The first day of my Ambatomanga homestay was hard. Not because of the feral dogs and chickens roaming around our yard but because of a realization so simple and yet so jarring in its conception. The realization that many Malagasy people never have the opportunity to leave their country, let alone their village. It was hard, also, to not drown in the immense guilt that comes with privilege of being able to travel and the feeling that my homestay family would appreciate the opportunities it offers so much more than I ever could.
A few days later, my home stay sister Nandriana and I were looking at a map together and I felt extremely uncomfortable answering her questions about where I’d been throughout the United States and in other areas of the world. She works relentlessly studying the English language while also helping with the animals and housework. Her dream is to go to the US and unfortunately that may never become a reality. But that reality is a hard one for me to be okay with.
It took a long time, but a few weeks later I had become a lot more comfortable with the privilege to come to Madagascar. I promised myself that it was worth it as long as I was gracious, motivated to learn about the culture, and willing to share what I encountered once I returned to the United States. I decided that telling the story of my homestay sister would be the closest thing I could do to bring her to the United States. I could make her world just a little bit bigger by bringing her story back to my world. The guilt I initially felt was replaced by a sense of responsibility. As we return home, I carry with me the obligation to tell her story and give an honest representation of Madagascar. I hope to share its beauty, strength and struggles to help those who have not had the same privilege to experience it.