[sam-ba-chra] blessed to be happy|happy to be blessed

Archive for the category “Living in Tana”


After finishing two weeks of delightful site visits with the Mad YAGM, and have many conversations about leave taking, the last two months, how will we say goodbye, (as well as Austin and I doing much of our own goodbyes to communities and leaders) Espi captured just what goodbye might mean.  Read Below and Enjoy! 

Orginally posted by Christina Espegren:

“Stay alive!” That’s right, the Malagasy word for goodbye is the word life [velona] in the command form [at least that’s what my Malagasy tutor assures me, the subtleties of Malagasy grammar are far beyond me].

Why am I saying goodbye you ask? Didn’t I just get to Madagascar? That’s how I feel – that is, when I’m not feeling the exact opposite, which has happened on more than one occasion, being a world away from my California home. But alas, in 7 short weeks I will be taking my leave of the Malagasy community that graciously hosted me for 11 months, and bidding them “stay alive” until next I see them.

But, as the end nears, I’m faced with the question, what does “veloma” that really mean? Keep breathing! Don’t go and die on me! Well, yes, hopefully that, and more.

During our YAGM orientation, the Global Mission staff promised to mess with our heads so that we might come back and mess with the heads of our sending communities [that’s right, I’m talking about you]. And I can assure you that this open-hearted, polluted, boisterous, pick-pocket ridden little piece of Madagascar that I’ve called home for a year has messed with my head. The challenge now is how the people I’ve formed relationship with, and the experiences I’ve had stay alive in me.

How do I take a year’s worth of living among a Malagasy family, choir, church, neighborhood and have this time inform how I live into the future and my call in the kingdom of God? I do not have an answer to this question, as I know it is all too easy to conveniently forget; to ignore that email from a friend asking for a favor because they seem [and are] a world away, to return to habits of excessive spending even though I know my students here share erasers because they can’t afford to buy their own.

So, I am asking you all to help me keep Madagascar alive. To sit through those boring stories I tell about my host brother and sister. To be gentle with me when I set foot in a Costco the first, second and third time, because that is going to be weird for a while. And most importantly, to ask questions. But please, for the love, do not ask, “How was Madagascar?” because all you will receive in reply is a deer in the headlights. That is a question for people who don’t want to have their heads messed with!

But, just as important, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I will stay alive here in Madagascar. Being a YAGM, you hear about other former YAGMs, from coordinators, host communities, random people you meet in hotels that find out you’re a missionary. Whether you try to or not, you leave a legacy with someone. But, with less than two months left, it is easier for me to check-out, coast through class with no lesson plan, stop trying to learn Malagasy, skip choir practice, preoccupy myself with future plans. But if I’m not truly living here while I’m here, I won’t stay alive in my community when I’m living on the other side of the planet.

So I keep living. This month I joined a zumba class in my neighborhood with my host mom and her sister-in law, started giving presentations about gender based violence with my friend Sthela, and committed to weighing babies every Tuesday morning until I leave. And yes, these might be small additions, but it feels good to live into the close of my service here, and into the beginning of my service elsewhere, because in Madagascar goodbye isn’t really goodbye, but a reminder of our call to be alive in Christ and in community.

The term “life-giving” is a YAGM buzz word for experiences that fulfill you and affirm your life and purpose. But, the term becomes even more apt when we realize that life-giving experiences usually are a result of giving some your life for someone or something else – dedicating your time and efforts to a person or purpose.

So I leave you with this command, “Veloma daholo! Stay alive everyone!” and remember, “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” [Matt 16:25]


On the 12th Day of Christmas…

We gave thanks for warm sunny days and summer time!  This year we celebrate each Day of Christmas by appreciating 12 new beautiful flowers that bloomed in our yard! Happy Summer! And a very warm Happy New Year!

These 12 beautiful flowers  grew all on their own, right in our yard.

These 12 beautiful flowers grew all on their own, right in our yard.

From Christina, a YAGM Volunteer in Antananarivo.

