Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Garcia 2.0, or, Garisia, 20, Manome Ny Filizantsara

So heres the deal:
Ambohipo is past and gone. They whitewashed it, so that means even Elder Te'e left to a different area and they got two new missionaries. What does that mean for me? I got shipped down to Toliara, a port city of 150,000 on the southwestern tip of madagascar on the dge of the desert that dominates this province. Even weirder than that, im hooking up with my prior companion, Elder Garcia, for round 2. As our mission president said, were gonna light the place on fire.
So Toliara is a place with a lot of personality, being so far from the capital. its an extremely un european place, unlike tana where you can often see the french influence. most people live in huts made of dried grasses and reeds, and theres i think two gas stations in town, which are pretty much the height of society here. I think the most startling thing is the almost complete abscence of cars, the entire city is populated by bikes and pos pos, a rick shaw pulled by a bike. the other options are real rick shaws, 18 wheelers and ATVs. So i am, finally, a real missionary. i bike places. its cool. and by cool, i mean its really frickng hot. hot like a costal desert city in southwestern madagascar.
Also, have you ever tried biking through sand in the middle of a windstorm? it sucks (actually, it blows). but otherwise, the bikes are sooooo much better than dealing with walking and public tansportation in tana.
Really, Toliara is just a beautiful and amazing places and the wether is generally so nice. Im really just in paradise. Plus, more importantly, the work goes really well here. We have so many amazing members and investigators. The branch is really young here, just 4 years old, and we had about 88 people at sacrament meeting last week. Its quite the experience, cause we have no resources and were kinda just on our own out here.But we have the entire city to ourselves to teach and help and its been so amazing. The people are so friendly and humble. "tracting" here just means choosing what house you want to go into. you knock, and they say come in without even looking to see who it is.
here ill copy and paste a story elder garcia wrote up:

Toliara rocks on.

We had a miracle this week. It was truly unbelievable. We had a time with
these two people, Andre and Evelyn, at five o' clock, but we showed up and
they weren't there. So then the classic question...what do we do now? My
failproof answer: tract. So we went over to the next door on the left where
a woman was selling cuts of goat meat in her yard. Her name was Augustine
and she told us her husband was going to be home in thirty minutes. So we
deicded to teach and contact her until her husband would get home. We had
member help with us, a guy named Rostin who helps us all the time, and so
we did. At about 5:50 her husband Velombita showed up and so we talked to
them for about ten minutes. They are Roman Orthodox and he works as a part
time guardian and plus driver. They have several young children and are a
lovely family. We taught them that they should pray and ask God about the
truthfulness of the message and that they should read the pamphlet and that
they should really come to church. And they promised to. But people always
promise to come to church and most of the time they don't. We had to get to
another time at 6 so we left it at that.

That Sunday, just two days later, I look over to my left and Velombita is
sitting there! He came to church having learned for ten minutes! His wife
couldn't make it that day, but she promised to come next week. He stayed
the entire time and in Elder's Quorum, near the end, he said, "You know, I
just love this church and I want you all to know that if it is God's will I
will be here every Sunday, and I want to walk with you all and come close
to Jesus." It was so beautiful. We had some spare time last night so we
went to teach them again and we taught them the 1st lesson in its entirety.
They understand so much already that wasn't clear and it looks like it is
only unward and upward from here. They are excited about coming to church
this Sunday, getting ready to get legally married and getting baptized. A
testimony to me that the elect are just waiting to hear the word before
they will accept it, and that there are those who are kept from the truth,
only because they know not where to find it.

Elders Garcia and McCrary
Totally true. Thankfully Garcia is better at writing about spiritual stuff than me.

