Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Going to the Doctor and More

It was Friday, April 4. Fridays are visitation days for Bro. Pritchard's church. Visitation is done very differently there in Madagascar.

Most of the time, the guys just ride their bicycles and they don't dress up (not even in casual pants and a collard shirt). It's usually jeans and a t-shirt for the attire. Walter was paired up with one of the preacher boys, Kristoff. They left and were gone for several hours.

You should have seen Walter when they got back! Bro. Kristoff had taken him everywhere! They rode quite the distance. Walter came in sweating and huffing and puffing! He was exhausted! He couldn't get a drink fast enough! The next Friday, Bro. Pritchard was dividing the men into teams again and he told Kristoff that he could take the car because the visits he was going to make were too long a distance to ride bikes. Walter immediately volunteered to go with him! Everyone laughed at that!

The Pritchards feed their staff on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We had our first lunch with the staff that day.

This is LuCein (pronounced Loo Sin) - a preacher in training
LuCein is very small. I think I was almost a full head taller than him!
Notice the silly guy in the background!

Kristoff - a preacher in training
He's the one that met us at the airport.

Rado (pronounced Rah doo) and his wife Sophie
He's also a preacher in training
They are expecting their first baby in November!

Walter with Kristoff, Rado, and Ja (left to right)

Let me just say here that every one of the staff is incredible. They have a heart to serve Jesus Christ. They love the Lord! And Kristoff was hired to be a full time soul winner. Yep! He goes out for 8 hours every weekday soul winning! Can you imagine being hired specifically to be a soul winner - I mean that's your job title and your job title includes one thing and one thing only - and you see the fruit of your labor consistently????? That would be an incredible job! And people are getting saved, too! Bro. Pritchard will send him on a 10 minute errand sometimes and he'll be gone for 2 hours. He'll have found someone to witness to and almost always that person or persons will have gotten saved!

Later that afternoon, Ja needed to go to the doctor for his cough. Word got back to him that one of the teenage girls in their church had been sick for a couple of weeks. She was going to go to a doctor (which Ja calls a quack doctor) but Ja told her not to go and that he would pay for her to see a real doctor. So we picked her up and took her with us. It only costs $5 to go to the doctor (at least in Antsirabe).

This is Ephrazee. She's the one we took to the doctor with us. She's 16 and very sweet. She learned to speak English at the learning center the Pritchards started (although her English is still quite limited as she hasn't completed all the classes yet).

Pictures of the doctor's office. Somewhat primitive but it works.

Now here's the incredibly sad part. While we were walking down the hallway I noticed 2 posters on the wall. I looked at one of them because it had pictures on it of different diseases but I couldn't really tell what they were. I didn't think anything of it until later when we were sitting in the hallway waiting for both Ja and Ephrazee to get done.

One of the posters was a very outdated AIDS poster. The information on it is so wrong. It was graphic in its pictures. It showed ways that were supposed to be safe so as not to get aids and ways that were high risk to get aids and ways that were medium risk! The other poster that I had been looking at before but couldn't make out (praise the Lord!) was a poster of different types of venerial diseases! Right there in the hallway for everyone to see! I was appalled!

Bro. Ja told us later that one of the saddest things about Malagasy children is that their innocency is completely gone by the time they grow up.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Market...

We walked to the market and downtown Antsirabe. It was about a 15 minute walk. Good exercise!

There were lots of people everywhere. People knew we were outsiders for two reasons. First, because we're white. Secondly, because we were with the Pritchards. Everybody recognizes them because they walk on the streets several times a week to do their shopping, etc. Because of those two things we were bombarded literally by everyone to buy what they were selling! It was almost unbearable to have so many people constantly surrounding you and shoving their items for sale in your face and constantly saying "very cheap." They don't take no for an answer, either.
The woman in the hat is a Malagasy woman that followed us around trying to sell us her goods. We learned quickly to ignore them. That was very hard as that goes against how I was raised. You don't ignore anyone (except in Madagascar)!
A little background on why the Malagasy people are like this - The Norwegian Lutheran missionaries came in to the country in the 1800s to settle the country. If the Malagasy people wanted or needed anything they would just give it to them instead of making them work for it. And those stories of the Lutheran missionaries have been passed down from generation to generation. So now, all white people (Visaha = foreigner in Malagasy) are rich according to their thinking and you are supposed to give your money to them. Backwards thinking, I know.