Many of you might find yourself in heavy Christmas and Holiday traffic.  Maybe you are even reading this in the car (be carful!).  But Espi, one of the YAGM Ate’s serving in Madagascar gives some wonderful insight about traffic in her life of service:


Tana Traffic

I’ve never been good at meditation. I have a natural talent for being anxious, and when my body is still, my mind flits frantically between making lists of things that need doing, reconstructing past experiences, predicting future scenarios, planning you name it (this blog post for example) in great detail, and so on. This tendency served me well in my life in America, where we learn very early on, “time is money,” and you are worth as much as you do (measured in a dollar amount or a letter grade).

And then came Antananarivo traffic. A number of people who I have met with here who have come from America have asked me how far away I live from my work (or some other destination). A valid question, to which the answer is always more complicated than they anticipate. In Tana, physical measured distance does not have any bearing on how long it will take you to get from A to B. When I head to church on Sunday morning at 5:15, I live 15 minutes away. When I return home on Tuesday afternoon at 4:00 after women’s group, I live an hour and a half away, and that’s if I chase down the first bus I see and throw enough elbows to actually make it on.

On the average morning between 6-9, around the time I head into work, I can count on the bus taking between an hour and an hour and a half to get me to my destination. Up to two hours if there is some sort of accident or car trouble. I am frequently late to my first class (or miss it all-together) due to the only semi-predictable traffic patterns, but once I am on the bus there is no use worrying about being on time. The only thing to do is wait.

I have been known to do any number of things on the bus: review lesson plans, memorize songs for choir, go through my Malagasy flashcards or dictionary, read a book or the Bible (which has resulted in pathetic attempts to evangelize in Malagasy prompted by my seat mates), work on friendship bracelets, eat breakfast. But sometimes, I’m just not in the mood to be productive and I stare out the window letting my mind make it’s lists and scenarios. After a half an hour of this activity, my mind quiets and my eyes passively take in my surroundings and I simply am.

I am learning how to wait. In America we superficially uplift this ability (“patience is a virtue,” “good things come to those who wait”), but everything about the rat race we participate in teaches us the opposite.

In Malagasy the word for wait is miandry [me-AHN-dgry]. When you insert a “p” after the “m” of any verb (all infinitive verbs start with “m”) the word becomes a noun for one who does that action. So one who waits is a mpiandry [pee-AHN-dgry]. This is also the word for shepherd; one who waits for sheep.

When we think of Jesus as The Shepherd, it’s appealing to think of Him heroically rescuing the one lost sheep from a thicket of thorns or circling wolves, then striding purposefully back to the 99 with the straggler triumphantly perched on His shoulders. And it’s easy to forget that the majority of the job description is sitting, passively looking around at sheep. Maybe even taking, goodness-forbid, a nap.

Perhaps waiting, simply being in a place and time, meditating, is a part of the call of Christianity that the West is particularly good at ignoring. So, the next time you’re sitting in traffic, consider it a Sabbath.

by: Christina Espegren

Happy Birthday Puba!

Today is Puba’s Birthday.  So, Puba turns 3(ish) today.  She is part of our family and brings us endless love and entertainment.  Enjoy a silly clip of her, as we get to enjoy her everyday!

We don’t really know how old she.  We don’t know where exactly she came from.  We don’t know who her parents, brothers and/or sisters are.  We don’t know much about her genes.  But we know that today, October 13, is the day we chose to celebrate Puba’s life!

Puba is our mix-breed street dog, who we rescued here in Madagascar.  Puba came into our lives in May 2012 and unofficially became ours in late June 2012 – once we actually had a place to live.  Having only been in Madagascar 4 months, with a place to call home 1 week, Puba was unexpected and joyously welcomed into our family. Puba called the streets of Antsirabe home for the first 10 or so months of her life.  She roamed and played and scrapped by for food.  Puba was about 9 kilos (almost 20 pounds) when we brought her home; today she is a happy 16.5 kilos (about 36 pounds).

Puba is beautiful, lazy, funny, alert, kind, spoiled, affectionate, silly, a barker, hunter, lover of walks, licker, chewer of bones, digger and lover of belly rubs.

Happy Birthday Puba!!!










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