Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ambositra, Madagascar Week 4

May 26, 2015

Well, everything was closed yesterday for the Pentacostal Holiday. So I only have time to send pictures.

Pic of us at the savika (type of bull wrestling). I am also not really as white as the pictures makes me out to be, the camera was just having a rough time deciding whether or not to use the flash.

Another pic from the savika.

Here we have an action shot from a posy posy.

Posy posy in Ambositra, pic from the web.

Open market, pic from web. Benjamin buys his food from markets like this.

Busy street in Ambositra, from the web.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ambositra, Madagascar Week 3

May 18, 2015

Well, nothing really happened this week, I was sick one day though, so that is something. Last Wednesday I just felt awful, my head was pounding all day, every time my heart would beat (and it was beating fast mind) my head would just kill. It felt like I was banging it against the door of a taxi be over and over again, which would most certainly result in brain damage I think. So that lasted one day, one day of suffering, but we worked on Thursday because my head got better. But then my throat starting hurting like nothing else. Every time I would swallow it felt like I was was banging my throat against the top of the door of a taxi be (taxi bes are not my favorite mode of transportation as you can tell). Malagasies really ought to invent a better mode of transportation. Cramming 30 people into a minivan and driving across thin, swerving, and holy streets (holy in this case referring to the extraordinary amount of holes that are in the roads), taxi bes are not fun at all. But, I am feeling pretty good right now, so all is well I suppose.

Here in Ambositra we have a lot of strong investigators, but, there is one small problem, no one wants to go to church. Which is a bit surprising when you think of the fact that nearly every one here in Madagascar dresses up and goes to church on Sundays. The most popular church here is the FJKM. The Church of Jesus Christ here in Madagascar. I don't know if it is just me, but I highly doubt that the true church is a church that is only found in Madagascar. Who knows though, maybe Jesus was actually a Malagasy and established his true church here in Madagascar. We never can be too sure. So every Malagasy will go to church on Sunday, but no one wants to go to our church. Life is hard I guess. Maybe we should all just go to the FJKM (sarcasm intended).

Last P Day we went to a lake in Antsirabe (I don't remember the name) but it is a way cool place. It is a nice change seeing a body of water that isn't an unearthly shade of brown, a very nice change indeed. The lake was way cool, very still and very clean. It was a pretty fun experience. Malagasies also believe that there are weird half fish-half human things living in the lake, so it is kind of sacred or something to them. I didn't see any mutant creatures though, I was a little disappointed about that. But it was fun.

I still hate bugs. Dang, the pests are annoying. I just did a nice little count, and I have 10 separate flea bites just on my right foot. It is extremely annoying. They just keep on biting all day and all night. I will probably be getting like the Black Death or something from all of the bites, but worse things have happened I guess. I still find that somewhat humorous and terrifying that Madagascar still has outbreaks of the bubonic plague, I was always told in History classes that that disease has been extinct for a while now, but not here in Madagascar. Maybe if people would start showering regularly they would have less diseases, who knows? I have started to become the same way though, showering once every two days now (which feels really gross). It just sucks having to take a freezing cold shower every morning, though, it does wake me up fairly quickly. I always imagine a scene from Titanic whenever I shower, "Don't let go Rose, don't let go". It is literally that cold. We were supposed to move in like 2 days but the power and water still hasn't come for the new house, so we are stuck in the North Pole for a little bit longer. Malagasies rarely hit deadlines, here they have a thing called "fotoana gasy", which means malagasy time. And they use it as an excuse to always be late, they are literally never on time. Church here always starts 15 minutes or so late in order to accommodate fotoana gasy. If we started on time there would only be the missionaries and the Branch President (sometimes) to pray. The struggle.

But, I don't think there is really anything else that was outside of the usual this week, so that is all.

Elder Anderson

                                                       Lake Tritriva


This is a picture of some cute kids. One is the daughter of our investigator Nahary.

Taxi be selfie (it got even more cramped after the photo was taken).

