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 though...it 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."