Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Just a quick post to let you all know that I am back to Minnesota.

The flights went smoothly and on time.

More information later, but it's good to be back!

Thursday, July 16, 2015


I haven't written for awhile. It's because I haven't known how to describe what it's like to leave this place. In the past few weeks I have said "see you later" to my communities of Masombahoaka, Antananambony, Semafi, the hopitaly SALFA, English Club, and many more here in Fianarantsoa.

I have experienced Malagasy hospitality to it's fullest with going away lunches, gifts, speeches, lots of handshakes, and much much more. I have packed up my suitcases, cleaned my house, given away the things that do not fit in my suitcases. I have taken pictures, lots and lots of pictures.

I think the best way to share these past few weeks with you is through pictures. These pictures will continue to tell the stories that have begun here on this blog and other ways that I have communicated with you all this year, but the stories will continue. I will continue to tell stories and share pictures with all of you all after my return, if you will let me. But, here's a glimpse: (Disclaimer: some of the photos are side-ways, I apologize, I have no idea why that's happening...)

Semafi teachers and some students on my last day with them! 

All of the students at Semafi

All the teachers at Semafi. They like taking silly pictures.


Some of the children that always play near my house.

Some of the staff at the eye clinic where I taught English on Tuesdays.

One of my favorite sellers at the market!

These two make the best patisse. Patisse are basically deep fried mashed potatoes, can it get any better?

The "VIP" table at our English Club end of the year party.

My host family on our last Sunday lunch together.
My neighbors!

The owner of my favorite hotely (Malagasy restaurant, like the Madagascar fast food) in Fianar!

Tahina and her mother who live close to me. 

Tahina's dad is a butcher. He was carrying meat to sell up the hill.

Some English club students!

Solofin'i Davida came to visit! But, there were so many of us we couldn't fit in a picture in my little house.

Choir good-byes!

More of Solofin'i Davida!

Dominique and I

Solofin'i Davida loves it when I do the dobadoba dance. Don't worry, I'll give free lessons.

The lovely Elina and Marcella.

All of you in Minnesota, I will see you soon!
To those of you in Madagascar, mirary soa! Mandrapihaona! (good health, and see you soon!)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Love Song

Malagasy Independance Day is coming up on the 26th of this month. I am sure there will be more on that later. But, for now, I wanted to share with you the love song to Madagascar that is the National Anthem. Many schools have the students sing the anthem regularly, so as a teacher I experience it often.

First, here is a link to the whole song:

Here are the lyrics in Malagasy. You can try to follow along as you listen above.

Ry Tanindraza nay malala ô
Ry Madagasikara soa.
Ny fitiavanay anaotsy miala,
Fa ho anao ho anao doria tokoa.

Tahionao ry Zanahary
'Ty No sindrazanay ity
Hiadana sy ho finaritra
He sambatra tokoa izahay.

Ry Tanindrazanay malala ô
Irinay mba hanompoan'anao
Ny tena sy fo fanahy anananay 'zay sarobidy
Sy mendrika tokoa.


Ry Tanindrazanay malala ô
Irinay mba hitahian' anao,
Ka Ilay Nahary 'zao ton tolo izao
no Fototra ijoroan, ny satanao.

Second, here are the lyrics in English.

Oh, Our beloved Fatherland
Oh good Madagascar.
Our love for you will not leave,
For you, for you for ever.

Bless you, oh Creator
This island of our ancestors
To live in peace and joy
Hey! We are truly blessed.

Oh our beloved Fatherland
We wish to serve you with
The body and heart, spirit that is ours,
You are precious and truly deserving.


Oh our beloved Fatherland
We wish that you will be blessed,
So that the Creator of this world
Will be the foundation of your laws.


Third, here is a clip of the teachers at Semafi singing and singing the anthem.

My favorite part of the song is:

"Irinay mba hanompoan'anao,
Ny tena sy fo fanahy anananay 'zay sarobidy
Sy mendrika tokoa."

"We wish to serve you with
The body and heart, spirit that is ours,
You are precious and truly deserving."

I grow to love this country more and more everyday. I am grateful for an anthem that can even begin to sum that up.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Celebrating 130 Years

This year, my church is celebrating it's 130th anniversary. This is cause for many celebrations.

The main part of the celebrations happened this past Sunday.

In the morning, church went on mostly as usual but with a few extra awards to make it last a full four hours from 8-12.

But, after lunch is when the real celebrations began. After church, the choir (myself included) moved quickly to the almost completed social hall that the church is building where rice and loaka was waiting for us to eat quickly so we could continue on to the concert we were supposed to be performing at. Before church, I had no idea of the plan for the day. I only knew that I was supposed to bring my choir t-shirt a bright colored skirt and t-shirt and my choir robe.

When we got to the event space I realized that the event we were performing at was a luncheon fundraiser for my church. There was lunch, auction, dancing and choirs.

Here are some pictures from the day:

Elina and I dressed in Betsileo (the tribe in Fianar) attire for one of the songs we sang. 

More Betsileo attire!

The event space with some choir members waiting to perform.

More of the choir waiting to perform.

Lanto and Lucille ready to sing!

Me with the newest member of Solofin'i Davida! The baby of two choir members. 
Also, don't mind the gauze on my hand....I fractured my finger a few weeks ago, but no need to worry!

Two other little choir members, Toky and Kanto!

More choir members looking very Betsileo.

I got gifts! One of the orginizers of the event said that since I knew how to dance the Betsileo dance, he would give me a t-shirt and hat! Also, you can still see the remaining bits of my red cheeks from my special Betsileo make-up!

