A Field Guide to Fruit on Madagascar

A Field Guide to Fruit on Madagascar

Our village’s name is Maroamboka. It is located in the south-east of Madagascar between the coastal towns of Mananjary and Manakara. Our area is rich in coffee, vanilla and … fruit!

We have never eaten as many different fruits as here on Madagascar. That started when we lived in the capital, Antananarivo. But now, in Maroamboka, a large part of our diet consists of fruit. Vegetables, on the other hand, are scarce. We really have to leave the area in search of a good variety of vegetables.

For some time now we wanted to write a post about the fruit that we have at our disposal. We will also describe some fruits that we have encountered in our travels in Madagascar.

Along the way we will add more fruits because we hardly scratched the surface of all the fruits we have to our disposal.


Sweet sour juice from Soursop on MadagascarEnglish: Soursop
Malagasy: Corossol or Voantsokona
Dutch: Zuurzak
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zuurzak
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soursop

This is a relative of the Sweetsop, but is not eaten in the same way. Here it is mainly used to make a really delicious fruit-drink, juice naturel. When in season, we eat them almost daily. They have a bit of a gumball flavour and are deliciously sweet/sour in taste.


Sweet custart apple, sugar-apple or sweetsop on MadagascarEnglish: Custart apple, Sugar-apple or Sweetsop
Malagasy: Pocanelle, Konikony, Voanjato or Voazato
Dutch: Zoetzak
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoetzak
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annona_squamosa

The Malagasy name, Voanjato, literally translates as ‘hundred seeds’. The fruit is creamy and filled with dozens of bean-sized black seeds. It’s a hassle to eat because you’re constantly busy spitting out all seeds, but once you start eating you can’t stop! Deliciously sweet with a bit of a vanilla pudding-like taste.

Sweet custart apple, sugar-apple or sweetsop on Madagascar


Guava fruit MadagascarEnglish: Guava
Malagasy: Goavy or Angavo
Dutch: Guava
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guava

I don’t know if there is a Dutch name for it, so we just call this fruit ‘Guava’ and in our village ‘Goavy’. You can eat the whole fruit and it has a sour taste. It is packed with small seeds that you just swallow. The Guavas come in two colors: yellow/green and reddish. The red ones below (English name: Strawberry apple) are a bit tougher but the taste seems the same.

Strawberry apple Madagascar


Delicious Jackfruit hanging in the trees on madagascarEnglish: Jackfruit
Malagasy: Apaly-be or Ampalibe
Dutch: Nanka or Jackfruit
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nangka
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackfruit

Jackfruits are the giants among the fruits. They can weigh up to 20 pounds each! Children climb the trees to cut down the fruit. Don’t stand underneath the tree when the fruit comes down. They often roll the fruits home. The road in front of our house is steep and you have to get out of the way when they bounce and roll down. The flesh is soft and the seeds (stones really) can be cooked and used for example in a salad. The Malagasy also cook the unripe fruit. The mush is then prepared with salt and eaten with rice. The fruits have a glue-like substance which looks and feels like wood glue. A horrible substance when it gets in your hair or on your clothes. We use a mix of salt and petroleum, to wash our hands to get rid of the sticky substance. Often the fruit ripens faster than we can eat it and then the taste becomes extremely sweet with a tingling effect on your tongue (alcohol).

Jackfruit delicious on madagascar


Loquat of MadagascarEnglish: Loquat
Malagasy: Pibasy
Dutch: Loquat
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loquat
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loquat

This tree stood in our ‘backyard’. The flesh of this fruit is peach-coloured and they have a large shiny brown kernel. They have a slightly sour taste. We prefer to buy them when we see them during our travels or in the market. The tree behind our house was not such a success because the ants had made it their favourite workshop and they decided that nobody was allowed to come close.


