedly to my passing comment of “that’s a pretty red flower” as she did to my entire visit, quickly calling to her housekeeper “bring the shears!” Snipping away, she cut some flowers out of her garden to make me a bouquet. Which is now on my kitchen table.
As I turned to leave (again), Grandma wrapped her arm around my waist in a gesture of true friendship and started walking me down the hill. I returned the gesture, wrapping my arm around her, in friendship, yes, but mainly so the German shepherd wouldn’t eat me on my way out.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Sweat glistening on our brows, my Malagasy friend, Mirana (pictured above), and I drag ourselves into the village of Ambohinihaonana. We plop down, our backs resting on a mud hut. The 22 kilometer trek to get here has been arduous, yet full of good conversation. Parched, I reach around my side to grab the water bottle from my backpack; I see movement out of the corner of my eye and stop.
A little old woman, hunched over a tray, is shuffling our way. On the tray are two cups of coffee - steaming and looking very black. I don’t know if y’all know this, but I do NOT like coffee. I enjoy the aroma, but the bitter taste – ugh! No sir, not for me! Not even a caramel macchiato can disguise it. And have I mentioned that it is HOT and HUMID and we have been hiking for hours?! A war begins in my mind.
“How can I get out of drinking that coffee?” “Come on, Cara, you can’t tell a sweet old woman ‘no’ when she’s being so nice!” “But I don’t want it!” “This relationship is more important than your soon-to-be damaged taste buds.”
“It’s the chief’s wife,” Mirana whispers to me. Even better. There is no way I am going to refuse the hospitality of this woman. Reaching out my hands to accept the token of welcome, I slowly take a breath and bring the cup to my lips.
One sip down. Oh my goodness. I might not be able to do this. Can she just turn around for a second so I can dump this out? No? Masking the turmoil going on inside my mouth, I smile at the woman and say thank you. I take another gulp. I am seriously disgusted (yet at the same time, honored at this gesture of kindness. This sweet elderly woman had no idea the havoc this would wreak within me). Glancing over at Mirana’s empty cup, I make the decision to be a terrible friend.
“Oh you finished! Would you like the rest of mine?” The grin was still plastered on my face, but my eyes were pleading for a way out. Recognizing my plights, a wonderful girl name Mirana said, “Sure.” I decide right then and there that she is my best friend for life. *grin*
Okay, okay, so this drama-filled story was (in the grand scheme of things) really not that bad. It wasn’t blood chunks or intestines I had to choke down, just coffee. However it wasn’t something I wanted to happen. Certainly not something I enjoyed doing. But definitely worth it to develop a relationship with this woman.
Something God has been showing me lately is how worth it all He is. In the little things and the big things. The things that “go wrong,” that I would rather not have happen, things that are downright painful, He is completely, totally, utterly, hands-down WORTH IT ALL.
Now don’t get me wrong – life is good! I still love it here in Mada and being blessed beyond imagination. It is just so true that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). My friends, because of this truth, we should be living lives that by words and deeds proclaim that God is worthy!!!
Pray for me, that I might walk worthy of God who has called me, live every moment for His glory and good pleasure, and increase in the knowledge of Him (I Thess. 2:12, Col. 1:10).
In God’s exceedingly abundant love,