Our outfits for another song we sang. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Sounds and Smells

I’ve talked a lot about what I see in Madagascar. I talk regularly about what I think about Madagascar, what I do in Madagascar. But, I haven’t talked much, if at all, about what I smell in Madagascar, what I hear in Madagascar. I thought of this after an e-mail from my grandparents the other day when my Grandpa asked what I hear around my house. Immediately, my brain went further, to what I hear in many different places around Fianar, to what I smell around Madagascar.
Clearly, there are many different smells and sounds around Mada. And they vary drastically based on where I am. But, there are some things that stick out.
Around my house, I regularly hear my neighbors. I had different neighbors when I moved in, but they left in November, and then when I arrived in Fianar with my parents in December, my new neighbors had moved in. They are a wonderful family; the father is a Pastor at my church and a fluent English speaker. The mother in the family is also wonderful, she takes my laundry in when it rains and does other little helpful things like that. They also have to children, a boy who just started school at Masombahoaka and a 2 and a half year old girl. So, I often hear the 2 and a half year old playing, giggling and sometimes even crying.
One of my favorite smells in Madagascar is the smell of starting a charcoal fire. The charcoal here has a wonderful smell that I have no idea how to describe. I don’t often cook on charcoal, mostly because I am not very good (read: terrible) at getting the fire started. But, my neighbors cook on charcoal, so I get to appreciate the smell each meal. They often laugh at me because sometimes I comment on how the charcoal, “smells good, like Madagascar.”
Other smells in Madagascar are not so pleasant. Fianar has some public restrooms, but they are not common, so the street is very commonly used as one big public restroom. This makes certain areas not smell so great. Also, there is little to no trash collection in Mada. This means that people make trash piles and burn them on the street. There are also smells in the market that aren’t so pleasant, like the butcher, or the fish section, but they are easy to move through quickly. These smells aren’t pleasant, but they have become very normal here. These smells will always remind me of Madagascar.
There are sounds around Fianar that stand out too.
Vehicles of all sorts here tend to make a lot of noise, from being broken in some way.
I hear the Call to Prayer from a mosque near my house.
I hear languages, sometimes 4 or more in one day.
I hear music. Malagasy people love singing, there is usually music in the bus, or at random places on the street. I recently discovered that you can stream a Malagasy radio station online: and click the red box in the top right corner that says “Écouter en direct.”
I hear sellers at the market, attracting buyers by saying what they are selling and the price.
I hear rice being sifted. Because of the way rice is processed here, there are usually still bits of husks and small rocks in the rice. So, it must be sifted before it is cooked. The rice sifting sounds like someone sweeping the floor.
I hear a lot of laughter. I am continuously amazed how people in this country who have so little, have so much happiness.

There are some smells and sounds in Madagascar that are wonderful, and some that aren’t so. But, all of these things make Madagascar what it is. I wouldn’t change them for the world.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The World is Ending

The World is Ending
Tomorrow marks three months until the world ends. Okay, that might be an exaggeration. But, that’s sort of what it feels like. I will leave Fianarantsoa in 66 days. Then, I will get on a plane. Here’s the thing, I know the world will not end when I get on that plane, but I also have no idea how the world will continue.
I’ve said good-byes before. I mean, I said good-bye to all of you at the beginning of this journey. But, I’m afraid this good-bye will be different. When I said good-bye to Minnesota and all the people there, I knew that I would be back. I knew that I would be spending a year in this crazy and beautiful place that I knew nearly nothing about called Madagascar, and then, I would be doing what now seems impossible, coming home.
Sure, there have been and still will be days when flying away from this island is all I want. But, when that happens I know I have to take a step back, enjoy the view from my porch, go to my market and get guava’s from my friend, shop the frippe (used clothes market), and spend time any of the people I have met here that mean so much to me. Then, I remember that I don’t know how I will leave.
Also, it’s not about what’s on the other side. Because, really I am also so excited to see everyone in Minnesota, start school in the fall, and do all sorts of other things that I have missed this year. But, Fianar will always be my second home.
Sometimes, I resolve this fear of leaving this place by remembering that I can always come back to this island. I can come back to visit. For now, I mask the terrifying thought of having to leave these people, this place, these smells (more on the smells in a blog in the near future!), by remembering that I can return.
The other part of the world ending is because I don’t know what it will feel like to step outside the airport in Minneapolis. I mean, sure, I will be dead tired, so I will probably just want to sleep. But, beyond that. I don’t remember what it feels like to spend a whole day speaking English. What will it feel like when I am at the grocery store and they know English? What is it like to have constant connection to the internet? What is it like to drive a car? What is it like to not take malaria medication every day? What is it like to drink water from the faucet without filtering it? These are things that throughout my time here in Madagascar I have yearned for. But, when I actually think about doing it, I have no idea what it will be like.

The world is ending is an overstatement. But, my life as I know it is ending. I know that living in Madagascar has changed my perspectives on life. But, I also know that there’s a lot that has changed that I don’t know about yet. Some of those things I will realize right away. Some parts of myself that I think have changed now will fade over time. And, some I will not realize that they have changed for years and years. And even some, I will never now. 

The view of Fianar with my neighbors laundry drying and their charcoal stove.

Easter Monday, The Pictures!

I apologize for the extremely delayed posting of the promised pictures from Easter Monday.

Here they are!

One of the choir directors and I!

Playing guitar and singing before we ate. Also, my friend Johnson made himself a tent with his jacket to protect him from the sun. It was a hot day!


More singing, of course. Basically all we did for the day was sing and eat.

Johnson attempts to teach Marcella guitar.

I'm really good at faking playing guitar....

Overall, it was a wonderful day!