Lychees of MadagascarEnglish: Lychee / Rambutan
Malagasy: letchi
Dutch: Lychee / Ramboetan
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lychee https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramboetan
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lychee https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rambutan

The taste is wonderful and almost addictive. Of course we knew the Lychees in the Netherlands as a luxury product, but here on Madagascar they grow just about everywhere. In season, late October till January, the market is flooded with them. They are cheap on the market (€ 0,75 per kilo), in our area we pay even less (for a large shopping bag full maybe only €0,25). Often we have to much and we have to tell people that we are not buying … There they are with their ‘goods’. No worries! We do not have to pay anything because at moments like that it is given to us as a gift. In addition to the regular Lychees, there are also the hairy Lychees (Rambutan). We don’t see them often in our area. They are a bit harder and less juicy and sweet.
Rambutan, chineese lychee on Madagascar


Sweet Mango of MadagascarEnglish: Mango
Malagasy: Manga
Dutch: Mango
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mango_(soort)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mango

Mangoes come on the markets in December till January and, like most fruit, they are very cheap (€0,05/0,12 each in the cities). In our village we pay (if we have to pay) about €0,02 each. I’m not sure what variety of mango this is (there are a lot of varieties). In our area we mainly see the red/green Mangoes, but on the market we also find the yellow Mangoes.


Makoba, mountain apples of MadagascarEnglish: Mountain Apple
Malagasy: Makoba
Dutch: Djamboe bol, Maleisische rozenappel or Maleisische wasappel
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Djamboe_bol
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syzygium_malaccense

The taste of this fruit, originally from Malaysia, does not resemble an apple. The taste is a bit flat and dull. It is spongy and watery but they are good thirst quenchers. We eat these fruits especially when we are on the road. They are sold on the sides of the road. I have not yet seen them in our area.


Passionfruit can be enoying but the taste greatEnglish: Passion-fruit
Malagasy: Giranadela
Dutch: Passievrucht
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passiflora_edulis
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passiflora_edulis

We have two types of passion-fruit here: The larger one with the yellow skin and the slightly smaller one with a purple/reddish skin. The Malagasy likes to make it in to juice (Jus Naturel). Very nice when it is warm and you want a refreshing drink. The passion-fruit grows throughout our area. We have partially removed one behind our toilet. The passion-fruit grows on tendrils. These tendrils need other plants, shrubs and trees for support. If you let them grow they will soon cover everything and suffocate other vegetation. But oh boy, they are lovely (very sour, though) and the flowers are beautiful.

Passionfruit can be enoying but the taste great


English: Papaya
Malagasy: Papay
Dutch: Papaja
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papaja
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papaya

We don’t have many Papayas in our area, but every now and then we can get our hands on one. You can buy them everywhere in the bigger places. Our children are not so fond of them … I think we ate them a little too often. That started in 2015 when we attended a three weeks course in Kenya before flying on to Madagascar. Every meal (morning, afternoon and evening) there were Papayas. Once in Madagascar there were Papayas again! Sometimes we get Papaya as a gift. Fruits the size of a basketball. The children are polite and say ‘thank you’. Very well-mannered to the donors… then they say in Dutch: ‘Daaaddy, they have brought one again, what do you what me to do with it?’. Good thing the Malagasy don’t understand a word.
Papaya market on Madagascar


Huge banana trees in our graden on madagascarEnglish: Banana
Malagasy: Akondro of fontsy
Dutch: Banaan
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banaan_(vrucht)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana

Banana puree, banana bread, banana porridge, bananas on pizza, bananas in the spaghetti sauce, bananas … Everywhere! We have several banana trees next to the house. They grow fast and sometimes we need to cut them down because they are likely to fall down in Katja’s vegetable garden or on the roof of the washing place. We also buy bananas from people at the door, three large or six small for €0,02 all year round. We love them, and honestly, the taste so much better than the ones you buy in the supermarkets of Holland. You’ll have to come over and try them for yourself.

Huge banana bunch on Madagascar


English: Avocado
Malagasy: Zavoka
Dutch: Avocado
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avocado
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avocado

Just like the Papayas, we don’t have many Avocados growing in our area. The season runs from January to April. They are mostly available on the larger markets and cost about €0,10 each. This fruit is not a favourite among our children, but Katja and I love them (both the fruit and the children). They are also very healthy so we will buy them when we see them.

