Sorry in advance: I don’t currently have a strong enough internet connection to upload photos so I will add them soon!
It is one thing to go into something not knowing at all what to expect; it is another to have a plan and then change it- and it is a whole other to step barefoot into a field covered with thorns, knowing full well what awaits you on the other side is a gravel road.
This, my friend, is the game of expectations.
The first 3 months of Peace Corps is training, the next 3 months are for integrating into the local community, and after that it’s about time to start working the technical aspect of the job- training farmers on improved techniques.
Today, each step of my wake-up routine feels sturdy, important. Today is one of the first days I am working on an improved technique. Each squirt of sunscreen I rub in ceremoniously: battle armor to be hidden under long sleeves and a hat.
Late, I walk down the road to meet Marta to get started.
“Alyssa! Where are you going?”
“To meet Marta, we are going to the rice field”
“Marta? She’s down the road, turning east.”
The man points to a figure so far away there is no way he could know it’s Marta, and plus we aren’t headed east today. Does he even know who Marta is?
“You don’t believe me? Fine, I will show you. Let’s run and catch up”
Sure enough it was Marta.
[-20 points for not trusting Malagasy eyes when you should know by now they are superhuman]
“I waited for you, but you’re late. There were 3 houses that burned down last night and we are going to the forest to collect wood to rebuild them. Do you want to come?”
I think for a split second about my routine getting ready- and how perfectly it prepared me for a completely different day.
[+100 points for the smooth transition]
The men start chopping trees, the girls move the fallen trees, and the women cook lunch. My possy is composed of 4 teen girls, all of us kind of scared of each other for the first 20 minutes. As we walk single file in silence through the forest looking for more trees to pick up, I am struggling to figure out how to talk to these young ladies.
We come up to fallen tree on the path that they crawl under but I jump over.
“Did Alyssa just jump over that log?”
“I am tall, okay? Y’all are SHORT!”
(It doesn’t translate well, but cutting through a thick silence doesn’t require a sharp knife)
And thus the silence was broken and questions flowed out like someone shook up a coke and then immediately opened it, throwing out the cap.
[+200 points for facing the fear of teen girls]
I went home that evening with bruises on my shoulders, new friends to think about, and more knowledge about the trees in the forest.
On a Saturday someone coming from Diego tells me Hilary Clinton won the election. I knew the election wasn’t until Tuesday, but since there was early voting and with the easy assumption it was a landslide it made sense to think that the early voting was enough to call it.
On Tuesdays it is taboo to work in almost any field, so as I am sitting on my porch thinking about what to do, I notice that the area around my house is littered with trash and pieces of broken houses. With my neighbor’s help, we build two huge ass piles of things to burn. Joseline tells me to wait for the winds to calm down in the late evening to burn the piles.
In the evening, I start the fire. My stomach is turning with each failed attempt. Maybe it is a sign I shouldn’t be doing this? Even if the water pump is working today, it is so far away and I only have a bucket of water for showering. But Joseline said it was cool?
The piles burn wildly, one catching the branch of a tree on fire. Heart beating frantically, I run to the street to find LeMama, Joseline’s husband. He comes to check it out and tells me it’s all fine, and the fire will calm down soon. It does, and the tree branch that caught on fire goes out too.
[+50 points for trusting Joseline and her husband despite myself]
I go in my house to calm down and for some horrible, unknown reason, I turn on my phone and connect to the internet. My friend Emma has messaged me saying that Donald Trump is the president elect.
“LOL EMMA!” I thought. I already KNOW Clinton won. What a silly joke.
Then I see my friend Esther has sent me a message with a similar tone.
“LOL ESTHER” I thought. My friends are so silly.
Google tells me “Donald Trump has won the US presidential election”
You won’t believe it, but no joke my next thought was
As quickly as the fire ignited, the heat of reality started to burn. My heart rate spikes and I run over to my neighbor’s house, dramatically collapse down on the concrete floor, and sigh.
[-500 points for so easily accepting misinformation that supports my views]
[-100 years for USA]
December comes, and so does news of a wedding in a town west of Sadjoavato that I frequently visit.
Around the same time, I got a health issue that the doctor told me to come as soon as possible to get checked out. The wedding was the only thing keeping me in town before leaving, but I knew I had to go and everyone made it seem like a pretty quick deal.
“You’ll come in the morning and leave in the afternoon after lunch”
We get to the party, where everyone has stayed up all night drinking and dancing. We sit on the hay covered ground while partiers flow in, drop to their knees, then to their bellies, and fall asleep as their face settles to the ground.
The structure of a wedding here in the north of Madagascar is as follows: the family of the bride has a big party that lasts through the night and into the next day. If they have a cow they will kill it to feed everyone. Throughout they sing and they clap, waiting for a few of the groom’s family members to come get the bride. The fetchers come with a dowry (money and/or cows), a cart to carry the bride’s belongings, and a flag.
Once they come, the fetchers kneel down in reverence and ask permission to take the bride from her elders. If yes, they sing and they clap while the bride takes out her braids and they give her new braids. The groom’s family then carries her to the nearest river and she bathes and puts on new clothes. They gather her things (bed, chairs, clothes), and drive away with the bride.
Once she arrives to her new home, she eats a meal with her new husband, and the celebration is over.
I am not going to get into it, but -300 points for how annoyed I was that we had to wait for her to get her hair braided. I am not proud.
100 points each for:
-Resting bitch faces turning into big ol’ goofy grins (x20)
-Having a downer day and then running into those teen girls’ and their big ol’ smiles waving at me from the back of a zebu cart
As in most games, the points are arbitrary and hold little meaning. Thanks for playing.