So it all starts when I wake up this fine Saturday morning that I have off at… 6:30, yea, 6:30. It feels like nails on a chalkboard saying that, even worse when it’s in reference to me. I GOT UP AT 6:30 A.M. ON A SATURDAY BECAUSE I COULD. Let the record show that I did go to bed at 9:30 on a Friday so it’s not like I set myself up well for that one.
Anyhoo, I woke up super early for no good reason at all other than to eat breakfast, which might be a good reason in and of itself. I put on the clothes that I wore all around yesterday biking and exploring through town, not to mention sweating, no reason getting anything else dirty before my shower, and got a feel for my state of being. Not only am I dirty, I haven’t shaved for a week, so the neard (neck beard) is coming on hard, my hair is super greasy from not taking a shower yesterday, so I decide to sport a ball cap, and I make my presence known in the living room whilst my three host sisters are watching some weird American cartoon on Cartoon Network dubbed in French voices. Don’t ask me what it was about, I only caught a pourquoi and a dix-huit through 5 minutes of watching.
We sit down to our standard breakfast consisting of a ramen noodle like pasta (I’m pretty sure it was ramen noodles, but the American version needs this flavor) and part of a bagette. I return to my room after breakfast and decide something needs to change. I re-evaluate my life and decide that the best place to start is the beginning, so I grab my shower gear and go for a shower.
I’m not sure if I have mentioned my bathroom situation yet. They have a really small hallway off of the dining room that acts as their bathroom. They have a shower and a toilet. Separated by a wall, each with their own little alcove. They have no hot water, which really isn’t that big of a problem considering its pretty warm here, it just comes as a bit of a surprise in the morning, but it turns into a comfortable cool temperature.
My next step is to clear off this dreadful neard. Don’t get me wrong, I’m gonna go hard for No-Shave November/Movember/Time to prove my facial hair growing skills to my YAGM group with a second runner up medal to Tom and Ian in November, but right now, an extra reason to sweat, is a reason to get rid of. Only problem is that I don’t have a mirror, I forgot to get one at the store yesterday, so I just go for it. Of course I came out on the other side with red marks all over my face with a few missed patches, that is just something that I am gonna have to get better at.
Lastly, I look at my clothes stockpile (I don’t have a dresser or anything, so my clothes are slowly becoming a pile in my suitcase). **COMMERCIAL BREAK my sister just gave me a mango** Well that was delicious. Ok, my clothes. Yea, so I decide, it’s time for a wash. So I gather up a small pile grab my bucket and soap and get to it. I gather some water and start scrubbing on my front porch. Before you know it, a couple people stop and look at me. I can only guess what their impression is… A. What is this American doing, they don’t wash clothes, why is he doing that. B. What is this American doing? Is he trying to wash clothes? Haha, he is doing it completely wrong, look at that stain! He’s not even coming close to getting it out.. C. Why is he taking a shower outside with his clothes on? Regardless of what they thought, one of the ladies, I think the actual mother of one of my host sisters (I’m pretty sure all my host sisters are cousins) sits down next to me and shows me how its done. Don’t take notes from me, but I would venture to guess what I was doing, which was just taking the clothes in my fists and washing them between my knuckles, which is what I had been doing for about 10-15 minutes was wrong. My host aunt sat down next to me and actually began helping me. You take a fistful of a garmet in one hand and then your other hand takes the other end of the garmet about 6 inches down and run it along from the top of the inside of your wrist down to the end of your fist. I mimicked them and was still doing it wrong apparently, so again, don’t take your notes from me, but it must have been a site to see, and actually made a chore, a heck of a lot of fun.
My aunt (who really does speak zero English) and I exchanged a few words that we could. While my sisters actually got involved in showing me how to wash also. Even some of the ladies from the neighboring houses joined the group to talk and socialize and it turned into an experience that I could really learn from, and of course, the (what I am guessing will be the) recurring theme of laughing at myself happened to be a majority of my time. By the time we got done washing, one of the ladies offered me her clothes pins and my host brother actually helped me hang them up, which I think the ladies were even making fun of him at one point for actually helping me with my laundry.
That is how my Malagasy experience has been thus far. A combination of mutuality and accompaniment. These ladies, who very well could have been on their way to do their own chores, went out of their way to help me in a feat that I was apparently failing miserably at. It is that kind of community that I enjoy. Even the kids along the street, or the people at work, everyone is so eager to help, and to show, and to be shown, or to learn something new. The community is unlike any other that I have experienced. With open hearts they accept me and my shortcomings (communication and clothes washing to name a few) and get out of their way to make me feel accepted and help me in this new environment. I will admit, I am still a vasa (which the children on the street don’t let me forget) but slowly, there is a change that I can feel. Even after only one week, I can start to feel the familiar comforts of home in a strange new place.