Friday, April 30, 2010

Giveaway! Authentic African Tall People Wood Carvings From Madagascar

I just started my “Followers” list today and it looks pretty wimpy so thought I would do a giveaway since I love entering giveaways from other blogs.  Here is the featured giveaway prize:

Authentic African Tall People Wood Carvings From Madagascar
These are hand carved statues depicting a traditional man and woman.  The woman is carrying a broom and the man is carrying a shovel.  On the bottom of each carving, the name of the craftsman is hand engraved. 

They stand about 9 inches tall.

I personally think these are awesome and would enter my own contest if I could! ;-p

So it’s pretty simple.  Click on the “Followers” sidebar to the right, become a follower of my blog, and you’ll receive one entry.  You can also write a comment to receive another entry.  The giveaway will end in one week on May 7th, and I will choose 1 entry at random and announce the winner right here on my blog the same day.  So check back to see if you’re the lucky winner of this beautiful hardworking couple! 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Market Experience

Going to the market in any country is always a favorite experience of mine. I love being able to interact with the local people, practice (and unfortunately slaughter) their language. It’s such a fun experience, and definitely worth remembering if you’ve experienced this in your own travels. At the very least it’s worth reading about on this post if you’ve never experienced a foreign market. Either way, here’s a word picture for the market experience here. I hope it evokes a vivid picture in your mind!

As I step out of the compound and take just a few paces, I am immediately immersed in a completely different world. Spread out along the outskirts of the road are makeshift tables and mats with fresh fruit, vegetables, brooms, shoes, and even used cellphones displayed. “Bonjour, Madam!” They first try French since there is a large population of French expatriates living locally. When I reply with “Manoa ahoana!” they look pleased, yet puzzled and begin speaking in Malagash. I just nod and pass taking in the sights. The vibrant colors of the fresh fruit and vegetables that were most likely picked that day or the day prior are a feast for the eyes. Bright reds (tomatoes, peppers, etc.), vivid greens (beans, leeks, lettuce, peppers, herbs, cucumbers, etc.), and vibrant orange hues (carrots, papaya, pumpkins, persimmons, etc.), fill my view. It’s so unique to see a rainbow of fresh in the midst of the shacks, shanty’s, and roadside stores.
The smells are unforgettable. The fresh scents of garlic and onions hang in the air and since the markets are on the side of the main roads, the thick smell of diesel penetrates everything. There are no emissions tests, so vehicles blow black smoke from their exhaust constantly. I like to imagine that if I stayed there for a few days I would be covered in thick black soot as a result of the heavy smog that fills the streets. Body odor can be smelled at various points along the road, some more pungent than others. Since the markets are packed and the walking room is limited, I brush up against people all the time, making those with BO just a little more noticeable. A strong dead smell wafts through the air alerting me to the fact that a meat market is near. Depending on the age of the meat this smell can vary in intensity. There also is an irresistibly delicious smell of fried food cooking in hot pans as I walk by, but Montezuma lurks in the recesses of my mind threatening to visit if I choose to partake, so I continue on knowing that although tempting, my stomach will likely thank me later.
Clucking chickens and quacking ducks waiting to be sold and later butchered can be heard at various points along the way. Horns honking at pedestrians, cars, and everything else since EVERYthing shares the narrow, barely 2 lane road. Engines revving, people yelling to try and sell their goods, and dynamite exploding in the distance all make up the market “music”.

When I finally stop at a table to purchase something, I am greeted with eager welcoming eyes. I can almost read their thoughts, “What is the foreigner wanting to buy? How much can I mark this up?” I know that I will get foreigner prices, but I figure that is my just reward since I can’t speak their language and make them work hard to communicate with me. I point and ask how much. Even my foreigner price is far below what I would pay for the same thing in the U.S., so I hand over the money knowing they work hard enough to merit the overcharging and I’m still getting a great bargain. They try to convince me to buy a few more things by pointing at various wares on their table and picking out the “best” one. Sometimes I concede, but other times I just put up my hand, take my bag of goods, and walk until I find something else that catches my eye.

In the end, I walk back with my bounty of bargains and a smile on my face knowing that I made some Malagasy people very happy and padded their pockets ever so slightly while bringing back treasures for my family.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Kasen recently had his first experience with Nutella, the chocolate hazelnut spread. This has long been a staple in our home, at least when we allow ourselves the guilty pleasure. It has been known to be consumed at record speeds, so we try to pace our buying habits with this heavenly treat. Since Nutella is easily found around the world, I happened on a jar in the store and of course threw it into my cart. We were enjoying it on pretzel sticks several nights ago (BTW if you've never tried it, it can be enjoyed on just about anything!) and Kasen was curious and not content with his plain pretzel sticks, so we let him sample it...
Mmmmmmm...I think I like this..
...yup! I LOVE it!!!
Who needs a pretzel stick? I'm just going to reach in with my whole hand and scoop it out!

It looks like Kasen has inherited my sweet tooth. Thankfully Kai is a few short weeks away from being a dentist, so hopefully he can manage the fallout this is likely to create (no pun intended).

