19 year old Alexander McNab from Los Angeles, California, recently took part in our Marine Conservation volunteer program, immersing himself in the culture of the island. Volunteering abroad for 21 weeks on Nosy Komba, he shared how much the experience meant to him.
“I come from a place with traffic, people, big buildings, and smog. Los Angeles, the city of 3.7 million angels, so it was no place like home that I was going to when I arrived at Nosy Komba. It’s name means Lemur Island, or Nosy Ambariovato, it’s alternate name, which means ‘island surrounded by stones’. Both names give a clue as to what kind of place this little island is. It hasn’t any roads, any bank, or big buildings. It hasn’t any post office, any port or any electronics store. There are two hospitals, a few thousand people, one police station, and a queen who uses to rule over it all, and there’s this one volunteer place above the rocks by the ocean between two villages: that’s MRCI, my home for five months.
The strangest part about being in a place so foreign as this is that, quickly, it all becomes old hat, old habit, routine. Of course we take cold showers and wear flip flops and watch the sun set every day over the ocean. That is our life here, and as I have lived it, it has become just as much mine as the traffic and people and smog.
Many folk like to call this place paradise, and it is but not because of its beaches, the jungle, and the sea. Nosy Komba is paradise because I came here a stranger, a vazaha, a foreigner, but I have, nevertheless, been received by here people here on camp and in Lemur Island’s many villages with an ‘mbola tsara’, maybe a bowl of rice, and a friendly smile to let me know that though this place is not home these people are still family.
I have gotten a lot from the people of Madagascar (free food, a necklace, a place to rest my weary head) and the more abstract things too like happiness, companionship, and goodwill. The people here have given and I have received. My only regret is that I may never be able to repay them for it all.”