Hello everyone. I just finished my first week in Madagascar. The plane ride was pretty miserable towards the end. On the flight from London to Johannesburg they served some pretty funky food for Dinner. When I opened the main course the smell overwhelmed my senses. It was pretty terrible, imagine the smell of burned plastic mixed with some rotten sweet potatoes or something, it was extremely bad. It was so bad, in fact, that for the next three days I would smell that same horrid smell almost everywhere I went. Somehow my nose would know how to locate and target that smell in everything. My blanket had that smell, the planes had the smell, and when I first got to Madagascar I could only smell that smell. I felt like I was going to throw up everywhere I went, just because of the nasty British food they served. I don't think I am ever going to think about, let alone eat, Airplane food again. Anyways enough of that, just a word of advice to you all: never order the rice with Sweet Potato on your flights leaving London, you will regret it the rest of your days.
And know concerning Madagascar. Madagascar is an extremely different place than the United States, but it doesn't bother me much. It is a very poor country, most people live in small one room houses or even smaller shacks. The entirety of the capital has an odd smell (Not the nasty burnt plastic potato smell) that I have gotten used to after a day. If I remember correctly the smell comes from the way that the Malagasy people make bricks, burning dirt or something, I'm not exactly sure but you can look up the exact method if you wish. In my area we don't get to use cars, instead we get to ride Taxis and Taxi be's. A Taxi Be is a Mercedes Benz that is full of seats and extremely cramped. It doesn't help that I am taller than the small Gasy people; taller in the regular sense and taller sideways. I always look forward to the multiple times I get to literally sit on top of Malagasies on the Taxi Be. One time I was sitting in the front seat of a Taxi Be and I heard an opposing Taxi Be driver shout to my driver saying "Manana ny Fahaza ianao" (You have a Fahaza) and he responded with "Fahaza roa" (He had two Fahazas me and my companion) Fahaza is a word that the Malagasy people all use to mean Foreigner or Outsider, it is a fairly strong and harsh word. Whenever I pass children at play they will always say "Bonjour Fahaza" or "Cava Fahaza?" as the majority of the few white people at Madagascar are people from French. After that I will usually respond with "Manahoana Gasy" (How are you Gasy?) and they will usually start laughing because they never have seen a Fahaza speak Malagasy. People here on the streets are always surprises and excited whenever a white guy speaks Malagasy.
I have a few investigators right now, I don't remember all of their names but yeah. Most of them are really poor and don't have much. I can understand a little of what they say. The first day here I couldn't understand anything haha, I wasn't used to their accent. I am serving in the capital of Antananarivo in a place called Amboimanarina or something. Most of the people that we teach live out of the way, we have to cut through a lot of small dirt roads and such. There is a certain road that I have walked many a time that is very small and right next to a sewage-ish river or something. It is a very small path, about a foot wide, and on the other side is a river of crap (in the literal sense of course) so if I fall then I am going to have a bad day. Some parts of the city smell like sewage, mainly because their sewage is either on top of the roads or a foot below the road level. Nothing like the good 'ol smell of Tana in the morning.
The food isn't bad, not my favorite though as I don't really like rice and that is their main food here. The Senior Couples in the office say not to eat food and drink off of the street vendors, but all of the missionaries do it, so I follow suit. I still haven't gotten diarrhea yet but there is a 99 percent chance I will. I was amazed to discover that all of my roommates had experiences (plural) where they actually crapped themselves, something to look forward to I guess. It is almost a rite of passage to have your first experience where you poop yourself. The missionaries with the funniest stories are considered legends almost. But yea, back to food. There is a nice store like Walmart where the food is all packaged and clean that I can purchase food from. It is fairly close to my house, just a short walk always. My diet consists of Coke, Corn flakes, Ramen noodles, and Rice (in that order).
I don't really have any funny experiences to share about my mistakes in the language, no one has started to laugh hysterically after I have borne testimony yet so I think I'm doing pretty decent. There is one family that always corrects every word whenever it was pronounced wrong. We mainly just read chapters of the Book of Mormon with them rather than teach specific lessons, so there is a lot of correcting going on. It is pretty humorous. The family consists of an older couple in their 60's, their daughter, and their 2 grandchildren, along with a family friend. The older man in his 60's has the most trouble with reading words in the Book of Mormon, so he is corrected the most. As soon as someone utters a word incorrectly, the rest of the family will all correct in unison. They haven't corrected me yet, I try to be very careful when I read. They are probably just being polite to the new missionary I imagine.
The weather here is extremely hot and humid. I take a shower in the morning and stay wet the rest of the day. It is something that you have to get used too, it doesn't bother me as much anymore. The difference in color between my arm and the area where my watch is pretty drastic. It goes from American-Boy White to American-Boy Red. A non-subtle change.
There are a lot of wild dogs that roam the streets, they are all very small and very, very dirty. There are also some areas where people will have chickens and roosters (also very dirty and thin). Whenever i walk by the chickens they all turn their heads and watch me, while clucking harshly, I imagine they are attempting to formulate the phrase everyone is saying (bonjour fahaza). But yeah, the chicken coops do not smell like a chocolate factory, that much I can say.
Well, I should probably wrap up the email now, if there are any questions just email me and I will try to respond to them. But yeah, Madagascar is an interesting and unique place. I have been craving Nachos all week so eat some for me. Haven't seen Nachos here yet haha.
Elder Benjamin Anderson
(P.S. sorry about any mistakes I made in the email (and in my life), the internet here is French, so spellcheck just marks every English word wrong. The keyboards in this Internet Cafe (Cyber) are also rubbish (the flight was too long from London, "Place your rubbish in this bin please, place your rubbish here!"))
***From Sister Cloward, the mission secretary a day or two after Benjamin arrived.
His luggage all arrived with him.
He will be serving in Ambohimanarina with Elder Schroedter; Elder Gariki and his trainer, Elder Razazakamandimby are living in the same house with them.
He seems to be doing well, and is excited to be here.
***Elder Anderson did not have his camera with him so Mom found these pics from other elders of his apartment and area.
First companion and trainer, Elder Schroedter from Texas and Benjamin's living area.
Dining area in first apartment, Thanksgiving dinner and turkey the elders bought live and prepared for dinner.
Benjamin's companion Elder Schroedter far left plucking a chicken for dinner and Benjamin's messy kitchen. :) Benjamin has heard that his apartment is the dirtiest missionary one in Madagascar.
Benjamin's backyard area and a chicken about to become dinner.
Elder Schroedter and Benjamin's apartment.
Elder Schroedter after falling in a rice paddie and
Benjamin's bed area.
The walls around Benjamin's apartment that fell down during a rain storm.
Benjamin's first area, Ambohimanarina - the northern most mission in Antananarivo. You can see the new stake center that is almost finished to the left of the US embassy.
*Pics from Elder Hein and Elder Schroedter.