So first thing i want to say is thank you so much to everyone who writes me letters or emails or sends me packages, y'all are really the best. I know i dont respond timely or sometimes at all, but trust me its always greatly appreciated. I'd like to make a special mention of the Karatassos family, whom i haven't seen for almost 6 years, that sent me a super nice package which i just received the other day. I cant believe you guys remembered me!
So the news this weekend is that its Easter, and i dont know if you remembered what i said about Christmas, but the Monday after Easter is that x2. Likely because everyone already gotten all that troublesome religious remembrance out of the way the week before and so theres nothing to stop people from throwing crazy parties all day long. Our ward's actually throwing a party in the room right next to where I'm typing and i can feel my chair vibrating with every pulsation of Stephanie's "Dontsiky".
Speaking of bumpin ward easter parties, yesterday at church a guy from the stake came up to the pulpit and announced that the stake Easter party was going to be better than any little ward easter party, was therefore the official easter party, and everyone needed to come. So then our Bishop stood up and told everyone the stake always announces their events too late and never follow through so everyone should come to the ward party. And then our 1st counselor got up and told everyone who was going to the ward party tomorrow to sustain it by a raising of hands and everyone put their hand up. We actually have a really high functioning ward for Madagascar, but it just goes to show that Paques turns everyone into apostates.
is it time for pictures? its time for pictures.
i wanted a picture with these cute kids we always talk to in this neighborhood, but some bizarre lighting turned it from a "record keeping" kind of picture to an "accidental art piece" kind of picture. Yes that girl is wearing a checker sun dress with Minnie Mouse on it that says "MISS YOU" underneath. Have i expressed before how much I love the clothes that find their way to a <3rd world country? ("<3" means both "heart" and "less than three" in this instance) At the Paques party today, my friend Andry was tight, fitted camo sweatshirt that says "fashion" on its with black demin and military boots, a plaid flannel tied around his waist and a gold chain (literally like a bike chain) around his neck. Other fun fact: Andry means "fragrant".
I often find my self shopping at Robert Downey, Jr. and Premenstrual Syndrome when I'm in this part of town
Elder Razazarohavana insisted that a picture of him would be better than the landscape I was trying to take (he was right)
Oh yeah that reminds me we have two new missionaries living with us, the aforementioned Razaza and Elder Kelsch. I like em both a lot because Kelsch likes to make lime bars and Razaza likes to stand on our balcony and serenade us with his guitar. Dinner and a show.
I like this picture of Ahlstrom
I dont like this picture of me but i do like that it exists, because its from our most recent baptism! Not a convert baptism, Andriana here is Souer Abeline's granddaughter and was ready to be baptized. Andriana asked me to baptize her, which made me really happy because we have this understanding where we're friends even though neither of us can really communicate with each other (I swear speaking in gasy to a kid is even harder than speaking to a drunk).
One last PLS, but let me draw your attention to the roof in the foreground (rusty corrugated tin held down by a variety of rocks and junk). It's pretty indicative of your average Malagasy roof, and pretty similar to the one i cut my head on the other day.
Pictured: said head
I hope y'all aren't expecting a good story, because you aren't getting one. truth is when i walk here i usually look straight down cause just walking here usually takes a very high level of concentration. So I'm just watching the path trying not to step in dog/people poop or fall into the rice paddy on the either side and ran into a particularly low and nasty tin overhang. I'm all healed up now, so unfortunately i wont have any head scars to give me character once I'm bald. It's a shame, I know.
Speaking of injured people (but MUCH more so) I saw what I'm pretty sure is the saddest sight I've ever seen the other day. There was this guy whose legs both didn't work who had to cross a street in the middle of what equates to Malagasy Times Square, and so he just sat on the pavement and dragged himself across the intersection with his hands while cars barely served to miss hitting him, or not at all. He made it across okay but it was pretty horrifying. And then the day before that while we were walking on our way to the bus stop we saw this two story brick building collapse and then at the bus stop this other guy had some sort of stroke or heart attack. All these people gathered round to try and help him but they just fanned him or slapped his face. No one called an ambulance because they are for hire here, and if you take someone to the hospital here your responsible for paying for them. So it took over 30 minutes before someone was willing to hire a taxi to take him... somewhere. I really wanted to do SOMETHING but that's pretty explicitly a bad idea over here because if a white guy is anywhere near an accident like that the first Gendarme that sees you will arrest you on the spot. Not on the desire to keep pinkies in jail or anything, they just know they can get money out of you and that immediately becomes the top priority.
Maybe almost as sad is the guy i met the other day who makes a living by owning a garbage pile and renting it out to people. You pay a couple hundred Ariary and you get some time to go through the trash looking for anything good, and the opportunity to dump whatever you want. I met another man with a similar job, he runs a movie theatre that shows the french dubs of movies like The Collection (from the makers of Saw 4-8) and Explosive Sabotage, a movie starring Dennis Rodman and few other actors all wearing tank tops in front of an explosion. Dennis Rodman's picture is on the cover twice.
On a lighter note, a two year old baby distinctly declared "I am God" in the middle of our lesson yesterday... maybe that not a lighter note, in retrospect it seems kind of foreboding..
Another interesting question from one of our recent lessons "Yes, yes, I understand what you're telling me, but why do you let women pray in your church?" (the guy who said that is actually really nice, has a great marriage and family, he was just raised in old Shi'ite Muslim stock)
Wow I'm a little down now. Let's end with some more positive experiences. I had a very interesting time this week teaching all sorts of things, not just gospel. For example, in one lesson i was kinda sick and coughing and so i made an offhand comment about germs and our investigators just gave us weird look. So we ended up spending about half an hour trying to convince them a bunch of tiny animals live in their body, and some of them make them sick and others try to protect their body. I even got to draw a whole diagram of white blood cell psuedopodia absorbing and emulsifying bacteria. I'm pretty sure they never believed us. Also at one hotely the waitresses tried to charge us 22000 Ariary for a 9000 Ariary meal, not cause they wanted to rip us off but because they didn't understand how to do math. And so we sat there and taught them how to do arithmetic until they understood that we bought the same stuff as everyone else at the same non-ritzy price. We parted as friends and now when we eat there they happily show us the math they did to ring up our price. I'm proud? Last story: Elder Ahlstrom bought a Rakibolona (a dictionary for Malagasy words in Malagasy) and this lady pulled us aside and asked us what the book was. Soon the whole family gathered around, no one having seen or heard of a dictionary before. And even though we explained and explained and let him read the book, her husband was never able to understand why a book would explain Malagasy words in Malagasy and was convinced it was just way for us translate gasy stuff into french. (We also never convinced him we weren't french.)
I think that's plenty for this week. Misaotra indrindra to those who write, I fady those who don't.