Several people have asked what life is like in Madagascar. Here is a glimpse into a typical weekday:
5:30am: Amanda is awake and getting ready for a workout. The heat comes early these days with the arrival of the rainy season. Best to exercise early. One of the missionary women living in the guesthouse joins occasionally, as do a couple of Malagasy friends. There is talk about starting a class for women from the Maternity Center. A fun opportunity for Amanda to help the women in an unexpected way. Josh’s snores occasionally can be heard from across the house.
8am: School begins. The girls woke up 2 hours ago and got an early start on “self work” - workbook-based curriculum that they use for several subjects. “Draw Africa” is teaching them to freehand draw the continent of Africa. Do you know where Burkina Faso and Djibouti are located? The kids do. We trade teaching duties depending on the day and agenda. I have newfound respect for teachers that keep 20+ wriggling kids engaged. I am challenged with three. Kids are doing well but struggle with the respect for parent-as-teacher role some days. Sometimes I wonder how much they are learning, but am confident in the greater life experience as education.
10am: Tuesdays are shopping days. We buy most fresh vegetables and fruits at the local open-air market or from street vendors, but are also thankful for the convenience of 3 western-style grocery stores in town that opened in the past year or so. Some items are very inexpensive (domestic grown vegetables, white rice), some are expensive (cheese, tortillas, brown rice). Mmmm, I love tortillas and cheese. All fruits and vegetables must be soaked in bleach or vinegar when we get home to kill unwanted microbes. Consistency is frustratingly elusive. We get stuck behind an ox-cart on the way home. Little else gets accomplished on Tuesdays. Life in Africa isn’t as efficient as life in the US.
12 noon: Lunch. School is finished for the day. Nearly everything shuts down between 12pm-2pm. The roads clear and most stores, schools, and offices are closed for lunch and siesta. It is hot; I like siesta.
8am/2pm/8pm/Anytime: Work. Our work is primarily focused on supporting the continued growth in the existing ministries. Its awesome to see how lives are being changed. The people are quickly becoming friends, not just pictures or stories from far away.
- Guesthouse: The #1 project thus far has been the guesthouse. A highlight has been getting to know the young couple that live on the property, Tanjona and Toky (pronounced ‘Too-ky'). They are key to day-to-day operation of the guesthouse and will help run it once we return to the US.
- Eden Projects: Sep-Nov is a key planting season for Eden as the seeds need to be planted before the rains come. We have assisted with seed collection, working alongside the Malagasy employees and learning the ropes of Eden. There are two new nurseries this year that support as additional 600,000 trees. Thats a lot of seeds (and jobs)!
- Computer Training: We are developing a curriculum to teach basic computer skills to the Malagasy employees. Classes include e-mail use, file sharing, creation of simple documents and spreadsheets, and basics of social media. In addition to benefitting the existing projects, computer skills are important job/life skills for the people as the internet and mobile technology make inroads. Classes start next week.
- Other activities: There are many other small ways that we get involved. 75-100 kids show up each Saturday for Kids Club - an outreach for community kids. Weekly soccer games help build relationships with the community too.
6pm - Dinnertime. Malagasy eat rice 3 meals a day. I read somewhere that Madagascar ranks first in the world in per capita consumption of rice. Literally everything else is considered ‘laoka', the Malagasy word for side-dish. Many families cannot afford 3 meals a day and spend whatever they’ve earned that day on rice for the family. Very thankful that we have variety in our diet.
7:30pm - Bedtime for the kids. On extra hot nights, we turn on the A/C to help them fall asleep. No fun to sweat yourself to sleep. Its not uncommon for the power to be out, or the water, or both. Who knows when they will come back on…. Amanda and I get ready for the following day - cleaning, reading, working, or catching up with life and friends in the US. Thank goodness for Skype!
10:30pm - If I didn't already mention it, it is hot. A second shower is needed to get clean and cool off. We drift off to sleep listening to the thump-thump of dance music that reverberates through the neighborhood. Maybe its a circumcision party, or wedding, or some other celebration. Doubt I'll miss the music when we are back in the US although there is a sense of community with it.
2am - We wake to booms of thunder and staccato rain which interrupt our dreams and cool the air for a few moments. After the rains pass, the humidity rises as we get a few more hours of sleep.
Life here is not for the feint of heart. Schedules are mere suggestions, efficiency is an afterthought, and convenience is a luxury of the wealthy. We are very glad to be here and grateful for the opportunity to serve alongside the missionaries and people in Madagascar. A big thank you to everyone that has partnered with us to make this happen!