Leaving One Home for Another...Goodbye Madagascar

Trip Start Feb 12, 2006
Trip End May 12, 2008

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Leaving One Home for Another...Goodbye Madagascar
Since February 2006, a far away place called Madagascar was our home, now we have returned to another home.  We left our town with smiles on our faces and tears in our eyes. We were pleased with all that was accomplished and learned in two years and pleased that our replacement was such a good fit and willing to carry on with activities we established, but sad to leave a place we called home, friends and all that had become so familiar. 
As we reflect back we have no regrets and are happy with the impact we made.  The Community & Youth Center had over 100 members when we left, the U.S. Ambassador had graciously came to our town for the official opening and ribbon cutting ceremony with several other Malagasy Officials. Two schools had been rehabilitated, latrines were constructed, model farmers learned new techniques, thousands of trees were grown and planted, including highly nutritious species for areas of food insecurity, an income-generating farming association was formed, ultimate Frisbee is tossed in the breeze and  UNO cards are shuffled in remote towns, youth groups were formed, sports teams received new equipment, students learned improved agricultural practices and the importance of protecting their environment, self-confidence was instilled, locals began teaching locals, friendships were made as were smiles when 21 individuals had life-changing facial surgery from Operation Smile.
"What will you do next?" "How was it?" "What do you miss?" are the most common questions, but it requires a difficult answer, one not easy to explain.
I miss the geckos on our fence, their iridescent colors so bright as they bask in the sunshine. The way their neon green bodies seem to flow as they briskly move along blades of sugarcane or the way they rest on the colossal purple banana flower and dine on nectar.  I miss them crawling on the walls at night, catching bugs and saving us from mosquitoes.  They are now replaced by the hummingbirds who feast on the bright orange trumpet vines in my parent's yard.
I miss my chickens running towards my feet every time I leave the house. The way they'd run from anywhere in the yard in response to my calls, scampering to devour leftover rice, greens or to peck at a banana peel. I miss peeking into the chicken house and spotting a fresh egg.
I really miss the rain. Not the dreary kind that lasts for days, causing mold to grow across our walls and spread on the floor, not the kind that makes everything damp & cold, where you forget what its like to be dry, but the kind that quenches the dry fields burdened with parched crops, the kind that occurs in the stifling afternoons to cool the humid, hot tropical air- that is the rain I will miss. The downpours that hit the tin roof so hard & with such ferocity that goose bumps form on my arms. The sudden storms that halt the play of children causing them to giggle, squeal and run for cover.  The thunder that rolls and groans across the sky, through our valley from mountain range to mountain range.  The lightning so bright and vivid forking across the sky and the accompanying crack of thunder so intense it seems to split the sky into pieces.  The grounds shakes and sheets of rain fall- not a fast passing storm like back in Maryland, but one that lasts and lasts. Where does it come from? How can it persist for so long?  That is what I miss.
I miss the laughter of children- not occasionally and not passing, but a contagious laughter that comes from deep within, from children finding joy in simple things- pulling each other on a rice sack, playing war with guns made of bamboo, hiding in the grasses, sliding down the hill, making masks and capes with leaves and flowers.  I miss that laughter, the type that made Aaron and I look at each other and just laugh. That is what I miss.
But life here also has its rewards- clean water flows from the pipes (I'm still amazed every time I go to the sink!), fresh produce from the garden, family, friends, green grass and nice roads and everything written and spoken in English.
What's next? In one week Aaron, his brother and I will load all we need onto our backs  to begin a new adventure on the Appalachian Trail. Later we will drive coast to coast, leaving Maryland for Washington and then following the Pacific Coast Highway, visiting old friends along the way.
"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
-Mark Twain
This was the first entry in my journal I kept for 2 years and 3 months and it will continue to be my motto. I would not have traded my Peace Corps experience for anything!  I am sure we gained more than we gave as Madagascar has changed our lives forever, impacting everything we do. The memories will stay with us for life.
On to new adventures,
Aaron & Jenny

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