The evening sun was peaking through my window when I heard the voice of my friend, Precious.
“Good evening, Morghen.”
I stuck my head out the door and told him I would be ready soon. I gathered my things and joined him in the front yard. Precious and I like to chat after my classes or on Sunday evenings. Our topics range from American politics to favorite foods to theology. However, tonight would be a bit different. Tonight, we would conduct an interview.
Precious led me just across the fence to his home and introduced me to his parents. He invited me into his room, and I immediately noticed two objects - his desk and his poster. The desk occupied the center of his room; I later learned that desk is where he taught himself English. The black-and-white poster hung on the far wall. It displayed the faces of General De Gaulle, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, and Margaret Thatcher. I smiled. His knowledge of world politics, current events, and history continually amazes me. Precious invited me to have a seat at his desk, and we began our work. We started with the basics.
Name: Rajaofera Precieux Guenole
(When I first met Precious, he asked me to use the English pronunciation of his name).
Birthday: June 10, 1994
Birthplace: Toliara, Madagascar
During our evening conversations, Precious and I have discussed our studies and career aspirations. Precious studies law at The University of Maninday - the university in Toliara. He has often expressed his deep passion for the law. I asked him about his choice to study law and what he plans to do after graduation.
I study the law because since … I finished high school, I have been interested in the issue of justice and all that it concerns. Everybody [in the high school] was asking themselves ‘What should I do at the university?’ When they asked this question to me, I placed my choice on … justice. Now I realize that I made a good choice. I love the law, and it’s a subject that I’m good at.
After graduation, Precious can become a judge, a lawyer, or take an exam to work for the state. For now, he intends to become a lawyer.
I asked Precious to describe his family - his mother, father, and younger sister. He said they can be summarized in three words: Christianity, solidarity, and discipline.
Christianity: First, we are a very Christian family. We, the kids of my parents’ house, are used to living in a religious environment. All of us are Lutheran, and we are attached to Lutheran convictions.
Solidarity: We love one another.
Discipline: This word is very hard for some people - especially young people… Yes, we [my sister and I] are young. We make faults sometimes, but they [our parents] always remind us of the right path.
When asked about his free time, Precious listed three leisures. First, Precious loves to read. As he described his love for literature, he pointed to the various books adorning his room. Through reading, he finds sanctuary from the problems, insecurities, and doubts of everyday life. Second, Precious likes to play basketball. He played for a team in high school, but his studies keep him busy now. Third, Precious enjoys movies and television - particularly movies and shows regarding justice, international affairs, or everyday struggles and conflict. He particularly likes the American series, Scandal and Lincoln, a movie which portrays the life of Abraham Lincoln. Precious also loves to laugh and enjoys a good comedy show. Precious finds one show particularly funny.
[T]here is an American show that I really like… It has distracted me a little bit when I am really busy or tired of my studies. I love the Jimmy Fallon Show. I have to say, that man was born to make people laugh. Everything that he does is funny. I thank him. From this country [Madagascar], I thank him. Your show is wonderful, Jimmy Fallon. Remember that here in Madagascar there is a man that is very interested in your show.
I asked Precious about his role models and wondered if he would list famous American presidents or philanthropists. He has often communicated his admiration for the Kennedys, Abraham Lincoln, and the Obamas. After I asked the question, Precious pondered for a moment.
Who are my role models? I have to say that my role model is my father. I say this not because he is my father but because when I look at him and look at all the struggles he has been through, I realize that his life teaches me a lot of things including hard work and resilience. To be honest, my father is someone who has seen a lot of problems in his life - a lot of crisis. Through all these problems he has stood up. This attitude deserves my respect. I have to follow his path - to be like him. I have to be realistic about life; life is not a dream. It is a place where we have to confront problems and struggles - a place where we have to be strong and resilient.
Favorite Bible Verse or Story:
It is a story we all know - the story of Jesus. I am not a pastor, but according to the story, we are all sinful. With all of these sins, God has said, ‘Get them away.’ … He sent us his precious child, and his precious child arrived here on the earth to save us. This has to get our attention - we who are sinful. We have been saved by God. He has sacrificed his one and unique son. We have to be aware of it. We have to embrace this love that God shows us.
After I asked Precious what he would do with one wish, he paused. Then he giggled. I wondered if he would provide a humorous answer, but his response evoked a very different emotion.
I would wish better for everyone - for this country [Madagascar]. I wish this country, someday, would [take] a step forward. By better for this country, I mean [many things]. First of all, we have to say that this is a country that is really poor. That is a reality. That is a fact. It is not a subject for debate. A lot of people say, ‘Madagascar you are condemned by this poverty. You do not have a chance.’ I do not think [the future] is written... I am not a dreamer. I am not saying that someday Madagascar will be France or the United States… But I think that this country can do better… We can alleviate the poverty a little bit.
By better, I mean this country stays true to its values. Here in Madagascar we have values - for example solidarity, love, and a word without translation which falls between solidarity and love. I wish that this country will stick to these values.
Precious continued on to explain that great struggles have worn on the people of Madagascar. They are tired, and as a result, they have fallen away from their values.
We have to stick to our values. We have to embrace solidarity. We have to embrace love.
An Important Moment:
During one of our evening chats, Precious and I discussed how God makes beauty out of ashes. Precious and I exchanged stories of tragedy and struggle while also sharing how God created good in those moments. I treasure that conversation, and I asked Precious if he would be willing to share his stories with others.
A few years ago, Precious battled Malaria. Before his illness, he had fallen into bad habits which he describes as some of the “whims of youth.” His long and painful illness and hospitalization pushed him to reconsider his life and choices. Precious thanks God for the changes and deeper faith inspired by his illness, and he advises others to closely examine their lives, too.
Everyone should look at his [or her] life, examine it a little bit, and ask, ‘Do I need to change? What are the bad habits I need to give up right now?’ … Ask this question and you will see that there are some flaws in your character. You have to fight against these flaws. Yes, as a human being, we will never be perfect, but that does not mean we cannot make efforts to perfect ourselves. I really believe that we have a moral obligation to ourselves, so I encourage you to fight against flaws in your character. You can be a better person.
Be aware of this life that has been given to you - a life where you should build a better story, build smiles, build something good. [You should] not share or cause pains for people - not cause tears for people. I think that if you want to measure your progress in life, [you should] not measure your progress compared to another person… To measure your progress, look at time. How was I many years ago, and how am I now? If you respond, I am the same, you should do a little better.
What else should people know about Precious?
I am going to use three words to [help] people know me. First, Precious is relaxation. I love to relax... I love to laugh. The second word that can describe me is maturity. Even though I love laughing, I have to say that I am also mature… The third word is love. Precious is a person who loves everyone. He doesn’t have a problem with anyone.
After this final question, Precious requested that I ask for his final words.
First of all, I want to thank you. Thank you for this wonderful interview. This has helped me to improve my English and to share some aspects of my life - some ideas of mine. Second. I want to address a message to American volunteers. Madagascar is a wonderful place. Don’t hold back. Come here. Your friend, the person interviewing me now, will tell you that when she [goes] back [to the United States]. Madagascar is a country of love… The beauty of Madagascar is not in structures, in roads, [or] in its appearance. The beauty of Madagascar is in its people, in its culture, [and] in its environment, so come here. Third and finally, thank you to all the persons who follow the blog. Thank you for reading this. I wish the best for all of you. I wish good days for you in the future.