So it's been almost three months since I last wrote here... oops. Really, it's just been a whirlwind of everything moving fast and simultaneously moving slow, mixed with a lot of ordinary. It's hard to blog about life when it's mundane and normal, which is generally why you've seen more blog posts about other parts of Madagascar than Diego. Sorry about that.
I have approximately two weeks left in my host community, and predictably, I'm feeling all over the place about it. I'm excited to go home and I'm excited to see my dog and my friends, I'm excited to visit Prague and Vienna on my way back. I'm excited for American food and to have the conveniences of American life like having everything you need in one store and always having electricity with the flip of a switch. But I'm also devastated thinking about leaving this place. Imagine what it's like to go somewhere really new, start from scratch, form relationships, establish a rhythm, get used to life and then, just like that, it's all over, with slim prospects of one day returning to what you consider your new home.
How do you balance the feelings of excitement for what's ahead with the grief of what you just left behind? How do you return home when you've been gone for a year and everyone has just kept on living? How do you return to a culture where everything's so easy and convenient it causes you to resent it? How do you just say goodbye to the people who've fed you, loved you, comforted you, made you feel at ease for a year when no one from back home could? How do you say goodbye to a country that has poured so much into your soul that your heart literally aches to leave it? If you have answers to these questions, please, let me know.
Ultimately, there's not a ton of rhyme or reason to this blog post other than checking in and sharing a few photos. I hope to get something up about my upcoming travels to Morondava, as well as a summary post and maybe even a Q&A video at some point before I officially sign off. We'll see. For now, I'll leave you with some pictures of our March/April retreat to Andringitra National Park, as well as a few photos from my parents' visit to Mada last week. These last few months have gone at lightning speed, and I may be in denial about how quickly the end is approaching. My heart aches to leave a place like this, but how lucky am I to have a place that's been so special, it makes it so unbelievably hard to leave.
Our second YAGM Mada Crew retreat was held in Fianarantsoa, the Tsara Noro Valley and Andringitra National Park at the end of March and beginning of April. Highlights were spending time just hanging out, listening to Ed Sheeran and looking at the mountain views from our little bungalow/glamping tents, Erika piercing my upper lobes with a sewing needle (she hates needles) while laying on my grass mat on the ground, seriously great food (but not enough rice), hiking Le Chameleon (1540m) and seeing the incredible views from the top, getting to see how Antemoro paper is made, organizing "the English Afternoon" at the graduate level FLM seminary in Fianar where we taught camp games, made cookies and taught ELCA Easter liturgy with the students, eating the subsequent 200 balls of cookie dough that never got cooked from said cookies, swimming in the hotel pool in Fianar, having a pizza and wraps party at the hotel in Fianar (we eat too much), sunrises and sunsets over the mountains and working out a strategic step by step plan of how the YAGM Hunger Games would go down. We have fun, y'all.
Last week I was lucky enough to have my parents come and visit Diego! It's almost a 24 hours-in-the-airplane-journey to get here, which I can definitely speak to as exhausting, but it was great to have them come experience where I've called home for the last year! In addition, I got to be a tourist in my own city for the week which was great because Diego is one of the most popular destinations in Mada for a reason--it's GORGEOUS! My mom and dad visited Sefama and sat in on one of my English classes as "guest panelists" for a forum on life in the U.S., came to church, met my host dad and my closest friend, packed into bajaj (little baby taxis), bought out the tourist shops, came to Ramena for a beach day and also willingly got on a rickety fishing boat which took us out to the Emerald Sea for another day of beaching and eating fresh caught seafood (well not mom)! My mom did take about a thousand photos last week, so if you haven't seen them, check out her Facebook to see lemurs climbing on my dad's head!
That's all for the quick update. More soon!