Letters from Madagascar: Reflections on Privilege

At the edge of the ocean

After the week was over, after a final dance competition where all the villages came together, after changing out of my smelly, stained clothing and into a clean, flea-less swimsuit and lamba, after giving my village a sheep, and after saying goodbye to my host parents (and most of all my host grandmother), I sat on a sand dune and looked out at the Indian Ocean, picking up the pieces of elephant egg shell that were scattered on the ground around me.  The sun was setting behind the dunes in an explosion of purples and reds.  A ways away, several women were collecting water from a well.  It was quiet, save for the waves crashing against the shore.

This land.


Well over a month later, I still don’t know how I feel about everything that happened during that week in Faux Cap.  I do know three things.  First: my body, my mind, and my time are my own, and no one else’s.  Second: I have the enormous responsibility to use those things in a way which does not harm other people—either directly or indirectly (say, by using more resources than I need).  My perspectives can be changed by a week in an ‘African village,’ but I have the resources to leave the village and the country.  I have the resources to always have enough food and water.  I have the resources to fill trash bins with my waste.  I don’t want to thank the people of Ampilao for giving me a new world view and then leave them to starve as global climate change robs them of the little rain they got to begin with. (They said, by the way, that they know that things are changing.  They just finished a 12 year draught.)

So, not really sure what I’m going to do with all of this.  I’m open to suggestions, ideas, questions, conversations, criticisms, challenges, and anything else you want to say.  I love hearing from you all, even if I don’t respond right away (or ever).  It brings me joy to hear about you, your thoughts, and your lives.

Much love from across the ocean,