Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We Went 4 Wheelin!

This one is kinda like a book....very long!
Tuesday, April 15

We ate breakfast in the hotel cafe. We were enjoying ourselves when I heard the distinct sound of a cat meowing. We had seen a couple of cats roaming around the hotel. I looked around to see the cat inside the cafe! He was a nice little cat. He came right up to us and let us pet him. When we left we noticed he had jumped up on the bar and curled up and went to sleep. That's not something you would ever see here in America!

The morning started out with the Ja taking us to see some of the family tombs in the area. I had no idea we were going up into the mountains (actually very large foothills) up above Antsirabe. The 3 of us set out in the car. I think we could have gotten there faster if we'd have walked! The roads are so bad that you could walk faster than drive in most areas.

Not sure if you can tell just how bad the roads were from the pictures but in person you would definitely know what I am talking about! The car just rocks back and forth from all the potholes.

Anyhow, we made the long trek. We got to the top and it wasn't the spot Ja wanted to go to. So we turned around and took another path. Wrong way again! Ja decided to keep following the road and it led to the backyard of someone's home. Someone who lived there happened to be in the yard at the time we pulled up. Ja talked to him and he told us where to go. He even said it was ok to cut through his yard! There aren't many cars going up into that area. The roads are just horrible! Most people walk or ride their bicycles. Well, we went down the road this guy told us to and we ended up having to put Ja's car into 4-wheel drive because we would have gotten stuck! Hence, the picture below. Turned out the guy was wrong in his directions, too!

We went back the way we came and stopped to ask some men for directions. We went again down the same road to another road. Wrong directions again!

Ja decided that enough was enough and he couldn't remember how to get there so we were heading back down the mountain. We happened to see another road and decided this would be the last road we tried. Oh my goodness! I thought the other roads were bad! This one topped all the roads in the country that we traveled on! But we eventually found the area we were looking for. Praise the Lord! I think it took us 2 hours to find the right spot. But once we got there, the view was spectacular!

This is the worst road we were on! Click on the picture to enlarge it and you'll see what I mean!

On to the family tombs. When a family member dies, they wrap the body in a burial cloth and put it on a shelf inside the tomb. The biggest "religion" in the country is ancestral worship. Every year families gather to worship their ancestors. They open the tomb and take out the bones of the ancestors. They dance around banging the bones together all the while getting drunk on some homemade concoction. The women take the burial cloths and bite them because they think that it will help them to become more fertile! Nasty and unhealthy!!!!!!!!!

The tombs are neat to look at.

We got our pictures and headed back down the mountain. We passed through many tiny villages. You could tell the people were much poorer than in the city by the looks of their homes. The homes had straw roofs. Also notice the black soot around the door in the picture below. That means they cook on their charcoal burner inside the home. Typically, those who cook inside their homes with the charcoal burners don't live as long. I wonder why???????????? Hmmmm!!!

These homes were made out of clay bricks. Now their bricks and the bricks here in the USA are completely different. They don't use mortar when they lay the brick. They use clay in between the bricks. Then they overlay the bricks with more clay. However, it rains and rains and rains and rains for months there. So.........the houses fall apart after a few years. Enlarge the picture and you'll see the gap between the roof and the house wall.

This is a picture of men dredging the sand from the bottom of the river. Then they sell it. I took this picture on the way up the mountain.

A random picture coming down the mountain.

We passed by this small school and the children all looked at us like they hadn't seen white people before!

The people washing their laundry in the river.

The laundry drying by the side of the river.

This is one of our all time favorite pictures! It's the Malagasy equivalent to America's Lowe's delivery truck! We got such a huge laugh out of this sight! Enlarge the picture and you'll see that even the wheelbarrows are made completely out of wood. Don't see that in America these days!

After our little adventure in the mountains, we went on a lunch date with Ja and Rachel. We tried out a brand new restaurant. And the food was delicious! While we were waiting for our food, we were served bread and an assortment of condiments. We started trying them. Well.....one of them happened to be a "4 alarm" hot sauce. Both Ja and Walter tried it. Both of their faces turned red and both were coughing and needed a drink fast!

We have a man in our church (George) who loves hot sauce. We had Ja ask if we could buy a small bottle of it. The owner said yes. We were shocked! So we brought it back to the USA with us. We brought it to church with some chips. Six people from the church tried it. Three were mexican and the other three were not. The mexicans thought the sauce was good and the other three said it had no taste at all. It was just plain hot!

There was another sauce that I liked from this restaurant. Ja asked if we could have the recipe. The owner said yes again and we paid $1 for it. Ja told me the ingredients but I forgot to write them down. The recipe was written in Malagasy so I have the recipe here and I can't read it. Oh, well!

