Hello my friends.
1st of all sorry for not writing a blog post for a few weeks/not sorry cause I'm super flaky and feel no guilt about not fulfilling promises. Also this post is laf-be so hopefully it will make up for it. if I miss a week again just do a google image search of Madagascar (Fort Dauphin if you want the deluxe experience) eat some rice and burn garbage all at the same time and you'll essentially be having the same experience as me.
MOST IMPORTANT UPDATE OF THE LAST TWO WEEKS: Madagascar is kind of behind the times in culture so all of their spider-man merchandise is from Sam Raimi's originally trilogy, i.e. I WAS MADE FOR THIS CITY
2nd most critical update: my first baptism and my first split happened this week (note: split is missionary lingo for when you trade companions for a day or two, my hip sockets remain inflexible)
wait, did i say baptism? cause i meant three baptisms. don't get too impressed, i wasn't directly involved with any of these, these guys were already super solid investigators before i got here, i just attended. mostly cool cause i got to see the gnarly port-a-fonts they use here literally everywhere else other than Mahajanga (pronounced mah-ZJAHN-gah, and yes it does sound like a city from A:TLA) where they dunk in the ocean and the center of tana, where they actually have a nice church building and use a more american style font (pictured last). But most importantly...
This guy, Frederic Raherilaliana was the last on to get baptized. Hes in red, I'm in an awkward pose that makes me look like a twelve year-old named Noah. The eleven disciples are looking at the resurrected Christ, off-frame. Frederic might just be my best friend in this country, hes an extremely cool guy (and the fact that hes way good at English helps too.) we trade idioms and help each other out with our second languages. He and his bud Medisse practice English by imitating rappers (Medisse is Eminem and Frederic is 50 Cent) Frederic is super chill and intelligent, as well as very spiritual on top of that. he'd been looking for the church for years, because when he originally wanted to get baptized his parents wouldn't let him. then he moved to a province where the church didn't exist, and now years later he moved back to Tana and was reintroduced to the church through Medisse. He said he was originally going to make fun of the missionaries because they were some awkward vazahas (literally white foreigner, but more causal, I like to translate it in my head to pinkies), but the spirit prompted him to listen to their message. also, during his baptism, none of the people from the ward or his friends he invited showed up because they time and place kept getting moved around and everyone was confused. also, there was a freak thunderstorm (read as yes, it was a sudden and extremely heavy thunderstorm version of freak, but not as a version of freak that would make you think similar thunderstorms don't happen every couple of hours here, because they do) that kept everyone from traveling that night. So just him and the missionaries and the bishop were there, but when we tried to apologize he said it didn't matter because he was there and the Holy Ghost was there. What a guy. Frederic also taught me the Malagasy word for impregnate and i cant remember why (manabevoka for those of you who are wondering). He also wants to serve a mission as soon as possible, and then open an English school that's accessible to non-rich malagasies with Medisse and our ward mission leader (whose also a boss, Ill probably get a picture of him too)
But now lets talk about ME
Something awesome happened: the next batch of freshly MTC printed missionaries arrived in country, so I'm no longer the greenest/whitest! it actually coordinated really well with a renewed surge of confidence i felt in my language and social abilities so i was able to give them a warm welcome and tell them not to worry. I'm starting to feel very much at home and I'm noticing my habits becoming slightly more Malagasy, but don't mistake that for competence, yesterday i still cut myself shaving twice, ran into the top of two concrete door frames, and tripped and caught my fall with my face on pipe. The moneymakers taking a beating, folks. But the honies keep coming anyway (read honies as one tweenage girl who likes to pass notes in broken English during baptisms and one 70 year old street lady who sarcastically called out "Mon Cheri!" and blew some rum-scented kisses. Also the prostitutes on the walk home to my apartment. They seem very friendly!)
also, i mentioned in passing I'm an office elder but didn't really explain it. essentially it means we help the people in charge of mission finance, public relations, medicine and humanitarian work do busywork and get info out to the missionaries, as well get supplies out the missionaries and other odd jobs. we make area maps like this one (also, a sneak peak at my apartment!)
