America is a very certain place. You know that the lights will turn on, the toilet will flush, and the shower will be hot. When you go to the store it will have food, the gas station will have gas, and the restaurant will have what is listed on the menu. When you pay for something, you will get your change back.
Madagascar and SAVA, in particular, are not like this. SAVA has the money, but we don’t have certainty. Due to the isolation, most of the goods come in on ships, but that doesn’t mean they come in on time. As a result, we tend to run out of things. You’ll see tuk-tuks or brousses lined up hoping to get the last of the gas. Or you just won’t see tuk-tuks at all because they can’t run. You’ll see brousses and motos going into the countryside to buy up any gas the small towns might have to hold them over.
Even in towns where there’s electricity, sometimes there isn’t. In Sambava, the largest of the towns in SAVA it’s expected that there won’t be electricity between 2-8 am every day. Except on the days when the power is out until 3 pm. Or the days when the power stays on all night but goes out at 8 am, comes back on at 4 pm, then goes back out at 7 pm again.
In the dry season, there might be water, or it might be out, for a day, or two, or more. It might be that you only have water from 3-4 am every other day, but there’s no way to know this unless you keep the taps constantly on. You might be able to find water from other sources or those might be out too.
You might not see Nutella for months or you might be cooking on charcoal because there hasn’t been a shipment of propane in three months. It’s possible these things haven’t been out as long as you think, but they’ve come in and been sold out again while you were in your village.
This uncertainty is normal. You can guess at what food will be at the market that week, but you can’t know. You will always wonder if the things that routinely happen in America will happen here. Here it is possible that you will never see a single jar of Nutella again, and no one would think anything about it.