Avacodo from Madagascar


Baobab fruit from MadagascarEnglish: Baobab
Malagasy: Baobab
Dutch: Baobab
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baobab
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adansonia

Since October 2019, these wonderful trees are growing in our area as well. On one of our trips to the capital, we came across the fruits. We had never had it before and at €0,20 per fruit we wanted to try it. The fruit has a hard, velvety exterior and is filled with seeds surrounded by dry, almost chalky flesh. The taste is a bit bland but we have heard that it is also used to make fruit juice (Jus Naturel). We have kept the seeds and grown them at home. Of the 40 seeds, 30 germinated and 4 have proven strong enough to withstand the attacks of snails, chickens and heavy rain showers. They now grow on a patch of ground behind our toilet. Who knows, maybe after 100 years, we may end up with our own Avenue of the Baobabs like in Morondava.

De Allée des baobabs (Avenue of the Baobabs) Morondava, Madagascar


Breadfruit MadagascarEnglish: Breadfruit
Malagasy: Frampay, Soanambo or Sirapay
Dutch: Broodboom
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broodboom_(Moraceae)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breadfruit

These fruits are not sweet and have a starchy flesh that becomes soft and potato-like during cooking. They are cheap because there are just a lot of them growing everywhere in the area. They are prepared by cooking them with salt and often eaten as a snack. For larger meals, they are mashed and served with herbs as a side dish (laoka). We don’t like to eat them. Some in our family complained that it causes nausea and stomach pain. I (Jurgen) regularly eat it at people’s homes when I visit. I like it myself. Possibly we do not prepare the fruit properly, I wouldn’t know. I have read that you can also make a kind of french fries with the fruit. That would be quite healthy compared to normal fries because the fruit has a lot of fibres, vitamin C and potassium.


big pineapples on madagascarEnglish: Pineapple
Malagasy: Mananasy
Dutch: Ananas
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ananas
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pineapple

Delicious! Pineapple is so delicious. They are growing everywhere and we have planted several around the house. Pineapples (just like bananas) taste so much better than what we are used to in the Netherlands. They are not the cheapest fruits on the markets. A large one cost about € 1, -. That is a day’s wages for people in our village. Tourists happily pay double because that is still cheap compared to what pineapples cost in Europe. One day I was chatting to a happy tourist from the Netherlands. He was happy because he had just bought a big Pineapple from that sweet boy for only €2,–. While we were talking that same boy and I made some gestures back and forth. Before the tourist knew what happened I was holding a big Pineapple in my hands. He didn’t quite understand what had happened. In the Netherlands you mainly have to talk, in Madagascar you come a long way with lips gestures, frowning and nodding. I got the Pineapple for the normal Malagasy price, €0,75.

Pineapple growing in our garden on madagascar


June plum or amarella fruit MadagascarEnglish: June plum of Ambarella
Malagasy: Sakoa of Jovia
Dutch: Ambarella
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambarella
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spondias_dulcis

We regularly get sellers at the door with these fruits. They cost about €0,05 per three. You have to be careful because they are regularly picked while still unripe and then they are not so tasty. They look a bit ugly from the outside, but the inside has a sweet yellow flesh that surrounds a spiky stone. The taste is a combination of orange and mango. We eat them the way they come, but also on bread or in a salad.


English: Coconut
Malagasy: coco of Voanio
Dutch: Kokosnoot
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kokospalm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut

Coconuts are especially abundant in the coastal towns. They are served with a straw or the juice is poured into a glass. Afterwards the sellers chop the nut further open so you can eat the pulp. In our village there are two trees. They grow in the yard of our friends and so every now and then we get a few of them.

coconut tree Madagascar


Close Yet Far Away

Close Yet Far Away

Well, here we are. Finally back in the Netherlands. Furlough at last. Enjoying all the luxury and do things that are otherwise impossible. Going to the theater; cinema; visiting family and friends; giving presentations and sermons; to the swimmingpool; museums and so on. But no, instead of nice and relax conversations, we are mainly talking about the miserable pandemic caused by Covit-19 (SARS-CoV-2) or the Corona virus. A virus from a family which was not unknown, but in the past was only limited to the Asian regions.

