Monday, August 29, 2011

The rain is gone, the sun is out

I'm starting to be a little bit worried about my sickness as well, so I'm going to call Sister Donnelly and get the OK for buying some sort of drugs from the local pharmacy. I don't really have anything wrong with my throat any more, but my lungs are still wheezy unless I drink gallons of water - which is strange.

This week went well, except for the fact that my companion and guide for Fort Dauphin has been transferred and replaced by a Malagasy trainee. Fortunately for him though, he only knows a little bit less than I do ;P. Last Tuesday after lunch Elder Smith got a call from President Donnelly saying, "Hey Elder you're moving to Tana tomorrow morning at 6:00. Back your bags quick! You'll find out your new area and companion when transfers come out tonight." And that was all.

My new companion is a cool guy from the ward of 67 in Antananarivo. He doesn't speak a lick of English, so I've started teaching him that as well as informing him on as much of the local dialect as I've heard thus far. All of his siblings are members and have been for the past five years, but his parents have yet to come around. He went to the MTC in Ghana. He arrived in Tana this past Wednesday but wasn't able to get a flight out here until Saturday night.

I waited at the tiny Fort Dauphin Airport completely alone for about two hours. His flight was crazy late and we finally got home at about 10:15 PM. It was strange seeing all of the rich Malagasys and vazahas going off to far-away locations, enjoying their vacations. Some of them were from Spain, some from France, others from Italy, and one cute older couple from Japan. They all looked at me weird at first, but then got used to the site of a odd religious vazaha that speaks Malagasy but not their language.

I got my package this week, and it was amazing! Thank you so much! We've already eaten all of the candy, and I've already read all of the reading material.

An interesting thing of note is that Fort Dauphin is full of different kinds of people. They grab at you on the path, scream and dance around for hours on end, shout random nothings into the air while you are trying to email your family (he's still screaming at this very moment). Maybe it's because they practically have no medical care here, or maybe it's just something in the water. Whatever it is, it always keeps things interesting.

The rain has gone, the sun is out, the heat has yet to come, and a lot of people are not wearing their clothes. I can't even tell you how many naked people we've seen. From what I understand, it is generally the Atandroy people alone that have no sense of modesty. The other tribes that live here are generally more decent in their dress. I was pretty shocked when I first started seeing the nudity, but now I'm more used to it and just focusing on not staring. Even Elder Ravelomahefa and Elder Rasoloniaina have been taken aback by the decidedly strange behaviour of the Fort Dauphin residents. Oh well. I'll keep my eyes to myself.

I love you guys and am praying for you. Have a great week! See you soon.

Elder Cryer

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wild Pig Attack and 3 Full-sized Cows Needed, please

Everything is going well here in Fort Dauphin. I'm a little bit under the weather but I already feel much better than I did yesterday. I found some sort of all day medication that I've been taking, so hopefully that will nip this thing in the bud. Or maybe it won't...tsy maninona! All week it has been raining so hard! I came here expecting sunshine and incredible heat, but instead I get loads of rain and a head cold. The mountains, jungle, and beach still look amazing but only in a generally menacing way.

"Tribal" is the first word that comes to mind when I think of the people here. Though they wear clothes, they don't seem to particularly mind about whether all of their private (from a Western point of view) parts are actually covered or not. All of the women wear their hair in corn rows or Princess Leia buns; most of the men carry giant machetes, sticks, and huge fish around with them. It is definitely an interesting place, so exotic. Everything here is so different from the way it would be in a 1st world country that sometimes it is a bit scary.

Most people here live in sweet huts that remind me a lot of the only-for-show huts they have at museum exhibits. They have rice mats for floors, patted-down leaves for roofs, and not-too-sturdy wood sides for walls. Now that I think about it, all those other times I said people lived in huts in past emails - really, those 'huts' are mansions when compared to the living conditions here. No one lacks for food as the sea provides constant nutrition and you can just walk around and find food to eat from off the ground, but everything is very primitive. To give an example of this, in one ten minute period I saw people carrying giant sword fish over their shoulders, people carrying around actual spears, and a crazy pig running loose through the maze of huts. The pig actually tried to kill us by running us vazahas straight to the ground, but survive the attack we did. I think he actually did bite my leg felt like a sledge hammer. Only in Madagscar do you get the wonderful opportunity to worry about wild pig attacks.

One of our investigators is named Marolahy, and he has a bit of a problem. He needs to get officially married to his wife of seven years, Julie, before they can be baptized. This is a usual problem that us missionaries in Mada have to deal with, but down here in Fort Dauphin we have a new twist: Marolahy has to marry his wife according to the 'fomba gasy' (Malagasy way). In order to do this he has to buy three full-sized cows and give them to Julie's parents. These cows cost about 400,000 - 500,000 ariary a piece, which is far more than Marolahy makes in two years. Considering the current financial position of Marolahy and Julie, this task is literally impossible.