My area in Ambositra. (Click on the pic a for bigger view)



Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ambositra, Madagascar Week 2

May 11, 2015

So this week was fun, I got to skype my family on my birthday, so that was good. My family is still doing good without me, contrary to popular belief. But, yeah. On Saturday we took another Taxi Brosy to Antsirabe, which is about 2ish hours away from Ambositra. Oh, that reminds me, my parents could not pronounce the name of the city I am in at all. It is pronounced like this, [ahhm-BOOS-tcha]. SO yeah, and then the name of the other city in Antananarivo that I worked in, Ambohimanarina, is pronounded like this: [ahhm-BOO-ee-mun-AHR-een-uh] It is a bit of a mouthful. But this past Saturday we went to Antsirabe for District conference. [ahhn-TSEER-a-bay]. Antsirabe is a pretty nice city, a lot cleaner than Antananrivo. In Antnanarivo there is trash and junk and crap everywhere. There are literally rivers that are so polluted that they are straight brown. Other missionaries have told me that if you throw like a rock or any object in the rivers (if the giant sewers can be called such) it will stay afloat and not sink. It is pretty gross. Luckily when I was in Antananrivo I got to work in one of the more cleaner areas. But even then, I would always see mountainous piles of garbage piled around the city. And there would always be, without fail, a few Malagasies and a couple of dogs digging around the rubbish searching for the next meal. Very sad. If I am not mistaken, Madagascar is the 2nd poorest country in the world, and Antanarivo is the third dirtiest city in the world (The dirtiest the missionaries are sent to). So I do have some bragging rights at least, I can say that I have worked in the dirtiest place missionaries are allowed to work in the whole world. But the food is really cheap due to the lack of wealth here, so that is always nice. But anyways, we came here to Antsirabe for zone conference, it was pretty good. President Adams came and spoke in both sessions. The missionaries got to sing as part of the choir in the Sunday session, so I enjoyed that. It is fairly hard sight-reading Hymns that are unique in the French Hymn Book in the French language though, but what can you do?

Last week I also had my final interview with President Adams. It was good. I asked him how to be the best missionary that I can and the condensed answer was fairly simple: Obey all of the rules, Work hard, and Be worthy. He also told me that the most important thing on the mission was my personal testimony and change here. So I really liked that. But yeah, I also got my birthday cookies from Sister Adams, and they were way good. The assurance that they were made with clean hands only made it better. It is always unsettling thinking that the food that we eat here from the little ghetto shacks was probably (almost certainly) made by a Malagasy who hasn't showered or washed their hands after using the bathrooms for ages. But, my stomach has adjusted I think. I only have bowel problems once every 2 weeks or so, instead of the past where I would experience that joy every day when I first arrived here in country.

I also still hate bugs, if you happened to be wondering. Fleas and mosquitoes are now my biggest enemies. I hate those things. One of my most deep-doctrinal questions that I ask investigators or members is the following, "Maninona nahary ny parasy Andriamanitra?" (Why did God create fleas?). I guess that some things we just will never know during our life here on Earth. But my legs are literally covered in bug bites, super annoying. It has gotten a little worse here in Ambositra (parasite wise). I just try to not itch them so they won't get infected. But man, it is annoying. Do fleas or mosquitoes actually help society in anyway? They were probably created to be a trial of our faith. We just have to endure to the end. One of the things I miss the most is the lack of flea bites back home. But, what can you do? I also miss walking in carpet or bare-foot. The houses here are just too dirty to walk around without shoes. Missionaries do not know how to keep a house clean and welcoming haha. But Malagasies may have us beaten. Even the more wealthy Malagasies (ones with the cement or wood floors instead of dirt) still don't know how to dust, or how to mop, or how to wash. They usually just do a rough sweeping job and call it a day.

But I just had a thought, in case you were all wondering, Ambositra has a really strange English translation. In English Ambositra means castration. A strange name for a city I must admit. But rest assured that it was named that due to the amount of bulls here that were castrated. When I first heard the name I was a bit worried that it had something to do with castrating humans, but it was thankfully named Ambositra because of male cows here rather than male humans, so no harm done. Ambositra is just a nice and quiet city in the middle of nowhere, but I like it, even though it has a really queer name. Malagasies man.

I am still learning all of the names and faces of the new people here in Ambositra, it will take me some time I am sure. A lot of the investigators that we have right now are really smart and ask a lot of questions, so that is always a nice change. Back in Ambohimanarina, there were not many questions asked by our investigators, they were all just accepting and agreed with anything we said. But here they like asking lots of questions which I do like. And, on a partially-related note, my Malagasy Comprehension has gotten a lot better. I am rarely lost in a conversation, even if the subject is non-holy like when members will talk about rice or umm... I can't think of anything else. Malagasies do like talking about rice here though lol. They are always amazed when we tell them that we eat rice and laoka just like them. I guess that most French dudes just eat other food instead of the local stuff, so yeah. But literally every single Malagasy that learns that we eat rice almost every meal just like them is always shocked and amazed without fail, kind of weird I guess. Oh, rice is also tasting less awful as of late, it still isn't quite "good", but it is now consumable.

I think that is all for today folks, so have fun. Kill a mosquito for me, they need to go extinct, every less mosquito in the world does help.