How we feel? That is a regularly asked question. Well, disappointed of course! Sad too. Both Katja’s parents and mine (Jurgen) all are close to their 80s and are at risk because of their health. At the time of writing, they are doing well and we are grateful for that. But what a sad situation for so many others.

We, as a missionary family, are not unknown to the life style we have now. We live fairly isolated in Maroamboka and are therefore somewhat used to it. Homeschooling? Not new to us. Not just going to the supermarket for a small thing? Not strange either. Sitting in the house for days? This is the rule during the rainy season. No toilet paper? … We don’t even have that in Maroamboka.

But for many fellow Dutch nationals. A sense of panic, powerlessness and disillusionment. In Holland we were no longer used to this kind of life. Now what? Everything that was so common is no longer possible. Writing and reading messages on your smartphone all day long is getting boring as well. What if I get the virus too?

Nevertheless, we consider ourselves lucky that we are in the Netherlands at this moment. Things are well organised here. Health care is given top priority. The social safety net for victims can take many blows. If one gets sick, one can get the care one needs. We can also just go shopping and, if everyone behaves normally, there will be enough. Our Prime minister Rutte said: “There is enough [toilet paper], we can [all] poop for ten more years”. In otherwords: Behave!

Of course we follow the situation on Madagascar with sorrow and concern in our hearts. How different it is there! Social distance? Wow, have you ever been to the market in a random town. Or have you ever seen how people live? Most homes in large cities are not affordable, so the whole family lives in one room. There, in that room, they can sleep and shelter during the rain, but locked up together all day brings greater dangers than Corona. Everything and everybody is social in Madagascar. It is unfair to say that they should stop doing that for a while. That would be like banning private internet use in Europe or any other strong economy country for that matter. Let that idea sink in for a while.

Last night we read the press release from President Rajoelina. Many people think of him as a big crook. But now it seems that this crook takes Corona very seriously. 12 infected people are now known and all have been isolated. Unprecedented measures have been taken. The capital, Antananarivo, and the large port, Tamatave, are completely locked down. No public transport; health checkpoints; all small shops and markets closed; people are only allowed to shop in their own neighborhood (1 person per household); forbidden to go outside between 20:00 and 05:00; food prices have been frozen under penalty of a fine. President Rajoelina addresses the people every night. At 20:00 on the national channel, the Malagasy can stay informed about the current situation. Madagascar is no stranger to epidemics. Epidemics such as, the almost annual, outbreaks of the plague. Let’s pray that the government can also curb this epidemic.

Our heart goes out to the Malagasy. Because of the (often) bad conditions in which people live, even young people are vunerable. They look strong. They carry 50kg of rice on their shoulders. But one-sided nutrition and unhygienic homes plagued by rats and parasites are a recipe for a weak immune system. In addition, many Malagasy are simply terrified and have a very fatalistic attitude. Too often we hear it said by our Malagasy friends: “Well, that’s the way it is. The Malagasy just die quickly.” How it hurts us when they speak like that. How we would like to see them standing tall in life. That they would realise how much they can do to change their ‘fate’ themselves. And above all, that they would realise that the Almighty is not far away but has come to the world to save her. Saving from Corona? Saving from the plague? Possibly, but I’m more thinking about the boldness that comes with the confidence that Jesus saved you for eternity. Below, a quote from Martin Luther in a time when the plague went around Europe like a roaring lion, devouring who it could devour:

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me He will surely find me and I have done what He has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbour needs me however I shall not avoid place or person I shall go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

Luther’s Works; Vol. 43, pg. 132

Give Us This Day Our Daily…

Give Us This Day Our Daily…

We have lived in Tana for almost 2 months now. What is our daily life like? What is different? And what is the same?

Water – Rano

Our house has running water. It is not like that for everyone. There are many who have to go outside to a tap at the roadside. Sometimes it is a public tap, sometimes private (they have a lock).

We cannot count on the water pressure. Now that it is rainy season the pressure is often failing. Because of that we have a store of about 30 litres of water in 2 big lidded buckets in the kitchen. We use the stored water frequently.

We would rather not drink water directly from the tap. There may be too many bacteria, virusses or parasites in it. Many Malagasy also use filtered or bottled water. One of the children’s chores is to fill the waterfilter and the storage buckets.

