The Ugly Truth

In January I began hearing rumors that I might get to teach at the French Children’s Ministries Institute® that will be held here this fall, despite not speaking French. I began to anticipate teaching again. But in the back of my mind I, I remembered the fact that this CMI is in French, so I would need a translator. I hate teaching with a translator and had decided a while back that I wouldn’t use a translator again when I was teaching. I would put whatever was needed into teaching in the language of the students. I have always felt that a translator is a huge handicap especially when it comes to using teaching methods outside of lecturing and making class time fun.

Despite this reservation, the excitement grew when Pastor Di gave me an envelope with the topics I would be teaching. I peeked inside, and immediately my heart sank. I had been assigned three topics that I know I am not good at or have no experience teaching. In fact, one of them, puppets, I have no experience in whatsoever. I have never taught children using puppets before. How am I supposed to teach the students three things that I am not very good at or have never taught before?
As I thought about my reservations in teaching these three topics and teaching with a translator again, two things came to mind. First, when it really comes down to it, it is a pride issue. I don’t want to teach something I am not good at because I want to be the best and because I am afraid of what others will think of me if I am not the best. My pride shows that I am all about my self-image instead of being all about God’s glory.
Second, these reservations reveal a self dependence instead of being dependent on God to accomplish that which He has asked me to do. I remembered how a book I have been reading lately was explaining that God equips us for whatever he has asked us to do. Because God chooses to equip us as we say yes to him, instead of just giving us a set of spiritual gifts for life that we can always rely on, we are forced to rely on him. Also, there is no way we can steal glory from Him for anything that we do, because we are aware that it is all Him. Pride and self dependence are pushed out the door as He gets the glory for everything and we know that if he hadn’t equipped us, we would have failed.
And so lesson planning begins. Puppets. Visual Aids. Newsletters. Ideas pop into my mind as I begin thinking about these topics and how to best teach them the students. I know it is God not me.
Will you pray that I will be a tool God can use at CMI as I begin working on lesson plans? Pray that I will be striped of my pride and depend on him and give glory to him. Pray for the students as they begin preparing to come. Pray for each instructor and the logistics to come to together in the next few months.

The girls came over and we started making soup. Then we realized I don't have any bowls. Our solution? Use all the pots and pans in my kitchen instead. If you have never tried this, you really should. We had a ton of fun!

19: An email from a friend.
20: A knock on the door that interrupts study time.
21: Laughing, talking, cooking and listening to music with the two girls who came over.
22: Two days without running water in my house. What at first was frustrating, turned into a great opportunity to test out if I REALLY don't want/need running water in my next house.
23: Terrible traffic that made our taxi driver turn off the main road, bringing laughter to everyone on the taxi, as we bumped and jolted on dirt roads through a village and over a soccer field. Signs on the front window where changed occasionally so we wouldn’t get caught by the police.
24: Traffic behind us decided it was a good idea and followed behind us.
25: Reading my Malagasy Bible.
26: People I don’t know passing me on the street and using my name when they greet me.
27: Christmas packages in June.
28: Cold weather, socks, and hot chocolate. It is indeed starting to feel like Christmas. J


Jack Fruit? Lychee? Kumquats?

Depending on the season, the fruit stands here in Madagascar are piled with a wide variety of fruits that I have enjoyed trying this last year. Some were ones I was already familiar with, while others were completely new. Here are some of the highlights.

Bananas are plentiful here and available all year around. Some are big (I mean, really big) some are tiny and every size in between. They come in red, brown, yellow and green. On the street, you can buy bananas that have been covered in batter and fried.
Jack fruit: The most fascinating fruit I have seen yet is Jack Fruit. First of all, it is huge! I remember the first time I saw it and asked Pastor D’s wife what in the world it was. She explained it was a fruit that grows on trees. I immediately decided there is no way these huge things can grow on a tree and figured maybe I hadn’t asked the question right and had gotten an answer for something else. Then, going to the coast in December, I saw it, growing in trees. I must say I was disappointed after trying it. It has to be one of my least favorite foods here.

