the weirdness of goodbyes

During the last few months of my open Madagascar year, I was able to meet with more great people working throughout Madagascar, form strong friendships, making it, eventually, strange to leave. Reflecting back to the shaky start of the year, when I was doing what I thought I should, but didn’t know where it would lead, it’s good to find living people that share these dreams, and know that they belong here in this strange home.

Alain and I worked with Francois from Tana Planete on a well-worthwhile spotlight of his work, as we started diving into the story creation process. I began to see that to emerge into new territory alongside others is a lifetime journey, and with the awkwardness of being treated as an authority, I’d rather be guided by questions, than false confidence. So, I slipped out of Madagascar for a month, applied to University of Sussex for a PhD in Education, and then, sorted out supervision with the department.

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I did get in! My supervisors will be, Professor Mairead Dunne, Director of the Centre for International Education, whose attention to identities, challenging, yet pithy feedback, and Dr. Rebecca Webb, social justice education star are a golden team. I feel privileged to have them on my side, and humbled to learn at such a smart development school. During my UK visit, a Madagascar-themed primary school class helped come up with story ideas for Alain and I, and seemed to think adventure is quite necessary.

Meanwhile, in Madagascar, getting to know the refreshing work of Blue Ventures and Marie Stopes inspired hope for a bright future with some tangible guidelines on how these innovative and professional groups thrive. Evenings were spent talking about the responsive working culture at Marie Stopes that provides women with reproductive care and safe options for their bodies, as Kate introduced me to new friends at Blue Ventures, similarly energized by a passionate and team-oriented vibe. BV challenges old paradigms in conservation with a sustainable focus on supporting capable and caring communities.

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Before heading out, Alain and I reoriented our storybook concept to fit his style – I was reminded from the primary classroom that magical ideas spring from the artist. More news on where we’re going shortly, but a ring-tailed mongoose will be a central bit. Then, the Chief of Education at UNICEF gave much headed parting advice – to move back into a regional focus and get our projects developed in little but thoughtful steps, so we have more to give on the national-level.

And I guess that’s that. With such great friendships all over the island, it feels a lot more like home. So, now the next step of bringing these plans to life can begin with roots that hopefully will grow. Leaving with a much less romanticized lens on Madagascar, but way more joy, humor, and camaraderie, I realize it’s the little things that keep you going. It’s the funny ways of coping that you share with friends, and the playfulness of stepping into totally contradicting sides of the situations and finding it not so obvious who is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and then, relatable people to joke about it with. Nobody knows exactly what to do – some just hide it better.

When you share this weirdo journey with loving people that care just as much, it stops being lonely and dramatic, and becomes extremely entertaining. And meeting Malagasy leaders who can tear apart a grant and lead an innovative movement, gave me a lot of inspiration. Hope you get the chance to face your biggest fears, too. This year was filled with surprises, roller coasters of emotion, but maybe the biggest surprise was what I learned about myself – that nothing will stop this journey, if I keep at it. Maybe failures are just a stop sign, but I do think they make you stronger in the run of it. As long as you’re not too bothered by practical things and can wait, nothing is ‘the end.’

Veloma… For now.

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