In Malagasy, there is a phrase and concept called “mora mora” that directly translates to “ slowly slowly.”
La vie Mora-mora is a huge part of why we’ve come to Madagascar.
To date, we’ve failed miserably at achieving mora mora.
Why have we failed? From 7 AM to 10 PM our house is as busy as Grand Central Station at rush hour in NYC.
We’ve been living life at full speed for the last two months.
From moving, packing, flying, traveling, driving, we’ve had a crazy summer.
We’ve got a bunch of pictures and stories from our USA visit with family and road trip to that we promise to share with you soon, but for today, I’ll just catch you up to speed on the last two weeks.
Arrival August 18, 2018.
Our plane landed in Antananarivo Ivato Airport on time — it was about 2 AM. We successfully deplaned and made our way through immigration, got all of our bags, plus an extra one that we had to take back (oops and sorry).
At this point, they brought out Elvis in his travel kennel. The poor dog had been terrified on the flight and as they say, scared shitless. The poor dog was swimming in dog shit.
We are good at finding the bright side in this family, and the bright side of Elvis’ putrid situation? Is that we got to skip the customs control. The airport staff kindly ushered our stinky dog and all of our luggage right out of the international terminal without scanning our suitcases and into the fresh night air and over to the local terminal.
After checking in for our next flight, one kindly airport worker invited Yves out onto the tarmac, and together they hosed down Elvis’ cage. It wasn’t perfect, but at least the poor beast got a bit of fresh air, stretched his legs and had the worst of his mess cleaned up before having to take his last flight.
We timed our arrival in Fort Dauphin just in time to attend the wedding party of one of Yves’ many nieces. For the past few years Andrea had been a nanny for a French family with a vacation home in St. Jean de Luz, so the kids and we had seen her periodically for a short visit each year, over the last few years.
We were a bit concerned that we’d be too tired and wrinkled to attend the wedding, but it ended up being an all around blessing. The joy and beauty of a Malagasy wedding held on Akomba beach were just amazing. The kids were free to roam and dance, and Yves enjoyed catching up with various family and friends, and our bellies were filled with local delicacies from rotisserie goat to fresh shrimp and crab. And of course, a little beer, wine, and whiskey.
Starting off our arrival with a wedding party was just perfect. We went home before the whiskey could be passed again, with our heads sound asleep on our pillows by 10 pm.
I like to Move It Move It
The next morning we woke up and realized the huge work that lay ahead of us. Because the family house that we are staying in is often closed up and uninhabited, we found it needed a bit more work than we expected for us to be comfortable simply.
Things like flushing toilets and consistently running water (hot!) water with actual water pressure are things that are hard to let go of. Ants that think they are invited to all meals, not just the occasional picnic are more than a nuisance.
And the sand. Sand everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
So, for those of you who’ve been trying to imagine Yves sitting around on the couch drinking beer and enjoying his retirement, let me set you straight right now.
He is enjoying his retirement, but not from a reclined position!
For the last two weeks, he pretty much pops awake at 5:30 AM and goes for a run or works out. By 7 AM we’ve got various workers showing up at the house and to our land, which he is then directing to deconstruct, construct, fix, repair, plant, and water.
On a daily basis, he’s got about 6 or 7 different projects underway. Somedays he barely sits down to eat, and I’ve got to catch him and remind him that even though he is doing all his work for his family, he’s got to take time to enjoy his family too!
High priority projects have been getting the shower and water systems redone, updating some electrical issues and lights, painting, repairing rotten holes in the roof, building stone and cement pathways to reduce the sand, and getting fiber internet service installed. We’ve also planted about 40 trees from papaya and banana palms to litchi trees and travelers palms.
Just to make things more complicated, Yves also had a last minute 4-day trip back to Tana to deal with bureaucracy and customs and secure the delivery of our container which is supposed to arrive in the next few weeks. If he hadn’t gone, we would have had to pay something like $25,000 in customs duties to receive our stuff.
In Tana, he also picked up Gotty our Malinois pup and future evil guard dog. Thankfully, before he left for Tana, he’d found us several women to help in the house with both cooking, cleaning, and essential sand mitigation duties.
I will go into more detail in future posts, but for better or worse (the jury is still out) we are very much still living with traditional methods for cooking and cleaning. From meals cooked on a charcoal stove in a small external house to laundry washed by hand, we need “help.”
As a lonely extrovert, I welcome the two ladies who have joined our household from 7 Am to 6 PM, and I seriously appreciate not having to cook, clean and do my work, but it’s also an adjustment.
In France, if we wanted to eat a traditional Malagasy meal like Ravatoto, cassava or manioc leaves pounded and then cooked with meat, we’d have stopped by the Asian market and bought a few bags of frozen leaves for less than 5 Euros. Here in Fort Dauphin, one buys the leaves fresh and pulverizes them by hand.
We say grace before every meal here because thanking those who have prepared our food and honoring those who don’t have enough to it is simply part of recognizing the reality of our situation and demonstrating gratitude for all that we can do and have.
I’ve been incredibly grateful for the opportunity to focus on both my work and my kids, and start my day with both yoga and running. I also love that there are always people around. The life of a military wife can be so lonely, so this is a beautiful change, especially since I hate being alone.
I’ve set up an office in an upstairs bedroom, and I am looking forward to the construction of a remote work true bungalow aka office in the next few weeks.
On the flip-side, when I work, I do need to focus, so I’ve periodically been escaping to a local hotel lobby with wifi when the construction noise is too much.
It’s been a good summer. It’s been a busy summer.
So now you know why we’ve only published two blog posts this summer. It’s not that we have nothing to share, it’s that we have too much to share.
And now as we approach Labor Day the traditional “divider” of seasons in the USA we are ready for the next phase.
A phase in which we hope to incorporate a bit more “mora