Monday, October 18, 2010

Was that the dog? No, just a flower pot

October 18, 2010 
So a missionary friend of ours is gone for the week and offered to let us have her car! BLESSING!!! The biggest thing I was so excited about was that I could bulk up on groceries and not have to walk 1 ½ miles carrying groceries in my arms! So today we went to do some running around to the different grocery stores near Tana. First we had to get the car out of the yard. Tiana, our guard, had pulled it inside our gate after our party yesturday. We had left it out in the “alley way” so there was more room in the yard. Now, I was told that the car had power steering. Yeah. NOT. It literally took me 8 minutes to do about a 7 point ½ turn....that's right ….. a ½ turn, to get the car out of the yard. At one point I heard a thump. Was that the dog? No, just a flower pot. Upps, sorry Sarah and Daniel, (the missionaries whose house we're renting) we'll have to add that to the list of things we need to replace!

And so, off we went. Not to bad for the first time driving in a third world culture! I could have hit a pedestrian, a scooter, a taxi-be, a car, a dog, zebu, but.....I only hit a flower pot. The boys thought it was a great ride and were encouraging me constantly. Even Randy, at one point said, “wow honey, playing chicken with a taxi-be, you're really becoming Malagasy”. You see, there are “sides” of the road you're supposed to drive on. However, you don't really have to stay on your side if you don't want too. For instance, if you want to pass someone, you just drive on the other side of the road whether there is someone coming the other way or not. How these people don't have more accidents I don't know. To say the least,when we got back home I looked at Randy and said, “I'm going to go inside, get a tall glass of cold water, and be by myself to calm down”.

And that, people, was my first experience driving in Madagascar. Almost like Mario Kart! And though I was nervous I have to say, I kind of liked the danger in it all! God help us.

Pure contentment!

October 17, 2010 A Heart Filled With Joy
Today was the day! The day I've been waiting for all week! My birthday party! So yesterday, Helena, my language helper, her husband, Haza, and her mother, Florentine, and I walked to the neighboring town (about 25 min) to get freshly made juice ( five 2 liter bottles) and then walked to the market (about 15 min) and bought 25 chicken legs/thighs, and lots of vegetables and rice! We then walked home and spent the morning cooking the chicken over a small charcoal “pit” and chopped vegetables while sitting on the floor (they only have two stools and they were full). We had a great time talking and laughing and chopping!

So today around 2:00 pm people started showing up. My friends who helped me cook yestureday plus Florintine's husband, Roger, and niece, Sin (pronouced Seen) and baby (Lida) came first. Our guard and house keeper, Tiana and Jeannin and their two boys, and Neeree and Tony (they own and run a small veggie stand down the road from us where we buy banana's every day) came on Malagasy time, 2:40. Fiona (English) and her husband Narilanto (Malagasy) and their son, Marcus, came as well. They are missionaries with YWAM (Youth With A Mission).

I greeted them, thanked them all for coming, explained what was for lunch and then prayed....all in Malagasy! I was SO nervous and had practiced this with Helena all week! Now I really wanted to bless these hard working people who have been SO kind and helpful to us since we've been here. So, with Helena's help, I had made the food they would have had at a big party. We made Chicken Makasohka (ginger) and rice with veggies. We then had LOTS of fruit and Randy made Carrot Cake!!!!! (Boy was that a hit!) After eating I got out my balloons and made everyone a balloon animal/flower. They loved it! Then I opened my presents. I was so touched when I opened my presents, which I wasn't expecting. I had told everyone to “just come and eat and celebrate, don't bring anything!” I received all hand made things! Florinitine made me a skirt. Haza made me a doll house out of a pizza box! I was amazed at the details! And Tony made me a BEAUTIFUL vase! Oh, tears, tears, tears, tears! I felt so loved and SO special. These people don't have much. So the fact that they put time and energy into their gifts was the greatest gift of all! It was trurly humbling!

After everything started to die down several of our guests stayed and helped clean everything up! I really like that part of the culture! It was so nice to just chit chat and laugh when I couldn't, for the life of me, understand what they were saying to me! The day was truly fulfilling. Pure contentment.

Friday, October 15, 2010

He called me Malagasy!!!

