As we at last neared Toliara, I cried tears of joy when we saw the other side of the table mountain that can be seen from The Gathering Place. I knew we were nearly there. “Are we nearly there yet” being the familiar cry of all children on long road trips!
I cried again when I saw The Gathering Place and when Jeannette and I exchanged a long hug and happy dance! It is wonderful to be back, and it looks so familiar, but so different. The garden, which Glen and Eric came to create with the local people is looking good. Most of the plants and trees have survived, and some are really thriving. A few were eaten by bugs, and the wind yesterday was so strong it blew all the leaves off one plant! It is winter here now, so we are not seeing it at its best, but as it matures it will be even more beautiful, and it is certainly a huge improvement on the scrubby grass which was here last year. The grass has grown back on the leveled ground.
And then the other huge change is the Cathedral. As I write, I am sitting at Todd and Patsy’s kitchen table, looking through the dining room and beyond to the Cathedral, with the sunrise behind it. The roof is in the process of being added and a tower too. The wooden structure for the tower is partly in place. Seeing the wooden scaffolding in place is like being transported back in time to the time when many of the English cathedrals were constructed.
I was the only one awake in time for morning prayers today. Todd is still very weak from the typhoid and was told by Patsy to sleep as long as he could. (Patsy got drugs sooner and so is recovering faster.) I have not been sleeping much this trip – time zone confusion, and just waking feeling refreshed after only a few hours. Last night I slept for over 8 hours – the longest I’ve slept here, as it felt like being home arriving here! I woke, wide-awake at 4:26 a.m., so decided to get washed and dressed ready for 6 a.m. prayers. I found the key to get out of the apartment, but not the one to the gate at the bottom of the stairs. The night guard also didn’t know how to find the key, and I managed to communicate with him not to wake up Pierre to get his key. So my morning devotions were held on the stairs at the gate!!
It is wonderful to be back, and for all of us to have made it here – with all our luggage! Simon, Jacky and I went to the supermarket with Jeannette yesterday for food and also explored the local crafts and haberdashery shops, to see what is available locally. This was encouraging as when the women have used up the 200 pounds of supplies you all gave us to bring, they can readily get more embroidery floss, ribbons, braids and buttons. Thus was the first time Simon and I had been into the interior of the market area. It was very cool and shaded which was a surprise, but the open drains down the sides of the alleyways were less welcome. I am glad it is not a hotter time of year, as the smells were quite bad enough!
Having done our trip into Toliara (which looked remarkably prosperous after the villages we travelled through yesterday) I am free today to sort out the supplies, and get ready for the workshops with the women which start tomorrow.
I felt a huge sense of peace settle on me as we sat in silence before saying Grace at last night’s meal. It is good to be here.