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Salama.

My name is Olivia.
I document my adventures in Madagascar as a Peace Corps Volunteer, with the mission to share culture and empower others through my writing.
Enjoy! 

9 Things I Didn't Know About Madagascar Before I Lived Here

1. Madagascar isn't all beaches and lemurs. In reality, the world's fourth largest island is a very diverse country with landscapes ranging from rice paddies to beaches to rain forests to deserts. While lemurs are the most identifiable animal to Madagascar, in many rural areas of the country, it is hard not to find a cow, pig, goat, lamb or chicken.

2. Taxi brousses are the country's main form of transportation. It is a miracle these dilapidated cars still function, but they (almost) always get you from point A to point B. Many cars need to be pushed to get going and it's more common than not for the cars to break down multiple times along the way. The drivers won't leave the station is overflowing with passengers, (yes you will have babies on your lap and elbows in your face) and your departure time is always a waiting game. Patience is key when it comes to broussing.

3. "Malagasy time" is a thing. Very different from American culture where time is very valued and lateness is considered a sign of disrespect, the Malagasy culture is to be consistently late. If a meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m., maybe people will start to show up at 10:15, but the meeting probably won't start until 11 (if you're lucky).

4. Malagasy is the only language spoken in Madagascar (aside from French in the classroom), but there are 18 different dialects spoken in different regions. The basic grammatical structure is the same for all of the dialects, however vocabulary can vary greatly. In the Androy region of Madagascar, the Atandroy dialect is used. It is known to be one of the most unique dialects and most difficult to speak and understand for those who do not live there.

5. Bargaining at the market is the norm. Known as "Mindy varotse," bargaining is not rude when buying food. Sellers often raise the price, especially for vazahas (foreigners) and you can almost always buy the items for less than the original asking price.

6. Witches and mermaids exist in Malagasy culture. Many Malagasy will advise you to stay inside during the late hours of the night, as this is when the witches will walk through the streets. It is believed that if a witch sees you (before you see her), she can control you and ride you like a horse. You will wake up with bloody knees, torn from travelling on all-fours. To stay safe, you should carry chick peas in your pockets. Throwing them at the witch can protect you. Mermaids are also prevalent in Malagasy culture. While swimming in the ocean, they can pull you down to join their underwater world.

7. Picking your nose is perfectly acceptable public behavior. Unlike (most) Americans, the Malagasy people openly pick their nose in public, as it is not seen as impolite or inappropriate.

8. "Fripping" or the purchasing of second-hand clothing is the most popular way to purchase clothes throughout Madagascar. Trucks of clothes transported from around the world, (though a lot of it most likely comes from America), is sold at the market. If patient and diligent enough to sift through the heaping piles of clothes, you can find some really great things (for really cheap!).

9. Malagasy people are some of the most resourceful people in the world. They can create anything out of nothing.

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