So, walking everywhere has it's advantages because you really get to know your neighborhood and your neighbors! Walking the kids to school, we always pass the same group of young men who sit on the side of the road with their carts waiting for someone to come along and ask them to work for the day. This group of men started off just staring at the boys and I as we walked by. I would greet them in malagasy and they would just stare. After about a two weeks they started greeting us back. It's kind of like dealing with the greeters at Walmart. We had to train them how to greet us as well! Last week we were walking to school and I didn't greet them because I was busy talking to the boys. One of the guys shouted out “Manahoana Faza”, Good morning foreigner. Now, when children call us faza we don't mind so much but when older people do it it's just fairly annoying and somewhat rude. So I answered him back with “Manahoana Malagasy”. All his friends cracked up laughing! So this is how we greated each other last week. This week as we were walking to school he called out, “Manahoana Malagasy” to which I replied, “Manahoana faza”. Laughter! It's a common language that brings smiles to everyones face!

Introducing my husband, the blogger

October 10: The Sound of Silence
Guest Blogger: Randy

Every week morning the main road from the airport to Tana becomes very congested right at the point where our little road empties on to it. So, many times as we ride in the taxi be' we are entertained by the “in flight movie” of watching the bus negotiate through taffic. Many times you sit there and say to yourself, “We're going to hit that car!” and then surprisingly we don't. Well, just this past week - we did. My taxi-be' was edging past another taxi-be' and I said to myself “He's going to hit that side mirror”. And sure enough we did. Now I expected we would stop and the drivers would talk and that it would probably take a very long time. I was considering getting off and walking to my next bus. But, this did not happen. The surprising thing was that NO ONE seemed to notice. No one turned their head. No one blinked an eye lid. No one made any noises – not even a grunt. The man asleep across from me continued to drool on himself. The driver didn't say a word. The only thing that happened was that the guy who rides in the back – the one who lets people on and off and who collects the money – he swung out the door (literally) to see if there was any damage to our taxi-be'. (He didn't seem to care about the other one.) He then swung back in without saying a word and the driver stepped on the gas to cover the next 20 feet as fast as he could before he had to slam on the brakes before he rear ended the next car. When I mentioned all this to Megan that same night she said the same exact thing had happened to her - and again: Nothing! I know nothing! (Captain Shultz anyone?)

October 10: A Different Kind of Return Policy
Guest Blogger: Randy

It is very obvious that here in Madagascar when you buy something at the roadside market you can not return it. But we are still not sure about the more Western stores – like the South African supermarket, Shop Rite. Our guess is.....“no.” But I just realized the other day that you are not left “holding the bag” entirely if you choose a defective product. We somehow broke the electric tea kettle here at the house. So, I went to Shop Rite and bought a new one. As I was checking out, the women at the register asked if I wanted to go to the service desk and test the tea kettle. So, I did. Not only did the man unpack the box, ask someone to get him some water to heat in it, and eventually plug it in to see that it actually heated water – but when he unpacked the box he found that it had the wrong plug on it. So, he cut off the old plug for me and rewired the correct plug for me right there. I think that is pretty good service.

October 10: Small Towns Are All the Same
Guest Blogger: Randy

Did you know that I bought a toaster oven for my birthday? Did you know that we bought a new electric tea kettle? Well, the entire town of Ambohinambo does. You see – we don't have a car. That means we have to walk home. Since the larger appliances like toaster ovens and electric tea kettles do not fit in the small bags they have here everyone in town can see what I bought. And surely the whole way home carrying the box everyone stared at me and gave this knowing smile like “Ah, I always wondered who bought those things there.”

This happened a third time as well. But that time it was with flowers. You see, my wife told me when we lived in America that I didn't need to buy her flowers. She preferred we spent our money on other things, since flowers were expensive. But when she found out that flowers at the road side market were fairly cheap she told me I could buy her flowers whenever I wanted.

So, one day I was able to stop and get her some roses on my way home from teaching. I couldn't exactly stick them in my backpack, so all along the walk home everyone was staring at me. All the women seemed to either be jealous that they weren't getting any from their man or glad for “some lucky woman”. All the guys gave a knowing smile as well.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Randy's birthday party