The water does not taste great. Even after filtering the chloride  lingers. The colour is changeable. Sometimes it is more mud than water, but the water is clear most of the time. The filters from the waterfilter do reveal there is always the typical terra cotta dust.

Food – Sakafo

Our eating pattern has not changed much. Most of the foods we are used to are available, although it does cost more trouble to buy the ingredients to bake our own bread. Storebought bread is mostly white and we prefer wholemeal or at least brown bread. We have to travel about 7 miles to buy our favourite bread baking mix and about 14 miles to buy wholemeal.

The Malagasy diet is based on rice. Many families eat it at all meals: vary (rice) with loka (whatever you eat with the rice). Lunch is the main meal of the day. In the evening the leftovers are served. It is easy to buy the ingredients for vary with loka: almost every street has several stalls with vegetables, meat and rice. It is quite cheap to buy food in the street or at the market.

Before preparing fresh food it needs to be washed thoroughly. Sometimes the stalls are not more than a filthy plastic sheet spread out on the ground near a local waste dump or open sewer. We either rinse fresh food with filtered water or we let it soak in water with a drop of chloride. We are relieved this hardly affects the taste of the food.

Laundry – Manasa lamba

The laundry is done by hand. Whoever has a little money can hire a laundry woman – mpanasa lamba – to do the work for him. Washing machines can be bought, but for the same money you can help someone to a part time job for 3 years. We are very happy with our laundry woman as our laundry takes her and Katja more than a full working day a week. The downside of washing by hand is that clothing does not last as long: the scrubbing grates heavily.

The laundry is line-dried. It is clearly visible the sun’s radiation is stronger her: the colours are quickly fading. The other day Jurgen pulled out a black t-shirt and we both remarked we could easily see he had not worn it here yet. The clothes are dry quickly, but often the heavy monsoon rains surprise us – a free extra rinse so to speak.

Transport – Fiara

We do not have our own vehicle – fiara – yet and we are happy for it. Because of our walks and bus rides we make more contact with the people around us and learn more language. People are somewhat surprised to see white foreigners using public transport and we feel it is a witness to them that we respect them and want to be like them.

It is cosy and snug in the bus. Up front near the driver there are 2 seats. Behind the driver there are 5 rows with 2 seats on each side. In the aisle small seats can be lowered or short planks are used as an extra seat. That all adds up to 28 seats. Add to that the driver’s helpers who opens and closes the doors, receives payments and cries out the destination at every stop; quite a few children on people’s laps and the people standing at the back and on the bumper and the capacity of the bus is about 40 people!

When buying groceries at the local market we walk. This is not very healthy or safe: there are no footpaths and smog is filling the air. Some Malagasy cycle, but there are many safety issues there.

Traveling by normal car is also different. Seatbelts – if there – are hardly being used and there are no children’s car seats. The possible number of passengers is again quite flexible. Only a week ago we saw it no problem to fit 3 adults and 8 children in a car when using the back (a favourite place of our children). It is very baby-friendly: you can drink while traveling!

Language: Malagasy

Malagasy is very different from European languages, apart from the French words that are being uses like ‘fromage’, ‘olives’ and ‘taxi’. We are happy to find we are remembering more and more words. Syntax and grammar are quite mysterious to us. The subject usually comes last in a sentence. Verbs are only conjugated for the past and future tense. There are many adverbs of place, Malagasy are very precise in these matters. One of Katja’s favourite sentences is: ‘Manana zanaka dimy aho.’ which transliterated says ‘Have own children five I.’

The Malagasy are very happy to hear our limited Malagasy. They even brighten up more when Jurgen tells them he has absolutely no mastery of French. His favourite sentence: ‘Tsy mahay teny Frantsay i aho.’ which transliterated reads ‘Not to be good at language French I.’ The Malagasy are very encouraging when we are using their language. We witness first hand how language learning is a labour and a witness of love. We want to be known as friendly and humble people so we greet everyone we meet. It works: people like to great us back and chat with us, asking where the (other) children are. The market sellers already know we have 5!

