I have now been in Andavadoaka for just over three weeks, and each day seems to go by faster than the last! I have greatly enjoyed learning about coral reefs and SCUBA diving, but being welcomed as a part of Andavadoaka has been an even greater privilege. From the moment we walk into the village, we are greeted by a chorus of people (mostly children) calling out “Salama,” which is “Hello” in Malagasy.
Last week the BV staff and volunteers celebrated International Women’s Day with the people of Andavadoaka. The day began with a parade of women – both locals and BV women – through the streets of Andavadoaka, and the parade ended at the public primary school.
At the school, a ceremony began with the raising of the flag and everyone singing the Madagascan national anthem. Listening to all their voices proudly united in a song of their country was an awesome experience. It’s a very familiar scene back home in the US, but it seemed so much more meaningful to me to hear them sing about their love of Madagascar, a struggling third-world country, than to hear people back home singing about the US. Their song was so beautiful, and I wished I could sing along!
The rest of the program involved a lot of music and dance. Everyone dances here, no matter your age! The crowd cheered extra loud when the elder women demonstrated their dance moves. We watched on with children pressing in at our feet. They were trying to stay in the shade as the blazing sun crept over the top of the building. Jenny, our expedition manager, gave a little speech of thanks in well-rehearsed Malagasy to a very receptive crowd. I don’t know exactly what she said, but it probably couldn’t have expressed how grateful we are for the hospitality we have felt here. I really enjoyed taking part in this joyful celebration with the people of Andavadoaka.