Madagascar Travel Reflections from Jeff

A person can learn about the ocean by reading books and watching movies,
but until you feel the sand between your toes and smell the smells coming off the sea,
until you run into the water and get knocked over by the waves,
feel the tug of the current and the taste of salt on your lips,
you really don't have an appreciation for the ocean.
Having recently spent two weeks in Madagascar, I gained a tiny sense of appreciation for that country and its people.

To me, the Malagasy people are happy. They were smiling and cheerful. Our group was welcomed wherever we went. In the remote, rural areas we were treated almost like celebrities (perhaps because many of these people in these areas had rarely, if ever, seen people with white skin).

We attended two worship services and the people seemed to take their worshiping seriously. Each of the services was at least three hours in length. Both services had amazing choirs and multiple offerings.

I came away reflecting on how much we in America take for granted. Only 17% of the people in Madagascar have electrical power, and those who do have power experience rolling blackouts daily. We take electricity for granted. The road system in Madagascar is terrible by anyone's standards. A trip of 25 km (15.5 miles) took more than three hours and required a 4-wheel drive vehicle. We take our highway system for granted. Going to the bank from a remote village is a 4 day trip (there and back). We take access to services for granted. Their meals are simple by our standards and frequently the same, or similar, day after day. Rice is the main part of all three meals of the day in Madagascar. It is frequently served with zebu, chicken or vegetables. We take the abundance of food and the availability of food for granted. Water is scarce in many parts of the country and nonexistent in other parts. We take water for granted. One of the many times our vehicle was stuck in the sand, three women - carrying their laundry in baskets on their heads - passed us, twice. They were walking several kilometers to wash their families' clothes. We take the conveniences in our lives for granted. And the list goes on.

In my opinion, I/we tend to complain a lot, about what we don't have or I/we express dissatisfaction about what I/we do have that does not meet our expectations. I didn't experience anything like that in Madagascar. I did, however, watch a young girl playing happily with a deflated balloon attached to the end of the stick.

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