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Educational Resources

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I partnered with a couple of elementary school classrooms back in Kansas to share some about the culture and creatures of Madagascar. I created a few educational posts and videos, geared towards 3rd/4th graders, and have included them below with some discussion questions that may help spark further conversations and activities in the classroom!

I’d love to continue collaborating with educators through my current work in Madagascar, so if you are interested in connecting and/or have ideas for other topics that might be good to cover, please do reach out.

Mofo Masina

Wondering how to cook some tasty Malagasy food? Well, wait no longer! Here is the first installment in what I hope to be a series of Malagasy recipes.

Mofo Masina – also known as Mofo Sira in some places – is a popular fried dough snack sold by street vendors throughout the country. (The name translates to “salty bread”.) Every vendor adds their own twist to Mofo Sira, so once you get down the basic recipe, feel free to experiment! No two Mofo Siras should ever be exactly the same…

Mama’Bodo, at it again!

This recipe was provided by my host mother, Ravaka – more commonly known as Mama’Bodo or simply Mamabe, as it is customary for both men and women in Madagascar to be known by the name of their first child. Mamabe is who is very mahay mahandro (a great cook!) and often sells various fried breads from her roadside stand at town’s truck pull-off, which everyone calls “parking” (pronounced with a strong French accent). The basic recipe is just a fried bread dough, to which you can add a variety of spices or chopped veggies.

What you’ll need:

1 kilo of flour (about 8 cups)
2 tbs baking powder
2 tbs salt (or to taste)
1/2 chicken bouillon cube, powdered
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 medium sized onion
4 1/4 c (1L) water
1 head of cabbage or pet sai (chinese cabbage), or watercress, finely chopped
A substantial amount of oil to fry your mofo in

Optional:
1 large Roma tomato, diced
1 c. shredded carrot
1 c. french-cut green beans

1. Mix together all dry ingredients. Then add onion and water and stir until batter starts to bubble (see picture below).

2. Add your veggies of choice and stir until just mixed.

Yum! Laisoa! (Cabbage)

3. Fill a wok or pot with oil and heat until it smokes a little. Then, add your batter in large dollops, as shown.

(Just a lil’ video, too…)

4. Cook until the batter is light gold, with darker tips on exposed pieces of cabbage, flipping just over halfway through. (Likely you will need to flip after about 2 minutes, and remove the bread after a total of 3.5 minutes in the oil, but this may vary slightly depending on your stove.)

5. You’re done! Add some hot sauce, ketchup, or mayo if you’d like. If you’re trynna be super Malagasy, you could also enjoy your snack with vary susu (rice porridge) or mofo de pain (i.e. stick a few on a loaf of french bread like a subway sandwich). I also imagine they’d taste really good with duck sauce or sweet-and-sour sauce… but I’ve yet to find either here in Mada, so report back if you end up trying that!

Mastoa! (Enjoy!)

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Video #1 – Intro to Madagascar

Questions for discussion:

  1. What time zone do you live in? Madagascar is in the East African Time Zone. That’s 8 hours ahead of Central Standard Time (CST) in the U.S. (9 hours in the winter, during daylight savings time). How many time zones are in the U.S.? (4 in the continental U.S. – 6 if you include Alaska and Hawai’i!) How many time zones are there in the world? (24) Why do you think the world is split into different time zones?
  2. Madagascar is a great place to grow rice – and Malagasy people are very proud of their rice! How often do you eat rice? When you eat rice, how much do you usually eat? In Madagascar, many people eat rice – lots of rice – at every meal. Vary (rice) is always considered the main dish in Madagascar. Everything you eat with rice is called loka, which roughly translates to “side dish” – anything you might eat with your rice. Do you think eating this much rice makes for a healthy diet? (Hint: think about the food groups/food pyramid…)
  3. What kind of animals do you know from Madagascar? Did you know that most animal (and plant!) species native to Madagascar are found nowhere else on Earth? (We call species like this endemic to the country.) Have you ever heard of a biodiversity hotspot? These are places where many endemic species are found. Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot. What other places do you think are biodiversity hotspots? (Here is map showing biodiversity hotspots across the world!)
  4. What are your daily chores at home? Would they be different if you didn’t have running water or electricity? (i.e. no oven, stove, laundry machine, refrigerator…) How would they be different?
  5. Have you ever heard of deforestation? (Loss of forests, often because they are cut down for wood or cleared to make room for farmland). How about reforestation? (Replanting trees in places they’ve been cut down.) Are there areas near your home (or in the U.S.) that have been deforested? (Note: Much of the eastern U.S. has been deforested. They say a squirrel used to be able to travel from the east coast to the Mississippi River  without touching the ground. In some parts of the U.S., trees have grown back, and there are more now than there were several hundred years ago (See a timeline of forest clearing and regrowth in Massachusetts here). Why do you think this may be? (i.e. shifting of agriculture to other places, better sustainable forestry, etc.) Why do you think it is important to not clear out forests, and to replant trees? (ex: Trees provide shade, help prevent erosion, help filter water, provide us with wood and paper, are home to animals, etc. If you want to learn more, look up Urban Heat islands or preserving the Catskills to keep NYC’s water supply clean!) What can you do to help preserve and/or plant trees?