Two Trips into Town

Two Trips into Town

Katja ordered two Dutch books. The were shipped to Madagascar. To collect the parcel she had to travel to Analakely, Tana (17km). Because all Buses were full she had to take a taxi for the first stretch. There she took a bus for the second part. With a second bus she arrived at Analakely. Ones there she had to walk up a hill to a post-office to get a stamp and a signature. With that she walked down to another post-office. There they wanted to see her passport and she had to give two signatures and after receiving another stamp and paying 2000 Ariary she received her parcel. She was able to take a bus that drove back home in one stretch. The trip to collect her parcel took her 4 hours.

Today Vanya and I (Jurgen) had to go to the pharmacy in Akorondrano, Tana (14km) to get Simeon vaccination. We left at 10am with the first taxi-bé (bus), Thirty minutes later we took the second bus and arrived at 12 o’clock. We bought some whole wheat flour at Jumbo (supermarket) and then walked to the pharmacy just to discover that they were closed until 13:30. So we bought some bread to eat and waited. After getting the vaccination we had to get back to Mandriambero. Not one bus stopped as they were all loaded with people. After an hour of waiting it started to rain and we decided to take a taxi. Just in time as it started to pour. The window of the taxi was not there any more and the roof did not cooperate with us (leaking). The taxi had to drive very slowly. The engine stopped several times due to water… All in all we arrived home at 15:40 AND best of all… we have the vaccination! It ‘only’ took us almost six hours total 🙂

Report first weeks

Report first weeks

ABO (Africa Based Orientation)
After an eight hours flight we arrived at 8 pm (Saturday the 10th of October) on Nairobi airport. The first three nights we stayed at AIM’s guest house. From there we travelled on to the ABO conference at Nakuru.

We were not alone! A total of 22 adults and 28 children joined us and they were all ready to serve the Lord at different places. To see a bigger version of the photo on the richt you can click on it. The first week at ABO we have studied the African culture and values. Among our tutors was a Kenyan man who lived in the UK for several years. This made that he could relate to our western culture as well as to the African culture. It was good to talk with other missionaries—some of who already work in Africa for several months or even years. We have learned a lot from each other.

Other subject were healthcare, safety and world-view… What to do when you are bitten by a snake or what are the symptoms of certain parasites. The last week we have discussed how missionaries can make a real change in people life and finally we looked at several world religions.

Visit Local Church
All three Sundays we were assigned to a local AIC (Africa Inland Church). We have introduced ourselves and Jurgen gave his testimony on the first Sunday. Our names are not that easy to pronounce so soon Jurgen became ‘babba Isaiah’ and Katja ‘mamma Isaiah’ (after our oldest son Issa, which is Swahili for Isaiah). Guests, especially mzungus (white man), can not make themselves scares. Obviously Jurgen could do the sermon and Katja would probably have good ideas to share on Sunday school… Uh? Yes, sure… of course, no problem.

After the church service we were invited to some ones home to eat lunch. That was a great experience. The lady of the house washed our hands and after that she served the food. We have noticed how proud the people were of there property, and thus they had no problem with us taking photos and recording it. The last Sunday one of the elders invited us to his home. It was a bit further away so the pastor suggested that we could take his car. ‘Babba Isaiah, you can drive… can you?’ Well, of course Jurgen can drive! That is to say, the road… Wow, rally roads are smooth compared to these! Anyway, they wanted to spare us the pain of walking as mzungus are not used to that (and they are probably right on that). The other elders came 40 minutes later and said that the walk did them good. On our way back the pastor drove us and his kids were coming along… 10 people will fit just fine in one car, in Africa it does! All in all, it was a great day and we have enjoyed the hospitality and kindness of our Kenyan brothers and sisters very much.

How Did the Children Like it?
Vanya said that she really liked it. They have made several nice crafts that had to do something with the African cultures. She said that the lessons about the “do’s and the don’ts” were very good. For example they have learned that for children, in an African setting, it would be considered impudent to look older people straight in the eyes. Vanya said that she is happy to know that in advance.

Issa: ‘There was a nice playground and the food was good! I also made new friends. We have learned lots about 14 different animals and countries.’

