Goorthngshappen when mego be it

The morning of my 21st birthday, a kid (maybe 12 or 13 years old) almost hit me with a vespa he clearly had little control over.

The evening of my 21st birthday, it started to rain (pour), so I huddled in a restaurant getting soaked with my friends, then took a taxi ride with 4 unknown men back to my house. Waiting for me was dinner with my family and the live chicken that had been a gift for me earlier in the day.

So not bad!

In spite of the risk of this post seeming self-centered by me focusing on my birthday, I am going to go for it. I think there are some fun cultural moments/insights to be seen (and it only comes once a year right?).

Anywho, it was a weekend of cake. Starting with my fellow student, Jamie’s, birthday on Friday, my host mother baked and decorated three full sheet cakes. As he job is being pastry chef/culinary teacher, it is not out of the ordinary for baking to take a large part of her time. One was chocolate (for Jamie), and the other two vanilla (one for my family party and one for the actual date of birth). She makes the cake out of eggs, flour and sugar, then lines the inside with frosting and fruit filling, covers the outside with buttercream in pink and white, then writes a message in script and places special sprinkles carefully around edges. I got to help with some, and watching the ease and speed with which she assembles ingredients into artful dessert is impressive and hypnotizing.

I am convinced my host mother is a culinary goddess

On Saturday, my family went all-out and threw me and all of the students a party. I helped my mom cook appetizers during the morning which included tiny cucumber sandwiches, mini pizzas, and fried bread fruit (a Malagasy classic). Surprisingly, there was no rice. All of the students came, and some brought their host siblings, it was a jolly time. My host dad had set up microphones and hooked up our casio keyboard to speakers, so songs were one of the main events. My host family took the lead on some Christian hymns in Malagasy and an adorable young host sister jumped in with a heartfelt rendition of Celene Dione’s iconic My Heart Will Go On, in nearly correct English. After blowing out the candle, I opened a few presents. My friend’s host sister brought me a present despite never having met me (which I think says something about the gifting culture here), and it was a lovely framed Psalm in Malagasy with which she included a handwritten English translation. It now hangs on my wall. Also received were many candy bars and a champion hat. Much love to friends and family.

Translation: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with my eye” Thanks Anisi!


My host sister, brother, and me enjoying cake at my birthday party



A group of students from the program, host siblings, my host mother and brother, enjoying the roof level of our house

This brings me to the title of this post. As a brief background, this city (and so far Madagascar in general) is filled with shirts, hats and dresses printed with English phrases that often don’t make sense and worn by people who most likely do not speak English. Some of my favorites have been: “Sorry I’m Bad”, “Lucifer 666”, “My life is a dark room” and “Queens make the money” (worn by a man). My friend Sarah from the program was lovely enough to get me a true keeper for my birthday: a black tshirt with a rabbit coming out of the pocket that says “Goorthngshappen when mego be it”. We spent a while puzzling over its meaning and my host dad could not even tell that it was the English language. I have taken it to mean that good things happen when you make them happen. I have tried to take it to heart, and I think the shirt has brought me good tidings, as this week has been pretty amazing. But, it is all up to the interpretation of the reader. Maybe just goorthngshappen when mego be it. And that’s all.

(PS: ‘scooo dubs!!! I just found out that my Malagasy friend Parker is a Warriors fan and that Steph Curry is his favorite player… love for my home team is worldwide! it was quite the trip seeing the Oakland symbol all the way out here)



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