Malagasy vocab in video:

Akory e!                                   Hello!
Vary                                         Rice
Maraina                                  Morning
Atoandro                                Afternoon
Hariva                                     Evening
Tanalahy                                Chameleon
Maki                                        Ring-tailed lemur
Ravinala                                 A special kind of palm tree that
only grows in Madagascar.
(Literally translated, it’s name
means “leaf of the woods”.) It’s
also known as the “traveler’s
tree”, since it holds water people
would often drink while traveling,
since they could not carry enough
water with them during long trips.
Avekeo indreka e!                Until next time!

Video #2 – A Day in The Life

Questions for discussion:

  1. Did you know over 700 million people in the world today still live in places without running water or electricity? What would it mean for you to live without these things, which we often take for granted in the States? What would be the most challenging?
  2. Malagasy people take pride in their proverbs. Proverbs are expressions of wisdom passed down through generations. A few famous ones here in Madagascar are “Distracted by what is far away, he does not see his nose” and “Nothing is so difficult that diligence cannot master it”. Can you think of some proverbs we often use in the U.S.? (ex: Early to bed, early to rise…, early bird gets the worm, fish and visitors stink in three days… Ben Franklin was a big fan of these expressions!) If you had to write a proverb on a lamba hoany, what would it say? (Cultural note: Since most foreigners don’t know how to speak Malagasy, some mpivarotra, or shopowners, will sell lamba hoany with messages that aren’t proverbs to make foreigners look foolish! Always make sure you know what your lamba says before you buy it…)
  3. What is Malaria? (Explain it is a disease caused by a parasite in blood, transmitted by mosquitos, that kills many people every year – often children in tropical developing countries.) We used to have malaria in the U.S., but it was officially eradicated in 1951, fortunately, so we don’t have to worry about it! How do you think people can help stop the transmission of malaria? (Ex: using a bednet at night, dumping out standing water so mosquitos don’t have a place to breed, clearing brush near your house, wearing long clothing at dawn and dusk so mosquitos can’t bite, using bug repellent) You can look up more info on Malaria and how you can help fight this deadly disease here.
  4. In Madagascar, many people don’t have access to information on good farming practices that help conserve soil and water, and reduce harm to the environment. One of the main goals of the Peace Corps Agriculture program is to share this kind of information with people. Do your families have farms or gardens? What do you grow? What are some things that you do (or that you could you do) to save water and soil, help plants grow, and/or help the environment? (Ex.: Mulch to retain water and soil, use compost to improve soil and help grow plants better, minimize tilling, minimize chemical fertilizers and pesticides, plant crops as close together as possible, plant multiple kinds of vegetables in the same garden bed [companion planting], crop rotation, etc…)
  5. In this video, you’ve meet Mahery, Lafitra, and Mitosela, a few of the kids in my host family. How do you think their lives are similar to yours? How do you think they might be different? If you could ask them a question about their lives/families here, what would you want to know?

Malagasy Vocab used in video:

Mandroso!                              Welcome to my home/come in!
Lamba hony                           Colorful fabrics with designs and
proverbs printed on them.
Malagasy people traditionally use
them as skirts, baby carriers, and
for pretty much anything else you
could imagine
Mofo bol                                 Literally translates to “round
bread”. Essentially fried dough
balls – sort of like donut holes.
Malagasy people often eat
various types of fried breads for
breakfast or snacks!
Ladosy                                     A room, usually outside your
house, where you “shower”
Kabone                                    Outhouse
Veloma                                    Bye!
Ino vaovao?                           What’s up?
Tsisy                                        Nothing (This is how basically
everyone responds to the
previous question!)
Faly mahafantatra anô zaho! Nice to meet you!
Mangina (Mangangina)       It’s chill/quiet here.
Zovy anaranao?                    What is your name?
__(name)___ Anarako        My name is ____.
Tsara be.                                 Cool/good.
Firy toana anô?                     How old are you?
____ toana.                           I am ___ years old.
Mazava                                   To understand

Transcript of conversations, in Malagasy and English:

Mahery:
K: Akory e!                                          Hello!
M: Akory e!                                         Hello!
K: Ino vaovao?                                  What’s up?
M: Tsisy!                                              Nothing!
K: Zovy anaranao?                           What’s your name?
M: Mahery.                                         Mahery.
K: Mahery. Faly mahafantatra,    Mahery. It’s nice to
Mahery! meet you, Mahery!
M: Veloma e!                                      Bye!

Lafitra:
L: Akory e!                                           Hello!
K: Ino vaovao?                                   What’s up?
L: Tsisy vaovao! Avy aminereo?      Nothing! How ‘bout you?
K: Ah, tsisy vaovao. Mangangina.   Ah, nothing. It’s chill.
Zovy anaranao? What’s your name?
L: Ah, Lafitra anarako.                       Ah, my name is Lafitra.
K: Faly mahafantatra, Lafitra.         It’s nice to meet you,
Lafitra!
L: Ah, faly izany.                                  Nice to meet you too!
K: Tsara be. Firy toana anô?            Cool. How are you?
L: Sivy. Sivy toana.                              Nine. Nine years old.
K: Sivy toana – tsara be! Mandalo  Nine years old – cool! I
zaho! should go now!

Mitosela:
K: Akory e! Akory e….                          Hello! Helloo….
Misy video vetivety, va?                 I’m making a little video,
okay?
Manoa bonjour!                             Say hi!
Akory e! Ah, tsy mazava izy…         
Hello! Ah, he doesn’t
understand
Ino vaovao Mitosela?                       What’s up, Mitosela?
M:Tsisy.                                              Nothing.
K: Tsisy!                                               Nothing!
M: Basky.                                          Gun.
K: Basky?                                          Gun?

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