My Birthday Party 9/19/10
Guest Blogger: Randy

My birthday was on Sunday, September 19. What I wanted for my birthday was to hang out with friends. So, I threw my own party. I was not sure who to invite. My list kept getting longer. I started out with all the AIM missionaries. Then I invited the AMI staff. (Most of them are not AIM missionaries.) Because of the size of our house I had to stop at that. I had wanted to invite our guard and his wife, our language helpers and another missionary family, but there was no more room. I really did not want everyone to be vahzah (foreigners) but the Malagasy AMI staff could not make it and so it turned out to be that anyway.
Between our house and AMI there is a new bakery that makes the best baguettes. They are also a pizzeria and make special order cakes too. In order to reduce the work for the party I decided to order pizzas and cakes from there. Besides, they had a special buy 2 get one free deal on Sundays.
I stopped by the bakery on my way home from work one night to order the pizzas and cakes and I met the owner, a Frenchman named Nicholos. (Previously I had only met the Malagasy who worked for him.) Nicholos is a philosopher about his pizza. He basically serves one pizza and believes you should like it. You can't really order a plain pizza. I did manage to get him to leave off the large chunks of vegetables. (Smaller pieces were already mixed into the 'mix' that is his pizza.) And then as we talked he would say Рbut we do have another kind of pizza Рand then he would wax philosophical about that one. After I agreed to try 2 of those he mentioned that there was yet another kind of pizza....I stuck with the first two kinds. (The second one I really liked. Don't ask me to explain it. It had some kind of cr̬me fraiche and bacon on it.)
Nicholos's English is about as good as my French so we would keep switching between the two. For about a week I kept running into him – at the market, at his bakery, etc. He insisted that I come by for a cake sampling before I actually pick up the cakes. He would offer me free fruit drinks to try. It was great.
In the end I had 6 pizzas and 2 cakes delivered to our house. But since it is really hard to explain how to get to our house – and there are no street names or American type addresses to speak of – I had to take some friends and meet the delivery people about a 10 minutes walk away from the house at a church that everyone knew the location of.
The people who ended up attending my party consisted of a Korean woman and her 3 boys (her husband wanted to come but was busy with another short term missions team), four single Korean women, a Dutch woman, an Austrian woman, two Canadian women, our family and one single South African guy.
Now I mention this because it illustrates something. There is a derth of single men in missions. The other AIM missionaries who live around here who could not come are either married couples or single women. At our training at AIM's headquarters there were two single women training with us. The cover story of one of the mission magazines here in the house says “Where are the Men?”. Maybe you know the answer to this. Maybe some of the reasons have to do with linguistics – women generally do better with language and communication than men. Maybe learning a foreign language scares men more than women? Maybe it has to do with all the reasons that “Men Hate Going to Church” (see the book). Maybe it has to do with the way western culture has been in the past – men in the workplace – women at home (which if they're not married might free them up to go overseas???). And somehow now that women are not at home it still effects things? I don't know. Maybe with all the single women in missions single guys get hitched soon after starting? Again – I really don't know. If you're a single guy – have you considered foreign missions? (Do you play the piano?)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Introducing: MacGyver, my HUSBAND!

Hang in there people!  This blog from the guest blogger isn't quite as boring as the last one!
Guest Blogger: Randy

Mondays are usually my day off. But during the week leading up to AMI night (think youth retreat with adults) I had so much work to do I had to go in and work on my day off while the boys were in school. When I got to AMI I didn't need to use the keys I had been given because Estelle, the woman who cleans, was there. There are also two Korean, single women who live at AMI. While I was there one of them said she was leaving to go meet up with the other one in Tana. A little after 11 am, Estelle, left. So, I was all alone at the school. I had planned to meet Megan after she picked up the boys at Shop Rite so we could all walk home together. So, at the right time I packed up my stuff and went to go home. Now AMI is basically a large fancy house with a wall around it. (All middle class and upper class houses have walls around them.) In the wall there is a door and a gate. After I locked the two front doors of the school itself I went to go out the door in the wall. This door had been locked by Estelle. When I got my keys out I found that none of them worked in this door. So, I went over to the gate – where the vehicles come in and out. I found out I could get out the gate, but I had no way of locking it once I was outside. And it was not safe to leave it open. So, I went around to the back of AMI where there are two very tiny “houses” within the wall of the gate. (I'm still not sure who lives here. I know the guard used to live here – he just moved out – even though he is still the guard.) I was going to ask someone to let me out and lock the gate behind me. But no one was home there either. So, I was alone at AMI and locked in.
I discovered that if I had some rope I could engineer a device to lock the gate once I was outside. So, I went back in the building and looked for rope – no rope. I did find a box of keys – lots of keys. So, I took the box out to the gate and tried them. First set of keys...second set of keys...key number luck. No keys for the front gate.
By this time it was passed the time I was supposed to meet Megan. When I called her on the cell phone she said, “I'll be right there. We're just leaving the pharmacy.” To which I replied, “Yes, but I'm not there yet.”
Finally I made a rope out of plastic bags, a towel and a table cover. I let myself out and then threw the improvised rope over the gate and took the two taxi-be's to Shop Rite (which is on the way to our house). When I finally made it to Shop Rite and was inside the store one of the Shop Rite guards that we know saw Megan walking by and told her I was there. (She had run into someone she knew and had been talking the whole time.) So, we did get to go home together.
The next morning Estelle comes into the teacher's office at AMI and tells the acting administrator that she thinks someone tried to break in because she found the “rope” lying inside the driveway.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Troublesome cultural issues.

