Utopia

Things I do in Madagascar that I would never do in the US:
1: Wear yoga pants everywhere (even the mayor’s office)
2: Tell people they are ugly when they ask if they can marry me
3: Go to sleep around 7 or 8
4: Read fiction – ugh
5: Eat meals consisting of 90% rice
6: Sweep dirt
7: Complain about how expensive eggs are
8: Play petanque without an Obut ruler, Pastis, and orange juice
9: Listen to an inordinate amout of Die Antwoord (ok, yea, I did that in US too)
10: Make random noises during conversation (usually noncommittal)

Hello from Nosiarina,

Yesterday I went to my first Gasy funeral. I didn’t really know I was going until I got there. My women’s group president came to my house, told me to put on a lamba and bring 1000 ariary and 2 kapoka of rice (about 3 cups). We end up in this house with a dead person lying on a bed. It was one of the creepiest things I have ever seen, but apparently very common. I have actually never been to a formal funeral in the United States, so this made the experience even more morbid for me. I was told that you’re supposed to just sit around the body for about 3 or 4 hours until somebody makes food. I left after about an hour… It was getting hot, and I’m not an expert on dead bodies or anything, but I would imagine that that house was not going to smell very good once it started to get hot, so I gave someone who appeared to be taking money my 1000 ariary and 2 kapoka rice and hightailed it out of there.

My counterpart bought me a petanque set a couple of weeks ago, and it’s actually a petanque set, complete with a cochon and everything. Unfortunately, there is no formal court in my village, or anywhere in Madagascar for that matter, so I play in front of my house. It’s crazy how many people stop and watch when I’m playing. The crowd yesterday reached about 30. I don’t let the kids play with me anymore because they cheat and throw the boules into the pig pen nearby, at which point I force them to wash all of my boules with soap (I will not play with pig shit on my boules).

Still working with my women’s group a lot. Our garden is huge, and I hope to get some pictures of it soon. Meanwhile, my garden has been destroyed by my neighbors chickens. The only things that remain are some tomato plants and a radish. My counterpart has sent his workers over to build a more secure, chicken proof, fence. This makes me very happy because I have recently been complaining about the price of carrots on a daily basis (1000 ariary/kilo – $0.50 USD/kilo). Yea, I know it’s still super cheap, but I live on a Gasy salary now, and I’m allowed to complain about these kinds of things.

Tomorrow, my women’s group is having an all-day party at my house. They have been planning it for weeks. It was made very clear to me that I have to drink copious amounts of hard alcohol with them, but I think I’ll just have a beer. They get kind of out of control, like when they drink Toka Gasy (think moonshine) while farming. Also, this means that I have to sweep my dirt. Yes, sweep my dirt. Since the party is in my garden, I have to make sure it looks nice, right? It’s actually a long process: first you use a shovel to weed your dirt, then you rake the weeds up, then you sweep your dirt. One of my neighbors saw my sad effort of doing this today and offered to help. I thought it was very nice of him, but then I noticed him looking at my iPod and speakers (which I forgot to hide, …crap) and proceeded to tell him that the batteries were about to die, and you couldn’t charge them in Madagascar (in case he wanted to steal them). Speaking of stealing, somebody has been stealing my shoes in the middle of the night! I mean yes, I leave them outside, they are the shoes I use when I shower, but I didn’t think anybody would steal them. Obviously, I bring them into the house now… problem solved.

Time has been flying at site. I can’t believe I’ve been in Madagascar for over four months! I thought that the days would be very long once I moved to my village, but it actually hasn’t been too bad. This being said, I am still looking very forward to my trip to Antananarivo in September, and Spain in December. There’s also a possibility of going to Diego at the end of August, but I’m running a bit short on vacation days because I’d like to save up and go to the US next year at some point.

That’s about all I have for now. In the meantime, here is this week’s playlist in Nosiarina:

1: Fire – Aceyalone X RJD2
2: Best I Ever Had – Drake vs. Washed Out
3: Galaxy in Janaki – Flying Lotus
4: Ready For The World – How To Dress Well
5: Mist or Mast – Ice Cream Creatures
6: No $ No Toke – Peanut Butter Wolf
7: Printmatic – Soul Position
8: Blad – Letherette
9: Unkle – Unkle
10: The Beach at Redpoint – Boards of Canada
11: Bicycle – Memory Tapes
12: Sing a Song – Eri Nobuchika
13: Pandora – Cocteau Twins
14: Utopia – Jackson And His Computer Band
15: Miscommunication – The Bloody Beetrootes
16: Dismantling Frank – Bonobo
17: Lovers’ Carvings (Letherette Remix) – Bibio

P.S. A big, big thank you to everybody that sent packages and reading material over the past month. The Atlantics are the only thing keeping me sane…

P.P.S. My friend’s hotel in Sambava just got wireless and Skype seems to work ok there, so keep your Skype open when you’re on your computer and you may get a surprise from your Gasy friend! My Skype account is mialbright in case you don’t already have it.

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3 responses to “Utopia

  1. Syrie albright

    Love reading your posts! It’s pretty sad when it’s pretty much that I look forward to each day! Thanks Mallory. Love, Mom

  2. Jadda Miller

    Hi Mallory,
    I ran into your dad at the farmers market, and your lovely mother came into the kitchen store just a couple weeks before that. I asked how you were and your dad said you had recently gone to a funeral (I can only assume that it was quite intense to say the least).
    You are an amazing writer and I find myself continually laughing at your humor as I read through all of your posts. You make me feel like I am there watching the children throw your boules into the pig pen.
    Keep writing we all love it, and make sure to sweep that dirt everyday because you know how it likes to build up in the garden.
    Love, Jadda

  3. Nancy Hickson

    This was so fun to read. I will use some of the info in my class when we talk about culture…Sorry that I have been so absent…as you might guess – things here have been complicated. Your “box” of stuff is still sitting here on the desk. My “new goal” is to get it , and some other boxes, mailed off on Monday. Keep your fingers crossed.We are just trying to play “catch -up” as school starts in 4 weeks and not much has been done around here. It is frustrating to have lost most of the summer… I will try to get back on schedule with comments to you! Much love Mallor-EEEEE. Nancy

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