Thoughts From Madagascar
By Rick Brazile
It takes your breath away. The contrasts happen so quickly. From rainforest to plains to mountains to rocks to shorelines. Boundaries are blurred.
It reminds me of Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” The scenery was beautiful and, at times, you just had to pause to take it in. Ryan posted just a few of the pictures we took. We have many more. I will try to ﬁnd a way to share more of them.
This is probably the hardest thing for me to describe. Our stay started in the capital city, Antananarivo (Tana). From there we began driving. With few exceptions, Tana primarily, the only paved road we saw was the main two-lane highway that we travelled on. We passed through village after village, as well as several towns.
Even the larger towns or cities, such as Toliara, appeared to be a collection of villages that had just eventually grown together. It really gives them a very strong sense of community. Since I’m having trouble with the words, I’ll let the pictures speak for me.
Clearly, this is the best part. The people here work extremely hard for what they have. We would see them in the middle of nowhere either walking or riding a bicycle (and we’re talking over rough terrain and dodging vehicles) trying to get either to work, home, the market, etc. Everything seemed purposeful. We met one man in a village that would ride his bicycle 40 miles one way to attend English class.
Ryan said it before in one of his blogs: children are everywhere. The really interesting part of this is that everyone seems to care for every child. That’s easy to want to do because the children are so happy and cute. When we would approach, the small ones were shy of strangers at ﬁrst. But they warmed up pretty quickly. The older ones were very friendly and rushed to meet us and shake our hands. My favorite thing was the smiles they all wore.
There were a lot of these, but I’m going to just list three. If you want the rest, we need to get together to visit in person – which I’d be glad to do.
About happiness – This visit made it very clear to me that happiness is deﬁned in a very large sense by our current culture or world.
For instance, I think our society tells us to accumulate wealth and things to make us happy. The Malagasy people I met didn’t have a lot of things and certainly not, at least by our standards, wealth. But I would venture to say that they are as happy or happier than we are. I think that’s because the things that are important to them are each other. It is a much more social, talkative, interactive and touching culture than ours. People are the most important thing. That’s what makes them happy and that’s where I more often need to ﬁnd my happiness.
About patience – There seemed to be very little in Madagascar that could be controlled. There was no getting around or away from the heat, the dirt, the mosquitos, the ants, and I could go on and on. Airlines ﬂew when they wanted to and not necessarily when their schedule said they would. I was the only person in a hurry or with any sort of sense of urgency. To survive and stay sane, I think you would just need to let go and learn to roll with things at whatever pace they decided they would move. You would just need to smile and laugh at your situations and recognize the memory that’s being made.
About my son – He’s grown up in so many ways. He’s become independent. He’s a really good teacher of God’s Word. He’s an adventurer. He cares deeply for the people he’s working with. He still looks like me (sorry, Ryan) and, in some ways, acts like me. He’s very much my son.