When we got back home from our adventure in the mountains, Ja and Walter noticed that the car didn't seem to be working right. Ja thought he broke the car! They had just gotten it out of the repair shop to the tune of $900 and he wasn't looking forward to getting it fixed again. We had planned to go on a picnic with the whole Pritchard family the next day but with the car broken, plans were going to change. We ended up securing the rental of a van (with the driver, too).

We went to the "good" hospital to visit one of the church members. She had just had a "radical" hysterectomy that morning. I learned to be incredibly thankful for the hospitals and staff we have here in America. When you stay in the hospital in Antsirabe you have to provide everything for yourself. If you want to eat, you better make sure someone brings you food from home. No cafeteria in the hospital. If you want to go to the bathroom, you better make sure you have someone looking after you (family member, friend, etc.) because the nurses won't come in and help you. If you are cold and need more blankets, you better have someone bring them from home because they aren't provided for you at the hospital. The nurses are only there to make sure you have enough medication. That's it. Nothing else!

After we were done at the hospital we needed to stop by the market to pick up some food (vegetables, grains, etc.). Time was getting short as we had to be back for the final night of Walter's creation class. We had to get home quickly because the person watching the children was ready to leave in a few minutes. Walter and I each took a pousse and headed home.

I looked at both the pousse drivers. I asked Walter which one he wanted me to ride in. Walter ended up being pulled by the older driver. I almost asked him if he wanted to change pousses but decided not to. So we're on our way and we passed by a group of pousse drivers with no work at the moment. They proceeded to make fun of the guy pulling Walter. We headed up a small hill. The poor guy! He couldn't hardly pull the pousse! It was too heavy for him. Walter jumped out of the pousse and pushed it to the top of the hill and then got back in it for the rest of the ride. Well, the joke ended up being on the other pousse drivers because Walter paid the guy 2 1/2 times (about $1 equivalent) what he originally charged! And the other pousse drivers missed out on that opportunity!

Monday, May 26, 2008

This is For Everyone Who Know My Husband and His "Love" For Games!

We have a weekly family night. It's on Mondays.

Each week one of the kids gets to plan the whole night - from what we eat to what music we listen to to what games we play and what movies we watch.

Tonight was Lyndsey's night. For the game she picked "Hand and Foot." It's a very long card game - but an enjoyable one I might add. Well, Dad doesn't like games but for Family Night he will play anything. Did you read that?!
Anything! So tonight, he played "Hand and Foot" with a willing attitude.

I have to say that it was by far our best Family Night yet. We had so much fun! I don't think we've laughed that much ever!

I did take actual pictures of the family playing cards but I forgot to check and make sure my memory card was in the camera. I can only load the pictures into Kodak's software and now I can't figure out how to find them. So....as soon as I figure it out, I will post the pictures.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

We Finally Figured Out...

the reason we have to wait so long in the exam room at the doctor's office. It's to give the doctor enough time to finish eating the popsicle so he can use the stick on our tongue when we say, "Awwwwww!" At least that's what Phyllip thinks in his own world! *giggle*

Friday, May 23, 2008

I Finally Finished...

a crosstitch I started (get ready for this) 5 years ago!!!! I know, I know. That's a long time! However, in my defense, I let Lyndsey use my scroll frame (used for crosstitching) so she could make one of her aunts a picture and it took her a year to complete it. I know that still leaves 4 years, but hey, I've been busy. Raising 3 kids, homeschooling 3 kids, working for my church part time and all the ministries our family is involved in with our church tends to not leave a whole lot of time for crafts. But, I'm not complaining!

I do have 4 other crosstitch patterns left to do and 2 blankets. One of the blankets is almost done. I'd love to add in some sewing projects, too, but not sure on that one. I'm hoping to paint our living room, dining room, hallway, and kitchen this summer so.........not sure how many projects I will be able to get done. They just keep piling! Never a dull moment!

I also decided to make some homemade bread yesterday and today. I tried 2 different ones. It's been probably a dozen years since I made homemade bread. No bread maker this time! All done by hand (with the help of my trusty mixer, though). Can I just say that my family and I think both breads were fabulous! I made cheddar cheese bread yesterday. One regular loaf and one braided loaf. That one was really fun to make. Then I made Parmesan cheese bread today. Yummy!

We are having company for dinner after church on Sunday so I decided to experiment on my family the last couple of days to decide if I wanted to make any for company. My husband says the Parmesan bread. The kids say the cheddar cheese bread. Decisions, decisions!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Visit with a Friend and the Creation Class

Monday, April 14
Word had gotten back to Ja that one of Rachel's friends, Nina, was needing to talk with her. Ja needed to run an errand and they told us to tag along with them. Ja dropped Rachel and I off at Nina's home. We caught her at home.

