Living overseas has been an important life experience for me, pushing me out of the comfort zone of what I know. At the same time, living on the ship is a very controlled environment, so I don't always feel like I'm really living in Africa, just on a ship that happens to be parked on the coast of Africa. So over the Christmas holiday, my friends Jen, Michelle, and I set off to spend 4 days experiencing what Madagascar is really like.
Through this great Dutch non-profit, we were able to get connected with a local village who wanted to host us and with a local Malagasy guide.
After 2 bus rides and a boat ride, we hopped on a tractor that happened to be going up into the mountains. The road was so bumpy we could have walked almost as fast. (I wished we were walking as I was perched precariously on the very top of the mound of supplies and people and with every bump I thought I might be tossed from the tractor).
|We joined at least 20 other people who piled into the back of this tractor.|
Our meals consisted of lots of rice. Breakfast was soft rice and coffee. Lunch might be rice and carrots. Dinner: rice and chicken.
|The homes in the village were made of palm trees.|
|The river where we swam every day.|
One day we hiked to a beautiful waterfall. The entire village accompanied us; it was like a processional or festival!
|Me, Houssen (our guide), and Michelle|
|The teenage boys showing off for the camera|
|Relaxing after the day at the waterfall|
|Touring the local graphite mine which employs about 40 people from the village. |
We got to see first hand how it works from start to finish.
|I wish I could have a dog on the ship!|
The 12 km hike down the mountains on the last day was one of my favorite parts of the trip. The scenery was breath-taking. And I was so glad not to be on a bumpy, crowded tractor.
On the way home, I was sitting in a crowded taxi-brousse (the bus system here consists of 20-25 people squished into a 15 passenger van), hoping not to get car-sick, wishing I was anywhere else in the world at that moment, when I had an epiphany. 2015 was the year of external change: changing my job, where I lived, the people I see every day. I changed almost every external factor of my life in the past year. And I am happier for it. Every day I am glad I made those changes. But the hard work still remains: working on the inner change I want to see in my life. Being able to find contentment no matter what my circumstances are. Because it doesn't matter how "cool" my life looks on Facebook, I can still only find happiness from within.
There are things I wish for that I don't have. But my prayer for 2016 is that I won't miss them because I am wrapped up in what I do have and in what God is doing in my life. God has been faithful to me through all the changes of the past year; He deserves my trust for the coming year and beyond.