Miza carried a straw basket full of seeds in one hand and a shovel in the other. She works in her family's field with her little sister every morning for four hours, then heads to school, she said.
Trangasoa's five sons argued over who gets to carry the watermelon seeds that their father neatly packaged in a wool hat. The second-to-youngest got the job and held the hat high in front of his face, with a sense of pride. The two oldest boys shadowed their dad as he guided the cows that pulled the plow through the damp soil. The others played in the shade with their mom.
Giba's knees dug into the burnt-orange sand as his arms stretched forward, ripping the weeds from the ground. He wore a traditional woven hat, a loose button-up and tight, striped boxer briefs that reached mid-thigh. He worked alongside his wife, prepping the land to plant black-eyed peas, corn, cassava, watermelon, sweet potatoes and squash. "When there is no rain, we are hungry. When there is rain, we are full," he said.
The soil, still damp from the night's rainfall, summoned farmers of all ages to the fields before the sun became too hot. As I walked through the fields, I pieced together the details to many stories, going beyond what author Chimamanda Adiche calls the "single story" in her TED Talk.
As readers and as humans, we can be vulnerable and impressionable, especially when it comes to a place we've never seen and maybe never even heard of. When we can't personally identify, we rely on stories. Stories are powerful. Stories matter.
After receiving my assignment to teach in the Androy region in southern Madagascar for two years, I did not know what to expect. When I shared the news with Malagasy friends, shop owners and taxi-drivers, I was met with the same reaction every time. Their eyebrows rose and their eyes widened. "Why would you go there?" they asked me. "There is no food. No water." Androy's famine and drought had become the region's "single story."
It is important to talk about the drought, but the drought does not define the people of Androy. There are other stories that are not about the drought and it is important — just as important — to talk about them.
Maybe you have never heard of Madagascar's Androy [ahn-droo-ee] region before this blog and can only identify with the island's infamous ring-tailed lemur. Maybe you've only read the latest headlines about the region's frightening drought. That's okay. But just know, aside from southern Madagascar's famine and drought and it's native primates, there is growing cassava, smiling kids, some rain and a hope for a brighter future.
Stories have the power to destroy, but they can also be used to empower and humanize. That's why it is important to share the stories of Miza and her sister, Giba and his wife, and Trangasoa and his family. That's why I continue to write this blog — I want to share the livelihood, hospitality and charm of Androy and its people.
This post is part of Blogging Abroad's 2017 New Years Blogging Challenge.