Saturday, February 26, 2011

Taxi-be story number 402

February 23, 2011
So, we've been here now 201 days as of today. So you figure we've gone on about 400 taxi-be....adventures let's call them...and mind you, each ride is just that, an adventure. With every taxi-be ride there is a story. So, here is my story from yesterday. First, however, I'll give you an appetizer from last week.

So, like Randy said in an earlier blog, you can't pick your taxi-be or your taxi-be driver. I stepped on a fairly full taxi-be and had to sit in the aisle. This is where some taxi-bes have an extra seat that you swing up and hook on to the other side and others have a peace of wood that you tuck under each rear end on either side of the aisle and then you sit down. Now, some of these pieces of wood are plenty long and ensure a fairly stable seat for you. Some however, unfortunately this one, are a piece of wood that is supposed to be cut to the exact length you need in order to just lay perfectly on these tiny little metal latches on either side of the seats beside them. That's when you do the following. First pray that it will hold you up and then sit....very carefully. It's best to put one foot underneath the seat and one foot on the floor in front of you just to ensure catching yourself if/when the seat gives way. Now on this particular day, as I said, it was fairly crowded on the bus and I couldn't fit my legs or feet anywhere so my knees where touching each other with one foot way to the left and one foot way to the right. Bump. White girl now squatting on floor with board stuck between my knees and my butt. I tried to find gripping on the seats in front of me, the lady next to me puts her hand under my arm pit to help me get up. After a few grunts and groans between the two of us and having “sat” back down I looked at her and said, “Tsi mety...Misoatra besika tompko.” (That didn't work. Thank you).

Well, that turned into a full meal rather than an appetizer didn't it. Ok, here comes another doosey. So today I got on a taxi be and had to sit right behind the driver. We were stuck in traffic so the call guy (the man who stands in the back of the taxi be and shouts where we're going and collects the money) jumped off and ran to the gas station with a plastic container. He then ran to the driver's side door and poured out the gasoline right in front of me down a hole into the engine! It stunk so bad! The motor still running, thought it might be the last thing I ever saw! We finally kept moving forward and I got to the stop where I was supposed to meet my friend. I asked the taxi to stop but apparently this one didn't stop at all the bus stops, including this one. So I shouted, “azafady!” (please!) He stomped on the breaks. The taxi be was FULL. And when I say a taxi be is full I mean redonculously full! So I couldn't get out the normal way. The driver looked behind me and saw all the people, so he told me to crawl through a little window that was between me and him in the front seat (like the windows you can open and close when you ride in a limo...expect this one was smaller and had no glass in it any more). Um...ok, what could I do? I climbed through the window to the front seat landed on the person's lap that was in the front seat and went out the side door. It was definitely a sight. Thankfully I learned how to laugh at myself years ago!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Third Taxi-Bé - or Don't Pass Up Free Stuff

February 17
Guest Blogger: Randy Gehlert

Yesterday, since Seth was sick, I had to run and pick up Cole from school and take him home and then get back to work in time for my afternoon piano lessons. As I was riding on the taxi-bé back to work I looked ahead and saw a large THB truck that was coming toward us lose something out of the rear. (THB stands for Three Horses Beer. It is THE beer in Madagascar.) If you have ever seen people throw newspapers out of a car or truck – that is what it looked like. About ten or so orange newspaper-shaped objects came out of the truck onto the side of the road.

At first I thought the taxi-bé driver would hail the truck driver and let him know that he had lost something. Oh, silly Randy! The taxi-bé driver stepped on it! It was a race. Other passers-by were going for the treasure too. The driver stopped quickly by the orange stuff and jumped out. The man in the back of the bus who takes your money jumped out too. About 5 people had gathered and were racing to get their share. They were filled with glee as they walked away with their free Fanta Orange soda (which had fortuneately been in plastic bottles and not glass as is often the case).