We have been talking to them quite a bit lately and our best advice has been to just beg Julie's parents to let them get married legally first and then complete the fomba gasy later. Hopefully they will accept the proposition, but if not Marolahy and Julie will not be baptized for a very, very long time - as in, when her middle-aged parents die then maybe they'll be able to get married and baptized. We are really hoping that Julie's parents relent. This one's gonna need some prayers...

We have a few baptisms coming up this Saturday, but we are waiting on a marriage to come through. All of the information, papers, and forms are filled out and done, we are just waiting on the necessary signature from the number one man at the Lapan'ny Tanana (government agency). Enga anie this'll all come through, but if not then they'll just be baptized at the end of next month. The work goes extremely well here - 31 investigators to church.

This place rocks ;).

I miss you guys and pray for you. Tell everyone I said hi, and if anyone asks them why I don't write them back, please respond, "Matthew's on the other side of the world in a place that is not conducive to sending mail. His apologies."

Elder Cryer

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

From the last few months~

Rounding up the critters before lesson time

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A devastating fire and onto Fort Dauphin

Fort Dauphin - this place can be likened unto a Malagasy Hawaii, an incredible paradise minus all of the usual tourist fringe-benefits that come with the location. There are tourists here, but it is just so far away from anything that coming here adds an extra price-tag to an already costly vacation. Consequently, the area is still relatively undeveloped. There are a couple of restaurants and hotels, but they are small and pretty expensive. But, this place is heaven on Earth -- seriously.

Elder Ravelomahefa and I left early Monday morning to get to the Ivato Airport. I still don't understand why we had to arrive at 6:45AM for a flight that was supposed to leave at 10:25AM, but it sure did give us a lot of time to tour the airport, which was a surreal-as-can-be experience. I never thought that I'd be coming back to the Ivato Airport for anything other than going home in November.

We ended up being able to sit in what we think was first-class - or as first-class as Air Madagascar can provide. We sat in the very back of the plane with a bunch of rich dudes, seperated by a curtain from the other passengers. The fed us real food and gave us sodas, where as everyone else on the plane just got small little bread balls that you can easily get on the street. The food was very strange, and the coke just made my stomach hurt, but it was a nice gesture anyways.

The flight was about an hour and 45 minutes, which seems to be quick work for a propeller driven plane. It was very interesting seeing all of the Madagascar landscape roll beneath us. Not a cloud in the sky blocked our view of the changes from rainforest, to mountains, to desert, and finally to Taolagnaro (Fort Dauphin).

We settled down into a little-bitty airport, grabed a taxi that had been brought courtesy of the two elders already down here (Elders Smith and Peaden), and cruised off to the house. We got settled, taught a couple of lessons, and finally chowed down. During the appointments I realized that though everyone understands what I am saying, I have to strain to understand what they are saying. They speak in two main dialects here: Atanosy and Atandroy (probably spelled those wrong). Their accent is very different than what I'm used to, but the biggest problem of all is that unless they are speaking directly to me, they usually speak in their own dialect. These dialects are somewhat similar to Marina, and they rarely speak in straight non-marina, but when half of the words they use are spoken in a language I don't know, I'm having to really pay attention and do some quick deciphering. It's fun though.

Unbelievable story- last Friday we went to one of our investigators houses to meet an appointment. Elders Cassel, Mclaughlin, (he's from Scotland, and way legit) and I were walking down the path, coming pretty close to the person's neighborhood, when all we ended up seeing was a giant, burned patch of destruction. A huge fire had blazed the night before, completely leveling all the wooden shacks in sight. 500 people without anything but the clothes on their backs; 5 dead and many in the hospital for severe burns. It was probably one of the saddest things I'd ever seen. As soon as we walked up one of our investigators approached us, burn marks on her face and hands, and apologized for not being able to receive us because her house was burned to rubble.

Long story short, we talked with a couple of the leaders about things we could do, talked with President Donnelly and Elder Ridges (humanitarian missionary) and then finally decided that we were going to do something about it. The next morning we (Cassel, Mclaughlin, and me) found, bought, transported by pouspous, and delivered 200 kilos of rice to the homeless people at the burn site. We had to pay for the rice with our own money, but were then payed back from out of the humanitarian-mission's budget. It was hard to describe, the experience.

We also had two baptisms this past Saturday - Melissa and Nany - which went really well.