September 27, 2010 
This morning I was sitting on our couch working on some computer things when all of a sudden I heard the sounds of scissors cutting. I looked and saw Seth and Cole. They were coloring at the dinning room table. So, what was making that cutting sound? I looked out the window and to my utter was Tiana, our guard and gardener. He was squatting down on the ground walking like a duck, and he was cutting the grass.....with a small pair of shears! I was mortified. I already struggle, deeply, with having house help. (I have yet to meet a missionary who hasn't struggled with the idea of having house help.)

I was talking to a missionary friend of mine, Jocelynn, on the phone this afternoon. She explained a truth to me that I didn't know before, which appears to be true in a lot of developing countries around the world. She said, “When a foreigner comes to live here, that foreigner is looked at as someone who can provide a few good paying jobs for the nationals. They can provide a job for a guard, a house cleaner, a nanny, a gardener..... In fact (and I didn't know this before until now) if, as a foreigner, you don't provide those jobs, in some countries such as Madagascar, you are seen as selfish and self centered, not caring at all for the people of the land in which you just moved to.

So, herein lies the difficult and touchy situation. In the foreign land you are, in some way, expected to provide these jobs. Yet, in the land where I come from having a guard, house cleaner, and nanny often speaks of wealth and high maintenance. You know I'm right. And so, often times, missionaries feel uncomfortable mentioning that they have this type of help to their friends and family because of how it is perceived in America.

And so, I was glad that Jocelynn told me this, though it's still an awkward topic for me. She actually told me of a book that talked about this very subject. I needed to them remind myself that we are providing these beautiful people with jobs.

So I wanted to encourage you, and myself, and tell you of a family that you are having a positive effect on by supporting our family here in Madagascar. Tiana is our night guard and gardener. Where we are staying in Madagascar it is strongly recommended that you have, at least, a night guard for your safety. This is because, as a foreigner you will be marked for an easy robbery. We also have footsiefootsy, our dog, for this reason. Between her and Tiana (and God) we feel (and have been) very safe. Jeannine is Tiana's wife. She is our house help. She comes twice a week to clean the house and do our laundry (by hand). This beautiful couple have two sons. Right now they live in a one room shack made out of planks of wood. Connected to this one room is another shack, this one with only three sides, where their three pigs live. Their boys run in and out of the pens, bare foot. Tiana and Jeannine are working hard to save enough money in order to build a small home on family land out in the country side. By your supporting us, and by us giving them a job, they are able to save up money towards their goal. So, thank you so much for helping provide for Tiana and Jeannine!

Swim as fast as you can Cockroach, but you're not getting away, and other amazing stories!

October 8, 2010
Woke up this morning and ran to go puke in the bathroom, intestinal bug. As I was hugging the porcaline bowl I saw before me a cockroach that had fallen into the toilet but was trying to swim to safety. I vomited all over the big sucker! HA! Take that you stinkin' cockroach! Revenge is mine!

On a more serious note, I can't even believe all the things that the Lord allowed me to see this week. I know that He does miracles on a regular basis, but let's face it, I'm usually too busy to see them. This Wednesday my language helper, and friend, Helena came over. She looked very sad and distracted. Here, her husband's sister and 3 children showed up Tuesday. Apparently her nephew was sick and needed to go to the hospital. Tiana, Helena's sister in law, believes that Helena and her husband, Haja, have lots of money since the both have jobs. It's quite the opposite. The live in a little one room “house”. However, Tiana was expecting that Helena feed them all and provide for them. Helena had been up all the night before praying and asking God to provide food for them to feed their guests. Now that same afternoon I was going to a seamstress to get a sundress made for my birthday. In the light of things I realized that my dress wasn't really that important. Not often, as Americans, are we faced with the decision of, “Do I buy a dress for myself, or do I take my friend food shopping so they can eat this week”...quite literally! So we went food shopping instead. That afternoon a missionary friend of mine calls me, not knowing anything that happened earlier that day, and says, “Meg, I know this sounds sort of tacky but I'm not sure what to get you for your birthday and I was wondering if I could just pay for your dress to be made.” HELLO!!!! I just started bawling! My God loves me so much that he wants to provide a silly little dress that I was looking forward to getting! Now, I understand that some of you will think I'm silly for thinking God is providing these things...but....I do!

