First Impressions, By Dmitra

At Honko there is always the sound of wind in the trees.  Sometimes it is strong, sometimes weak, but it is ever-present.  I don’t know if anything can be too tragic if you have wind in the trees.

If you walk over the dunes a bit, you can then find the silence of desert.  Walk the other way and you are in the mangroves with mudskippers, birds, crabs, and the distant push of the ocean.  You could come to Honko blindfolded and still have a sensory experience so rich that the long flight and the thrice daily bowls of rice feel like privileges (they are, in fact, privileges of the rich).

Honko feels like home right away.  Lara and Lalas are welcoming and bright and, even though the animals and plants are all unfamiliar, I have the sense right away that I’ve been here before.  It makes it easy to settle in and get to work.

At first, I aided with the mangrove and fish monitoring and concentrated on learning Malagasy and brushing up on my French.  I started to worry that I would not find a project that would actually make me useful to Honko and the community, but by week 3 I finally had some ideas worth pursuing.

At Honko, there is plenty of time and space to explore ideas and projects.  If you have an idea, run with it and see where it takes you.  Right now, I am working on developing a program for the older children to become “Junior Guides” for Honko, trying to turn boboke into paper, and finding new ways to market the women’s association’s products outside of Madagascar.

So far, one of the highlights of my time here was visiting the women’s basket weaving workshop in Ambotsibotsike.  The women welcomed me readily.  We exchanged a few words (since that’s all the Malagasy I know) and for the rest of the time I simply sat, listened, and watched.  The woman I was sitting across from was older, maybe in her 50’s.  Everything she did felt like a lullaby.  As she cut the vondro, weaved the dry strips together, and smoothed it out with a stone, each sound and movement felt like someone’s fingers running through my hair.  She also had a deep, soothing voice, and a laugh like soft vanilla ice cream.  Several times I had to stop myself from falling asleep.  The women chattered and giggled the day away, and I felt lucky to be allowed to witness such a peaceful and joyful part of their lives.

Honko is very comfortable and I do not want for anything.  The only thing I struggle with is that we are a bit apart from the village, so I always feel somewhat separate from those who call Ambondrolava home.  I do walk down to the village sometimes and play with the children, but the language barrier makes it a bit difficult to make real connections.  I suppose if I were not shy it would be easier.  I guess, then, the moral of my story (and my admonition to myself) is: Don’t be shy!  Get out and dive in!  Three months here will fly by.  Meet people, get muddy, get wet, and make yourself as useful as you possibly can.  Honko will appreciate it, and you will learn a great deal about yourself and the world you live in.

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