Elder Anderson

The View from Elder Anderson's apartment

We got to Skype Elder Anderson for Mother's Day and if turned out to be on his birthday! It was an extra special Skype. Happy Birthday Elder Anderson, 19 years!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ambositra, Madagascar Week 1

May 4, 2015

So, this week I got changed to Ambositra, that is the name of my new area at least. It is a small and quiet city on the way to Fianarantsoa from Antsirabe. The drive here was not my favorite, I can not tell a lie. I woke up at 5 AM on Wednesday, took a Taxi from our house to the office and got there at about 6 30 AM. I then put my luggage on a mission vehicle and took an hour long ride to the big bus stop for interconnecting cities. I waited for an hour and then was off. So before I have mentioned my distaste of the taxi bes back in Antananrivo, well this was much worse. They are a special kind of bus called a taxi brosy. They are the same size as the taxi be, but they have more seats crammed inside. It was not my favorite experience. And the seats are definitely not designed with non-malagasies in mind, so my legs were awfully sore. Before my mission I complained with the amount of space for legs on cheap airplane seats, this was about ten times worse. My knees were jammed straight into the seat in front of me and my feet were hovering above the ground. There was not enough room for me to have my legs straight out at a 90 degree angle, but I had to curve my body in order to fit. So after the very fun 3 hour bus ride along broken roads and swerving paths, we arrived in Antsirabe. I still had another 3 hours to go. So all of the 5 elders that were with me got off at that point and I was left alone on the crowded, small bus. Another 3 more hours and I finally arrived in Ambositra. I nearly threw up, but I contained myself. We are taught in this church to be masters of our bodies, not servants to them. I feel I have adequately achieved this principle by not allowing my body to throw up, against all possible odds - haha. But yeah, hopefully I won't be taking another bus (crammed minivan) ride like that anytime soon.

Ambositra is a fairly nice city. It is a lot less crowded than Antananarivo, and a lot cleaner too. Back in Ambohimanarina it felt as though every time I took a breath of the air, 1 year of my life was getting sucked away. I have concluded that I will most likely die at the age of 28 from natural causes, just because of the air quality in Antananrivo. But the air here is much nicer, and that is mainly due to the fact that here there are no taxi bes, and only a small amount of other vehicles. Here the preferred mode of trasnportation is a posiposy. A posiposy consists of a small one-man (three-malagasy) carriage, and a small Malagasy in the front, playing the role of the horse. The total length of the posiposy is about 6 feet, not very long. But there are loads of them here in the streets of Ambositra. But it does keep the air cleaner having the preferred mode of transportation powered by human-strength, and not by gas or any type of fuel. Though I must admit, it is quite a sight seeing a 5 foot 3 thin Malagasy pulling a family of Malagasies down the road in a small man-carriage. Whatever makes the dough I guess. Something unique about Ambositra is that it is Madagascar's wood capital, so it has loads of nice little shops where people can buy things carved from wood. Another cool thing is that many shops here let you place custom orders on carvings, so I can literally have a custom made and high-quality carving made for a very cheap price. So yeah, I will probably be spending a lot of money on souvenirs here.

Another thing that is different is the dialect. Back in Ambohimanarina we spoke a dialect called Merina, here they speak Betsileo. It isn't quite as different to be considered an entirely different language, but way more different than just an accent. There are lots of new words that are used here that I still don't know. The dialect here is one of the easier ones though, so it shouldn't be too bad. It is very similar to the National dialect of Merina in Antananarivo.

Oh, I almost forgot, the shower in my new house is awful. It is the coldest water I have ever had to shower in throughout my entire life. It is strange though, somehow the shower water is twice as cold as the outside temperature. It is very queer. But back in the old house I used to enjoy and look forward to showers, but here, showering is probably my least favorite thing to do. It feels as if I am dumping ice-cold water down my body. I sometimes gasp just from the shock I get from the coldness of the stuff. It isn't too much fun. It reminds me of the days of Scout camp, when there was the water challenge or something where we had to swim in a freezing cold body of water for some time. I can assure the shower is much worse.

Well that is probably all for this email, the connection here in the middle of nowhere isn't that strong, signing off.

Elder Anderson

Picture of Benjamin and his new companion Elder Snell. Picture from Elder Snell.

Rice paddies in Benjamin's new area, Ambositra.

Benjamin, LoaNika, Leona, Ely, Lanto, Elder Evans in Ambohimanarina. They are a member family and Benjamin liked them a lot.

The following two pictures are from Elder Snell. They are both in Benjamin's new area.

