Letters from Madagascar: Dancing for joy in the rain
Hannah is home again, but continues to share stories and letters she wrote from madagascar. Over the next… WLN will continue to share her adventures with you.
(written November 2014)
Hello Family and Friends,
A quick note on leaving Faux Cap and heading off to field camp.
We left off with Faux Cap. Soon after returning from Faux Cap, I packed up my de-flea-ed bags (it was a joyous and wonderful moment, when I realized that I was finally and completely free of the things) and left Fort Dauphin. You could say that I was happy to leave, but I don’t think that really encompasses my feelings. At the going away party that the program hosted the night before we left Fort dauphin, my other older brother, who has two daughters from two wives and another child on the way, told me that all of the girls in the program were very pretty, especially me. He then preceded to take a video of all of the girls dancing. Oh, and as a cherry on top, he dropped partially masticated food on me, twice.
So, the next morning, a very happy and excited Hannah loaded onto No Problem with 11 other SIT students, about 13 CEL students, and enough water and supplies to last for two weeks. An hour later, we were off! No Problem bumped and joggled north along the coast for two days, crossing nine rivers along the way. In the south of Madagascar, a river crossing does not refer to a bridge. Nor does it really refer to a ferry. Instead, it means that you drive the taxi-brousse onto a small wood-and-metal pontoon which is pulled along a cable across the river. Sometimes, the pontoons are motor-powered, but just as often as not, they are man-powered. It was yet another other-worldly Madagascar experience: I sat on the edge of the pontoon, watching as two men pulled and lugged on chains that ran along pulleys. Alongside the pontoon, a group of young boys riding zebus swam across the river. (Normally, it’s fady (taboo) to ride zebus, but apparently when they are aquatic, it’s not a problem.) It was beautiful, heart-breaking, and bewildering all at once.
Unfortunately for No Problem, there were ten rivers, not nine, between Fort Dauphin and our destination. The tenth pontoon was broken, so we loaded our stuff onto a makeshift mini-pontoon-raft thing and crossed the river, leaving No Problem behind. Then, we waited several hours for the taxi-brousse we had arranged to arrive to pick us up (it had been there earlier, but when a group of school children heading north showed up and needed a ride, the driver decided to make a little extra money). It started raining about twenty minutes into the wait. It kept raining for the entirety of the wait. It also rained for the next 4 hours while we drove along a terrible road, crowded into a taxi-brousse (literally piled on top of each other and our stuff) which didn’t do much to keep the rain out. We arrived at a marine research station at Vaingandrano, directly on the coast, at 11 pm that night, in pouring rain.
It rained a lot for the next week and a half. I’m pretty sure that some of my stuff still hasn’t dried out. Though, I will make a pitch for my tent—it’s small, but it’s mighty. It withstood torrential rain, blasting winds, and a hail storm, and kept everything inside it completely dry. It was mainly me that got completely and totally soaked. It was wonderful. I took a shower with running water for the first time in a month—admittedly, not exactly what I think of right away when I think “shower,” but nonetheless cleansing. I danced in the rain, on the coast of the ocean. And, when it wasn’t raining, I sat on the coast, watching the waves roll in by the light of a massive, brilliant full moon. I ran along the beach. I drew and I wrote and I thought and I wandered. I slept in my tent and listened to the waves and the rain and the wind pounding against earth and tent. I mean, I also had class and did work, but really, I just connected with the earth and it was beautiful and amazing and wonderful.
Until next time,
Much love from the other side of the world,