My time in Namoly
“Mora, mora!” (slowly, slowly) is one of the main characteristics you should know about, before leaving for Madagascar. I’m writing this one year after having finished my project in Madagascar, so I guess I learned my lesson well! Being Italian and used to this way of thinking, I thought it wouldn’t be a problem for me. Well, waiting 2 hours for a bus or whichever vehicle almost goes unnoticed, but waiting a whole afternoon for our guide to arrive (and finally getting a “messenger” at sunset, to tell us he was not coming at all) did create some frustration.
To make this clear, it wasn’t a matter of inefficient organization by WWF (Sahondra, the programme coordinator, will care for you and sometimes worry more than your parents ever did), it’s just something YOU have to adapt to. Being the “city girl” of the group (I must tell you, this nick name annoyed me terribly) I wanted a busy schedule with every minute of my 24 hours planned neatly. When this didn’t happen I always felt I was wasting time. Now I realize how fundamental those moments were. When will you ever get the chance to forget about time and let the sun guide you through the day? Just living accordingly with nature, waking up at dawn and resting after sunset is enough to make it a worthwhile experience.
And what an experience! We all know saving biodiversity is essential for the future of our planet, but actually being involved in a conservation project and helping to realize it is something you could never learn from a textbook. You will be able to truly understand the dynamics of some of the major problems that the environment in Madagascar is facing, such as deforestation caused by slash and burn agriculture, loss of natural habitat, species loss, erosion and realize that change can be achieved.
But most of all, it’s what you’ll learn from the Malagasy people; you will come to understand the true value of things that you have always taken for granted. Although consuming very little, compared to the amount of food, water and clothes you will be accustomed to in your home country; your garbage will still be an attraction to the people that you are living with. This was evident when I saw the plastic wrapper of my tissues turned into a kite, by simply tying a string to it and throwing it into the wind. Or when the juice carton I had thrown away the evening before became a toy car the morning after.
For me the Explore Programme wasn’t just about the journey itself: you only realize how much you’ve learned and changed once you are back at home!
My advice would be:
- Get enough information on flora, fauna and culture of Madagascar before leaving…remember that you won’t be able to search the web when you’re there!
- Bring some pictures of your family and where you’re from. It will help to relate with the people there and they’ll have a good laugh.
- Even THINKING of bringing a hairdryer will earn you the nick name of “city girl”, so don’t do it!