Friday, October 22, 2010

Efa Ela Be

Hi All! Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything. After a while, I didn’t know where to start because so much has happened since I’ve written. Here’s a short summary:

July 13: left Mahanoro to go to Tana
July 14-16: went to PC training center for Training of Trainers in order to help train the new volunteers.
July 20-August 8: taught English at the University of Diego
August 9-21: vacation on Tsirabiana River to Tsingy de Bemaraha to Morondava
August 23-September 10: trained the new volunteers near PC training center
September 12-20: helped translate for Operation Smile in Tana
September 21-27: back to my site for a few days
September 29-October 1: COS (Close of Service) Conference
October 3-5: taxi broussed from Tana to Diego
October 6-present: teach English at the university

I know—do I ever stay put? But it’s normal for Education PCVs to do other things during the Grandes Vacances (like our summer vacation) because we aren’t teaching and there are so few students at our sites. Anyway, for now I’ll just share some interesting things that have happened while I’ve been teaching English at the University of Diego (located at the very northern part of the island).

Between my two stints at the university, I had my students read two articles to find new vocabulary words and practice summarizing. One student read an article called “Child Brain Development” and asked this question after reading: “What kind of food should a woman eat during pregnancy to get a very clever baby?”

During a discussion about advertising, media restrictions, and Photoshopping images, one of my students asked me if Arnold Schwarzenegger has had plastic surgery. That same day, another student asked me if Chuck Norris is still alive. And then he said, “I think he supported John McCain during the election.” When I described what billboards are, someone asked if it was true that we have billboards that are like large televisions with continually changing images. How do they know these things? In another class, students asked me about Big Foot and if Michael Jackson was really dead. (He refused to believe that he has died because evidently no one saw the body in the casket at the funeral.)

Their curiosity and knowledge about American culture, and what they know, often catches me off guard and makes me laugh. When we were talking about cultural differences, one student said they do not have honeymoons here in Madagascar like we do in America. Also, when young boys are circumcised here, there is a large celebration with many family members and friends. This was true even for the Comorian student in my class. And the age of the boy is much older than I ever expected: in Madagascar, sometimes a boy is four or maybe even seven; in the Comoros, he may be twelve years old.

All the students agreed that it was impolite and unacceptable for them to walk up to a person and begin talking without first greeting them and asking how they were. (I love this part of Malagasy culture.) They were very annoyed when I explained that I could walk up to someone in the U.S. and say, “Excuse me. Can you please tell me how to get to Main Street?” without first greeting the person. Here it’s just automatic, and more importantly, it’s a sign of respect. America also received poor marks for public display of affection and what we show and say on TV. I guess we can all learn a little from each other.

I want to take all of my students home with me and witness their reactions to things in the U.S. I mentioned having children in the future and several of them were surprised: “You want to have children?” They probably think I’m too old already. Good grief. Then they asked if I wanted ten and were even more shocked when I said five. They think this is still a lot. (I really have no idea; it’s seems like forever away for me.) So I told them that maybe I’ll have three children and then adopt two from Madagascar. Immediately two girls raised their hands and said, “Me!” I wish. I’d take them all if I could. This university has a great program, and I’m so thankful I got to come be a part of it for a while.

Recently I told them about several superstitions we have in America and asked if they had any in Madagascar. I heard many interesting stories. Several times after a student shared his superstition, the other students rolled their eyes and said he was crazy. Therefore, the following may depend on the Malagasy person, just as our superstitions depend on the person in the U.S.

If you take a baby outside at night, you must bring along some sort of light or knife to keep the devil from harming the child.

If you have bees living in your house, it brings good luck. (Guess you can’t be allergic to bees then…)

A black cat is not necessarily bad luck, just seen as unusual. Three-colored cats, however, are good luck.

If you whistle after dark, the ghosts will come to your house.

If you dream that your friend died, your friend will have a long life.

If a rich man’s chair falls over when he tries to sit down, he will become poor.

And dad, I saved the best for last:

If you dream of fishing, you will get a lot of money in the future.

Apparently we share the following superstitions, so maybe they are really true…crazy things happen when there’s a full moon; if you make a wish on a shooting star, it will come true; and opening an umbrella inside is bad luck.

In order to get my first year students to speak, I gave them all a pair of confusing words to define and explain to the class. One boy, who received whine and wine, said that whine is a complaint that something is not fair or too difficult, especially for a baby or a girl. Let’s just say the girls did not agree with him!

I only have one week left at the university; next Saturday I will head back to my site and teach English at the middle and high schools for one more year. Let’s hope the trip back to Tana is better than the one I made from Tana to Diego at the beginning of the month: seven cars in three days because due to PC rules, I can’t take a taxi brousse that travels overnight. C’est la vie. Hopefully, I’ll post another entry next week before I cram myself into a taxi brousse with five adults and two children per row, chickens occasionally squawking below our feet. I miss you all.


P.S.—This is something funny a former PCV thought up: “Some people see the glass half empty; some people see the glass half full. A Peace Corps Volunteer sees the glass and says, ‘I can take a bath in that.’”