The Malagasy Diet – January 30, 2011

Guest Blogger: Randy Gehlert

Since we've been here in Madagascar people at home – ok, mostly my mother and grandmother – keep saying - “Oh, you look so thin!” Now, we had noticed that our clothes were too big. And just this week I finally got around to putting another hole in my belt so my pants would stay up. But until we moved to our new house we had no idea how much weight we had lost. Now, I have seen people sitting on the side of the road with a scale, and I assume they let you weigh yourself for a few ariary (Malagasy money). But we never pursued that. And it would surely be in kilograms meaning I'd have to go online and do a conversion.... But here in our new house there is a that does kilograms and pounds. So, we finally weighed ourselves. I think that when I left the States I weighed about 175 pounds on average. (My weight has been fairly steady for the past 15 years or so ranging from 168 or so up to 180.) But now I am down to 152 pounds. So, I figured there may be some of you who wanted to know the “secret of my success”. (I'll let Megan blog about her own if she wants.) So, I will offer for you THE MADAGASCAR DIET.

  1. Eat the same boring cereal every morning for breakfast with milk and a banana.
  2. Walk for 20 to 30 minutes to work – burning off all your cereal.
  3. Don't eat anything until lunch – then have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (or nutella), an apple and some carrot sticks.
  4. Walk home after work burning off your lunch.
  5. Some nights have a big dinner because it is all your favorites (chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, or ground meat and great French bread) but other nights eat a small dinner because it is just pasta with vegetables.
  6. Have very easy access to cheap all natural foods – fruits, vegetables, rice, potatoes
  7. Find most ice cream to be of poor quality and not worth the money.
  8. Have limited access to anything with high fructose corn syrup in it.
  9. Find all other processed foods to be pricey.
  10. Catch an occasional intestinal worm or parasite to keep your stomach guessing.

(Note: Dear Mom and Grandmom – I checked my body mass index numbers online and discovered that for someone who is 6 ft. tall 150 pounds is right in the middle of a healthy weight. (check out family pic....we're healthy don't worry) 180 pounds is the beginning of being overweight. I feel great. But you can still make me all my favorite yummy food when I come home in July!)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Tale of Two Taxi-Bés – or is it 3?

February 17
Guest Blogger: Randy Gehlert

For the past two days Seth has been sick and not been able to go to school. Normally Megan will take the boys to school on the taxi-bé. I often walk with them to the main road and then continue walking to work while they get on the bus. Many times I will walk to where I have to turn off the main road (about a 5 minute walk) faster than they get to the same place on the taxi-bé because they are stuck in traffic.

However since Seth was sick Megan stayed home with him and I took Cole to school. This meant that I had to go to work from the school which means getting on the bus at a different taxi-bé stop that I had not used before. The bus I wanted was the 114 bus. However there are blue 114 buses and green 114 buses. On the first day when I got on the bus I was not sure which one went where I wanted to go, because even though both have the same number and both list the same stops on the little sign in the windshield – they both go in different directions. So, on Wednesday I just tried one. It turned out to be the wrong one. The one I got on is the one that stops halfway along the way and waits for about ten minutes to fill up with passengers and then it turns off of the road I want which meant I had to walk a little further that morning. I could have switched buses mid-way but I didn't feel like paying an extra 200 aiary (10 cents). When I got to AMI I asked our Malagasy secretary how I could know the difference between the two taxi-bés. She said that the dark blue 114 bus comes here and some of the green 114 buses come here but most of the green ones do not. So, you basically just have to ask if they are going to Ambatolampy (the town just past where I get off for work). “Oh, and by the way what is the name of the bus stop here by AMI?” “Pro Car” (Yes, as in Professional Car – I think it is a mechanic shop.)

So, today I took Cole to school and tried to get on the right bus. I discovered that most of the taxi-bés will not stop at this new stop unless you hail them. Several went right by me. Then I had to ask all the green buses - “Ambatolampy?” Finally one said “yes”.

