Sara Part One…

Five years ago I saw a young woman with a crippled left hand and foot talking to herself and walking the rocky roads of Madagascar with a jumbled pile of belongings balanced on her head. She was quite clearly a woman who lived on the streets, in the ditches, behind a church or under a mango tree. Her name is Sara, and after meeting her years ago, and shaking her strong right hand, I knew without a doubt that her life was beyond hard.

She’s not always in the same location, she walks with a heavy gape, and travels to funerals in different places on the island. In the Sakalava culture, a funeral is one of the biggest events, where an abundance of food is available, and everyone in attendance MUST be fed. Sara followed the funerals in order to find a meal. 

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When she would return to the village where we live, I observed her tattered clothes soiled with dirt, blood and a stench that attracted flies. I noticed her always carrying a metal bowl and spoon, and a kind person might place something inside to curb her hunger. I asked my friends why she walked around with her bowl and spoon and they informed me that her sickness is one that can be passed on to another. My initial reaction wanted to both laugh and get angry, but I just listened, hoping to find out more information about this woman named Sara. 

Two years ago I was at a funeral nearby our house sitting with a group of women during the wake. The sun was shining, we were in the shade, and everyone was waiting for the food to be served before the body was moved to the grave. Sara sat by herself, with an angry scowl, people haggling her constantly, laughing and triggering her to do something funny that would entertain everyone. I specifically remember the way she was sitting (not lady like) and women asking about whether she was wearing any underwear or not…

Two months ago Sara came walking directly into our living room. She was carrying a wallet with a broken zipper, and repeating these words, “Fix this. You know how. Fix this. You know how. Fix this. You know how…” I was cooking dinner, Bryan and the kids were relaxing in the living room, and then suddenly Sara walked straight into our lives. I told her I couldn’t fix her zipper, but I found a handmade wallet from the items that the women of Mama Vao Vao had stitched. I gave it to her and she was satisfied…

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The following day Sara was standing at our gate with her metal bowl and spoon, I looked her in the eye, she stared back at me repeating more words over and over again that simply translate as, “I’m suffering.” I gave Sara some bread, and then decided I couldn’t handle the smell of her if she was going to be hanging around, so I took a towel and some soap and we walked together to the public washing area and proceeded to bathe. During this time the women of Mama Vao Vao were sewing and watching this scene unfold like a television show. We came back from bathing and Bryan mentioned that she still smelled dirty. I took her into our shower and scrubbed her down from head to toe. 

This is a record of the beginning of Sara entering the lives of the McReynolds Tribe…

– Rebe