On Tuesday I was dropped off at my site, Mahanoro, located on the East Coast of Madagascar. Small town, big village, Mahanoro has a bank, a post office, and two great markets. The best characteristic of this beautiful town is it is right on the Indian Ocean!
When we arrived at the CEG (Middle school) where I live and will be teaching at, we were greeted by staff, school directors, and two dozen students! I was surprised and nervous at the same time. They brought me into a classroom and welcomed me in a traditional fashion, by introducing themselves and giving a small welcome “kabary” speech. I was overjoyed at the sweet and welcoming smiles I was greeted with and instantly felt more comfortable.
Going on my third day I have been “integrating” as much as possible by going on long walks around the town, taking different paths each time in order to say “Manakory” to as many people as I can. Since there is little tourism here in Mahanoro, the site of a blonde blue eyed woman is quite the surprise to many on the locals. The site of a blond blue eyed woman speaking Malagasy is a huge surprise and causes much laughter and confusion at the same time. Malagasy people love stating the obvious, so when I take my long walks people will frequently yell out “MITSANGATSANGANA!” (which literally translates to taking a walk). When I wash my clothes, the neighboring children yell out, “MANASA LAMBA!” translates to (wash clothes). Malagasy people are quite observant and extremely friendly. SO you can only imagine that when a “Vazah” =foreigner such as myself is walking around doing the presidential wave and greeting just about everyone in Malagasy, people extremely surprised and caught off guard!
I have already made great friends with one of my counterparts, Madame Vola, who is also an English teacher at the CEG. She makes it her duty to show me around Mahanoro and walks with me arm and arm to go buy coconut sweets!
I will end this entry my saying that I am beyond thankful for the kindness the people from Mahanoro have shown me and excited to spend the next 24 months making it my home.