Saturday – Activities in Tana Before Leaving

Today was very bittersweet for many of us on the trip. Not only were our emotions about knowing it was our final day in Madagascar weighing on all of our shoulders, but many people began to feel physically worn out, too. The mood was definitely different this morning as we woke up early to partake on our final adventure roaming the city of Antananarivo together. We filled the bus to visit an iron craft making workshop. As we pulled up to the site, we were amazed by the modern architecture and art the Malagasy people had created. There were iron birds scattered across the lawn, a staircase designed to resemble a hand, and many Malagasy people sitting on the dirt with their children on their backs while they hammered the iron in front of them into intricate designs. The sounds coming from the hammering almost seemed blissful and harmonious with the noises around them despite some of the struggles they have, such as the lack of tools and work space. We later found out that the owner of this site usually only employs people with disabilities, such as deafness, in attempt to help all members of the community grow and succeed. Although we have already been in Madagascar for more than two weeks, I continue to be amazed by how important loving and caring for the community is to the Malagasy culture.

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After we ate our last packed lunch on the grass and went to the gift shop to make some purchases ranging from metal rings to iron swords, we reloaded the bus to head to a chocolate factory. This was not originally on our schedule, but we unanimously decided to make an impromptu stop to try some Malagasy chocolate. The sweet smell of chocolate filled everyone’s bodies and we were quick to spend our money on the different variations of sweets. Although it wasn’t a long stop, it was definitely worthwhile.

We then drove to another market in the city. Most of us were pretty overwhelmed with the excitement and persistence of the previous market we had visited in Tulear, but we got out of the bus anyways to make our final purchases of our trip. This market surprised us all; the atmosphere was much calmer, and there were more original trinkets for us to explore. By the time we returned to the bus, our wallets were empty, and we were glad we had the opportunity to experience a market in a different environment.

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As the day was coming to an end, we returned to the hotel to start packing and clean up for our flight. Before we left, we had one last “miaraka” session together at the hotel. We talked about how we were feeling to come back to the U.S. Conversation of our memories from the trip along with superlatives the chaperones chose for each of us filled the room with laughter. But a tangible sadness also filled the air due to the small amount of time we had left together. While a lot of us were ready to have a real shower, sleep in our own beds, and see our families, I was overwhelmed by the thought of having to leave one of the most amazing and comforting places in the world with the twenty people who helped make this experience as incredible as possible.

-Meghan Botsch

Sunday – Lessons Learned in Madagascar

We’re in the Paris airport right now!

Through out the trip we as a group have learned a couple of things. For me it’s learning not to take things for granted and to be satisfied with what I have. Through service and interaction with the Malagasy people I noticed that they are very happy with what they have. They don’t seem to want or invest material things but they thrive for relationships. While teaching them to use computers we would talk, laugh, and have fun. This built a relationship that meant a lot to them and a lot to me.

-Cameron Hamilton

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Saturday – Leaving Madagascar

Thoughts of leaving Madagascarsince we have to be at the airport tonight for our flight from Tana to Paris. 

     Leaving Madagascar is a very bitter sweet moment for me. It’s bitter because all of the relationships that were created between the Malagasy people and the Pace students, were very impactful on both people. The memories on this trip will live long after our journey comes to a end. It makes me sad to leave my new friends that I have made, but returning back to my family in America is the sweet part for me. I am very blessed and humble to have a great opportunity in life and experience stuff that many other people never get to do in their lifetime. This trip for me was very life changing and culture shocking. Also I think it is safe to say on behalf of all the Pace students we will NOT miss the way the Malagasy people drive.😉😂

-Keashawn Perryman​

Friday – A Reflection on our Time in Tulear

Today is our last day in Tulear.  We fly back to Tana this afternoon.

