We've arrived in Madagascar! It was really cool to fly in and see all the rice paddies and mountains from above. Madagascar is a beautiful country.
We spent the first few days in the capitol city, Antananarivo (Tana). We both really enjoyed Tana- it's big, busy, full of people and a mix of cultures unlike any place I've ever been. It's not hard to see the european influence in the structure of the buildings, but culturally it feels more like a mix of African and Asian and Islander cultures all rolled together. We like it here already.
See the cool "Antananarivo" sign on the hill?!
What did we do in Tana?
We went to meetings- mostly with the Ministry of Health to introduce ourselves and the plans for the Ponseti program. Everything has gone really well and we are looking forward to working together.
This is Andrea...a dear friend and the leader of the Advance Team (the team that goes ahead of the ship and makes preparations in the next country). She happened to be in Tana at the same time as us, and we got to see a bit of what her job looks like. She's pretty amazing at what she does!
We tagged along to a press conference- the three major phone companies in Madagascar are partnering with each other to support the work of Mercy Ships in a really cool way!
Now people here in Madagascar can easily help cover transport costs to get patients to the ship. When people in the country text "Fanampiana" (which means help/support in Malagasy) to the number 353, a donation will be taken from their account and put towards patient transport.
We heard Andrea give a speech in French (she did really great!)
We've also been speaking lots of French since we arrived, I love being able to communicate so much more easily!
My first conversation in French in Madagascar was with two old men at the airport. I was waiting outside for a little while until Nick's plane landed, and we would get picked up together. People are very friendly here. I talked with the two men about the weather, about Tana, and about Mercy Ships (they both already knew that the ship was coming back).
What they really wanted to know was "What do you think of Madagascar??"
And I reminded them "I just got off the plane, I've only seen the airport."
And they said again "Yes yes we know, but what do you think?"
So I told them that I appreciated how welcoming and friendly the Malagasy people had been. They also wanted to know what I thought of their cold weather (it's "winter" here at the moment, which just means wearing a light sweater in the Tana area in the evening). I told them I would be happy for this weather to continue all year. :)
Early yesterday morning we got a ride with another mercy shipper headed to Tamatave in one of the land cruisers.
It takes about 8 hours on a winding road to get from Tana to Tamatave...but I loved (almost) every minute of it. I (Suzanne) don't do too well with curvy roads, but for the most part it was great, and I watched the changing scenery out the window:
Thank you everyone for your prayers and encouraging words. We're looking forward to getting to know the city of Tamatave, and eagerly await the arrival of the Africa Mercy!