Living with the VezoI stayed about two months in a charming little village called Ambohibola in southern Madagascar. At first, I simply rejoiced in living in a place surrounded by breath-taking sceneries and amazing people. They were welcoming, kind and hard-working and everything seemed in favor of giving me a very memorable experience devoid of any hardships. However, I soon realized that these otherwise happy people were going through extreme challenges that I had never experienced before.
Don't get me wrong, I knew from the beginning that challenges would have to be faced. But that is something that one forgets when living with these people. It's hard for me to describe the warmth and security one feels when living among the villagers of Ambohibola.
A place as beautiful as Ambohibola with its clear sea filled with dolphins, whales, sharks, crabs and thousands of different colorful fish, its palm trees and its clear star-filled night sky is heaven on earth. All it required was a little boost. Eco-tourism would provide the village with an alternative source of income that is sustainable and, most importantly, It would allow them to be less dependent upon a single source of income, giving them time to develop other projects.
It isn't healthy to get lost in our dreams but If there's one thing I learned from living there, it's that hope can be life-saving in a life-and-death scenario. Mr. Cheban, our translator and good friend, would leave me speechless in his dedication towards solidarity in the face of difficulties. Sasa and Kristiny, my two new sisters, taught me to simply smile. Mr. Pierre, our Malagasy teacher, taught me not to complicate things when simplicity is available. And I could go on.
I wouldn't be lying if I said that I felt like home there. For a moment, or rather many moments, I felt like returning to Lebanon would be leaving home. It is a weird feeling, I admit. But a powerful one nonetheless. Being so close to people who are supposed to be so different really gives one the feeling that, although we may have differences across cultures, and may speak different tongues and live different lives, these differences are dwarfed by the universal similarities we all share as part of that big human family.