This is taken at the Hotel Artisan. Dad told Benjamin to eat lunch here, the online reviews were very good. It looks like they might have.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Ambohimanarina, Madagascar Week 19

April 27, 2015

So I was right, I am moving areas this transfer. I am going to a place called Ambositra. It is a place that is kind of in the middle of nowhere with respect to other missionaries. It is in the middle of the country up in the mountain area. I will be in a 2 man house only, so that will be interesting I guess. There are no supermarkets in the city, so I guess I will be eating a lot more shack food - lol. The city does have some decent wood carvings that you can buy, so that is good.

Last week we got to see conference. We watched it at the office in Antananarivo. I thought it was enjoyable and may have learned a thing or two. I liked when President Uchtdorf spoke in his native language after the Spanish talk and cracked a joke. I was confused and honestly thought I just wasn't understanding his English or something.

Yesterday something really weird happened. We had just finished a Dinner appointment and were heading home. We were tired and excited for transfer news. Then a kid said the classic, genuine, original statement, "Bonjour Vazaha Be", and then we responded in kind with "Hello Gasy Kely". They said "Bonjour Big Foreigners" and we said "Hello Small Malagasy". But some dude was behind us (and just a little bit drunk) and got upset. He told us that it was bad saying "Small Malagasy" and to not say it again. He may of thought that we were talking to him or something, I don't know. So we took our separate paths in the road and parted ways. We walked for 10 minutes and then I heard someone running. I turned around and say this Malgasy coming back, he was still way upset because we said "Gasy Kely". We started to converse, he was ranting on how it wasn't OK to say that Malagasies are small. He then used some hand motions and demonstrated how Malagasies are really taller and bigger than Americans. We tried pleading with the man, telling him that we were just responding to the children's blunt remarks of, "Big Foreigner". But he was out of control mad, so he asked for our number and address, and we didn't give them to him obviously. I didn't want a bunch of upset and noisy Malagasies breaking in to our house loudly and ruining my sleep that night, the mosquitoes are bad enough. He then told us that he was a Police officer but not working today, that is when I got a little nervous. He then tried walking with us in order to go to the police station. Flashbacks of watching Prison Break then flashed through my mind. I imagined the awful prison that they were all stuck in in season 3, the Malagasy prisons are probably worse. I then concluded that I didn't want to be in prison before I could even grow a beard so I tried reasoning with this man. He was way mad. I was like, "Dude, we were just talking back to the kids because they called us big foreigners, and they are small Malagasies". But he wouldn't listen. He was screaming how that wasn't good to him. Malagasies are really big, and Americans are small (whether he was talking about height or morals, I couldn't really decipher). He also told us that he hates the English Language, it is too confusing so we shouldn't use it anymore. I tried calming him down and attempted to agree and apologize with him, "Yeah English sucks as a language, Malagasy is really clear, I am sorry we called the small Malagasies small". He started to cool down a bit. I then said that I loved all of the Malagasy people (which is true, mind) and told him that I was dearly sorry for offending him. We then told him that we had another appointment back in the town and that we had to go the other way. He reluctantly let us go and told us to be careful and to never call a Malagasy small again. We then waited for a bit and turned around to go back home. It was a pretty weird experience. And from this story we learn that alcohol is truly bad, and that it scares young missionaries into thinking they are going to have to plan a prison escape from a third world country. We also learn that Malgasies (contrary to popular belief) are in fact taller than Americans. It was weird though, lol.

Well, this keyboard makes me mad, so I refuse to write anymore.

Have fun in America this week, the place where there is freedom of speech (I thought that freedom was in this country too, but I guess it is not so).

Elder Anderson

Recent Convert to the church.

A member family (the grandparents are still not members as they are waiting for legal marriage).

My dmb (ward branch leader) enjoying a snack.

An investigator.

Ambohimanarina, Madagascar Week 18

April 20, 2015

This week felt pretty fast. I have one more week left in this area and then I am hopefully changing. I am still not 100 percent sure, but all signs say that I am going to change areas in this next transfer, so that is good. Elder Tangarasi even revelated and claimed to know that I was being transferred, so I'm hopeful.

Elder Evans and I are still doing our fair share of tracting right now. There seems to be a shortage of people interested in learning about the restoration, a real shame it is. Though, we have found some new people that hopefully will continue in their faith and continue to want to learn from the missionaries. We can only but hope. Tracting... going door to door is just not that fun for me, I say me because maybe some of you have fun going door to door, I don't know. I just really don't like it. Something about getting doors (curtains) slammed (abruptly shut left to right) in your face door after door (shack after wood hut) just isn't my cup of tea (herbal of course). But yeah, it is pretty funny.

