By Sarah Schrock
Recovering from jet lag feels like being Elmer Fudd. There’s a lot of grumpiness and dopiness, intermixed with moments of perplexing fog. Somewhere in the fog, the cream got placed in the microwave. As the kettle brewed, we awaited our morning revival cup only to not find the cream. Perplexed, the fog cleared for a moment of wisdom: check the microwave. No real explanation, except during the fog the cream got placed in the microwave.
The entire family has been playing a game of musical beds at odd hours of the night. I never really know who’s in my bed or how many might be there. We are getting back to the routine after a month overseas in an exotic land; this week will be a true test of our resolve as a traveling troupe.
Madagascar. The red island. An ancient piece of rock, broken off from Africa millions of years ago, teaming with unique life forms, landscapes, language and culture. There’s a volume of sights and sounds, encounters and revelations to retell, but since this is supposed to be about valley life, I will share the most relevant anecdotes from our journey.
For those of you wondering about the Casey family, who left the valley a few years ago to pursue an overseas lifestyle, they will be finishing their tenure at the American embassy in Madagascar soon. We had the opportunity to mountain bike with Chris during our first days in the capital city, where an active American community connects on the hills and trails each weekend.
We never knew the Caseys before they left the valley, but it appears that Chris hasn’t missed a beat — literally lapping us on the downhill stretches, and racing to the top of the hills.
The State Department has a culture of moving employees around, so no one stays in a single post for more than a couple years. The Caseys will be heading to Kyrgyzstan in August, much to delight of Chris, who misses snow-capped mountains. He sends greetings to his former ski patrol buddies at the Loup and medical colleagues. Nellie was on home leave tending to family affairs when we visited, but I do know she will be in the Pacific Northwest in August during their transition. Ironically, the Caseys have become close friends to our close friends, whom we visited … it truly is a small world.
While our major motivation to journey to Madagascar came from a deep love of travel and the desire to begin sharing that love with our kids; having close friends living there made it easy. We wanted to impart a sense of service and a deeper cultural experience in addition to sightseeing. To do so, we arranged a school visit with a Peace Corps volunteer who teaches English at an elementary school. The school is funded by a Norwegian nonprofit and provides education to orphaned and vulnerable children. With the support of Methow Valley Elementary third-graders and teachers Rachel Stratman and Sherri Wolfe, we were able to create an exchange project to share across the seas.
Since January, the third-graders at Methow Valley Elementary have written and received letters from Madagascar, created small picture collages depicting their lives here, and collected books to donate to the school. We presented the collages and books to the children at Voantsipany school and aided them in creating their own picture collages which we brought back home to display at Methow Valley Elementary. Keep an eye out for the Madagascar collage coming soon to the walls at the school.
My third-grader maintains that the school visit was the best part of our trip. This tops lemurs jumping on his head, chameleons crawling on his shoulder, visiting cocoa farms, bat caves, and snorkeling with giant sea turtles. From the smiles on the Malagasy kids’ faces, they enjoyed our visit too. As for my kindergartener, he liked touching the lemurs best.
We hope to present our pictures and stories of our trip to the public in the coming weeks; I will keep you informed as that materializes.
In the meantime, we are just trying to stay awake. Send me stories of your journey, adventures, mishaps, or anything of human interest — obviously, I am a little out of the loop.