I am from a desertlike area and, when I first arrived at Honko, I thought the sky was not different. It’s bigger, since there are no mountains, tall trees, or big buildings, so you feel as if you are standing in a big snoglobe. But I thought the stars were the same. I was wrong.
I have watched two lightning storms until late at night (late here means 10 or 11 at night). If you get a chance, stay up and watch. The other night, I walked with the dogs over the dunes and sat to watch the lightning and stars. In the distance, I heard men and women singing in the dark. There are always disembodied voices singing here, whether it is invisible women in the vondro or voices breaking like thunder through the black.
Strange and wonderful things happen to the stars during lightning torms. First, the stars do not sit flat in the night sky. Instead, they dangle in front of the black like 3D projections. They seem to be suspended between earth and sky. They twinkle on and off or change color with the changes in air and lighting. If you stare long enough, you seem to see tiny lines of light snaking frantically between them like electricity. Every few minute there will be a shooting star. On this night, I even saw a meteor so close I could see the flames. I have to rub my eyes and squint often to make sure I am not seeing things.
And then there are the UFO’s. This is not a joke. I will tell you if you ask. Otherwise, I will leave you blissfully ignorant. But don’t be surprised if you see something you can’t quite explain moving through the sky. Madagascar is special, indeed.
A few tips for incoming volunteers:
– Ride on the outside of a taxibrousse at least once; it’s worth the risk.
– Kayak to the sea.
– Bring something for traveller’s diarrhea. Cipro works pretty well.
– Sawyer’s Fisherman’s Formula Picardin Mosquito Repellant Lotion is the best! It’s not a spray, which is nice, it doesn’t make you greasy, and it’s very effective!
– Bring something to help you break the ice with the kids. I learned to make things out of string, like a mosquito, cat whiskers, Jacob’s Ladder, etc. It’s a great way to interact without language, and the parents will warm up to you if you play with their kids!
– Read over what previous volunteers have done, and try to continue their work. Also, record anything you have done so the next volunteers can continue your work. If something you try doesn’t work right away, don’t despair! Reevaluate and try again.
Remember, everything is more difficult and more complicated when you try it in a new country.