Now you cannot choose your taxi-bé really. (This morning I got into the one whose horn was wired into the button that was supposed to work the fans.) You also cannot choose your taxi-bé driver. You can't ask for the safe driver with a clean record. This morning I got the overly aggressive driver who must have had to go to the bathroom or something. As we were going along we were passing people who were passing people racing up the hill. Then we passed two guys on foot and the driver talked to them and they got on the bus. At the next stop the driver gets out – with much difficulty as he could not open his door except from the outside – and one of these guys who just got on is now the driver. (And by the way he is wearing a winter coat because he is cold. It is chilly this morning – maybe 70 degrees??) And the new guy had a little trouble getting the bus in gear to get going??

So, I don't really know what happened but it really seemed like the driver just saw one of his friends walking down the road and said “Hey, I have to go do something. Can you drive for me? It's easy you just stop whenever someone points at you or when the guy in the back of the bus whistles.”

The third taxi-bé story: see entry above.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Learning how to swim.

The following are some of the things that God has been revealing to me and teaching me about during my time with Him.

Come out of a land that is so dry that you must dig and dig for water. Come out of the desert into a land with so much water you feel as if you'll drown with every step. Don't fear the water. Don't struggle with it. Just float and let it lead you. Let it moisturize your dry cracked skin. Let it quench your thrirst. Let the water take you to places unknown. Splash, dive, explore a whole new world.

Lord, there are times when You appear to be a wild river. It's those times that I tend to swim as fast as I can to shore and cling to the river bank. Yet, You're calling me to dive in. I've fought that call for so long. “No Lord, the river's supposed to look like this in my life” (teaching special education, something I was trained specifically to do and am gifted in”) and yet You want me to go into an unknown territory....for me anyway....intercessory prayer. This will be a whole new “bucket of worms” for me, and yet I know, that with You, even a bucket of worms will have diamonds hidden in it somewhere for me to find. OK Lord, Your will be done.

Please Lord, will you allow me to slowly slide off the river bank, or must I dive in?”

Stick your feet in the water for now. I'll tell you when to jump.”

Yes, Lord, have Your way”.

I'm ready to jump Lord. Purge me. Be my spiritual plumber and flush the human part of me clean if You will. I want You to be able to flow through me with out any clogs of sin. I want to be able to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell You clearly without any distortion, so that I may adaquately lift reqests of others and praises due Your name before You, Lord. Only by Your grace may I do so Lord. Only by Your grace may I enter. I'm ready to be swept away, and ride in the current of your Spirit, Lord.

How can I trust You unless You put it in me to trust You? How can I hear Your leading unless you open my ears and help me follow? How can I follow Your commands unless You put it in me to obey? How can I believe in You unless You put it in me to have faith in You? How can I live a life worthy of Your love unless you shower me with Your grace? How can I live a life worth living unless I die to myself and live for you?

Less of me Lord and more of You. Teach me to love those around me more than I love myself. My quick irritance and “I'm finished here” attitude kills me Lord. And I know that when I'm like that it sufficates those around me. Help. Help me to live, act, and respond by my spirit which is connected to Yours; NOT live, act, and respond by my emotions that fool me. I know it and still, they rule me, Lord. Break me free from the chains of emotional bondage Lord, in Jesus name, that I may live better for You, that I may love those around me better, Lord. I want to bless Randy, Seth, and Cole with a wife and mommy that is reliable, steady in emotion, comfortable to be with. NOT this irritable person with whom you have to walk on eggshells around. Oh God HELP! I'm at the end of myself. Why am I always too rushed, intense, highly stressed? How do I overcome those things which are FEELINGS and NOT TRUTH? Tune my heart to sing Thy praises. “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer” Psalm 19:14

Monday, February 7, 2011

Jan 7, 2011 School, glorious school...