Ja was buying candy for their learning center's graduation. Three Malagasy kids spotted him a mile away. "Surely the visaha will 'give' us some candy," is their thinking. They were relentless. Ja gave them each a piece of candy but that wasn't good enough. As I was putting the candy into a backpack they each put their hands out to me telling me to give them another piece. I told them no and we went on our way. However, I didn't know that they would follow us! And follow us they did! For at least an hour! Everywhere! If we went into a little side store they'd wait outside for us and continue following us. But they weren't quiet as far as speaking. They kept saying the same thing over and over and over again and had their hands out and ready to take anything we would give to them. They finally quit following us when we went into the grocery store.
I decided to take a picture of the three munchkins that followed us and they were happy to let me, too. Actually, in their culture I was supposed to give them some money for taking their picture but since I didn't ask if I could do it, I didn't give them anything.

On to the market. It's an open air market. Nothing is refrigerated as you will see in the pictures. Not much to say about it because I think the pictures speak for themselves.

I think the 2 fish on the tray were there for several days in a row unrefrigerated. It seemed that every time I passed by that particular little "shop" they only had 2 fish and we were there sometimes 3 times a day. Yes, dogs roam freely thru the market. Notice all the bugs on the cut squash. Bugs, bugs, bugs, everywhere! In the picture with the chickens hanging the woman is trying to keep the bugs off the meat! Very unsanitary!

The Pritchards have found a butcher within the market that sells only fresh meat daily. You see, the mindset of most Malagasy people is that if it doesn't sell the first day, it's still perfectly fine to sell it the second and third and so on until it's all gone! Eeeeewwwwwww, gross!

After we were done with all of our shopping and sightseeing we were quite tired. We decided to rent a pouse pouse (pronounced poos poos) or pouse for short. In almost every aspect of life there in Madagascar you must negotiate the price for everything. So Ja negotiated the price for each one of us (there were 4 of us) to ride in a pouse. Get this - a very expensive ride at $.40 each! Not!!!! For them, that's good money. Weird, I know. So we got in them and got our ride home.

The woman standing outside my pouse and the little kid were begging for money from us.

Now, the Pritchards and the Pettis' are considered big people. We are taller than most of the Malagasy people. So naturally, our pouse drivers had somewhat of a hard time pulling the guys. In other words, they had to work really hard to earn that $.40! By the time we got back to the Pritchards home, the guy pulling Walter had huge beads of sweat dripping off his face. Walter felt bad and gave him a tip and his bottle of water.

As our trip went on, we would take a pouse almost every morning from our hotel to the Pritchards. Usually, we were just too lazy to walk and we figured we might as well help the Malagasy earn a living. All you have to do is to call one is raise your hand in the air and yell "Pouse" and they will come running to you. We never negotiated the price with them because ya know, um, we didn't speak the language. However, we all understood the language of money! And we were very generous with them. They always got a tip from us. Sometimes we would give them as much as $1 each which is a day's wage there.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Our 1st Day in Madagascar

We were awakened quite early by the cows mooing and the dogs howling.
Some of the dogs at the hotel. Dogs are not pets. They are pests. There are wild dogs everywhere. They just roam the streets looking for food. They aren't mean at all.
We got up and showered as best we could (see here for the story). Then we decided to do some sightseeing around the hotel grounds. Hence the following pictures.
This is a really old merry-go-round. It reminded me of my childhood.
I thought this picture was funny. This is a 4th world country and they actually have satellite tv here!

Just some pictures of the view from our hotel. This is the capital city of Antananarivo.

The picture of the bottles is actually a hedge for the garden. The Malagasy people don't throw anything away! They are the epitome of recycling!

Chickens are everywhere! They roam wildly. The picture of the hole we think was the start of a pool that never got finished at the hotel.

We met up with Bro. Pritchard, looked around for a while and then went in to the hotel "restaurant" - if you want to call it that. Some versions of a restaurant are quite different than others.

