Classes begin in the Malagasy schools mid-October. Just as the Northern climes have their school schedule set around the old farming calendar - that is, starting school once most of the harvesting is over, so in Madagascar the schools start after most of the rice fields have been planted.

The ladies have received many of the school supplies that i brought over with me from Canada for their children, most notably the pencil crayons, markers and pens. Fanja specifically requested blue pens from Canada when i left because she knew very well that the pens here are terrible quality. I managed to pick up a few packages of pens, markers, big glue sticks, etc. and, in mid-August we were pleased to host some Canadians here to take a look at the MAF Madagascar program who also brought many gifts for us, much of which i have (or will) passed on to the ladies, including a Cars/Lightning McQueen (or, Flash McQueen, as he's called in French) backpack.

The little boy staying with Irene, whom she has taken in like a foster son, is 4 years old. He was the lucky kid who got the Cars backpack as he is starting his first year at school in October. Somehow my son must have taken off with the 5th package of Crayola pencil crayons because i could not find them anywhere in the house when it came time to fill the bag with the supplies needed. No worries though, as my oldest son had pencil crayons he had been using at home, still long and easily able to last out a year of kindergarten. I cut out my son's name and re-wrote Irene's son's name on the pencils and all the other fourniture - school supplies - that i had brought with me, had on hand, or had bought at the grocery store since she and her husband are both illiterate. I heard the next day that not only had her son been so excited about the great backpack (i dont think i've seen a Cars themed pack in any of the stalls in the market, so i reckon it's quite unique) that he had taken it to bed with him that night to sleep with, but Irene's friends had also admired the pack because of it's obvious difference in quality.

It is a huge pleasure to share these gifts with my ladies and their children. Fanja said to me the other day that she has discovered that her kids are way more keen to do their school work when they have supplies (pens, markers, pencil crayons) that are good quality and work well.. Most of the supplies i've found here (and remember, i'm usually buying in a foriegn store where the quality is better than in the public market. what the ladies are buying is probably worse than what i'm finding!) are such crummy quality that they either dont work at all from the second you bring them out of their packaging, or else they quit working after a week! I can sympathise with her kids if they always have pens running dry on them in the middle of doing assignments. What a drag! As a stationary fiend myself, i understand well the thrill of doing one's work when you have good pens and supplies! I'm excited for these kids to have nice things to use this year, bought with the money that was made from the D&S sale this last June in Manitoba.

The difference in quality is not only a huge pleasure, but also a huge problem. Just to give you an idea of how much difference there is: i gave to Fanja last year some of the year-old Crayola markers in our house that i thought had run out a bit, since we had received a new set. She took them home and sent them to school with her children. Their teachers then remarked to her that these markers were of such better quality [year old markers!] and wherever did she get them?!

While her children this year will be reveling in their fantastic new markers and pens that dont run out after a week, their classmates will be noticing the difference in their own stuff in comparison. Fanja remarked to me the other day that she doesnt really know how to handle this problem, as she doesnt want to just hoard the pens at home, not allowing her children to use them, but at the same time she knows well the propensity for stealing in the schools. Her solution was to keep half the pencil crayons (a package of 24 has many of the same kind of colour) and markers back home to use once the first supply runs out. Her older children will keep their pencil case in their bags to bring home every day and her youngest children will keep their things at school, but she said she would speak with the teacher to keep their stuff well guarded.

As i packed up the Cars backpack for Irene's son i prayed over that pack, that he wouldnt get beat up because of his nice things, nor would his things all be stolen from him. That little boy has had such a tough go at life already in his 4 years, i couldnt help but hope that these nice new school supplies and such a great backpack would help to bring him a great first year of school rather than be the reason for more difficulties.

Isnt that the way of the world. Once you have something nice, you must work to keep it safe. It's a shame, really.

So, thank you again for those who supported our sale this last June! By buying lovely things you have supplied the money to purchase great supplies for 5 children and paying their tuition. Irene's son, going to a different school than Fanja's kids, was so appreciative of the help with the costs! She brought me the bills this morning for my records: 15$ for all the start up costs (registration, October's tuition, and various other start-of-school costs) and the 4.50$ bill for  November's tuition. Her eyes were huge at what she considered a huge cost. Fanja's children attend a much more costly school (relative to this other one anyway) but we should have enough money for the year and some extra for unforeseen expenditures.