Mom and Dad actually did leave Toliara yesterday evening. I know that all three of us had a wonderful time that we will never forget.
I asked my Mom and Dad if they would like to write something on the blog about their travels here. Here is what my Mom had to say after her time here:
Nothing could really prepare you for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of coming to Madagascar, a country of extremes.
Extremely beautiful, with a wide range of landscapes:
Imagine seeing the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, Kansas plains, New Mexico mesas and Florida coastline within the span of a few days.
Extremely dangerous roads for pedestrians:
Averaging about 50 mph, your driver maneuvers between bicyclists, walkers, pusse-pusses, ox carts and oncoming vehicles, leaving only inches on either side of the car. The side mirror hits a passing car and the driver doesn’t even blink.
Extremely slow travel:
Taking the main highway through the country, you are concerned at how narrow it is, with no center stripe or shoulders. The hairpin curves come one after another, usually with no barrier between you and the frightening ledge. It is not unusual to slow to a crawl over the deep potholes in the road, or wait for the zebu (cattle) herds to get out of the middle of the road.
Extremely happy, friendly, hospitable people:
You walk through the tall grass down the narrow dirt path towards the tiny village. No one is expecting you, and the place looks deserted. But upon arrival, someone sees you and quickly comes out of his thatch house to greet you. In only a few moments, every villager, from the toddlers to the elderly, have come out of their homes to smile, shake your hand, and welcome you with a warm “Salama.”
Extremely hard-working, physically strong people:
Walking miles and miles at a time, usually barefoot, is routine, and even the young children do their part to lift and carry. The variety of large, heavy bundles they balance on their heads never ceases to amaze. A lone 5-year-old leads a team of oxen down the busy highway. Pusse-pusse drivers rush up to plead for you and your companion to choose them so they can jog through the dusty streets pulling you (which makes you regret even more the extra pounds you put on recently).
Extreme food surprises:
Speaking of pounds, how do the people stay so lean and eat this much rice? Not just a spoonful of rice at each meal, but helping after helping of plates full of the yummy carb. You consider writing a new diet plan, which includes hard physical labor in intensive heat, followed by all the starches you want. And speaking of non-dietetic options, you didn’t expect a gelato and pizza place in the center of the bustling city streets. Meringue-flavored gelato! Yum!
Extremely frustrating airline:
When it’s the only airline in town, Air Madagascar can do pretty much what it likes — including canceling flights and shutting down the airport for the rest of the day. There’s nothing quite like the feeling in the pit of your stomach when driving up to a deserted airport.
Extremely fearful children:
It isn’t the normal reaction you get from children, so you are dismayed to find that your pale face makes babies cry and toddlers turn away. You realize your stay would have to be much longer to gain the trust of these wide-eyed beautiful kids.
Extremely diverse missionaries:
Whatever stereotype you had about foreign workers for the Lord, you learn to throw those out the window. You have the privilege of meeting a variety of people with many different sending agencies, all with a common thread that binds them: serving Christ and bringing His gospel of grace to the people of Madagascar. They can be young or old, here for short stays or a lifetime, from countries all over the world. They are fun-loving, hard-working, people-nurturing, flexible people. You stand in awe of the God who enables them to give so selflessly far from home in a harsh environment.
“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine upon us, that Your ways may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.”