If I had 50 Malagasy Ariary for every time that a investigator promised me he would come to church and didn't I would probably have like 5,000 Ariary. That could get me fries and a drink from an expensive restaurant or about 5 plates of rice and laoka from a regular hotely. Not bad. Lots of people like promising that they will come worship with us, but rarely they ever do. A minor setback. I just wish everyone would come just once in order to feel what it feels like, you feel me? Maybe in the Millennium everyone will come to church with us, who knows?

Yesterday I was eating dinner with some members (a humble meal only, but I wasn't expecting 50 Dollar steak), and I noticed that the piece of meat I was eating had 3 prongish things that all connected at the ends and fanned out. I then realized that I had just enjoyed my first chicken foot. It wasn't half bad. I wasn't even mad when I realized that it was a chicken foot, I just kept on eating it. Food is food. But naturally, my mind began to focus on images of the sickly, pathetic, dirty chickens in Madagascar that search in the above-ground sewage lines for their meals and my stomach churned a bit from the horrifying thought. But, today I am fine, my stool was no softer than usual, so no harm done.

I honestly can't think of anything else that was particularly exciting this week, so that is probably all for today.

Elder Anderson

Ambohimanarina, Madagascar Week 17

April 13, 2015 Second Baptism

Well today was a pretty busy week, like usual. We had interviews with the Mission President on Thursday, and then we had a baptism this last Saturday. My Malagasy has gotten pretty good, it is safe to say I am ahead of the bar at this point in time. I feel like I understand the language better than I can speak it, there are few words that I don't understand when teaching lessons. On a less holy note, I also know almost all of the swear words here, I will now be prepared in case an intense Bible bashing session begins, j/k. But, all in all, I feel confident in my ability as of late.

Interviews with the President went well, it was pretty short, but I didn't really have any questions to ask. He told me to just continue working hard and being obedient. It was pretty good I guess.

Last Saturday we had another investigator get baptized. Her name is M--- N---, she is the niece of a member in our ward. N--- lives with T--- (the member) instead of her parents. She is 15 years old. Elder Schroedter and I started teaching her a few months ago. She is doing good, and comes to church every week. She wanted me to do the baptism so I happily obliged, I was way less nervous the second time. The words just spun off of my tongue this time around. (Although I did have a little rough start entering the font. I started getting nervous as I forgot which wrist I was supposed to grab with my hand, after a small setback I thought to myself "Well my right hand is supposed to be up, so I can deduce that I am to use my left hand to hold her wrist" (A sound deduction, if I do say so myself).  After positioning my body around I figured that it would make the most sense to hold her right wrist and not left) so in the end it went well. The water was also freezing. But freezing is better than cold in my opinion. She looked extremely discomforted when her entire head was immersed, but I would say that a little discomfort for a cleansing of all past sins isn't a half-bad deal.

The other day while we were contacting I saw a very strange sight. Out in the middle of the rice fields I saw two little Malagasies dragging a pig across the mud by it's hind legs. The Pig obviously didn't want to become the supplement to rice, but the Malagasies tried their best to haul it across the fields. At one point the pig got to a hill and the 2 dudes didn't know what they should do to get it up, so they took the beast by the ears and pulled it up the hill. I have never heard such wailing and screaming. The pig sounded like it was giving birth or something. It was bad. But they eventually got it up. Afterwards the pig was not very happy, and attempted to ram into the young Malagasies (luckily there was a leash holding it back). But I found it very entertaining watching the Malagasies drag the pig to the slaughter to the best of their abilities. One weird food that you can buy here is the face of a pig. I find it pretty gross-looking, but it probably isn't too bad tasting. I always get a little grossed-out when I see the various severed animal parts hanging in little street shacks out in the sun. People here buy meat that has been out in the sun for days, I guess their bodies are already used to it. 

This week we had fewer lessons than usual, most of our time was spent going door-to-door for hours in the hot African sun (probably the funnest activity in the world). Yeah, I don't like tracting at all. This week I found salsa for the first time in a supermarket, and it was a glorious occasion. Never has salsa tasted so good. I was a bit disappointed though, as I could not find any tortilla chips. I had to use some local chips that were fairly close, but extremely different. I have even been putting salsa on pasta that I make haha, I do like salsa. I also bought some nice expensive cheese for 15,000 ariary, about a days worth of allotment found. It was the first real cheese I have had in Madagascar, and it was quite delightful.

But, this week wasn't extremely eventful, so that is probably all.

Elder Anderson