Well, it's been one full week at Vision Valley School and.......IT'S GOING GREAT!!!! THANK YOU JESUS!!!! I'll feel totally relaxed about it once it's March and they're both still doing well. Seth is a different child! Both of them are getting up in the morning and doing their morning routines without near as much frustration. They can't wait to get to school in the mornings. Thursday was a bit of a trial as we got there early and Miss Julie, Seth's teacher, wasn't in the classroom yet. Seth had to go to Cole's classroom and he wasn't prepared for that. He started to cry and I had to pull him off of me and give him to Cole's teacher. All morning I just layed him at the Lord's footstool...what else could I do? That afternoon I asked him why he was crying that morning. “Because I didn't expect that,” he said. So we had a nice talk about how, when something happens that you don't expect, just go with the flow. “You knew you were at a safe place, and you knew that eventually Miss Julie would come and get you and the rest of your friends. So, there's no need to worry.” The next day the same scenario happened, only this time, no crying. YAHOOOO!

I guess I should explain our new morning routine on how to get to school now that we've moved and changed schools. We no longer get to walk through rice padies or through the EXTREMELY busy street markets and over swarming buckets of crayfish and ducks, chickens, and rabbits. However, we do get to ride the taxi-be in the middle of rush hour. OH BOY. We walk about .5 km to the taxi-be stop. Then, with one boy holding one hand and the other holding the other hand, and I mean holding my hand for dear life people.... as the taxi-be approaches you have to position yourself at just the right spot so you can start running at just the right time! Then one child holds the door while I block the others, who are running just as frantically as we are, and the children quickly climb in. By this time we've all worked up a sweat. Now we have to try to find a seat....oh, there are no more left? OK, we'll just stand in between legs. When we get to the corner where the police are we all bend down to make it look like we're all sitting on the taxi-be or we'll get pulled over. It's actually quite a good workout and lots of fun...if you're in the right mood. Now, by the time we've gotten to school there was no need to have combed the kids hair before we left as it's now a mess, my armpits are sweatting up a storm and the pears I put in their backpacks for someone say “ pear sause”?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tough times, broken hearts

January 23, 2011
It's been an unusually tough week this week. Ever since a few weeks before Christmas we've noticed that Seth has been struggling more and more at school. We thought that maybe having a 2 ½ week break might be good for him during the holidays but his behavior at school has just escalated. He went from crying to screaming and being “glued” to me when I drop him off at school. His behavior during class became, “more disruptive and disrespectful” according to the teacher. My heart just broke hearing those things said about my son. Especially when we don't see these kind of things in any other setting.

We've been doing a lot of praying and a lot of discipling and disciplining but it only seems to be getting worse. The teacher asked to speak to me Thursday and said that Seth has “bad character” and that she told him if he continues to be rude he can not come to school any more. She wants him to know that coming to a school is a privaledge. In my head I was thinking, “that's the worse thing to tell him, that he can't come to school if he continues to act this way, because that's exactly what he wants. When I picked him up friday from school, after dropping him off and running away before he caught up to me and hearing him screaming, I found out that he had ripped a hook out of the wall in the classroom. When I asked him why he did that he said, “Because Miss. Ando told me that if I continued to act disrespectfully that I would get to go home, and that's what I want.”

Anyway, through lots of talks we are finding out that he can't function well in this classroom due to too much chaos, which I know is true as I've observed the classroom. Seth just keeps begging us to homeschool him and take him out of that class. So, we are looking into another english speaking school near by that has a kindergarten classroom which seems to be MUCH better with classroom management. There are LOTS of other things that are not good at his classroom now, like classroom discipline, not following through with discipline, and not understanding the american culture. It turns out that in a Malagasy classroom it is considered rude to ask questions. Seth is always asking “why”. He is intrigued as to why things are the way they are and why someone said what they said. I don't think he's trying to be rude as much as he's just inquisitive and wanting to figure out how things work.

In the midst of all this I see how blessed we are to have not one but two english speaking schools fairly near by us. Most of the missionaries here have one option....homeschooling. So, we'll see what happens this week.