Don't start worrying about me down here in old Fort Dauphin. I wasn't able to email yesterday because it was some sort of catholic religious holiday. I figured that there might be some worrying because I wasn't able to email, so I'll start by saying that there are indeed Internet cafes here, it is just that they are expensive - as is everything else in this little chunk of paradise! Seriously; every single thing that is available for sale in Fort Dauphin that is also available in Tana is about a dollar or so more expensive. Now that may not seem like much, but it adds up! They have regular restaurants here, regular-ish stores here, but everything they have to offer is pricey pricey pricey. Fear not though, for my goal is not to ask for more personal funds. It is to learn to budget better.

Praying for you guys all the time. Even when I'm really tired and I can only stay awake for a couple of moments in prayer, I always pray for you guys.

Elder Cryer

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Heading down south to the other side of heaven

This Thursday I'll be a leaving on a jet plane....or a tleast I hope it's a jet plane! I'm headed out to what is called the absolute paradise and proverbial heaven of this mission: Fort Dauphin. FOrt Dauphin is located pretty much at the bottom of Madagascar and is a three day drive should you be foolish enough to go by car. But, because of the danger from bandits and the huge distance, me and Elder Ravelomahefa will be going by plane down to this most wonderous of places. Fort Dauphin opened about 8-9 months ago and is considered the gem of all the areas in Madagascar. If I'm not mistaken, I'll be the eighth missionary to ever go down there.

They also heavily use two other dialects called Atandrohy and Antanin-nosy. I hope to learn at least one of them before I go home. We'll be opening up a new area in Fort Dauphin, so that'll be fun.

Along with this, however, is a couple of issues. I'll only be able to take down one 20 kilo bag, so the vast majority of my stuff is going to be left here in Tana for the next couple of months until I come back. So I'm having to pack one of my suitcases for going home right now, give away a lot of clothes, and generally scramble. In Fort Dauphin the baptisms are in the ocean; I doubt if my one white long-sleeve shirt will survive. So if in my last package there could be a white long-sleeve, size 16 1/2 in the neck, slim-fit shirt, that would just be fantastic. My suit is already trashed.

Well this is it. Wish me luck and please pray that the plane doesn't crash.

Elder Cryer

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Monday, August 1, 2011

'Baptize Rondro'

We gave it our all this week with the teaching times aspect, but were hampered in a few ways by funerals, other stuff, and just some straight up bad luck. Regardless, we still had some very interesting experiences with new investigators as well as newly progressing investigators. But my favorite part of all was the baptism of Tojo, Rondro, Fely, and Neny. I think I'll start at the beginning and work my way backward, hopefully I'll have enough time to finish all the stories.

The baptism was extremely spiritual, but was made even better by the level of conversion that the people displayed. These new members have been learning from anywhere between 5 months to a little-bitty 1 month. They were all practically golden investigators, and all have their own individual stories of conversion, but I think I've told you all but one.

Rondro is a girl who learned many years ago with the rest of her family. Her dad got baptized, her mom got baptized, and she should have been baptized at that time if not for her father having problems. By that point the father had decided that he wanted nothing to do with the church, and that meant that Rondro would be waiting
another 4 years before being able to make that sacred covenant. About a month ago Rondro finally came to our attention when her 18th birthday occured. Everyone and their dog, all at once, began practically screaming at the missionaries "BAPTIZE RONDRO!" It took us a few days for the importance of their words to fully sink in, and then another couple of days to actually find her house. She was a shy girl - her mother being shy as well - but totally and completely committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The same cannot be said of her father.

Every time we would come over it was like there was a giant wall blocking the missionaries; he would almost completely ignore us. We would say hi, and he would generally nod, but there wasn't much more than that. Finally the day of Rondro's baptism came. We were 20 minutes into the meeting, about to start the actual ordinance, when guess who walked quietly into the room? That's right, Rondro's father. The man who had been estranged from the church for some several years came right into that room and took an almost divinely empty seat beside his daughter on the front row -- right where he was supposed to be all along. He didn't end up
coming to church the next day, but I'm sure that a light has been re-lit inside of him. Will it burn for long? Will it actually but him back on the right path permanently? Only time will tell. But putting all those questions aside, I know that I saw a man who doesn't really know what he wants in life anymore, but knows that what may be lacking is what he'd already left behind.

So, we'll go to work and pray for the best. Nothing else you can really do in such circumstances. We'll teach him as much as we can, try as hard as we can, but in the end it is all up to that man alone; ain't a thang we can realistically do when it comes to them terms.

Terribly sorry but I really have to go now. We have a dinner appointment very soon that we will likely be late for. Wish us luck.

With Love and Prayers,
Elder Cryer