probably my favorite thing about toliara is that the population is almost entirely vezo, with some other southern tribes like Mahafaly or Antainosy mixed in, plus your occasional Betsilao. But there's almost no merinas, the big tribe in the capital whose dialect is "official" malagasy,(the fact that they won a big war a long time ago might have something to do with it). Anyways, vezos have a bit of a tempestuous relationships with merinas, or as they call them "amban'ny andro" (beneath the day).  Vezos think all merinas are arrogant and they hate theyre dialect. Its funny, cause what vezos always say is that vezos dont hate merinas, but merinas really hate vezos and the vezos are just reacting. but during my year in tana i dont think i ever heard a merina so much as mention the vezo tribe.  So because of that, vezos really like to speak in theyre dialect and dont appreciate people speaking in "teny amban'ny andro" so ive been having a blast learning teny vezo, its really fun.when i used to take notes on new words, it would just be "duck=kanakana" but now i have to make a whole chart like "duck=kanakana(amban'ny andro) or garaday (vezo)". i said "youre all still crazy" to a group of kids the other day and realized that none of the words were the same as how i would have said it two weeks ago (mbola adaladala ianareo rehetra vs mbo gegigegy rozy jiaby)
the hard part of living with all the vezos is that being so far from the capital people are way more into the traditions and fombas down here. mostly thats cool, especially when your tracting, because a fomba malala-ing vezo would never turn away a visitor, but it makes helping people get married really hard. Probably the single biggest obstacle to the work in madagascar is that you can baptize some one who isnt legally married, or vita soratra (finished writing). And in mada, its really hard to get vita soratra, you have to find or make a copy of your birth certificate, and most people dont even know what year they were born, and that always takes money, sometimes a long trip to your birth town, and often times a little bribery. then you have to pay a fat 20,000AR to the government, while most people dont have two pennies to rub together. i talked to a guy this week who was renting his (rather nice) grass hut for 25,000 AR a month, or about 8 US dollars. But to make all this even harder is the problem of vita fomba gasy (finished in the way of the malagasy)
Here in Toliara, since people are much more set in the old fombas, it is absolutely taboo to get vita soratra, or vita vazaha (finished white guy style) before you are finished vita gasy, which is even harded than getting vita soratra. To be vita fomba gasy, and specifically fomba vezo, you must complete three steps

1 Hitako Maso: the people must see you going together and living together. someone who is not your family must call you "mpivady" (spouses). this step is easily completed
2 Fividian'ny Omby: The big one. you must purchase a cow for the bride's parents. this is almost impossible as most cows run in the miullions of ariary. together the family gets together and eats the cow. the meat of the rump is given to the parents of the bride, as it is the right of the eldest man present at any occasion to eat the meat of the rear of the animal. sometimes weddings are called vodin'ny onjy (the goat butt)
3 Sorona Ankizy (child sacrifice....kidding! it means sacrifice for the the children) Next, the couple must go to the ombiasa (witch doctor) and get a sacrifice of a type of animal,according to when theyre children were born, to remove the curses from their heads. if they still have not had kids, they have to go to the ombiasa to remove the cuurses from their children coming in the future. this is also very expensive.
and so it is very hard to get married in toliara. most people just kind of live together and have a family with vague plans of buying a cow when money suddenly falls into their lap out of no where. And we have the pleasant task of either helping them save up a bunch of money on rick shaw puller salary or risk the condemnation of their families by just going for the soratra. thats life tho
We went ot the catholic book store today. it was great. I love nuns, theyre so nice, especially compared to your average 25 year old drunk cyclist trying to cut you off. Nuns make the world a better place, and even though one of our investigators left town the week of her scheduled baptism to attend a catholic nun jamboree in Fianarantsoa, im not even mad. one more nun will do my soul good.
i got some time, so ill actually include some pictures and explanatyions this time

this is what Toliara largely looks like

we told these kids we were gonna row back to america

 the wildlife here is pretty great. lots of geckos and big spiders and some crabs. lots of people raise goats, i almost was attacked by a stampede of a herd of them once. the roads are very commonly populated by carts pulled by cows. The insect life is also amazing a very different from what ive seen before. tried to get a pic o this praying mantis but my camera wouldn't focus

Black Nadia is the Lady Gaga of mada and she personally founded this salon in toliara garcia got his hair washed at. walking into a building this lux was a weird experience

i climbed a thing

our house

garcia and i bought a chicken and brought it to an investigators house to kill clean cook and eat it

the killing video (BLOOD WARNING)

The post meal traditional vezo dance video
 i actually learned the male part of this dance, but i forgot to ask someone to film it. Nohirina said that my father must have secretly been vezo.
I guess this is goodbye to everyone from your boy in paradise