Breakfast consisted of a light and airy baguette with butter and jelly, a 1 egg with ham and cheese omelette, minus the ham and cheese. You see, you can order the omelette the way you want it and the people will tell you that they have all the ingredients. But when you get your food, you might be surprised to find out that you got something different than you ordered. Brother Pritchard asked the waiter why there wasn't any ham and cheese on the omelette. His response - "We don't have any ham. But there is cheese on it." If you looked thru a magnifying glass you might see a speck of cheese here and there! Anyway, we left there quite hungry.

This picture is of some of the little "shack shops" that seem to dot the whole country. The people will just set up a little shack like this and open their "business" selling basically the same thing everybody else does. How they make a living selling the same thing I haven't figured out yet. Bro. Pritchard stopped there to buy a bunch of bananas for $.20. Yep, you read right!
This little guy was very happy to let me take his picture.

We picked up Bro. Kristoff and started our journey to Antsirabe (Ant-se-duh-bay). What was supposed to be a 3 hour drive turned in to a 5 hour drive. Antsirabe is only 70 miles from the capital. But the roads are very windy; sometimes not paved; the bridges are only passable with one vehicle at a time; and there are a TON of potholes! Hence the loooonnnggg drive!

The countryside is beautiful. Lots of little villages dot the countryside. People walk along the roadside; ride their bicycles along the roadside; herd cows down the road; all while the cars and trucks go by.

All the cars and trucks use diesel fuel. Drivers tailgate really badly there. Imagine being in a car driven by a Malagasy man. Then imagine him tailgating to the point that your car was less than an inch behind the car in front of you. Then imagine all the diesel fumes pouring into your car! And not just once on the drive, either. Over and over and over time after time. Yuck! I got several headaches because of the fumes!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I Interrupt This Journey About Madagascar To Bring You This Exciting News!

The ladies from our church went to a ladies conference at Faith Baptist Church in Wildomar, CA, last Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

During Thursday night's session, Mrs. Cindy Schaap was speaking. (She is married to Dr. Jack Schaap, pastor of First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana). I had to sneeze. I lowered my head to sneeze quietly. We were sitting halfway down the auditorium. What I didn't realize at that precise moment was just how quiet it was in the auditorium! I sneezed and Mrs. Schaap heard it and said, "Bless you" into the microphone. I started laughing and all the ladies around me were, too.

I haven't personally met Mrs. Schaap yet but I can now say that I have been blessed by her! *giggle*

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Flight - Part 2

Tuesday morning, April 1st, we got to the airport early and checked in our luggage.

Over the Air France ticket counter was a sign that caught our attention.

It said:

Air France/KLM
pour/handling for
Vietnam Air
China Air
Walter, of course, had to take that and run with it! He said, "I don't want poor handling. I want the quality handling!" I had to remind him (jokingly) that "pour" doesn't mean the same as "poor." I really wanted to take a picture of the sign to post it here but with all the armed military guards walking around us, Walter thought they might confiscate our camera, so we opted not to take the picture (major bummer!).

The difference between American/domestic flights and international flights are quite noticeable. Typically, when you are flying domestically and you get to your destination, the flight attendant will say something like this: "Ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for flying...Please be careful when opening the overhead compartments as your baggage may have shifted during the flight."

When you are flying on Air France here's what they say. "Ladies and gentlemen, Thank you...Please be careful when opening the overhead compartments as things might fall out." It just sounds different!

The flight from France to Madagascar was normal - nothing really notable. We landed safely in Antananrivo (or Tana for short).

My feet swelled up to what felt like softball size and kinda looked like it, too.

We walked off the plane and into the airport to the line to purchase our tourist visas. A young man walks up to Walter and asks him if he is American. Walter says 'yes' and he proceeds to tell us that he (his name is Kristoff) is there to pick us up on behalf of Brother Pritchard. Since we were basically the last ones off the plane, we were basically the last ones in line to get our visas (there were at least 200 people in line ahead of us). Kristoff tells us that he's going to go and see if he can get us to the front of the line. He comes back and tells us to follow him. We do right up to the very front! Then he takes our money and cuts in the front of the line and gets our visas very quickly. There was a French couple who were quite irritated that he cut in line in front of them. But he did it anyway! We found out later that it is a Malagasy custom to do that and it was just fine with the guys behind the counter.

Kristoff then takes our passports and gets them stamped with our visas and off we went to get our luggage. We met up with Bro. Pritchard and we left the airport.

