The trip is over, and we are back home. We should be happy, right? Finally, home. Is it really that simple? The person who left Norway one month ago, is that really the same person who returned home a few days ago? Is it even possible to stay the same after a month in a different continent and with such a baggage that you now carry with you? I wish I had a good answer for you, but I don’t. Instead I will write this “summary” of emotions and thoughts that I now try to keep in check back home in my ever so usual everyday life. The reason that I am writing this in English, is so that my Malagasy friends can read it as well. I hope you all will excuse my grammar and spelling, and I will try my best not to write it all wrong. Thank you!
First, I have to say thank you, to my family who pushed me to go when I had doubt – you pushed me into one of the greatest adventures in my life. I will forever be grateful to you. Thank you for listening to all the things I tell you about my trip, and for understanding that I will draw comparisons and use examples from Madagascar for a long time. This trip did change me, in many ways that I don’t even understand myself yet, and the memories will forever be part of my heart and soul. I will miss my friends, I will miss the culture, and I did leave behind a piece of my heart. I will cry on occasions and be sad. Not because I am not happy to be home, but because it is hard to accept that I have this life at home, and that my friends there have such uncertainty in their life that I wish from the bottom of my heart that I could change for them. And off course because I miss them. For the first time I understand what “post travel depression” feels like, and I feel blessed to have had such a journey to actually get it.
When I first left Norway I felt sad to leave my family behind, for a whole month and so far away. I was scared. The first time I felt excited to go to Madagascar was on the plane to Ethiopia. The little butterflies made a big fuzz in my stomach. I was finally ready to take in this adventure. Madagascar didn’t exactly bring out its best when we first met, but after a few days I fell in love. With the green rice fields, the red mud on the roads, the trees, the birds, the sounds. Everything is just a big bowl of happiness and gratitude. The people were smiling everywhere, even those who sat on the streets begging me for my water. Wherever you go they say hello, they smile. During the fieldwork we learned that most Malagasy people are grateful for what they have, a happy life is defined by love and family. Not one household wanted more money or riches when asked for their future dreams. All answered that a happy life for them were their faith and the love of their family. They all thanked us sincerely for taking the time to talk to them, they all wished us success and happiness in our life. For me that was a very powerful wakeup call. To be grateful for the things that I do have, and to stop always wanting more. The real riches in life are love, respect and understanding. Not money, not things. Yeah, I know, that sounds like a textbook cliché, and that might be true. But clichés are clichés for a reason, and if you go there I am almost sure that you will agree with me.
I love travelling, and I knew that I would find many things to love at this destination as I have in all the places I have visited. What I didn’t expect however was to make such good friends, and strong bonds with the people that I came to know. These friendships are the thing that I am most grateful for, and the reason why it was so hard to leave. Let’s start with our most amazing guides. The very first day we met Jacky, we knew that this was a man with love and respect for all. His smile could light up a whole village, and his energy was enough to keep us all going for a week. He took the time to get to know us all, he used his own experiences to make examples for us and to teach us about the Malagasy language and culture. He genuinely cared about us and went out of his way to make us all happy. Every single person on this earth should be a little more like Jacky and every teacher should have learned from his way of teaching. Thank you, Jacky – never stop being the bright star that you are! Mihantra(girl), always smiling, always running around to help the sick and to run errands for us in our tight schedule. I am not even sure that you ever slept, you were always near by when we needed you, and you always took the time to talk. I really hope that all those dreams you told me about will come true for you, and that you continue spreading joy wherever you go. I will miss your smile and laughter around every corner. Mihantra(boy), big brother. I don’t know were to start. your energy, your patience, your humor and your protection. Just like the big brother I never had. We had some good conversations, and I was so lucky to meet your family, and got to spend much time with your beautiful son, Erlander. Thank you for inviting me to your home, and for showing us all a good time while keeping us safe.
For our fieldwork we worked together with students from ESSVA, and we became a good gang of friends after just a few days. You all have been great, showing us around, helping us understand and sharing your everyday life and culture with us. Especially the dancing and singing that you do whenever there is music in the air. I will always cherish the memories and all the fun we had together, and I will miss you all! Thank you for all the things that you did for us. I am truly grateful for all of the ESSVA students, with that said there are two of them who hold a very special place in my heart. The strong bond that we share is unique and I will forever be grateful for the relationship we got from this. I am sure when I say that we will remain friends forever, just like the matching bracelets we have says. Soa ny fiarahantsika. If I were to write down all the memories and all the things we shared it would become a book, so I won’t. Manda and Malala, I don’t even know what to say. You guys made such an impact on me that I have trouble finding the words. You opened your homes for me, you taught me things that I would never have known if it weren’t for you. We shared secrets, we shared jokes, we shared our histories and our dreams for the future. In the end we almost knew each other’s thoughts before we said them out loud. We took care of each other, and we became friends, good friends. I am looking forward to the day that you come to visit me in Norway, and I look forward to the day when I will come back to visit you. Thankfully we have facebook and can keep in touch even though we live so far apart. We can share pictures and tell each other about our day to day life and share the big events in our life. Thank you, Manda and Malala for always having my back and for being my friends. The hardest part of the trip was saying goodbye to you both, and I will miss Manda’s dancing everywhere and Malala’s singing and smile all day long. The three adala be’s will reunite one day, Im sure!
To travel to Madagascar is like travelling in a time machine. You go back to where the roads were made of mud, people made their own houses of whatever material they could afford or find on their own. Most of the food are grown for own use, and what is left after saving for the next harvest can be sold to others. The jobs are few, and the politics are bad. For us Norwegians who are used to behave, dress and speak freely as we want we quickly came to know that there were certain ways to dress properly and to behave in a more modest way than we would usually do. We had to stay together to stay safe, even during the day. The people shared what they had, even the ones who had next to nothing. Fihavanana was very important in the society and crucial for many. Things like that makes you think about our own cultural of sharing and helping others who might have less than us. It makes you more grateful for the opportunities that we have in Norway, and it makes your heart open up more for the actually important things in life. I hope that the values and the lessons that I have learned will stay with me forever, that I will not just go back to be the person I used to be before leaving for Madagascar but become a better person because of it. I made a promise to myself when I sat on the plane and saw the last piece of Madagascar disappear under me, that from no on I will do more for the people who have less than me, and that I will be more grateful for the things I have, the things I have had and the things I will get. I will remember that I have more than most people in the world, even on the days when I feel that I don’t have what I want.
To all my Malagasy friends – Misaotra, mandra-pihaona indray ary e!
Thank you all for following my journey!