Salama Avy Aty Madagasikara

“All who live under the sky are woven together like one big mat.” -Malagasy Proverb

Culture is a fascinating thing. We all grow up in a culture. We grow up learning HOW to live by someone else’s definition. What’s appropriate and what isn’t. Belief structures, Language, Food, etc. This is what makes travel so important. It gives the traveler the opportunity to open up and experience new cultures and share their cultures with the world too.

In order to have a positive experience, one needs the opportunity to drop their belief structures and expectations to let something else wonderful in. This has definitely been my experience the last 5 days. As you may recall from my last update, I wasn’t in the most positive of places. There was a lot of processing going on, a lot of loneliness and definitely a lot of discomfort.

Leading up to this trip, I have constantly been telling people that I expect to experience a heavy “Culture Shock.” The reason I said this is because I have rarely had the opportunity to experience other cultures that haven’t been heavily influenced by the Western world. In fact, I live in a pretty excellent part of the world where I can go from eating Ethiopian food for lunch, Pho for dinner and a choice between late night Gelatto or Bubble tea to end the evening and maybe take in a foreign language film in the process. My cooshy little environment allows me the opportunity to dabble in all world cultures (and languages) with little commitment.

By using the phrase “Culture Shock” I had little knowledge of what it meant, especially it’s intensity. Wikipedia defines culture shock as:

“Culture shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply travel to another type of life. One of the most common causes of culture shock involves individuals in a foreign environment. Culture shock can be described as consisting of at least one of four distinct phases: Honeymoon, Negotiation, Adjustment, and Mastery, are the most common attributes that pertain to existing problems, further hindrances include: information overload, language barrier, generation gap, technology gap, skill interdependence, formulation dependency, homesickness (cultural), infinite regress (homesickness), boredom (job dependency), response ability (cultural skill set). There is no true way to entirely prevent culture shock, as individuals in any society are personally affected by cultural contrasts differently.”

Good news is, I feel as if I am coming over the top of the hill and feeling much more open to the experiences and adventures that this amazing country has to offer. I received some advice the other day that said “Everyone there are people, just like you, and they have gifts to offer the world, just like you. It will all seem normal very soon.” These are the words I have kept with me as I continue to explore.

So what does culture look like here? Surprisingly enough, as diverse as back home. The country has 2 official languages; French and Malagasy. The country also has 18 tribes, all with individual languages. The history of this country is even more diverse. People settled here from all over the world from various eras. Indonesian, (mainland) African, French, Indian and even Chinese. The food here, a similar mix of rice, beans, spaghetti, soups, salads, and the French standard; baguette and butter for breakfast. The lifestyle is simple. Everyone has something to offer, and suprisingly there is more materialism here than expected. From SUVs, to Beats headphones, to some of the cheapest non-knockoff Nike’s I have ever seen. The clothes are rich with colour and the jewelry is gorgeous.

I also look to sharing the knowledge I have acquired about the cities I have visited so far with all of you. Stay tuned for an update tomorrow where I will talk about the beautiful city that is Antananarivo and the rich culture that Toliara has to offer.

Until then all i have to say is…enjoy as much of this world as you can…

Advertisements

Don’t Panic!

image

Hello, Bonjour,

Something I’ve been saying a lot the last few hours as I try to get adjusted to the cultural and language difference here in Madagascar. I use the word “try” because it has definitely felt like work for me.

Air travel by myself was the easy pert, very little language barrier anywhere, excellent hospitality and even better, a ton of room on the flights. Upon my arrival in Antananarivo, however, I had an astonishing realization. This was the first time in my life where I have really felt alone. I have no one travelling with me (yet) and I have a bit of a language barrier, not to mention how overwhelmingly different life is here.

I’ve watched documentaries and television programs about parts of the world similar to this, but have only ever traveled in “first world” nations. Once the initial uneasiness wears off I’m excited to explore some of the many tastes and sights of this country but for now I can’t help but miss home a little bit.

After spending the last few months with intense support and love shown to me by so many amazing people in my efforts to make this journey to Madagascar possible, I’m now on the opposite corner of the world feeling very opposite emotions. I’ve been in this country less than 12 hours and I already miss my family, miss Eric, miss my friends and wish my goodbye hugs were longer

The good news is, this will pass, not the missing of people, but the feeling of loneliness. It’s been a big realization for me how much I depend on my relationships with people, but maybe took that dependence for granted more than I thought. I may be in Madagascar away from everything I know but I am so very excited about the opportunity to keep in touch with all of you via my updates.

One of my good friends said to me before I left, “You get the opportunity to head on a journey that many of us won’t often get the opportunity to do, but it feels like we all get the chance to go with you.” This is something i remind myself of constantly, thinking of all of you alongside me. The picture at the top of the post was taken in the Johannesburg airport and I thought it’s words fit perfectly with the sentiment of this post.

I feel as though I’m in process similar to those at one of the personal development workshops or camps I frequently volunteer at. Being put in a place of emotional and physical vulnerability to be able to release stuff I’ve been holding on to, and rebuild. I guess this is necessary work if I plan to be fully present for the next 2 months of being here.

Sending a TON of love and gratitude your way and I’m looking forward to the next update!!

(Update: I went into the city today to explore for a few hours on my own. The taxi driver I was with decided to put on music, and I smiled, was thrilled, and put to ease as one of my favorite songs came on, putting to music exactly what I needed to hear. See Below. )

Fightin’ Round the World…

…Not really though. But much like Russel Crowe’s spoofed characterization in an infamous South Park episode, intention is everything.

As i sit here in Heathrow airport awaiting my flight to Johannesburg, on only 7 hours of sleep in the past 48 hours, i can’t help but smile that the most uncomfortable part of my journey so far has simply been that lack of sleep. Allow me to elaborate a little.

Living on the West coast of Canada, some of the best places nearby to visit are in the United States, and as such I have frequently flown in the states. Those of you familiar with flying in the United States (or simply crossing the boarder from time to time) know that the screening processes for entering the country can be a little…stern at times. Being so familiar with the security processes they put into place for air transportation, I was expecting the same treatment internationally because, lets face it, terrorists can be from anywhere, right?

I was so happy to be blindsided by some of the most polite and hospitable security agents I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Offering tissues after tearful goodbyes, walking elderly people patiently through the screening process and apologizing for the inconvenience of having to search bag and even promising to keep the process as swift as possible for the eager travelers.

This experience reminded me of an article i read recently of a writer’s attempt to travel from Montreal to New Orleans in lieu of his late father’s love for jazz and the French Quarter. In this article he describes in great detail the treatment he received from border agents because he had previously visited parts of the world that these uneducated boarder guards deemed unsavory. Long story short, after hours and hours of being detained, searched, interrogated and threatened, he was denied entry into the country and vowed to “Never travel within the United States again.”

This is a great example of not only how controlling fear can be for an individual, but how it can affect relationships with others. It’s the same on a personal and global level.

those-were-the-droids

I now complete this entry from a hotel room in Madagascar where I can still say with assurance that I still agree with my previous thoughts above. Heading into a “third world” nation [side note: I’m not sure I like that term, nor do i like the term “underdeveloped.” Content for future blog updates i guess?] like this, or even through South Africa where political unrest was not unheard of, I was surprised at how comfortable the entry process was. Walked up with my Visa, got a “Merci!” and away I went.

The reason I share this entry? moreover a simple insight i noticed from traveling through 4 countries & 3 continents int he span of 2 days. The world is smaller than we think, and the way we relate to our brothers and sisters around the globe says a lot about who we are.