Peaches: They peaches here are amazing, especially because they aren’t fuzzy like the ones in the States. The small red ones are the best in my book.
Mangos: Mangos come in green, red and yellow. In general I don’t like them because of their stringy insides, though the small red ones are great and not very stringy.
Avocados: I still can’t believe how many avocados are on the stands here and have been for forever. I still prefer them in a salad or sandwich, American style, as opposed to mashing them up with a spoon and adding sugar, Malagasy style.
Papaya: I love the tall, skinny papaya trees with a small spread of leaves at the top and a ring of papayas growing under the leaves. When I first came, I categorized them with cantaloupe which I can’t stand, but now, I am excited that it is once again papaya season. They grow on you. J

Oranges: The oranges are delicious and even eaten when they are still green.
Pineapple: Still one of my favorite fruits here, which I have yet to see growing in a field. I am keeping my eyes open for a pineapple field next time I travel since I am dying to see one!
Apples: The apples are usually green and very small, they remind me of granny smith apples (a much smaller version anyway)

Pomegranate: One of the neatest fruits here is the pomegranate, though they are hard to find here in the capital city. They have the most amazing texture!
Kumquats: I have saved my two favorites for last. My love of kumquats began when I was here in 2008 and is still going strong. They are just now making a comeback to the fruit stands. Yes!
Lychee: And lastly, my all time favorite is the Lychee. I remember sitting around Pastor D’s table with his wife and some of the teens and staring at the inside of my first ever Lychee, thinking it looked and felt just like a huge, puffy, white larva. Surprisingly, they are my favorites and I can’t wait for November and December to roll around again.


365 days

365 days. In the last 365 days, more changing has taken place than you can imagine.

First, I changed.

Transportation.  A few hours a day in the taxi??? Chasing after a taxi along with two dozen other people to get a seat during rush hour?? Being squeezed in between two strangers to the point you are half sitting on them??? Ridiculous traffic??? (you thought traffic going to the mall the weekend before Christmas was bad….not even close.) These things I could hardly deal with 365 days ago. The other day I realized that I don’t mind riding the taxi, hardly notice traffic, and enjoy the opportunity of talking to the people squeezed in around me. Especially the kids….the little two year old sitting by me today… Too cute!!! And chasing taxi’s during rush hour, now THAT is fun. J

Language. Fear. That is how I would describe the feeling when someone tried to talk to me, especially in a public place like on the taxi. Most conversations (if you could call them that…) were peppered with, ‘could you repeat that slowly?’ and usually ended in, ‘I don’t understand, I only speak a little Malagasy.’ I realized the other day that those phrases have all but been retired and replaced with thoroughly enjoying conversations that come up each day.

Chores. I have to go to the market every day?? It takes how long to cook rice?? Washing clothes doesn’t mean throwing them in the machine then moving them to the dryer 45 minutes later?? What are ‘clothes pins’ again?? Yeah, going to the market is a daily thing that I enjoy doing, that and the ladies who sell veggies get on me if I haven’t visited their market for a while. Cooking rice and then cooking the laoka does take a long time, but the result are worth it. And…..on those lazy days…..I have found you can buy packages of noodles that have seasoning packets to go with them just like top ramon. J Washing the clothes….still not my favorite task, but the clothes pins and I are good friends now.

Second, not only have I changed in the last 365 days, Madagascar has changed too.

The seasons. Rainy season wasn’t nearly as bad as I had thought it might be. We never even got rained out of out church, that has a very um….holey…. roof, on a Sunday morning. The hot season, yeah it was hot. But not too hot and keeps me from looking like a total ghost here. Cold season. It’s cold. For sure. But who doesn’t want to end the day wrapped in a blanket wearing fuzzy socks, gloves, a coat and hat?

The produce. Each new month brought a delicious new selection of fruits and veggies. Some I had never heard of, but quickly fell in love with. I think December is defiantly my favorite month for fruit. And then there are the beautiful flowers that come with each new season. The Bird of Paradise plants outside my house were my all time favorite this year.

The work. From rice field being planted, the fields turning bright green, then changing into yellow to harvesting the rice, each season brings it’s own work. Now the rice fields are being used to make bricks? There are piles of mud in the fields and stacks and stacks of bricks.

The changes Madagascar has gone through this year have once again brought this beautiful country back to how it was six years ago when I came on a short term summer trip, fell in love, and left part of my heart here. The brick fields. The red poinsettia flowers in bloom. The bananas and oranges on the fruit stands. The gray clouds. The cold wind. Each day is a reminder that THIS is where God wants me to be and in that, THIS is where I want to be.

The changes that have happened in me have made me a different person. Not just in my lifestyle, the new foods I eat or in speaking Malagasy, but a new person in the way I see the world. In the way I love. And my relationship with God. I know that now, America isn’t home anymore, nor is Madagascar. Home is wherever God places me. Yeah, change is hard. Really hard. But I wouldn’t trade the last 365 days for anything.