We dropped Kristoff off for the night and headed to our hotel.

Upon entering our hotel, the most memorable thing (there are many) was the smell. It smelled like petroleum! And it was a very strong smell, too! Yuck!

Though the room was very clean.

We looked in the bathroom only to find the following picture -

Yep, no shower curtain! And the holder for the shower hose was broken, too! Not only that, but there was no toilet paper or towels! We ended up finding out later that most Malagasy people don't use toilet paper and they don't use towels after showering (when they do shower, that is). We had to ask for towels and toilet paper. Let me just say that it is quite difficult to take a shower with no shower curtain and no way for you to stand under the water! We took our showers in the morning and got water seemingly everywhere.

We knew before we left for Madagascar that the people are very small. We are considered very tall compared to them. My feet touched the bottom edge of the bed and Walter's hung off the bed. We tried to sleep as best we could.

More to come!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Our Flight to Madagascar

Our flight out of LAX didn't leave until 10:15 p.m. We were already exhausted before we ever left the US.

We were checking our baggage in at LAX and I decided to ask if she had tagged our luggage so that we could pick it up in Paris because we were staying overnight there. She said, "No, it's been tagged to go all the way through to Madagascar." I said, "We want to pick it up in Paris. Can you please change that?" She had to ask a supervisor how to change it. I overheard the supervisor tell her that she needed to ask the sales agent there in the airport if we "were allowed" to do that. Imagine that! We paid $2500 per ticket and we "might not be allowed" to pick up our luggage in Paris!!!!! I wanted to get upset (after all, tiredness had already set in because of the time of day) but I decided to wait and see what she told us. The ticket agent came back and informed us that she could change it.

Looking back on it, I am glad that I didn't get upset. So many travelers are hot heads and yell and scream at the agents for every little thing! She was very apologetic and we told her no problem. We were just glad that she changed it!

On to airport security. It is such a hassle. However, I am grateful that they have security measures in place designed to keep all travelers safe. We had to stand in so many lines. And then we had to show our boarding passes and passports at the end of each line. I think we were in lines for over an hour before we ever made it through the security checkpoints!

Because we were flying on Air France, the person talking on the loudspeaker at the gate was talking in French. Then she would interpret in English. There was almost no way to understand the English because of her accent. We had to guess what she was saying and just follow the crowd!

We finally got through the gate. We walked down a long hallway to some escalators that went downstairs. However, the room at the bottom of the escalators was already full of people by the time we got there but we didn't realize it. The doors leading out of the room were closed and nobody could go past the doors. We got on the escalators and realized that we were going to run directly into the people at the bottom. It was a total domino effect! People were slamming into each other as they came down the escalators. The people up top finally stopped getting on the escalator. Needless to say, we were incredibly glad when those doors opened up!

We left that room, boarded a bus and were driven across the airport to our plane. We boarded the plane, got settled, and listened to the announcements.

Walter and I found such humor in the translations from French to English. Different things were funny and so I got out my journal and wrote them down.

So here goes some of my journal entries.

One of the flight attendants comes over the loudspeaker and says that everyone needs to be seated for a head count. And then he says, "No one use the toilet." Toilet!!!! Not restroom, bathroom, washroom, or lavatory. Toilet (I thought toilet was one of those words that wasn't good manners to use. Maybe only in America!)! Then he said, "No smoking is allowed in the TOILET!"

We made it safely to Paris. We work our way through the airport. We get to customs. Customs? The customs area was shut down! It appeared that you could bring anything in to the country and they wouldn't even know it because nobody checked anything. Two police officers just waved us through. Oh, and would you feel weird if you saw machine gun armed military guards walking through the airport? We saw them everywhere.

I wanted to get a picture of the military guards. Walter actually went up to them and asked if I could take their picture. They were totally offended at that and told us a very gruff "No!"

We finally made it outside the airport and were waiting for the shuttle to our hotel. But we weren't sure if we were in the right place so Walter asked an airport worker. "Which shuttle goes to the Millenium Hotel?" The guy says, "I don't know." Walter says, "I don't know, either. How am I supposed to know?" The guy's response? He shrugged his shoulders, chuckles and walked off! Can you believe that? It really happened! We were actually in the right place but it would have been nice if someone would have been willing to help us.

