My friend, the yogurt guy

Many hotelys and shops here make and sell yogurt. Each place has its own recipe, so if you’re a yogurt fiend like I’ve grown to be, you can make a game out of trying to find the best yogurt in town.

One morning I asked my site partner, Monique, to show me the best yogurt in town. We walked 15 minutes toward downtown until we came to a general store. Inside there was a refrigerator with silver cups of yogurt. Monique and I each ate one, and the yogurt indeed was the best yogurt in town. Hell, it was probably the best yogurt on the planet, definitely the best yogurt I’ve ever eaten. It’s thick and sweet like vanilla custard.

The next day I went to the store and ate two yogurts for breakfast. The day after I went to the store and ate two more yogurts. And the day after that I went to the store and ate two more yogurts.

On the fifth day, the shopkeeper came to me and said in slow Sakalava, “Are you going to come here every morning and eat two yogurts?” “Yes,” I told him. “Well,” he said, “If you’re going to come here every day, we should have language lessons. If you teach me a little English each morning, I’ll teach you a little Sakalava.” I agreed to the deal.

Nearly every day I’ve walked to the shop to eat two cups of the best yogurt in town and exchange language lessons. The shopkeeper, Bezary, has become one of my best friends in town. He’s a patient teacher when explaining Sakalava words and grammar to me. The lessons have grown to last an hour and a half each day. Afterwards I’ll buy goods and food from him as a sort of thanks for the lessons. I can tell my language skills are improving.

Many customers now know me as the foreigner who frequents Bezary’s shop to eat yogurt and learn Sakalava. They often joke and make small talk with me. “Hey,” a woman asked Bezary one day, “How much for the foreigner? I need one foreigner.”

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