and facilitate flights and bus trips when missionaries transfer areas. its all very boring but we usually only have to do it for an hour or two before we go out to proselyte. when i first got here it was really nice to have some time in an air conditioned building and the option to talk to English speakers but now I'm starting to get irritated cause i thinks its cutting into my Malagasy studies. But we do get to do some cool stuff, for example its a real bear to try and deal with landlords here. I've already been privy to multiple occasions where they've seen they're letting to vazahas from a big organization so they'll let their friends or the store downstairs siphon power from the missionary apartment. I got to put together a spread sheet to A. show the landlord it was obvious theft was happening and B. calculate how much he owed us as per our former agreement. They didn't tell me exactly when they started stealing power, but my guess is it was when the bill went from 142,000 to 858,000 ariary a month.
In terms of actual missionary work, its awesome because Malagasies are way receptive and love learning religion. The hardest part is that pretty much everyone will tell you to "Mandrosa, mandrosa!" (come in, come in!) because its fomba gasy but wont necessarily understand your theyre to try to change their lives or they will learn and never really take it seriously and keep inviting you back but never show up for appointments because they don't really care. its kind of heart breaking actually, cause everyone says they want to learn but you have to be real picky about who you teach and drop a lot of people in order to have success. In terms of getting in the door, having them believe what you say, even getting fed its actually too easy to the point where it hurts the work. (its way easy to get sick from home cooked rice.) But its kind of awesome when you can tell a trinitarian the godhead is 3 separate people and they'll be like "you're olona masina (holy people) so i believe you." or you tell a drunk they can stop drinking and he'll be like "with God all things are possible!' and you're well that was easy. but then you have to make sure they really understand, they really try, and they're not just saying. An alcoholic who knows he can change but refuses to try is just a worse alcoholic.
I also went on splits with an Elder Nelson this week, it was really cool to see a different area and meet new people and see different teaching styles. Also Elder Nelson has only been in country one month longer than me, so i got a chance to step up my malagasy skills. We met some super friendly FJKM members I'm jealous i wont get to teach again. Here's the view from Elder Nelson's apartment which is way nice but has water pressure like a new born babe sighing.
Beautiful, sa hoe tsy marina izan? Now let me tell you something awful. There are no garbage cans anywhere in Mada. No one comes to pick up your trash. when you have trash, you throw it in the gutter so it can make the flooding grosser that night. and if you have rich person trash, like in an actual bag, you just take it outside and leave it by the road. Someone wants it and you save them a trip to the dump. Depressing, I know. Remember to contribute a generous fast offering this month is all i can say i guess. It goes to the hungry and everyone can afford it.
Let's try and salvage the mood with...
Funny Malagasy Facts For the Week or V.G.H.A.H. (the acronym is in Malagasy)
The word for snake is "bibilava" or literally "long animal"
also, for those of you who still think early 2000's memes are funny (and who doesnt) there is literally a tribe here called sakalava or longcat
if you see an albino malagasy walking down the street and you want to point them out, the correct term is bobo gasy pronounced "boob gas"
jew is pronounced juice here and juice is pronounced jew. go figure.
Lastly, I've met people named Parfait, Jail, Laundry, Poopy, and Rihanna. the only one of those spellings that may not be correct is laundry, but it is said exactly like the english word.
this shouldn't make me laugh, but here we are
***BOWEL MOVEMENT UPDATE***
Still a mess, but it goes in easy. I eat a lot of yaourt maison (read:yeasty spoiled milk in a dixie cup) because i heard it cleans you out. I've had some success. I've also realized travelers need to learn to read malagasy fast or else they'll order pig ears/face/foot/cow penis.
That seems like a good place to end, dont you think? Merry Christmas everyone, be thankful you dont have to see malagasy Dadabe Noel masks, they're friggin creepy