We went to Lemur’s Park Sunday. It is a private park where at present they have seven kinds of lemurs. It’s only about 30 km outside of the capital of Antananarivo, so it makes for an excellent day trip. We went today with our two kids, our good friends and their four kids, as well as a brother of one of the friends and his two kids. So, we were thirteen in total! It was a wonderful trip. The park is very nice and situated near a river and beautiful village. You see lemurs and endemic flora through the entire hour-and-a-half tour of the park. The landscape is breathtaking and the park is very well arranged. After a tour of the park, we had lunch at an outdoor restaurant that serves traditional Malagasy food to people at picnic tables. All in all it was a great trip. It reminded me of how blessed and lucky I am to have gotten tied to Madagascar. Some lines borrowed from the Malagasy National Anthem say it best: Sambatra tokoa izahay (we are truly blessed).
Hoby (pictured) was one of our first teachers of Malagasy when we arrived for our Peace Corps training. He is now in charge of the entire Peace Corps Environment Sector here. We of course had no children at the time when we met and neither did he. And here we are today, with six kids between us, visiting this beautiful space that contains so much of what is unique about Madagascar: gorgeous views of hills with terraced rice patties, lemurs, biodiversity, and the sheer lushness of the flora. Of all the Peace Corps countries to end up in, we ended up in Madagascar, a country of incredible beauty, not just in terms of its unique flora and fauna but also in terms of its unique culture and its people. We were blessed to not only have the chance to serve in the Peace Corps but to serve in Madagascar, to share our skills, to become immersed in the culture and to promote mutual understanding between Malagasy and Americans.
The Fulbright is in some ways similar to the Peace Corps in its focus on improving the mutual understanding between cultures and on exchanging skills and knowledge between cultures. I am incredibly fortunate to have gotten the chance to come back to work here again, to see friends, to enjoy life in Madagascar again, and to push my teaching and research to new levels. I try to remain conscious of just how lucky I am to have gotten both of these opportunities and to take advantage of the present one to my fullest potential. One of the most amazing things this time around has been to share Malagasy culture with both of our children. To be honest, I never really stopped thinking about Madagascar since we left in March 2009. It would come to me in dreams, in images, and the idea of going back somehow with a family seemed impossible. But we are back now and making a life here. The return has contained many blessings. The opportunity is once-in-a-lifetime. I realize that. I work in light of this realization, and it drives me forward.