Posted September 30, 2005on:
Malagasy acquaintances seem to have a neverending supply of cousins (No matter whom I mention, it’s a miracle! He/She happens to be their cousin, or at the very least a boyfriend/girlfriend of their cousin!).
Not only that, but they are very close to these cousins with whom they share an enviable sense of solidarity and togetherness. They do things with them which I’ve never done and will never do with mine who are all long-lost. It was not for lack of opportunity to get close to them. Some Americans go to their annual Thanksgiving dinner dragging their feet like Marie-Antoinette to the guillotine. Imagine I tell them: as a child, I regularly attended the monthly, yes monthly, familial lunch held by my grand-parents.
I remember having a good time at these family gatherings, too. My 20 cousins and I would eat like Kings because my grand-mother and aunts cooked like chefs: various hors d’oeuvres of which I’m still dreaming, boudin noir, fromage de tete, henomby ritra, akoho gasy (for a long time, as the youngest, I was gifted with the “fen’akoho”, the drumstick. Then younger cousins were born, and I had to relinquish the drumstick…I have no doubt one day I will have the to me dubious honor of the vodiakoho but I hope it will take a very very long time.).
We were seated at the children’s tables in the kitchen and we made plenty of noise until someone from the formal dining room would come by and tell us to calm down. We’d then play boardgames or kindriandriana, while the adults played belote or discussed politics, not always politely, and not rarely, my geeky family discussed very philosophical subjects.
Then someone complained a monthly lunch was too frequent, too expensive, the philosophical discussions were probably too geeky, too something and the monthly gatherings stopped. I am quick to point out this is not the reason why my cousins and I are not best friends. I still don’t know the reason. Despite detailing my life on this blog, I am private in reality and am not your most gregarious Malagasy. Let’s just say that my circle of Malagasy friends is painfully restricted.
Most of my friends who’ve spent too long a time abroad have lost touch with many of their friends. That’s life, you move abroad, you lose contact with your old friends, you move on and you make new ones (foreign ones), right? One relationship my Malagasy friends do not lose is the one they have with their cousins. Distance does not break it, it’s pretty elastic. They promptly reconnect with their cousins once home. If you forget that they’re expected to be Rockefeller and treat everyone at restaurants and cafes, it’s in fact as if they had never left.I am trying to imagine now coming back to Madagascar and having a monthly lunch with my extended family and BandyKV’s : aunts, uncles, cousins et al, aunts-in-law, uncles-in-law, cousins-in-law et al… So far I like the cousins-in-law I have met. Maybe I will get close to them as I never did with my own cousins.