Five Things That Happened:
1. Robberies: Before I left, everyone said: watch out for crime in Africa! Now, returning wiser and decidedly poorer, I say: if you are going to Madagascar, save yourself some energy and leave anything of emotional or tangible worth at home. If you absolutely must bring an item of value, I recommend having it welded to your body. At least then you will have the satisfaction of knowing how it was stolen from you.
2. Snuggling with Lemurs: Yes, this happened. More than once.
3. My Feet Will Never be the Same: I no longer have feet, I have scarred stumps where my feet once were. It makes walking awkward
4. Unimaginable Illnesses: Yes, this also happened. No, I never figured out why.
5. A Life-Changing Experience: Everybody said it would be. They were right. Some things are as advertised.
Five Things That Didn’t Happen:
1. Evacuation: After being evacuated from Niger and landing in Madagascar, we were told that we would be lucky to finish out two years. Every successive training group was told the same thing. I finished out three. Total political stasis has its unexpected upsides.
2. Getting Married: Nope.
3. Having a Little African Baby: Definitely nope.
4. Adopting a Little African Baby: Also a nope. Though there were offers…
5. Getting Sucked into a Black Hole and Staying Forever: Apparently everyone’s greatest fear. Really people, Madagascar is cool but it isn’t THAT cool.
1. Numer of times I was robbed (or, more accurately, relieved of items I had not welded to my body): 10
2. Approximate* Number of Lemur Species I have Seen: 35
3. Number of Children who were named after me: 1/2 (NOT an approximation)
4. Number of Madagascar Photos Stored on my Computer: 8,335
5. Number of Days in Madagascar: 1,032
Five Medications I am Required to Take After Leaving the Country:
1. Mefloquine: To suppress any malaria latent in my bloodstream.
2. Primaquine Phosphate: To flush out any malaria lying latent in my liver.
3. Albendazole: To clear my system of any potential worms lying in wait.
4. Ciproflaxin: To clear my system of the very definite e. colis which was lying in wait.
5. Praziquantal: To clear my system of any potential schistosomiasis lying in wait.
Five Must-See Places in Madagascar:
1. Masoala National Park: Much more than just rainforest!
2. Isalo National Park: Roaming packs of ringtail lemurs!
3. Diego Suarez and the Bay of Diego: Northern Madagascar at its finest!
4. Tsingy (Ankarana or Bemaraha): A landscape unique to Madagascar and uniquely difficult to walk on!
5. Andringitra National Park: Just don’t go in February!
Five (Less Obvious*) Things I Will Miss:
1. The Inclusive and Exclusive We: You are probably not aware that there is a major gap in the English language, a gap which is a source of major confusion and, I believe, repressed anxiety. Has many times has someone said to you: “Yea, we’re going to that party tomorrow” and you thought to yourself “We? Does that include me? Am I invited? Am I expected???” Not a problem in Malagasy: the separate inclusive and exclusive we make it undeniably clear whether you are or are not invited to/expected at that party.
2. Questionable English: It just makes me happy, unless you’re speaking it to me.
3. TV that Looks like It’s from the 1970’s: Malagasy state TV…almost as technically impressive as that high school television channel that was produced down the hall from third period. Almost…
4. Yogurt Break: The number one reason in Madagascar to get to work before 10am.
5. Coke with Real Sugar: Not only is Madagascar Coca-Cola served exclusively in glass bottles, it is also still made with real sugar. That’s right, antiquity tastes better.
Five Things I Hate Right Now but Know I Will Miss (Someday…Eventually…Maybe):
1. Rice: I hate rice. I never want to see another grain of rice again. I’m hungry. Where is my rice?
2. Chaos: Every day in Madagascar is chaos. Nothing goes right or according to plan. When it does go right it only means you are accruing a chaos and unpredictability debt which will later be cashed in in devastating fashion. Someday, when I am leading an ordered and dull life I may long for these days past, but for now: please, life, just proceed as expected.
3. Oppressive Heat: As it is looking more and more likely that I will spend the next two years of my life freezing in a sub-arctic climate (also known as the Northern half of the United States), I know the day will come when I yearn for days hot enough to melt my brain inside my skull. But as my brain is still slowly re-congealing, that day is probably long off.
4. Unexpected Visitors: I love visitors. I even used to love unannounced visitors. Until I moved to Madagascar and they began arriving in (pick your favorite water analogy) streams, torrents, or deluges. Yes, I actually hid in my house. That happened.
5. That “Yes, the words coming out of my mouth are actually Malagasy” Conversation: Speaking Malagasy is cool. Speaking Malagasy to a Malagasy person who understands the Malagasy words coming out of your mouth but refuses to believe a white person is speaking Malagasy…is less cool.
*Because only dorks count lemurs,
and I am not a dork.
**Because, of course I am going to miss
tropical beaches, fresh fruit, and
100% flexible working hours.