 

If our stay in Tulear has taught us anything, it’s this: the people of this country are just as amazing as the land they live on. From the day we arrived we knew we were in for something special. Our second night there we did an amazing race-style scavenger hunt, where we rode, often two people at a time, on bike driven carriages called pousse-pousses. Our drivers spoke little English, and yet were very understanding when we gave them the little directions we had. The next day we woke up and went to a nearby town to build large cement holders for water tanks for the village. There we played with the local kids while helping the community by giving them the gift of water. After building the water holders, a task that spanned the course of two days, it was time for possibly the hardest task of all: teaching a class of local people how to use a computer. While we were a little hesitant at first, the locals were eager to learn. Many of them caught on fast despite their limited knowledge of English and our limited knowledge of Malagasy. For our final night in Tulear we were thrown a small dance party in the church. After all the pictures were taken, everyone received a hand carved wooden gift. I think it can be said for all of us that that gift, like our memories of this incredible land, will not be forgotten anytime soon.

-Sebastian Bradley

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Thursday – Last Day for Computer Training

Last night Todd and Patsy invited our whole group into their beautiful home as a surprise. When we got inside, we all hung out and talked for around 30 minutes while waiting for the pizza they had ordered to arrive and snacked on pretzel sticks and peanuts. After we were finished with our pizza the chaperones divided us into three different teams for a fun game of Malagasy-themed charades. We went one group at a time and each group got a bowl full of cards written by the chaperones and had to act out activities/things for their group to guess such as: cold bucket baths, pousse pousse driver, hissing cockroach, and eating a zebu burger at Le Blu, to name a few. After charades we all sat down together for our daily reflection time where we went around the group and discussed what we thought was easy and what was hard for us with regard to the computer training that day. Finally, after reflection time, we all broke out the board games and converted the dining room table into a ping pong table (I beat Keashawn 4 times in a row) and played games and had fun for an hour or two before heading back to our dorms and going to sleep after a hard day’s work.

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This morning we woke up for our second day of computer training with the Malagasy people. After our delicious breakfast we set up our computer stations and finished getting everything ready to start the training. This day of training proved to be easier for most of the groups because we had already begun to form a solid bond with our new Malagasy friends who were extremely excited for their second day of one-on-one training. In the morning half of the group worked on a spreadsheet presentation project while the other half worked on creating a short story or poem, and then we flipped projects in the afternoon. My table worked on the spreadsheet project first, where we had to measure our height and the length of our foot (in centimeters) and we taught our partners how to input all the data into a spreadsheet. Once all the data was in the spreadsheet we taught them how to input it into a scatter-plot graph and how to label the axis and insert a title for the graphs. Then we presented our graphs to the whole group and took a lunch break.

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Data collection for creating graphs on the computer

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More data collection for the graphs

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At 2:00 we met back in the computer room and it was my group’s turn to work on our short stories. Common story topics were daily routines, stories about family, and stories about our favorite pets. After the other group presented their graphs everybody had a chance to share their short stories. One man in particular, Dolin, shared a very personal story about the hardships he had faced all throughout his life and how the only positive voice in his life is God. He didn’t have many friends and nobody, including his parents, really liked him so he relied on God and religion to bring positivity into his life; hearing his story was particularly moving because we had only known him for about 12 hours in total, so for him to stand up in front of his peers and a group of foreigners and share such a personal story was incredibly brave. Then it was time for computer training to be over and we quickly transitioned for a good-bye celebration.

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When we got to the celebration (the Pace students stayed behind to clean up the computer room) the Malagasy students were playing music and eagerly anticipating our arrival. After we sat down on the benches a group of Malagasy women came out and did a series of dances for us and actually invited us all up to the front to dance with them. When we were all up in the front and going all out dancing everyone was having a really fun time. After our dancing Todd called us up to the front and told us the students had gifts for each of us that they wanted to give us because they were so grateful we came to visit and it is tradition to give. We were all given gift bags handmade out of old newspaper and magazines by the women in the women’s center with a wood carving of either a canoe or a baobab tree inside as well as a handmade card signed by all the women who made the carvings.

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After our celebration we met Todd and Patsy at the Hippocampo Hotel in town and had a delicious dinner, and then headed back for our reflection time and went to sleep.

– Molly Jacoby

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