Abbey: ‘I liked the teaching about other countries. We also did fun projects. The snacks were great and we also played games.’

Dani: ‘The teacher gave me a book and that was all.’

Simeon: ‘…. ‘

Antananarivo, Madagascar
On the 6th of November we travelled on to our final destination Tana, Madagascar. We have a fine place to live and every now and then we make outings to the local marked. The children enjoy themselves in the garden and with the children of the neighbourhood.

We regularly make some video recordings which we will upload when the internet and electricity allows us to. You can watch them on our multimedia page.

Introduction and language learning
We are busy learning the Malagasy language. This is not a simple task. Jurgen never had France in school but still he can follow Katja’s France conversations. This is because our languages (France, German, Dutch etc.) have similarities. These similarities cannot be found in the language of Madagascar. Not a single reference point and a totally different grammar. Nonetheless, we did learn some words like ‘hello’ (manao hoana), ‘sorry’ (azafat), and ‘thank you’ (misaotra anao). Also some sentences like ‘my name is …’, ‘what is you name?’, and ‘how are you doing?’. We enjoy learning a new language but it is exhausting.

The AIM-Madagascar unit leader, Anna Jarmy, is helping us with the introduction. We discuss our tasks which will be mainly language learning for the first period. To speed things up, Anna will try to find us a language helper. Furthermore, she said that the normal procedure is to stay with a local family for a few days. This is less straightforward as it sounds because how do you find a family that can house seven persons extra. We will wait and see.

Visa
At the moment we are trying to get our work visa. This is quite complicated as we do not speak Malagasy yet and locals are not very good in France. We are happy to receive help from Parany, a man who works at the AIM office in Tana, who speaks English. Still, we try to do many things ourselves as this helps a lot in getting to know the people and culture. The walks to different offices is an adventure on its own. People initially greet us in France (bonjour), but are surprised when we greet them back in Malagasy (‘Manao Hoana’ or ‘Salama’). When we finish all preliminary works we will hand over the task of getting the visa to a man called Roland. He is a well known man at the official offices and will not likely be ‘run over.’

Food
Buying food is fun. Delicious mangos for only € 0,08 and banquettes for only € 0,11. We can buy all sorts of things on the market. This week we bought  1 kilo tomatoes, 1 kilo carrots and about 400 grams of beans for 2400 Ariary (€ 0,67). Other things are more difficult to find. Full grain bread is hard to come by and can only be found in the supermarket but than you will have to be prepared to pay more.

Different culture!
That we have arrived in a different culture is obvious. We already received two spontaneous visits. This means that you just stop with whatever you were doing and make some coffee, offering biscuits or the like and chat. This chatting is less straightforward as you might have guessed but, because we do know some of the cultural rules, we have done well. You need to offer the guest some biscuits first and place them on the table. Of course all the biscuits need to be eaten, a tradition the children do not mind. Jurgen and Vanya were going to visit someone’s house as well. They prepared their table with six classes but where were Katja and the children? Jurgen told them that they were very tired and that he only brought along his oldest child. This was pleasing as Vanya was a good representative of the children and the host was relieved to understand that the others did not stay home because of him. On Madagascar it is not necessarily the oldest boy who is most important (like in Kenya) but the oldest child. In Kenya we were the ‘father or mother of Issa’ but here we are ‘dadda/mamma nie Vanya’ (father or mother of Vanya).

If you want to know more about these differences we can recommend Sarah A. Lanier’s book, ‘Foreign to Familiar’ (for sale at e.g. Amazon). Sarah lived for eleven years in Holland and she is very good in explaining the differences between cold climate culture (with Holland as a strong example) and warm climate cultures.

We love to see all the learned theory in action. At the same time we are very tired at the end of the day. This ‘end of the day’ is about 6 pm—the sun has gone under by then and will be up as early as 05:20. Thus our day starts at 6 am and around 9 pm we are already in our snug beds… talking about which…

It is time to stop. We could write on but we will keep that for next time.

We wish you Gods rich blessings or in Malagasy ‘Andriamanitra ny fitahian’.

Preparations

Preparations

Our departure to Madagascar is drawing nearer. For years we have been preparing ourselves, but how?

