During the time my family lived in Kenya, I remember going to Madagascar three times for vacation.
The only significant time I spent in Madagascar prior to these summer-long vacations was the first year and a half of my life. Needless to say, I don’t remember much from then.
Each time we went to Madagascar for vacation, my parents would clue us in on what was happening with our family and the culture, or they would introduce us to and translate words or sentences we didn’t understand. Once in the country, each morning, we would get a rundown of what would be taking place, people we’d be meeting, etc. You see, not growing up in Madagascar meant we didn’t know a lot of the people (except our 12 cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents), we didn’t know a lot of the places (except for town names – Antananarivo, Antsirabe, Ambositra, Fianarantsoa – the four towns we spent the most time in), and it was difficult for us to comprehend the culture and some of the language. My siblings and I were definitely considered tourists in our ‘home’ country.
Despite where we stayed, every morning after we got ready and were heading to breakfast where we’d meet our grandma or aunt or uncle or random guests who would stop by to say hi, my parents would always remind us, “don’t forget to say good morning.” So every morning and throughout the rest of the day, a ‘bonjour’ was directed at each person we encountered. (Bonjour is french for hello or good morning. And the main languages in Madagascar are French and Malagasy, hence the bonjour. I wasn’t just trying to be fancy by using that word =].)
Well, this practice has stuck with me since I left Madagascar and Kenya so naturally, I continue it here. I’ve said it many a times since I arrived here but what I realized about two weeks ago though is that not a lot of people here say “good morning” to you, and if you say it to them, it throws them off. In small-town Iowa, “hello” is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it’s encouraged. “Good morning,” however, gives you a confused look. I don’t get it.
Maybe it’s just me, but of the 12 or so people who I’ve said it to in the past few days, (if I was to take a jab at this small town I live in I’d say that’s about half the population), I’ve received blank looks or pauses which are usually followed by, “oh… good morning.” I guess if you are not having a good morning or don’t want to wish someone a good morning, a “hello” will suffice. Yes, even before noon.
I will continue this quest I have and will bid everyone I see “good morning” until at least half of the population of this town unhesitatingly respond the same back. Or maybe there will be a surprise of some sorts and before I can utter the words they will greet me first! We shall see. I might keep you updated.
It’s 10:39 a.m. so bonjour!