From Rebecca Hill, Expedition Medic.
What a way to leave Andava! It has been an action packed weekend, starting with the second STI awareness drama competition so far. Up until Saturday, one group from the village had submitted their entry, and come that morning a message reached me that a second group were entering. This time I was not nervous, I was just filled with excitement and intrigue as to what the day had in store for us. To my absolute delight, both performances revealed an ever-increasing awareness of STIs, their transmission and consequences, with well-scripted detail. Both performances had their audience in peals of laughter, especially at the increased number of cross-dressed actors! The performances were nothing short of superb, and both had created a song and dance for their finales. The songs were originals, describing the importance of condom use, and so brilliantly delivered that again it proved a tough call in choosing the winning group!
Finally, a decision was reached by the judges. The prizes included t-shirts embroidered with condom awareness logos, an inspirational idea by Amy, one of the volunteers. The winners proudly donned their t-shirts, proof in itself that the last six months’ efforts to de-sensitize the subject had been a great success. As the crowds dispersed we headed back for dinner and to prepare for the evening’s event – a Women’s Association party in Chez Dada. All togged up in our best attire, we danced the night away, and a great night was had by all!
This leads us onto Sunday. The morning was a momentous one for FISA (family planning): a fomba (blessing to the ancestors) was held for Angelo’s new pirogue and the new FISA sail. At last Captain Kapoty, in all his colourfully painted glory, had his maiden voyage. This first trip will be followed by many more, as the sail shall be used by many, including visiting medical students who will travel around Velondriake promoting FISA and STI awareness.
The morning was a taster of the afternoon’s activities, as a pirogue sailing race had been organised. The weather was more than perfect for this event – clear blue skies and a gentle wind. Each pirogue had a Vazaha (foreigner) on board, and there were plenty of people gathered on the shore, eagerly waiting for the 20 pirogues to start. What a sight to behold as we all took to the high seas! The gracefully billowing sails really were beautiful.
The FISA sail did us proud, and we were in second position for most of the race. Monsieur Roger and his crew were the triumphant winners, and at the very last stretch big Al gained on us by inches, leaving the FISA pirogue in third position. My crew and I were more than happy with this result. Much excitement abounded in the village, even amongst one unlucky crew who sank, who still managed to laugh and joke at their misfortune!
As if this were not enough, some members of the Women’s Association came to my hut, in the midst of my chaotic attempts to pack, and sang me a song to bid me farewell – a moving song entitled Veloma (goodbye). I went on from this to my final dinner at Coco Beach and became increasingly emotional at the many speeches/poems given. It was an overwhelming climax to such an amazing weekend. My night ended with a visit to Chez Lyon, to bid my farewells to members of the plays and village. Another speech, delivered by Lyon, tugged at my heart further.
I left Andavadoaka with many a tear shed. The warmth and kindness of those from the village touched my heart so deeply; I shall forever cherish my amazing time here.