15 minutes


Oh what? We’re leaving? I, uh, haven’t had enough time to tell myself that I can do this. Teeth aren’t brushed, coffee is un-had, crap. What ever happened to this idea that everything runs a little late in Madagascar? They are 15 minutes early! Those are the 15 minutes I was going to get it all done. 15 minutes can be everything, really. What is it, two minutes to brush, a minute for sunscreen, 5 to water the plants. That’s 7 minutes for coffee and rice cakes. I wasn’t even doing anything before this, why didn’t I just un-tuck myself out of that goddamn mosquito net earlier? You did this to yourself through years of procrastinating. You not getting coffee this morning is a result of an overarching flaw in the way you have lived the last 15 years of your life.

Okay, okay. The amount of caffeine in that chipped ceramic mug probably isn’t anything at all. It’s all placebo these days. That’s it, if I KNOW I don’t need it, I won’t need it. Lunch isn’t that far away. Oh, I bet it’s coconut beans. Sweet. Waterbottle, sunscreen, notebook, set. I’m doing it. I am not going to drink coffee today and it will be fine because I, Alyssa Brodsky, do not need coffee and leaving 15 minutes early is no problem and I am totally cool with that.

“Alyssa, you haven’t coffee yet. Go get coffee and then we will all leave.”

Weightless. Is this what love feels like?

Okay coffee has been had and I can do this. The rice fields are that way? Okay I understand that. There’s going to be a lot of people? Oh, very good. I should feel good about that.

Woah, slow down kids. I gotta take this in. I can see rice fields for miles from here. Spotted with mango trees, the road lined with wild cherry trees, and what’s the word for cashew tree? Oh right, mabibo. Madibo? Mabido? How did I already forget? Mere seconds change mabibo to madibo and back again. Well, there are enough of those that I will really have to learn the word at some point. On the way back they’ll ask me if I remember and I will just say all of the variations I can think of until mabibity boopity bop we have a winner.

Wow, I am really loving this road. No mud, and kids going bananas trying to get all the ripe wild cherries while keeping the pace. Oh you want to share some with me? Yes please you wonderful child.

And now we are breaking off of the path and oh, now I am knee deep in mud. Yes, I need help. No, no, don’t worry about my ego, it will survive, just hold my water bottle please it is throwing my off balance.

We’re here? Sit down under the mango tree. Okay. Where is everyone? Still coming, just rest for a bit. 15 minutes can be nothing, really. Lemama is starting to cut down the rice? Where’s my knife, I am READY! So how do we do this? Just cut it like this, like this, like this. Cut it like this, like this, like this. Like that? No, like this, like this, like this. Like this? Yes, like that.

And there I was, cutting it like this, like this, like this. Has an hour passed already? Yes I will put a long sleeve shirt on. Are you sure you don’t need it? A few people have come. What’s this foreigner doing cutting rice with us? She’s learning malagasy? Hi everyone I am a plant farming and animal raising teacher, but I am still learning malagasy language and culture. She said she is a plant farming and animal raising teacher, did you get that? Let’s start drinking.

No no, cut the rice like this, like this, like this. Set it down softly behind you. The dance of the harvest. Swoop down, gather, chop, and set it all down with a curtsey. Do I understand what they’re talking about? Maybe? Is it about every 5 minutes they’re talking about this wild tuber? Can they really be bringing up majola so consistently?

A bead of sweat just dripped onto my glasses lens. The conversation is getting heated. What in the hell are they talking about? Am I learning too slowly? Should I be saying something, crap. They’re laughing, that makes me smile. Back to my swoop, gather, cut, curtsey. I love this.

Lunch is ready under the mango tree? Hallelujah! Sit here with the kids. The men are sitting over there? Me, here. Them, there. Whatever, get me some hot rice water and that food in my belly.

Well, I have scrapped the last bits of rice off my plate. Other people have laid down for a nap. Can I do that? One leg out, two legs, aaaand I am down for the nap. Wait, everyone has already started working again? Woopty doop!

Yep, they’re definitely a bit more drunk that before. The calling and response singing is wonderful. What does it mean? All they’re saying is I am thirsty? I can do that. Who’s this guy making for damn sure I am joining in on the singing? I love him. And on the other side of me a man communicating with me only in gestures. Is he mute? What the hell is he trying to tell me? I think I also love him.

Holy shit it is only 3:00. My hand keeps pressing my watch button to the next setting. Why the hell did I get a watch with so many settings? I’m getting some hot rice water for a break. Repeat. How much water have I had? 3 liters? Haven’t peed yet.

Aaaand, we’re done. Let’s sit down for a 15 minute rest and wait for it to get dark before heading home. Do you understand what we’re talking about, Alyssa? My whole body, exhausted, advises me to just say yes. No, I don’t get it. Okay, let me explain a little slower. Still don’t get it? I’ll use different words. Examples. Get it? As he speaks he’s constantly checking in, making sure I am following, relentlessly willing to reword. I think we’re becoming friends. Whose to judge the potential of 15 minutes?

Alyssa are you good at walking in the dark? No? Have the 11 year old hold you hand. No no, I don’t need that. Ohp, Alyssa just fell. Kids, hold her hands. How do you say rice in English? Rice, rice, rice, rice.