I think the happiest I have been on this whole trip was when I was dancing and running through the streets of Faux Cap with my village on Friday at the end of the village stay. Mothers with babies on their backs and musicians playing on a home-made guitar and bass, old men and kids of all ages–everyone was moving, everyone was having a good time. We ran from Analafaly to the Hotel Cactus, where we would be having our grand fête at the end of the village stays–stopping midway to do shots (something like Malagasy bathtub gin). My week at Analafaly had been hilarious, uncomfortable, interesting, tedious, enlightening–I was never so sad to leave the village, never so overjoyed to see my other vaza friends upon our return.
I had dreaded leaving for Analafaly. On the way to Faux Cap (Sunday), I felt a cold coming on, and by the next day (Monday, when we went to our respective villages) I was sick. I had no idea how to spend my time there and wasn’t sure about my French skills, let alone my ability to communicate in Malagasy (each SIT student was teamed up with a Malagasy student from CEL, who helped us translate &c). I was very nearly terrified.
Papa Mamy drove Rodrigue (CEL) and me to our village. Screaming children greated the car with shouts of “vaza! vaza! vaza!”. We were escorted into the house and sat on their bed with our stuff while Baba (host dad) figured out where we could set up our tents. I couldn’t make conservation for the life of me (Mamy had explained to Baba and Mama that I don’t talk much so they shouldn’t be worried if I was quiet), so we just waited silently until Baba returned. We had a giant audience while we set up our tents (it must have been quite a show, seeing as how it was spectacularly windy), and then we sort of all sat down right in front of the tents, but it still felt as if I was on display. We labored through conversation–I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I smiled alot and answered some questions and repreated Malagasy words and that entertained everyone. Rodrigue taught me a game with rocks and some of the girls played hand games (sort of like Miss Mary Mack, which I later played with them to great effect). We danced before dinner: lambas were tied around my waist and I danced Androy dances and taught everyone the Twist and it was a great spectacle.
We danced through dark, and stopped for dinner at the insistance of Mama. Rodrigue and I ate alone in the house, sitting on the floor with huge plates of rice and a bowl of beans to share and tea. Afterwards, blissful sleep.
The week continued in much the same fashion. We took all our meals alone in the house, always lots of rice with beans or eggs (and soo soo many sweet potatoes, hot and ready to peel and eat), always more than I could eat. In the mornings we usually went for a walk with Mama and Baba and at least three of their kids–we collected sticks and they caught grasshoppers and on one occasion Baba set a bunch of fires (tavy).
There was one afternoon dedicated to interviewing some of the villagers about their religion and community/family structure (which Rodrigue and I will present on tomorrow). Lots of time sitting outside on straw mats. We walked to another village to visit Baba’s family members one afternoon, and on another occasion I was shown their fields and practiced digging sweet potatoes out of the sand (above). I saw their sacred forest (“Anala” means forest; “faly” comes from “fady,” which means taboo– together; “Analafaly” means “sacred forest”), which I found extremely interesting: they explained that when the French colonists were cutting down so much of the forest that they declared the forest sacred in order to protect it from the French. We spent so much time dancing, too. Lots of other families would come over to dance with us, and a bunch of the girls made a project of teaching me all the dances.
CONTINUED: Another favorite memory (it seems like so long ago already…): dancing under clear moon with at least half the village, with the other half watching and commenting, being laughed at and laughing myself because it all seemed so ridiculous. I wished I could have brought someone from home to see it all and verify that it was happening because it seemed so surreal. So much of the week seemed surreal: being force-fed sweet potatoes, and pooping behind cactii, and waking up with a hundred flea bites on my body, and explaining the lyrics of Bob Marley songs to Rodrigue (whose favorite English phrase is “Time flies, the tables have turned”) while we sat in Baba’s house drinking the sweetest coffee I’ve ever had, being ridiculously happy doing nothing, dancing through the streets with the proudest team of Orioles fans in the world.
So by the time the fête villageoise rolled around, I was miserable to say good-bye to my village. We danced up a storm, and I gave them a sheep, and ran with them down the road, dancing and singing again; and then I shook everyone’s hand and bid everyone good-bye (“Veloma, veloma!”), and went back to Hotel Cactus to set up my tent, in the wind again, but without an audience.
Everyone went out that night, for sort of a celebratory after-fête. All of Faux Cap was dark (it seemed) except for the Epi-Bar that we basically invaded. We danced for hours and hours, and then some of us went swimming, and then all of us went to sleep. I woke up and could see the Indian Ocean from my tent.
I don’t think I’d ever been so dirty in my entire life. It was raining when I was dropped off in Fort Dauphin (after nearly an 8-hr drive home), and Papa wasn’t home, and Maman was in Tamatave for the week and would be bringing their two daughters home on Wednesday, so I waited in the rain and was probably significantly cleaner by the time I got into the house. Still took nearly an half-hour to brush my hair out, and scrub all the dirt off. And after a dinner of ramen noodle soup and toast/crackers with spreadable cheese (about as close to grilled cheese as I’ll get), I slept like a baby.
Lazy Sunday breakfast, went into town for Internet and presentation prep. Afternoon at Freedom bar, oh how I missed it, with friends and food. Will be sad to leave Ft. Dauphin on Thursday.