Nina has had a difficult life. Her parents died when she was about 18 years old and she had to finish raising her brothers and sisters. I think there are 4 or 5 of them. One of Nina's sisters is struggling with depression. She had tried suicide but it didn't work. On that particular day, her sister was in Tana (the capital city of Madagascar) in a hospital psychiatric ward.

Nina told us that her father used to go to a witch doctor for help. The witch doctor was absolutely the wrong place for him to seek out help! But, nevertheless, he did. We believe very strongly what the Bible says in Exodus 20:5 "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them (idols), nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;" We believe that because Nina's father went to the witch doctor along with other things, his iniquity is visiting on his children - at that particular moment it was Nina's sister.

Rachel counseled her to have a "family fast" and pray 1 day a week for at least 3 months to break the iniquity from continuing to visit upon their family because it sounded like a spiritual problem. It could have been a little bit physical but for the most part a spiritual problem. I also encouraged her to pray with belief. So often we pray and ask God for various things (healing, financial security, etc.) but we don't really believe God will answer our prayers. If we pray with unbelief He won't answer us. Nina was very open and sweet.

L to R - Rachel, Nina, Me

Ja and Walter made several visits. They were able to lead a man to the Lord. It was like that with every visit. It was an incredible experience to work with people who were willing to listen to the Bible and actually believe what the Bible says!

It was also the 2nd night of Walter's creation class. There were 43 people in attendance. The ladies had asked Rachel if they could make potato pancakes and sell them to buy decorations for the church building. Ja said it was ok. So the ladies gathered early before the class started and prepared the food. Rachel and I stayed outside and cooked them. They were a hit! Everyone liked them.

The only problem was the mosquitoes were out in full force that night! Up until that night, I hadn't been bit. Well, I was a feast for the mosquitoes! I counted how many bites were on my legs the next day and there were 17! My legs itched and burned so badly. In fact, they bothered me until a few days after we got back to the USA!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Click here and watch the video. It will be an eyeopener!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The "Dirty" Lake

I forgot to mention this in my last post. When we were at the volcano with all the "sellers" I was getting a little irritated because they just wouldn't let us alone. I decided to take pictures of them. And then I counted how many of them were huddled around us. There were 17 of them! No joke! I counted twice just to make sure my math was correct!

Sunday, April 13

Ja had asked Walter to teach the children's Sunday school class. Kristoff interpreted for him and the children seemed to enjoy it.

After church we went to lunch with the Sigmuns'. After lunch we went to the "dirty" lake. There are 2 lakes in that area - the "clean" one and the "dirty" one. Close to the "dirty" lake is the big open air market and we went there as well.

The "dirty" lake has raw sewage in it, people wash their clothes in it, they bathe in it, and they catch fish from it. I don't know how the fish can even live in it but somehow they do. It was gross! Below is a picture from the "dirty" lake.

This is a picture of the lake and the home of someone.

We found a few remaining flyers for Walter's creation class so we passed them out. The people came running! There were several women that were mad when we ran out because they didn't get one!

We walked up to the market and looked around. It was huge! We didn't go very far in. You see the same things sold over and over and over and over again.

Those are 'used' undergarments for sale!

This is a cow's head for sale!

This is the "sludge" we had to walk thru at the markets. It's a mixture of animal blood, urine (animal and human, I'm sure), water, etc. On this particular day we didn't know we would go to a market and I had sandals on. I had to be extremely careful where I walked.
We walked back towards the "dirty" lake and off to the right of the lake was a small neighborhood. It was the most impoverished area we visited. Now I thought we had seen poverty. But not like this neighborhood! It was bad. We walked down into the neighborhood. We stuck out like a sore thumb! Everyone knew we were 'visaha' or "foreigner" and they kept shouting 'visaha' at us (in a friendly way) with big smiles on their faces.

These little guys chased me down and begged me to take their picture. They were very happy!

The children are asking Kelli Sigmun about her daughter, Selah.

Notice how this house is falling apart. But people still live in it!

Saturday, May 17, 2008


I just want to say I was working on this post and it suddenly disappeared! So.......it was back to the drawing board.
Friday, April 10

Really no news for this day. Ja was still very sick with pneumonia. Ja's wife, Rachel, wasn't feeling well. My hip was hurting to the point that I couldn't walk very much. Just sitting in a chair was painful. So we laid low that day. Walter visited some families with Kristoff but other than that we didn't do anything.

