Greetings from the Northland, everyone! It's a little different than the "Northland" you might be used to, but as you can see, it's just as beautiful!
First off, let me apologize for the lack of communication over the last month or so. If you didn't see my previous post, my computer charger imploded last month and my parents (hi mom and dad!) were gracious enough to send two more from the United States. It took some time, but yesterday I finally received my chargers thanks to some wonderful people here who bent over backwards to go out of their way to get them to me!
I've been a resident of Diego Suarez (or Antsiranana) for about a month now, and I'm happy to say that things have begun to feel normal, something all YAGMs pray for. I arrived on october 1st, and was given some time to settle in, get acclimated and meet with my new colleagues before starting to teach about 3 weeks ago. I teach four classes in the area: the students and staff at the Lutheran Deaf School near town, the staff at the Lutheran clinic and an intermediate class at the Antsiranana Synod Offices. I was initially pretty nervous to start, having no previous experience teaching English language learners, but I adore my students and I'm having a blast with them!
I live in a cozy little studio-style apartment with views of the Bay from the front window. I absolutely love sitting on my little patio with tea and reading. It’s truly the perfect little getaway! My host parents are the President (or Bishop) of the Antsiranana Synod of the FLM and his wife. President Robelison oversees 6 districts within the synod, with about 30 churches in each district. Lalao, his wife, is a Theologian, which is the highest degree that women can earn in the FLM.
Diego is a beautiful little city with a population around 150,000. It is located on a peninsula, meaning you can find stunning ocean views from most spots in town. It’s inherently unique because it has a significant tourism market, and at any given time means that 5-10% of the people people walking around are white foreigners, mostly from France. This situation varies greatly from the experiences of my colleagues because Diego contains stark contrasts of extreme poverty and absolute luxury.
My time in Diego is heavily centered around the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM), as all of my placements are ministries of the FLM. Belief in God is one of the central tenants of Malagasy identity, and Malagasy people wear it on their sleeves. Church here usually lasts between two and a half and three hours every Sunday, with announcements taking between 30-45 minutes, offering close to 25 and communion taking 35 minutes if it’s the first Sunday of the month. At one particular worship service in the town of Antsirabe, we sang 25 hymns. Other events include the casting of the demons (3rd Sunday of the month) and an auction—yes I said an auction—during the announcements on the 4th Sunday that sells donated baked goods, fruits, vegetables and even woven mats to raise money for the church.
That’s all for now! I will hopefully be getting out my newsletter tomorrow and have at least one or two more blog posts this month!
UPDATE: the newsletter has been sent! If you haven't received it, but want to, please let me know!