Posted on 09 April 2008
The term ‘mora mora’ that nearly every guide book refers to when describing Malagasy way of life-literally meaning slowly slowly-can be deceiving.
The term ‘mora mora’ that nearly every guide book refers to when describing Malagasy way of life-literally meaning slowly slowly-can be deceiving. In fact, I think I only heard it amongst vazahas. In reality pace of life there needs no words for explaining, it just simply is. Our work schedule in the field demanded high flexibility and patience. When it was decided to do something at 8am, you can expect things to start hours later. In the same way, certain debriefings with the villagers and our agents left us more puzzled than before. After some time though we stopped to constantly question this and that, but learned to live every day as peacefully and patiently as our hosts.
All the same, while my European background made it a challenge to work there, my memories are filled with just as many rewarding moments, like when entire villages showed up to listen to our presentations or when I heard children sing our improvised environmental songs. A lot of nights in the field we spent hours listening to Malagasy proverbs and stories around the bonfire and sometimes danced ‘kilalaky’ (ecstatic national dance) in the moonlight. The communities we worked with made us feel at home and showed great curiosity in getting to know us and share their culture with us. What lacked in language, we made up in songs, dance, and a lot of improvisation.
The term ‘mora mora’ certainly does not do them justice when it comes to completing tasks in the field. Our colleagues covered miles of ‘untamed jungle’ barefoot and in trot. While doing tree inventories their life-long knowledge let them work four times as fast as we did. We were determined to keep up, but in the process got slashed by thorns, slipped from wet logs, devoured by leeches and mosquitoes and tripped over everything in our attempt to not fall behind. Paths were rare, but instead we literally went up and down vertical ascents and descents. Tired after a day of leech attacks and scratches and ready to pass out in the tents, they would examine our white legs covered in mud and blood and laugh affectionately before jumping up in search of the next thing to do; whether it was hauling buckets of water from the river, making fire for cooking or setting up camp, they could always smile. It was moments like these where they completed work in such efficient easiness that we felt more ‘vazaha’ than ever.