Say you live in sunny Santa Barbara and you travel to Maine to visit friends and you bring back some still kickin’ lobster for your friends back home. That’s a voandalana. Or perhaps you live in Arizona and you’re traveling to California for a vacay and when you return home, you bring your friends some awesome avocados. That’s a voandalana.
The literal translation of voandalana is “fruit of the road”. You were blessed to be able to travel and so you bring back a voandalana or fruit of the road for those that weren’t able to travel. Here in Madagascar, it usually is quite literally, fruit or veggies. Recently a friend traveled 12-hours from the capital to our city and he brought us a juicy pineapple. Sure you can pineapples here but there’s relatively expensive whereas 12-hours east on the high plateau, they’re way cheaper and usually fresher. Voandalanas are a symbol of friendship and family– both of which are highly valued in Madagascar.
Then again, the police also tend to ask us, Aiza ny voandalana? — “where’s the voandalana (for me)?” in which we simply reply “oh, the rains haven’t been very good this year and the crops aren’t producing well”… this phrase tends to get a laugh out of them and helps us to get around this unwanted and obnoxious question.
So naturally when we return from several months in the USA, we bring back voandalanas– they just aren’t avocados, lobsters or pineapples. This year we had an entire suitcase of voandalanas for our Malagasy friends, co-workers, employees, ministry partners and our kids’ friends. In total, we brought back fruits of the road for 54 people! So if not avocados, lobsters and pineapple, then what? We always try to bring things that are useful and fun. A new baseball hat, earrings, carrot peelers or cheese graters (both of which are notoriously bad here!), a dress or shirt, a tie, sunglasses, water bottles, or pocket knives with an assortment of tools. We buy each of these items new and leave the tags (without the price) on so our friends get the full effect of something purchased in the USA. It’s expensive for us. AND it’s absolutely priceless when we go to each of their houses, sit down with them, give a little kabary or talk about how we value them and cherish our relationship with them and then present to them their fruit of the road– their gift from America and from our hearts.