Just one month ago I was sitting in the sweltering summer heat of Madagascar. I was eating kilos of lychees, consuming my bodyweight in red rice and spending time with my local counterparts. I was shooing away my friendly rats, walking through the muddy market, and fetching water for my next refreshing bucket bath. And I was loving every second of it. Well maybe not every second! But every memory and every experience will be one I cherish for the rest of my life.
As I sit in the now chilly winter cold of NYC, I can’t believe how drastically my life has changed over the last month. After nearly two years in Mada, it was time for me to leave my new home and return to my old one.
Now back in America it’s amazing how quickly life goes on. And how much has remained the same since I boarded the plane at JFK two years ago. Yet despite that, it’s also amazing how different I feel – how difficult it is to sum up the experience when someone asks “What was it like?”
There’s really no way to explain what it was like without forgetting so many of the small day to day details that made my experience what it was. That changed how I see the world, myself, and my future. But what I can say is that I am incredibly grateful. The day I received my nomination to serve as a PCV in Madagascar is the day I won the lottery.
I never would have chosen Madagascar as my country for service and now I can’t imagine having served anywhere else in the world. I was given the opportunity to live on an island that many people have never heard of. And more than that I was able to make it my home. Madagascar is a beautiful country with so much to offer. The people are incredibly kind and welcoming and despite their own devastating poverty are so generous. Despite being a complete stranger with the language skills of a 2 year old when I arrived, I was immediately welcomed in as a new member of the community.
The island itself is beautiful and unique. From the lemurs and the baobab trees to the pristine forests in Masoala Park and the white sand beaches on my beautiful east coast, I can truly say I have witnessed more beauty in the last two years than most will ever see in a lifetime.
When I started this journey I quoted a book – “I go to seek the great perhaps.” And I’m pretty sure I found it. Over the course of two years I learned so much about myself both personally and professionally and I wouldn’t change this experience for anything. I learned a new language, lived amongst child sized rats and flying cockroaches. I walked hundreds upon hundreds of kilometers, and pushed myself to so many limits I didn’t even know I had. I worked on countless projects I am proud of, witnessed real change amongst my counterparts and community, and most importantly built lifelong friendships with PCVs and Malagasy people.
They say being a Peace Corps Volunteer is the hardest job you’ll ever love. They were right.
There’s a Malagasy proverb that says “Tsara mandroso, tsara miverina” which roughly translates to “good coming, good going.” I don’t know what’s next for me, but I do know I am eager for my next adventure, wherever that may be. And I hope that someday my adventure can bring me back to Madagasikara.
PS – Thank you again to those who donated to my safe motherhood grant. Your contributions will change lives. Despite my departure you can rest assured that thanks to your support the project is still moving forward. Right now, the funds are being held for the next PCV to use when implementing this project. If however, my site does not receive a new PCV, I will be able to work with PC and ensure the funds are transferred either directly to my DR or a partnering NGO. So thanks to you all, between 30-40 traditional birth attendants will still receive a training in order to save the lives of more mothers and babies. I will keep you posted on the progress over the coming months.
From me and my counterparts, Misaotra betsaka (thank you)!