Church and Tourism in a Foreign Land

My host family is Protestant and today being Sunday, they go to church.  Previous to leaving for Community Based Training, many of the trainees had stated that they were not going to go to church with their families this Sunday; me being on of them.  It was the first day out “in the real world” and we could not even answer a few questions from a few people, much less a whole congregation.  As it turns out, not very many of the trainees were able to see this through; me again being one of them.  How are you supposed to say no and politely explain why when you can not even understand each other?  So I went to church.   
This is not a ‘get in the car and drive to church real quick’ kind of travel; it is a
‘hike across town, over the bridge, and up the hill’ kind of travel.  The walk though was beautiful.  Mantasoa is an amazingly beautiful area.  The city is surrounded by rice fields and that surrounded by mountains.  There is not a place in this area that you can stand and not have an awesome view.  But I digress, so back to the story. 
The walk was down a pothole filled red dirt road, which outside of Tana (the capital, Antananarivo) is all I have ever seen, only took about 20 minutes to make.  It should be said that this, although a normal time/distance ratio for westerners, was very fast for Malagasy standards.  The walk this morning was undertaken by only Neny and me, with the rest of the household leaving about 30 minutes previous to us.  While stopping to greet everyone we passed, and I mean everyone, we were still able to over take the rest of the family on the way to church.   
Upon entering the church I was surprised to see four other fellow trainees already there.  The church itself is not much different than any other church, especially ones found in developing countries.  What I did find different though, being a Protestant church, was how much of a Catholic influence there was.  This ranged from the set up of the pulpit, to the garb worn by the church ‘officials,’ to praying prelisted prayers.  It was ‘fathers day,’ so this might change in the future, but there was never one speaker, but a total of about four different speakers.  These speeches, along with the singing and praying took two hours.  
In this time there were also four offerings taken, two at a time.  During one of these, everyone walked in a line to the front and deposited money into two different boxes and then returned to their seats.  While the other one was the usual passing of the plate (in this case a bag), but there were two different bags.  I was informed to deposit 100 ariary (this equals $0.05) into each, but not having any money I had to borrow it from my cousin.  There was also an auction about half way through the service.  Yes, you read that right, an auction.  This apparently happens every Sunday, in which the service stops while some of the church ‘officials’ sell fruit, vegetables, bread and/or other things to raise more money.   
Much like in America, people’s attention spans, especially the kids, are not very long and this was no exception in church.  The kids’ getting restless was not a surprise to me and it was a little entertaining to watch a little kid dance by himself in the row in front of our pew.  What were surprising though were the adults.  There were numerous people that would just get up and walk out and back in or would be talking during the service.  This was especially prevalent in the balcony section which got fairly noisy during the last half of the service.
After church I had another quite walk home, lunch, and a nap.  And then at 2 o’clock Diamondro (my brother) and I walked to his cousins house, where Andy (another trainee) was living, and the four of us went on a historical walk of the city.  We first walked to the lycee (high school) and cannon forge (they were side by side…not actually the same place). We then picked up Michael (another trainee) and his family and walked to the hospital, then to the cemetery, then to Sean LaBorde’s mansion.  All of these were built for Sean LaBorde.  He was the Magistrate of the lower half of Madagascar during the early 1800’s.  He also founded the town of Mantasoa, had a sexual relationship with the queen, and allegedly, was possibly the father of her children.  

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