Today, we visited the Mangaragarana village. In this village there are 10 houses, 20 beehives, and 3 valas (cattle corralls). This is home to a blacksmith and 3 families. There is a vala for each family, but one has recently been abandoned. We didn’t know exactly why, but only they do. But with the valas, the families have to share them. With the beehives, only 17 of them are inhabited with bees. They use and sell the homemade honey and beeswax to locals. We actually brought some for 9000 Ariary each and the beeswax smelt very good. Compared to other villages, I would say this is a moderate size village. To get there we walked 2-3km, but we didn’t take the same route back.
Upon arriving to the village, the first thing we came across was smoke. So, we went over to see what it was, and it turned out to be a blacksmith. When we walked over, he was working on a shovel for gold panning that the villagers recently started doing in the river here. Working with him was his wife and children. They actually help him for making his tools. He has seven children. But if you want him to make you some tools, you have to place your order in advance, but we did buy a shovel from one of his sons. Then as we started walking around, we came across this old lady and a bunch of children. We took photos of them and with them, but they were very shy. Afterwards, Dr. Voahangy sat with the old lady for an interview. When the interview was over, we learned that this lady had given birth to the blacksmith and many other children in the village, and one was a baby. Out of the bunch of children we saw, four of them were hers and four of them were her grandchildren. Unlike the villages I have seen, this one was a little different. They all were from the same family, they were together, the children weren’t loud and everywhere and they had a lot of fruit trees. So this tells you, that in the summer and spring, this is a very green and rich village.
Overall, my experience this day was exciting and new, but hard work too.
Okay, so looking back on my whole trip and stay here in the village. I will say there have been some good times, bad times, and some funny times, but the trip here has been great. I have gotten to meet some of Dr. Voahangy’s relatives, gotten to learn about genealogy and finding out how you are related to people in your family, learned how people here in the highlands make a living, observing men and women, and seeing the different roles they play when it comes to taking care of their family, seeing how children play and work, because once they have gotten to the age where they can do work in the village, their parents put them to work, and just being able to see different people and experiencing something new has just been a true blessing. But I will say, when I was sick, I didn’t get the most out of being here because I missed out on a lot of important stuff. But this trip is something I will never forget because it was fun, and I have had some good eats with Nivo’s cooking.
In sum, this was an experience of a lifetime because I know I might not come back.
Comments by Dr. Chap Kusimba:
Ciara, this is an excellent summary of your experience here in Ambalamanana. It was and continues to be a pleasure to seeing your growth and progress. We sure missed you the three days when you indisposed through no fault of your own. I have learned much from you. Your charm, your dedication, love of family and appreciation of the small but significant things and events in life. I was touched by your story about your ‘dad’. It made me think about my own childhood growing up in Western Kenya. It reminded me of my grandpa Jesse Kusimba, is who I mostly owe my ways of seeing the world. I became sad after words because Jesse never lived long enough to see what kind of grandson I became. Seeing how the Betsileo people cherish the ancestors and the investment they make is ensuring that there is continuity between this world and the afterworld, reminded me of the statement my dad used to make, “as you make the bed, so you lie on”. While I am not so sure that he lived the way he preaches, I am really certain that you Ciara are destined for ever more great things. Your determination, dedication, sense of duty and independent in addition to love for your family, will lead you to greatness. Your dream of and inspiration of becoming the first African-American woman surgeon is achievable. I feel you are half-way towards achieving that dream. I have always believed and still remain unconvinced that racism keeps African Americans behind. My own personal experience tells me that if there is one nation in the world where black people have the greatest chance of succeeding, that nation is the United States of America. I trust you are almost there. Keep up the good work and when in duty your dreams are achievable.