Behind my smile

One day will come, maybe soon
And this day will be new and unfamiliar,
At least parts of it will be,
And maybe this day will happen over again
And at different times and places

I recall the clanking of the metal latch
On the bottom of my window
Like a forgotten treasure chest
That hasn’t been disturbed for generations
The window swings open and the day begins

I recall walking into the market
To join the bustling commerce of the morning
There’s something happening here
Maybe it’s not always significant, but maybe it is
A jarring embrace from the community
As I stand, I am connected to it

I recall the rain drops slipping off the roof
A free fall of a few meters
Into the uniquely shaped puddles
Carved out by a barrage of Nature’s purest love
The splashes echo in just the right way
To calm even the most ambitious of intentions

I recall the peculiarity of my dearest friend
Clearing his throat intentionally to announce himself
My response is to clear my own throat
And we engage in this dance for a few moments
To let each other know it’s safe to talk

I recall the security of my house
A physical extension of myself
A place to return to and seek refuge, to feel sane
To shut out the world, when needed
And to welcome it in, when warranted
To work, to play, to eat, to share, to learn

I recall the grand views of this corner of the world
The proud and solitary hill framed by my window
The daunting and strong mountains hugging our town
The lush forest, once far thicker and healthier
The vast fields where joyful families toil for a living

I recall the man I was
Unsure of what to do or what to say
Uneasy about navigating the new realities
Curious about strange, yet still familiar, surroundings
Ready, but nothing could prepare for a transformation

When this day comes, and surely it will
Reflections from the past will comfort me
Wisdom will guide me forward
Understanding will motivate me
I smile because I have lived here


Up with the roosters

Day in and day out. Many of us settle into a routine and flow that takes us through the day. In Madagascar, I have developed new routines and schedules that get me through my days. Most days are never quite the same, this country has a funny habit of continuing to surprise me and alter plans, but here is a glimpse into a “typical” day for me:

5:43am – Wake up to the sound of roosters, pigs, and the rumbling diesel tractors full of cheering men and freshly butchered beef as they drive from the butchering fields, past my house, to the market

6:09am – Get out of bed, push open my wooden window, and boil water for coffee and breakfast

7:00am – Walk about 50 feet into bazary ambanivolo (countryside market), leisurely stroll past the piles of fresh produce laid out on tarps along the dirt road, select my food for the day, and say hello to the vendors that I usually buy from

7:45am – Commute to work by riding my bicycle through the market and center of town, usually attracting stares from people moving about town to start their day. I end up at either the public middle school (CEG) or the public high school (Lycée Mixte) to teach for a few hours

11:18am – Return home from teaching, either frustrated from a class that misbehaved or proud from a lesson that actually went well. Start to prepare lunch, which is usually a large portion of rice with a small portion of beans, vegetables, or eggs

12:26pm – Enjoy lunch during the momentary silence of midday. The area around my house is void of children playing or people passing through on the their way to the market

1:40pm – Wake up from a short afternoon nap in my hammock, some days I teach another class in the afternoon and other days I write lesson plans or prepare materials for future classes

4:07pm – On my way back home after class, I sometimes stop for a snack of min-sao (noodles with ginger and curry powder) or dite cola (spiced tea). Drive-thru’s don’t exist in Madagascar, so half the experience of eating a snack is sitting with the vendor and catching up on gossip

4:49pm – Check in with my pal and colleague, Johnny, to see how things are going at the English library

5:00pm – Evening yoga at home to unwind and reflect on the day

5:50pm – Use the last minutes of sunlight to sweep my house, making sure I can see all the bits of dried rice, various insect limbs, and general dirt that accumulates daily

6:20pm – Prepare dinner, usually reheating leftovers from lunch on my small gas stove

7:30pm – Wash the dishes in a small plastic basin, take a cold shower, and brush my teeth

7:55pm – Crawl into bed, under the seemingly impenetrable forcefield of my lay ody moka (mosquito bed net), and enjoy a book or watch an episode of television on my computer. Take joy in knowing that I was successful this day or that at least the day is over

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