Sambava is the central town for the SAVA region. It has an airport as well as my bank. It also has niceties that I can’t get in my village like the Internet, cheese, and an entertaining nightlife. On average I’m in Sambava every three weeks either to withdraw money from the bank or pass through it on the way to another town.
There are only seven volunteers in the region, and we meet in Sambava for weekend getaways from our sites. We spend more money than we should on its niceties and we spend too much time than we should on its beaches. At night we drink THB, virtually the only beer available in Madagascar, and dance in discotheques to house and Malagasy music. Throughout our time together we talk about our lives as American expatriates and appreciate the fact that we all speak the same native language.
A few weeks ago two volunteers left the SAVA family. Sam and Maggie had finished their two year Peace Corps term in the region and were headed for new endeavors. In Sambava we had a farewell weekend for the two. They mean a lot to me. They welcomed me to the region when I arrived and they shared their experience and wisdom about all things Malagasy in the last few months.
John, another volunteer, and I accompanied the two to the airport. We took photos of each other and exchanged addresses as we waited for the plane to arrive. When it did, the reality of leaving Madagascar poignantly struck Sam. He was uncharacteristically quiet for a while, thinking about the last two years and how simply and freely he had lived in this beautiful country. Then he said, “When my parents took me to college my freshman year and we were saying goodbye, my dad didn’t cry at the time. But my mom told me he was crying uncontrollably in the car on the drive home. They had to pull over because he was crying so hard he couldn’t drive. That’s how I feel now. I’m fine now, but when I get on the plane…”