Bilinguality

The language amongst missionaries and within most missionary organisations is English. That is one of the reasons why we have decided to raise our children bilingually from an early age. From about 3 years of age – when they have an age appropriate fluency in Dutch – Katja speaks as much English to and with them as possible. After having learned to read and write Dutch at beginner’s level, we start teaching them the same in English. Sofar this approach works for our family: our children are capable of conversing in 2 languages and are confident about their abilities. On the mission field they will be able to communicate with other missionaries and their children from the start.

Cultural Awareness

Compared to thirty years ago, when we were in primary education, the world seems to have ‘shrunk’! The world comes closer in the books we read, the television programmes we see and even through people living around us who have come from a different culture.

Since we will be living in a vastly different culture than our own, we read and talk a lot about the continents, climates, cultures and religions in the world. We hope to get a better understanding of what culture is and how important it is in everyday life. We read books on Madagascar in particular, so we will have some idea in advance of what we might experience and see.

Identity

Children of missionaries generally have more identity problems than their peers who have no cross-cultural experience. It is often heard that the live between 2 or more cultures and have difficulty identifying any which country as home. Ties with the country of origin can be weaker than the ties with the country they, as a familly, have served in.

For these reasons we emphasize our own cultural identity as well. Through history lessons, typical Dutch celebrations and family traditions we enforce our identity as a familly, Christians, Dutch and Europeans. We trust this will enable us to move and feel freely in both our own and our host cultures.

About Our Work

About Our Work

When we arrive in Antananarivo (Tana) we will become part of the Tana FOCUS team. It is the vision and stategy of the team to reach the unreached of Madagascar through the training of local believers. The team will train Malagasy Christians as missionaries and will support them when they serve amongst an unreached people group on the island. After successful service in Madagascar the Malagasy missionaries will be encouraged to go back to their roots (Indonesia) to do missionary work there. We are much delighted about this approach and find it a privilege to take part in it.

While in Tana we expect to spend much time on language acquisition and study of the culture and history of Madagascar. Katja will continue educating the children.

AIM’s unit leader over Madagascar has proposed that we help him survey which people groups still need to be effectively reached with the gospel and how this can be achieved. We will probably visit various people groups and locations on the isle. In time hopes are that we may be involved in starting a new team amongst an unreached people group.

Summary:
– As part of the Tana FOCUS team we will help train Malagasi Christians to be missionaries;
– We will study Malagasy language, culture and history;
– We will help survey unreached people groups;
– In time we hope to start a new team amongst such a group;
– Katja will home educate the children.

To read more on unreached peoples visit this page. To learn more about Madagascar and its people go here.

Destination Madagascar

Destination Madagascar

We have waited three months, but finally we have received word: we can go and serve amongst the Bara of Madagascar! We hope to leave for Madagascar in January 2015 to live in Betroka, a small town central to many Bara settlements. Since 2013 a team has been serving there.

The Bara are an unreached people group. This means they have no effective access to the gospel message. There are few Bara believers and Christians from other tribes don’t pay them attention. The Bara are hard to reach geographically: they live in settlements in the hills of 50-300 people. There are no roads leading to their villages, travel has to be done on foot.

We have always longed to work amongst an unreached people group, such as the Bara, so we are very happy to have found our destination for the coming years. More information on the Bara can be found on this prayer sheet.

Going Prepared

Going Prepared

From 13 till 16 April we took in an Orientation for new members of Africa Inland Mission (AIM). We have been encouraged by meeting with several christians from other countries with the same goal and purpose in mind: seeing Christ-centered churches among all African peoples.

Many practical issues have been discussed: health, safety, communication, dealing with transition and cultural differences. We are more aware than ever of the risks and likeliness of suffering, but ever the more motivated to go. The children enjoyed a parallel programme.

We had the chance to speak with the Personnel Director about the possibility of being placed in a team on Madagascar. It has become clear that the team and unit leaders were worried they would not be able to suit the educational needs of our children. We have responded this need not be a problem, since we are prepared and willing to home educate our children. We hope the team leaders will soon find the time to see and pray whether we would fit on the team.

To be continued…