So, later that evening I was to call a missionary doctor to see when and if he could see Faniva (Helena's nephew, a little 3 year old boy who's testicle is literally the size of my fist). After talking to him I was to walk to Helena's to let them know what the scoop was. Well, the plumber came to our house (did I mention that we had contacted the plumber 1 month ago?) and it looked as if he wasn't going to leave until too late so that I couldn't make it to Helena's to tell them that we could go to the doctor together on Friday. (It's not safe here to walk after dark, by yourself, as a foreigner.) So, what could I do? I wanted Helena to hear the good news, because I didn't want her to be up all night worrying again. So, I prayed, “Lord, I know you hear me and I know that you speak to Helena, would you please tell her to come here tonight so I can share with her this good news?” Ten minutes later.....ding dong at our gate. Guess who? Helena. She had a “feeling” that I couldn't make it to her house and thought she would come over and see what was going on! CRAZY!!!!!

That's not all folks. The story continues! This morning I was to meet Helena, Tiana, and Faniva and go with them to the doctor's house. Believe it or not they wanted me to come along to translate for them! Need I remind you people that I've only been here 2 months! Anyway, last night around 6:00 I got violently sick...throwing up and diarrhea, you get the nasty picture right? No need for details. Anyway, didn't sleep well last night as I was constantly running to the toilet and bucket. This morning, same thing. So what could I do but pray. “Lord, Helena is really nervous about going to an American doctor on her own, she'd really like me to go. I can't right now. Would you please block up both ends of me and give my body strength to walk 1 ½ miles to the taxi-be and then another 1 mile to the doctors, and back again?” Mind you, I was nervous. I had no energy. But I headed for Helena's singing, “I walk by faith and not by sight. I walk by faith for this little boy. I walk by faith and not by sight. I walk by faith with You my Lord”. Did I doubt? YES! I even packed an extra pair of pants in case well, you get the picture right? And guess what? 2 ½ hrs and NO diarrhea, and NO throwing up! I needed to stop several times as it felt like I was going to toss my cookies, but I didn't! On the way home the family put their money together to get me a taxi ride all the way to my house so I wouldn't have to walk, I must have looked really bad to them! I offered to pay and they refused. They wanted to give me a gift back. I no sooner walked into the house, and put it nicely ….. exploded! What great timing! That's the type of God that I serve. And you know what? Even if today didn't go like that and I did put a load in my pants on the way to the doctor, I would still think my God is an awesome God!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Beaks and Tongues....

So every Saturday at AMI they have a big lunch for all the students and teachers. A Malagasy woman and her daughter come and prepare the food for everyone. So the boys and I went last Saturday to join Randy and the students. I got in line to get food for the boys and me. Rice, a cold carrot salad, and a slab of really fatty meat. I just stared at the meat for a while. It looked really familiar to me but I couldn't place it at first. “Oh, yeah, I remember where I saw this. It was just this morning outside of our fence. It was attached to a zebu. Yeah. Zebu tongue. Great.” So I gave it to the kids and told them it was steak. They LOVED it! Yuck. They actually went back for a second and third helping! Later on after lunch was over I said, “Hey boys. Do you want to know what the meat was that you ate at lunch?” “Yeah, what was it Mommy?” “It was Zebu tongue” I said. Seth shouted, “COOL! I LOVED IT! Can you order that for me everytime we go to a resturnaut?” Ah, innocence....

Seth comes home from school today and tells Randy about a new game they played called "arrowbeaks". He explained how they got on all fours and jumped and ran in place..... Later this evening Seth was telling me about it and Randy was listening. I looked at Seth and said, "Do you mean aerobics?" Randy and I cracked up as Seth said, "No, Miss Ando said, "arrowbeaks!" Miss Ando pronounces /i/ as /ee/ like the French, and had the accent on the wrong syllable! Hilarious!