Greetings again. I hope all is well and the weather in America is starting to warm up. Thankfully it is starting to cool down a little here, at least I think so. Some of students wear sweatshirts in the morning and evening. I think it just getting comfortable, but to each their own.
Here at Fihaonana we just started the final term of the year so the students only have a couple of months left until their graduation. Sadly I will miss this since I’ll already be gone by that time. But the fun part is that now we started planting our own garden which, I am happy to report, is doing great! Its also been spring cleaning over Easter break. What does that mean? In true Fihaonana style, they usually clean out the storage area, redo the roof of the barn, hunt down the rats, and also triage the animals to see which chickens can still lay eggs which one can’t. We then sell them off with pigs, cows, and other animals that are no longer producing. That’s the way it goes here at Fihaonana. The good part of all this is that we will get a lot of chicks and other baby animals. After helping midwife during a cow birth, I finish off the circle of life for all the animals on these farm from life to death. It is safe to say that I have gotten some basic skills in animal husbandry.
Whereas before the question of teacher and student was did I work on a farm in America, now it is will I start a farm in the American after all I have learned here. My answer: no, but I will have a nice garden and maybe some animals someday. I tell them that farming in the US and Madagascar is very different. I have limited farming experience in America but I feel I can say that they are different in big ways. They are similar to each other in that they are proud of the hard work that farming is in both countries, but different when talking about field and crop size. Back home having fields of corn as far as the eye can see with seemingly endless rows of corn, here they have similar fields for rice but not as vast as Iowa or Illinois corn fields. But I finally got to show them when I got an Iowa picture book from my church’s 5th and 6th grade class. I showed the students the endless fields of corn, and snow. Many of the students and teachers think Iowa is beautiful place to which I agree. The students think we are crazy to live where it snows. But the question that came up when I first arrived here now echoes in a different way.
That question is: is it harder to live in America or in Madagascar? My answer: it is just different. It is hard to compare places and compare the struggles of each of these places. That was the question asked a lot to me by several students. A question asked by some of the teachers is when will Madagascar look like this? To which I have no answer. They don’t mean when will Madagascar look like Iowa, but rather, when will Madagascar progress on of the place it in now. Some teachers add on “when will it be like the US?” This I cant respond to either. Some people would criticize the word “progress,” and that if the US is progressing then why would they want that. Saying that country or place will risk losing it’s identity and culture when progressing to other places ideal of progress. But to unpack that a little, what then do we mean by progress anyway? I think it is important to never think that anything is going to be perfectly right or a hundred percent just in the world. Rather, progress means moving toward making things better, not prefect. It is fruitless to go for perfect. In that regard we all can help in the terms of progress.
The idea of a country asking these questions is not about losing it’s identity or culture, as might the fear in Globalization or Westernization, but rather, asking when will Madagascar have things like clean water, power, less corruption and larger farms so Maylasgasly can have plenty of food. These things are major goals of progress which is what they mean when saying “when will they be like the US?” Its never getting rid of the idea that progress in culture is an ongoing thing. That culture is never a stagnant of something that is lost but change by the people living in the country mostly and also outside force. The hope is the outside forces don’t hurt but help. It sounds simple to say of course–help not hurt–but in truth its never an easy answer. In many ways I now know how complex the trying to help not hurt question is, but I’m still learning everyday what that means. For me it helps to know that no matter what I do I won’t fix the world and I won’t be perfect, but trying and reflecting is key. Seeing how my actions both help and harm, but I can never know the full answer. The one thing that makes my work with Fihaonana interesting is the school activities trying to change the culture and forge progress in the students to want a better Madagascar. The way in which the school advocates change in culture is with sustainable farming techniques as well as in many other ways. I am proud to be apart of that attempt to change Madagascar for the better and doing it the Malagasy way.
((Pictures will be posted soon – check for updates)