Monday, April 26, 2010

People of Madagascar

It has been said that Madagascar is where Asia meets Africa. Although it is just off the east coast of Africa, it is believed that people from the continent of Asia were actually the first settlers. The Malagasy people have been found through recent DNA testing to be about half Southeast Asian and about half East African descent. When you see the people, that is the best way to describe them. They don’t look quite Asian, but they don’t look full African either. It’s a beautiful combination. Since Madagascar has large Asian roots, rice is a staple here and you can see rice paddies everywhere as you drive through the countryside and even in the city.

Madagascar is a very peaceful country and even though there is a coup d'état going on right now and rumors of another coup, you really wouldn’t know it from the pulse of the community. We have been surprised at how genuinely nice everyone here is. We feel very safe and go out quite often on our own. Besides a few curious stares because we are obviously foreigners, we are treated with respect and kindness on almost every occasion.

The Malagasy language is the most common language, but most people here also speak French. It is one of the few countries we have visited where English is almost of no value since most people neither speak nor understand it. This makes it fun to practice the little French we know and try to learn a little of the Malagasy language.

This was one of the beggar kids who came to church this week. I think she's absolutely adorable!
We shared some of Kasen's snacks and they seemed to love and appreciate them!
More of the beggar children after church. They loved seeing Kasen and of course getting their picture taken. We didn't have enough snacks for everyone unfortunately.
I also have to include a picture from the Sunday Evening Fellowship we went to last night. Many of the local missionaries from various churches come together to sing songs, have a worship thought, and a collective prayer for each others needs. It's beautiful because even though almost everyone is from a different denomination, it's recognized that each person is doing their part to share the message here in Madagascar and this unites rather than separates everyone. We had a great time. Kasen did too as you can tell from the picture above. He loved the guitar and singing!
Cooking food in the local market.
Carrying laundry to be washed.
Socializing ;-)
A universally loved sport
Driving down the main highway.
The "taxi-bus". This is what most Malagasy people use to get around town if they don't walk. Regular American sized buses are a little too big to maneuver through the narrow winding streets of Antananarivo (Tana).
The locals fishing in the lake.
Also along the main highway. Much different from LA.
2 cute girls. Can you tell which one has the more outgoing personality?
Making new friends is so much fun! Kasen is loving his time here!

Friday, April 23, 2010

In the Wee Hours

If you want to start your day off with a laugh, then this ought to work… While we were in London (7 hours off our time zone) Kasen would wake up regularly from 2 – 4 a.m. to play. No matter what we did to try and convince him he was tired, he still insisted on playing. And since we weren’t on the time yet either, we decided to get up with him and have a little fun too...
"What's Daddy doing??"
"I can do that too!"

We call these silent screams because absolutely no noise escapes, but it looks like you're screaming.

Note: Video is taken without the lights on so the video is black, but the sound is what’s important.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Weekend Away

This past weekend we went away with another missionary family to their lake cottage. I’ve mentioned them before as being instrumental in making us feel at home here. It was a much needed break and the views were breathtakingly beautiful.

The last few months have been a whirlwind. We have been preparing for the trip here which included getting visas, Kasen’s passport, doctor’s appointments for immunizations and prescriptions, etc., etc. Kai also took his licensing exam (and passed!!) which is months of preparation in finding just the right patients. He also had been working hard to fulfill all the requirements for graduation so we could leave for the last quarter of dental school. As soon as we get back home we’re heading out on another trip, then immediately after is graduation, and then we'll be packing up our home.

Needless to say, the stress has been mounting for several months and this little getaway made us feel recreated and back to normal again. We canoed, hiked, took the speedboat out on the expansive lake system, talked, laughed, had wonderful food, great company, and great times!

Some of the pictures in the last post were from this weekend away, but here are a few more.

The cottage, the lake, and the front yard. It was so beautiful!
Great friends already!
First night at dusk
The front yard

Kasen had a huge playground
This was an old house in severe disrepair and I fell in love with the natural beauty of the ruins.
The "hallway"
A broken wall revealing 4 separate rooms
Can you see the intricate web?
The house next door
Bananas (also in the background of the picture below)
The best BBQ chicken...yum!
Chef Jacque and Chef Peter ;-)
My 2 favorite guys
Throwing rocks is extremely gratifying.
Boat rides and tubing

All About Boys

No matter where in the world you find them, there are some universal facts…

There’s no such thing as a bad hair day.

Dirt is enticing.

A stick is the perfect companion and the most essential tool.

Nothing can be left unexplored (and a stick is perfect for this job).

If life gets you down, grab on with both hands, shake, and yell, “Ahhhhhhh!”

Water begs to be splashed and there’s almost no greater thrill!

Everything must be done with 100% pure energy!

A ball and a stick are just plain fun.

When throwing rocks into a lake, you must carefully select the perfect one,...
...wind up,...
...and watch the splash!
Dad's give the best rides.
Sticks are delicious—a little roughage and the good old taste of dirt.

Daddy is the best in the world…

But Mommy’s not too bad either.