I forgot to mention that we picked up the sign from the paint shop for Walter's creation class on Thursday. We put the sign up across the street from the church and the Pritchards' house. The Pritchards' built the church/learning center on the lot next to their house. Very handy I must say!Below is a picture of the sign.

Saturday, April 11

It was the day before Walter's creation class was to start. We had 500 copies made of a flyer advertising the class. We attached a Gospel tracht to each one of them and we set out to pass them out. There are only a few roads/highways that go either the length or width of Madagascar. The Pritchards' live right off one of the roads. And it's a busy road, too! So we decided to just walk to that road. We took one of Ja's sons, Joel, with us. We passed out half in the morning and half after lunch. It didn't take very long to pass them out.

The Malagasy people are very different from Americans (as if I hadn't said that before). It's been our experience that Americans don't want what we have. It doesn't even have to be from a church. You can be advertising anything and Americans won't take a flyer. But....in Madagascar if you are passing out anything, they will take it! They say "thank you" after you give it to them. They are very gracious. The people don't rip it up; they don't throw it down; they actually READ what you give to them. We saw person after person stop what they were doing and read the flyer and tracht.

We started out standing on the side of the road. People walking by would take one. Pousse drivers and their riders would take them. We held our hands out for bicyclists and motorcyclists and they would take them. There were even a few cars that stopped to get what we were handing out! Now it was very dangerous for the cars to stop alongside a busy highway like that! There are big semi trucks, cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, pousse drivers, men pulling carts, etc. all using the same narrow road and for the cars to stop could have caused an accident or two!
Once people saw we were handing out something they came to us. We didn't have to go to them. There were even a few people running to us!

We walked past this man as he was reading one of the flyers we handed to him.

The Pritchards house is right next door to their church/learning center. As we passed by the street the church faces we saw the following scene.

All I have to say is who needs a lawn mower when you've got herds of cows passing by to cut the grass for you! Ha ha!

I thought this sight was so hilarious I had to get pictures!

That's the church sign.

Another missionary couple, Richard and Charity Jertberg, took us sightseeing. We started out at a paper factory. It is very different. Not really to be used for writing with. The owners showed us how they make it (very involved and I didn't get pictures of everything so I won't bore you with those details). It is completely made from plants and flowers.

When the decorating is done, it's put out in the sun to dry.

The owner told us that he had a contract selling his paper to a company in Ohio last year. Wow!

From there we went to a lamba (silk scarf) factory. Lambas are traditional Malagasy clothing worn by the women. We got a tour of the factory and it was truly a "sweat shop." We aren't sure about the other factories in the country (Nike, Gap, Old Navy, Liz Claiborne) but we know this one definitely was. These scarves were made out of 100% silk.

The next pictures were taken in the village where the lamba factory was.

If you enlarge the picture you can see the police station better. It was the size of maybe a 6'X 6' room.

The side of the little shop was made out of the top and bottom of 55 gallon drums. They don't throw anything away! Pretty ingenius!

This is public transportation. The people enter thru the back of the van. There's no limit on the number of people they will haul. We saw them full to overflowing!

Picture of an impending storm

From the lamba factory we went way up into the hills to an extinct volcano. The crater of the volcano now has a lake in it. It's called Lake Tachevah (not sure on the spelling). It was a loooooong bumpy ride. Charity told us to expect "sellers" to hound us when we got out of the car. And hound us they did! They have a plan to get you to buy their souvenirs. First they ask you your name (and then they call you by your name the whole time you are there). Then they offer you a handmade straw bracelet as a "free gift." If you take the bracelet you must buy their merchandise. Even if you don't take the bracelet they don't take "no" for an answer! And if you say "no" to one thing they will put it back in their basket and get something else out and beg you to buy it. The cycle just keeps going and going like that from the time you get out of your car until you leave. They even follow you alongside your car while you're driving down the mountain.

Pictures of the lake. It was absolutely gorgeous up there!

Looking on a remote village from the volcano

Rice fields from the volcano

More views from the volcano

We stopped for dinner after the volcano. It was a fancy shmancy place for Madagascar. This restaurant actually had menus in English. The menu was very funny because the translation was odd. For example, you could order 2 balls of ice cream or mushed potatoes. You could also order what we think was chili (kidney beans and duck breast cooked for a long moment). Or a steak cooked Henry IV way (in a butter sauce). I really wanted to ask the waiter if I could have one of the menus to bring home but I didn't. We got so tickled over that menu. What ended up being even more funny was that another missionary couple, Jason and Kelli Sigmun, took us to the same restaurant the next day (they had no idea we had been there the day before). We got to look at the menu again and just laugh.