Here I find myself again, another July at the Hotel Cheval Blanc. It’s a year later, and this time I feel like I’m coming home. I’m so happy to have not given in to my pre-trip questioning such as; “Why do I make this long journey every year?”
I have to be honest in saying that each year before I go, there is at least one moment in time when I say just that to myself along with… “Why am I doing this again?” , “Am I crazy?”, “Madagascar is too far.”, and “How will I get donations of computers once more?”
If you read past blogs you’ll see the angst I go through in preparation for this trip each year. It’s a mental and spiritual preparation as much as it is a practical one. I must bring my mind and my thoughts to a different place. To come here with a servant’s heart, I must leave all distractions behind. It looks easy, but takes an enormous amount of courage and faith to leave my home, my family and friends to do this work. It is the continued encouragement and support of those whom I love that allows me to take the leap of faith year after year.
Despite all of those thoughts, once I arrive to this place, my home, I feel warmth and a peace that is indescribable. This year, the best part of the trip is sharing it with my daughter Joanna.
Each time I bring someone new; I have the pleasure of seeing them fall in love with this beautiful country and people just as I have over and over again. The trip to Madagascar is a gift. It’s a gift of love and one that is a life changing experience for all who come.
Joanna is a delight. She is the consummate optimist and finds humor in just about every obstacle that we encounter. We’ve already had so many laughs. Last night we both woke up and were wide-awake at 3am (jet lag) and decided to watch movies! The Wi-Fi card ran out and I had to call downstairs to the desk at 3:30 am to get a new password. We looked at each other and just started laughing from fatigue.
There are always many obstacles along the way and I pride myself in fighting off the “demons” in the form of African TSA agents who try to extort taxes, gate agents and flight crew who insist that I check the carry on bags full of computers (I never allow the computers to leave my sight, they are for the Malagasy angels and I won’t risk them being lost or stolen), and local men who try to carry bags or escort me to the gate in return for money. Joanna remarks how strongly I speak to them all as I hold my ground. I’m used to this now. It’s like dancing a dance. I’ve learned all the steps.
At the airports, I know all where all the outlets are so I can plug in my computer, where to change money, where the best places are to eat, and before arrival to Madagascar, the best airport shops in which one can purchase forgotten items. I have learned to be patient upon arrival Antananarivo, Madagascar where every passenger is still checked in by hand and information is recorded in ink on a piece of paper.
This year as I approached the Delta counter in Fort Lauderdale, the agent pointed out that although my passport doesn’t expire until 2019, after this trip, I’ll have to buy a new one because I’ve run out of pages. Every page is stamped with a foreign destination attached to memories. Those that I am most proud of are the many stamps in and out of Madagascar and now South Africa as well. Each trip represents a new beginning and new relationships with young people who live half a world away, yet who have the same hopes dreams and fears, as do the young American students back home.
Tomorrow morning will begin our adventure. We will fly to the coastal town of Morondova. Students have been selected and desks and chairs constructed by local Malagasy will be placed in our classroom for the next two weeks. Most importantly, new memories will be made, and new friendships will be formed as we use technology as a tool to bring two very different worlds together in hope and in love.