Then we arrived in Madagascar, and the airport was this great little podunk place. We had to sign papers in Malagasy and they asked us questions in Malagasy and we just smiled and nodded. Then President and Sister Adams met us with the AP's, Elder Fox and Elder Christiansen. I made sure to tell Elder Fox that I knew all about his mission because I stalked his blog.
(Mom's note: we received these photos from the mission office, along with a short note to let us know he arrived safely.)
The view of Tana from the mission home.
Selfie at said mission home.
We had a great lasagna meal there. Then we went to the AP's and office elders' apartments and slept there.
Me on the office elder's balcony. I had one with my face lit up, but I looked stoned so I deleted it. Enjoy!
Then back to the mission home where we had breakfast-- a great oatmeal type thing-- and then we had some orientation and after that we opened our assignments. That was intense. We were in the chapel with our whole group and all of the trainers and AP's and we were called up one by one by the mission president and given an envelope with our assignment in it, then we opened it there in front of everyone. Then everyone clapped, the trainers would come up and tell a little about the area, then you went and sat by them, and the next missionary was up. It was like a whole new mission call opening.
Mission tags! Super cute!
I have been assigned to Ambohimena, in Antsirabe, a city about 3 hours South of Antananarivo! My trainer is Elder Cartmill, he's from North Dakota and he's been in country for about a year. He got up to tell me about the area, and he said that it's in Antsirabe, but that's mostly all he knows because we are whitewashing it... What?!
After everyone received their assignments, we had Sister Adam's famous sloppy joes and then headed out. The taxi-brousse (inter-city bus, as opposed to a taxibe which is intra-city) was trying to rip us off, and the AP's were coming because we had a zone conference, so we just drove with them, which was much nicer than a taxi-brousse.
Antsirabe from the Andranamanelatra Elders' car. That's Elder Covey driving like a boss.
We had dinner at Chez Billy, which is like a Malagasy American resturaunt, and I had a hamburger. It's in my area, so I can go to it pretty often if I want.
Then the next day we had a zone conference with Elder Hamilton of the Africa Southeast Area Presidency. I told him to keep an eye out for James when he goes to Capetown next month.
(Mom's note: this is a photo we received in a note Elder Hamilton sent to us, saying Nathan was a "fine young man.")
Then the next day was Saturday and we tried to find people. We don't have an area book, long story, so we had to try to do our best on our own. We found some investigators with the sister missionaries' help, and then after eating my first Malagasy meal at Besofina's, a Malagasy resturaunt, we headed off on our own to try to get the hang of our area, which is huge.
We explored an area called Senasabotsy, and we got lost and asked someone for directions and she is the ward mission leader's mom! She was right in front of his house and we met him. Then after he took us around to a few members and less actives, we wandered off again and after an hour-ish we heard a little boy call misionera, which is Malagasy for missionaries. We went and talked to him and right by him was one of the ward missionaries! Then he took us to the young men's president, who is a super dilligent guy who teaches with the missionaries a lot! Then we met 2 more of the ward missionaries at his house. It was crazy how everything worked out. We headed out that day with the goal to find the young men's president, the ward mission leader, and some members to help us teach, and we found all three in a part of our area that is huge and there are lots of people and very few members. Miracles are real, ok?
Then we had church the next day. Attendance was really low because one of the ward members' sons died and lots of people were at his burial, but we still met a bunch of members. There are lots of young single sisters in our branch, and they kind of swarmed us a bunch, but don't worry, it's nothing I'm not used to!
The kids here are crazy cute and they love to play with us and give us fistbumps. They also yell "vazaha!" whenever they see white people, which is funny, but so far, I think I've heard more people say, "lava be!" when I walk past than "vazaha" Which is impressive because you hear vazaha all the time! Lava be means very tall and I get it a ton. First of I'm white, so they notice me, and then I'm 6'6" and my companion is only 5'8" which is already taller than most Malagasies, so I am just massive. And I hit my head on stuff. But it's ok because the kids love me, and I can be as intimidating as I feel like being.
Antsirabe from a hill.
Elder Cartmill is pretty mahay (fluent) and he has been in Antsirabe for a while, just in a different area, so he knows the language around here pretty well.
We live in the same house with his old companion who is working the area that Elder Cartmill just came from. His name is Elder Rahilaivao, he's a native and he's super funny. His English is good for a Malagasy, but he still has a ways to go, which is tough for his trainee. He's training Elder Covey from my group, which is way exciting because that means we see each other all of the time. Elder Covey is going to come out of training super good at Malagsy because Elder Rahilaivoa's English isn't super great. He's being a good sport about it, but he likes asking Elder Cartmill Malagasy questions when we're home at night.
So far I'm loving it here! I'm even getting used to the smell of sewage and burning garbage that's everywhere. Sorry for the super long email, but there was lots to write this week.