We wanted to see the Eifel Tower. We had limited time because we needed to take the train and the train stopped running at 10 pm. It was already after 6 pm. We got to the hotel and what do you know? Our hotel room isn't even ready yet! We paid $250 for a hotel room that wasn't ready after 6 pm at night!

The hotel we stayed at in Paris

Anyway, we put our luggage in a secured room and got on a shuttle for the train station. We discovered very quickly that the French people really don't like us Americans. We asked the shuttle driver if he could help us and he just ignored us. We asked him again. No response. We were floored! The guy makes the rounds and ends up at the train station, turns around and told us we needed to get off there.
We go inside the train station and proceed to look at the maps to figure out how to get to the Eifel Tower. Only one problem. Nothing is in English. Everything is in French and maybe some other languages that we don't know but not English. By this time it is 7:30 pm and we haven't eaten dinner yet. We are both hungry and tired. Walter doesn't want to try any longer so we end up back on the shuttle to the hotel.

This is the closest we got to the Eifel Tower - from the plane the next day as we were leaving France. The Eifel Tower is the thin stick just about in the middle of the picture. The weather was obviously rainy.

We went to the restaurant. Of course everything is in French and we can't read the menu. We asked the waitress for some help. She spoke very limited English. She couldn't help us. So we picked 2 items from the menu.

As a side note and for anyone who might travel to Europe - Entree means Appetizer, not main course! We found out the hard way!

I ordered creamy vegetable soup. It turned out to be pureed celery and some carrots soup. Not that great! Walter ordered something with duck breast. What came was a giant plate with about 8 very thin slices of duck breast topped with very thin slices of granny smith apples, some pine nuts and a caramel sauce over the top. Not what we thought! We ate and paid the bill! Get this - $33 (American dollars, mind you) for those 2 appetizers and a small bottle of water!

We went to our room to get settled. We wanted to have the front desk set an alarm for us since we needed to be back at the airport at 7 am. We looked at the telephone. If you think you can work the hotel phones, think again. Now, there were pictures on the buttons (bell, fire, telephone, etc.) and you'd think that pushing any of those buttons would get you somewhere. Nope! Walter had to walk down to the front desk and ask to have a wake up call set to our room.

Everything's great. We go to bed. All of a sudden, the tv turns on blaring at what seemed 100 decibals at 1:30 am. Needless to say we didn't really sleep after that.

More to come later!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

We are Back Home.......Finally!

We made it back home last night. We were on 2 planes basically back to back for 23 hours! I thought the trip to Madagascar was long - but not as long as the trip back!

Anyway, we had a wonderful time. I took somewhere between 500 and 600 pictures. I also kept a daily journal of the trip. I will be posting entries from my journal as well as some of the pictures in the coming days.

We haven't made a decision yet on going to Madagascar as missionaries but we will in a couple of weeks or so.

We can definitely say that our outlook/view on missions and the need for missionaries has been greatly changed. Walter and I believe that everyone should take a missions trip at least once in their lives.

We thought we were doing a lot for the cause of missions but we realize now that we want to do sooooooo much more. Time is short. The Lord is coming back soon. For us, this trip has brought the cause of missions into focus.

Anyway, keep checking back over the next few weeks as there will be several new posts and lots (but not all) of pictures (there are just too many to post).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

We Have Arrived!!!

Just a note to let all of you know that we arrived safely in Madagascar Tuesday night. It was the longest trip of my life! *smile*

We got back to the Pritchards home yesterday. The Lord has really worked out several things for us. We ended up being able to rent a home directly across the street from the Pritchards and for only $100. That's an answer to prayer!

Our visas were supposed to be $240 upon entering the country and turned out to be $176. Another answer to prayer! The Lord, He is sooooooo good to us!

We have been down to the market place today and what an experience that is. Walter and I know what it means to be "foreigners." We stick out! Everybody knows we are outsiders! We are white and everybody else is dark. Everybody keeps trying to sell us everything and they want us to give them money. We even had 3 kids follow us around almost the whole time we were in the market place (probably about 1 hour) with their hands out constantly asking us for things.

I will post a few more times before we come home. I won't be able to post any pictures because I don't have the ability to download into this computer. That will have to wait until we get home.

Keep checking back for more information.