When I last wrote some things were different, and I had fewer experiences than I have now.
One of these experiences is that I got the opportunity to spend Christmas with the host family of two other Hald-students in Sab Nam in Antananarivo, near where I spent my first week in Madagascar. On the 23rd, we waited and waited for a concert with Tana Gospel Choir to start in the food court of a shopping mall. That is, we had come too late to buy a ticket, so we waited until everyone eventually had gone in, and asked if we could please pay even to just stand at the back. It was worth the wait. Even though I didn't understand many of the songs, they were catchy and the guest artists (well known in Madagascar) were also great.
Christmas eve dinner started just about the time Norwegians go to bed, between 11 and 12 pm. And if we Norwegians had forgotten who Christmas is about: When the food stood ready on the table, the first priority was to read portions from Luke, sing a couple songs about Jesus birth, and listen to the father in the house share a devotional. He highlighted for us the shepherds. Although they has a plain and not very valued role in society, they were some of the first people to witness the miracle of God becoming human. The next day continued with a church service in the city, extended family, goose for lunch, and charades.
And standing on the beach of a beautiful place in Madagascar, 2016 became 2017. The year started with infield in Mahajanga, where two teachers from Norway came to teach, council, and hear about our experiences midway in our stay.
Back in Fandriana, Pernille and I have taught our first English lessons at SFM, the teacher school. The students are interested in learning (but I feel inadequate in the teaching role). But instead of dwelling on this, here is what several people have said about the importance of learning English: English is an international language. This brings opportunities. Only about 60 % of the students at SFM will go on to teach. The remaining will hopefully get other jobs. Because they have attended higher education where they have improved their Malagasy, French, and English skills, more doors are open to them.
In church, two weeks in a row, it was said that God has given us a new year. January 12th, I woke up very early in the morning of my first ever earthquake. It was minor, and Madagascar saw few damages. And I think: Several weeks after New Years Eve, people are still reminded that the new year is a gift. The experiences and events and thoughts and learning of last year are a blessing – even if in disguise. The new year will hold new mercies, new blessings, new lessons, new choices – and none of it is to be taken for granted. Hopefully soon, God will send rain for the people and rice crops.