“We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.” – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
This quote comes to you from a book I read while taking a writing workshop in high school with my fellow seniors ready to run out of that place and my teacher too artsy and passionate to care. Lamott opens her book with this quote- this explanation for why students write, why teachers write, why she writes.
We are a species constantly looking for answers. We are a species constantly seeking to share what we’ve figured out and searching for someone to help us understand more. While this longing is always present, an experience like moving to another country spurs this enthusiasm and desire to learn beyond its normal level. It sparks our self-analysis and our doubt for the status quo.
Throughout these past four months, I have relied on this blog as my outlet to write about my process of understanding about a new culture, and subsequently my understanding of our species in general. Thank you for letting me indulge in this inherent human pastime, for letting me share my experiences and for letting me joke about parasites. While lice may not share a longing to write, they do share a plethora of illnesses– and this is serious. Thus, I hope anyone reading right now has taken my stories with a grain of salt. My time in Madagascar was the most enriching four months of my life and allowed me to be the happiest I’ve ever been. However, while the bouts of stomach illnesses and strep are amusing stories in hindsight, the challenges that come with immersion into a completely new world are not always as humorous as they come out in writing. Finding a snake next to my tent at 2 am was terrifying and stepping on a cockroach was disgusting. When we heard about the american government shut down one week after the fact, it was shocking to realize our naiveté and isolation.
Some students dealt with infections and nights spent in the pouring rain without a companion. Some people were astonished by the water conditions they were exposed to, and the brutality of life in Madagascar. We met families that struggle to feed their children and who call rice-water dinner. Yet, with each subsequent challenge, we grew closer as a group and further delved into a society too complex to write about in just one story. We discovered qualities about ourselves that had rested latent in the US and found curiosities, like eating cicadas, that we never knew existed within us.
I’m forever grateful for the group of students and teachers that traveled with me who gave me the support network strong enough to allow me to expand my relationships to the local Malagasy. To those local people, I extend my utmost gratitude for the perspectives they’ve given and their willingness to share their life with me without a moment of hesitation. Today and even during all of the tomorrows to come, I will continue to struggle to identify all that Fort Dauphin and the rest of Madagscar has taught me. I will continue to figure out each day the lasting impacts that the country has left on me as a person, and I will continue to be thankful.
Misoatra betsaka, et à la prochaine, Madagasikara.