Have you ever suffered from an Identity Crisis? Here’s my story with a happy ending. Read on…
The first 2 weeks outside of Mada I spent in Washington, DC and Virginia, getting some training on security, medical, Arabic, everything. I fell asleep most of the time during class, but shooting the pistols and shotguns in our last course kept me wide awake. And the finale of the course was to crash into a car and to bomb a car. So my reason for being DC and VA put into a nutshell – getting prepared to work in an Arabic warzone.
When I arrived in DC, I asked myself, “I used to live here?”
USA didn’t change much but I didn’t feel quite at home.
So living in the USA for 16 years, I guess I consider myself raised as an American. But then living in Madagascar for 8 years really changed my perspective. One thing I noticed during my stay in the USA was that my identity vanished. No one knew who I was, hardly anyone could guess that I was Malagasy. I felt like a minority and I didn’t like the fact that people would speak to me, with the unsurity that I could speak English or not. I missed the occasional hello to someone I would know, or just being hit on by the Malagasy men leaning on the walls. Yeah, didn’t think I would miss that one!
I discovered my ”Malagasy” identity in different ways. I found myself cleaning my plate and doing wierd things like saving plastic bags and shopping for necessities little by little instead of bulk shopping. I found myself taking the stairs instead of waiting for elevators. (Suffered from leg cramps from all that walking, though.) I was shocked to see a lot of PDA (public display of affection). In Mada, I don’t go any further than holding hands in the street. In DC I would see couples touching each other intimately, like a hand on the thigh, a neck rub, and so on. It wasn’t disgusting to me at all, it seemed so romantic.
In Madagascar, you still have the opportunity to be unique because many fashion trends have yet to be discovered. In the USA, if you want to look unique, then you have to look bizarre. You’d have to dye your hair pink or something. Everyone’s already thought of everything. You think your eyebrow piercing is uniquen in Madagascar? You may be right, but when you leave Madagscar – it’s so old. People in Mada are surprised to see my tattoos and all my piercings , but guess what, anywhere else, I’d just fit in. I was so psyched to get my nose pierced and thought I was going to be so cool, but everytime I took the metro, at least one girl on the train would have her nose pierced too.
While in the USA, I felt sorry for my home country. I always asked myself, “Why can’t we have a good public transportation system like the Metro? And why don’t we have a freaking McDonalds?” I just don’t understand. But if you made me choose between USA and Madagascar, I would choose to earn a living in the USA and finally retire in Madagascar. Note that I wrote “earn a living” instead of “live”. Those to me are 2 completely different things. So I loved the short stay in DC but it has become a world of wonders for me now and I’ll have to do a lot of adapting to live there again.
I was the only foreigner in the course in the 2-week course USA and guess what, hardly anyone talked to me. Yes, that’s right. Everyone was afraid? to talk to me. I went through the whole course alone, with about 15 other people in the class. I’m not bitter about it but I got firsthand experience of how it felt for someone to be a minority in a foreign country. The classmates would come in the morning raving about the sightseeing they had done together and the souvenirs they had bought. Why wasn’t I invited? Hello?? Do I look scary? Oh well, I’m an introvert anyway – I’ll stop bitching.
Since that experience, I’ve started wondering what people see when they see me. Someone from Nepal asked me if I was from his country. Latinos would speak to me in Spanish. Indians would be surprised when I do their belly dance. Asians would stare at me. I guess I look mysterious. I look a little bit of everything – but at the same time, I’m a typical Malagasy lady. No use telling that I was from Madagascar, I’d just have to explain that we don’t have penguins, zebras, and lions like the movie Madagascar. Anyway, I like being mysterious.
One thing I found shocking was the use of money! Man, I started off trying to convert Malagasy Ariary to Dollars. And I ought to tell you, that’s prohibited when you want to go from a 3rd world country to anywhere else. I would spend $5 on snack in a day, and realize that I could buy bread for my family in Tana for one month! Now you see why I’d like to earn money in USA and then use it in Madagascar! Wow…
My stay in the USA helped me to see myself as a Malasasy person who has experienced the life of an American, as opposed to being an American experiencing the Malagasy life. I can act American and talk American, but I am Malagasy- 100%!
First of all, I want to say sorry to those who were disappointed that I didn’t write in my blog right away. To be honest, I didn’t know where to start and it took me some time to get adjusted to this place. Second, there are so many regulations prohibiting us from talking about what we are experiencing over here and the conditions, security, etc. But I’ll try to write as much as I can. I’ve been here for 6 weeks now, away from Tana for 8 weeks! It seems to go by so quickly. So, here it is. I’m going to start my blog.
If you are interested in what a girl in her 20′s has to say about life in Madagascar then you ought to stay tuned to this blog. Just to give you a bit of background about me, I used to live in the USA for 16 years and I moved to Madagascar 8 years ago. These last eight years in Madagascar have been the craziest years of my life – though not in a bad way. Life is very different from what I was accustomed to in the USA – duh. For starters, I’m not allowed to move out of my parents’ house because of cultural reasons. I know that a lot of people deal with these kind of issues all the time, but I assure you, my case is different because I’m a very different person. Also to give you a sneak peak about what’s coming up in one month: I’ll be working in Iraq for one year. So…stay stuned!