Each morning I wake up around 6 am; at this time, the sun creeps up over the mountains, but I can never see it, because my windows block out most of the sun. Instead, I’m awoken not by the familiar sound of my phone alarm, but by the zaza kely (baby) crying and the rooster crowing outside. My family stirs upstairs, and I pull the blankets up to my eyeballs, savoring the last few minutes of warm sleep. Eventually, I pull myself out of my dreamy state and stumble outside with my po (chamber pot) to empty it into the kabone (outhouse). I might take a shower in the ladosy or do some yoga in my trano (room) if I’m feeling strong. Around seven, my host mom or dad will call out to me softly:
“Eny?” (yes), I respond.
It’s time to eat. I walk upstairs to the dining area and sit down at the rectangular table to partake in what is now my favorite food ritual—French style, if I may be so bold. Kafe amin’ny siramamy sy ronono, (coffee with sugar and milk). With our kafe we have mofodupain (French baguette) and mofogasy, (Malagasy bread, which is a small, sweet fried rice dumpling). I spread some totomboanjo on my mofodupain and dip it into my kafe as the morning mist rises above the fruit trees. This is my home.
After sakafo maraina (breakfast), I sweep my room (if I’m not running late) with my kofafa and then polish the floor with the cocoborosy. This helps get rid of any mud I may have dragged in with my nasty boots. Then I throw my books in my bag and head off to school. Four hours of language class await me! My language trainers are patient, kind, and endlessly hilarious. They speak slow, animated Malagasy and repeat words again and again until myself and my fellow trainees can comprehend their meaning. Then we practice, stumble over our words, and practice again. Of course, the real learning comes outside of the classroom, when friendly or curious neighbors ask me questions in accents I cannot understand. Most of the time I smile and nod and answer with a statement that I think is close to an answer. I’m right about thirty-three percent of the time.
We go back to our homes for sakafo atoandry (lunch)—usually beans and vegetables and always rice—then return for afternoon technical sessions: more class, more note-taking, more studying. My day finishes around 5:30 pm and I zip up my coat for the walk home. When the sun dips behind the horizon, it becomes quite cold. But this is still my favorite time of day. I take a shortcut home that passes through fields of rice paddies, all perfectly, geometrically aligned. The setting sun turns the stalks a crisp golden-yellow, and I smile to myself as I balance on small walkways in between them. I usually see my host brothers playing outside when I come home. We’ll eat dinner and maybe play some cards (though, since they’re very small, it’s usually just 52-pick up) but lately I’ve had so much homework to do, and I’m usually very tired. There’s an element of being “on” all the time that is very internally exhausting, even if I’m not aware of it as I’m going through my day. But though the days are long, and I’m grateful for a nice warm bed at the end of them, I love these days. I know they are special; soon training will be over and a whole new world will begin all over again. I’ll have to readjust and stretch my skin some more until something new fits. Then I’ll do it again, and again, and again. Life is full of stretch marks, but they also make really good stories.
Until next time!