A Warm Welcome

So this is my second full weekend in Tamatave, Madagascar. As I walked through the local hospital yesterday I was chatting away…

“Salama, inona ny vaovao?
Tsy vaovao, Veloma!”

…and realised that It feels like I have been here for months. Those terrible months in the Canary Islands, busy sore throat tour days of Cape Town and those endless twisted and swirling days at sea are all a distant, nostalgic sigh in our past. Our reward and bounty is a beautiful island flowing with luscious fruit and vegetables called Madagascar. The markets are a never ending sea of colour. The people are beautiful and we have been welcomed with open arms.
We were honoured with a visit from the President and Prime Minister a few hours after we arrived. They laid the red carpet out for us … or maybe their people laid it out for them but nevertheless there was a red carpet on the dock leading to our ship. Two weeks on and the band have packed up and left. The dancers are dancing for someone else and the marquee is stripped bare. The port is business as usual, the President is at another function, standing on a different podium and we are jumping in to the pool of preparation for what will be the best field service ever.
But…
I can’t help but feel that all those things are still alive. There is still a metaphorical red carpet and the band are still playing. I have never been made to feel so welcome in a country. Everyone wants to greet us and greet us with two hands ( a two hand handshake shows deep respect in Madagascar). Discounts in restaurants and conversations delivered with damp eyes and wrapped in genuine thankfulness that we have come to help, before we even do anything!
The red carpet is alive and well.
Our first week of screening is over. It has been a long week for many and the lights in most offices have been glowing late into the night. The monotonous hum of computers and tap tap tap of keyboards have continued well past 1700 and today the ship has let out a sigh of relief.
It’s Saturday.
The hospital is ready, 439 people have already been given an appointment card to come to the ship and hundreds of Malagasy day crew have been trained in their new jobs.
I write this in pure disbelief considering on the 26th of August, the day we should have arrived in Cotonou, we still didn’t have a destination. I had no Idea that in less than 3 months, I would be sitting in a small cafeteria in Hôpital Bé eating soupe de chinoise and planning education for some excited nurses with extremely long surnames. It seemed impossible that we would ever get to Africa, that we would ever be able to do what we are so passionate about. But here we are.
3 months on and all is well.

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