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.
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.
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.