After we flew into Fort Dauphin we went straight to Manantantely, which means Place Where There Is Honey, and all 15 girls stayed in a single room full of bunks and Cameron, the one guy, stayed in his lonely single (although he was joined by his friend, the Rat). We ate rice three times a day, although in slightly different forms, had lessons in hand-washing clothes (which all the villagers watched humorously, as if to say, look at these silly vazhas who can’t even wash their cloths), learned how to pound rice, cut manioc, and dance like a zebu. However, not everything was fun and games. The staff cooked an enormous amount of food for us, because at the end of the meal, all the village children were allowed to enter the building and eat what we had not finished. It was extremely saddening to learn that the children eat last off all the people in the Malagasy culture, and they only got what was left after other finished.
We hiked into the mountains on the second day there and it was like hiking in the settings of Jurassic Park, Lost, and Land Before Time. Absolutely everything was stunning and new. We found a centipede that was as big around as my pinky and totally safe to hold, a snail the size of my fist and tiny little fresh water crabs in the stream. Totally awesome (hence the semester of awesomeness). By the end of our hike, we were all drenched in sweat (I wish I were exaggerating) and longing for shade or water. Rather than returning to the building, we were taken to a small fresh water stream that was literally the most refreshing water I have ever had the pleasure of swimming in. And the best part, it counted as our ‘shower’ for the day, so we all didn’t have to attempt the first bucket showers of the semester quite yet. We did however, get to use our first ‘squatters’, i.e. the bathroom was a hole cut in the ground of the outhouse (apparently it is actually a healthier angle for your body than our porcelain thrones at home…new option Bowdoin?).
We also started our intense lessons in Malagasy, and trust me; it is a little strange to learn a new language from a foreign language. My notes are a strange but unique mix of Malagasy, French and English. We call it Malenglench.