Rainy season officially has officially started…in my house. About two weeks before Thanksgiving it started storming fairly consistently every afternoon, but it was one week ago that it started raining inside my house. I wouldn’t even say just that the roof is leaking…this is beyond mere dripping. If I try to stand in my kitchen and cook while it’s raining out, I have to be okay with an afternoon shower. I can’t really complain, there are no leaks over my bed, and none of my stuff got damaged (not that I have much stuff to get damaged, or much stuff I’d care about if it got damaged). I also have friends who will come and repair my roof for free, as long as I remind them everyday and am patient. Hopefully someone will come repair the roof tomorrow, and in the meantime, I’ve started sleeping with my iPod, kindle, phone and camera under my pillow, one of the only dry spots in the house.
Regional volunteer meeting in Diego Suarez at the beginning of the month included a pool day, Halloween shenanigans, cooking a fried chicken dinner, and a field trip to Amber Mountain National Park, where we hiked in the mist and saw the smallest micro-chameleon in the world.
4000km biked since I moved to my village last June!
Mangos, pineapples, and litchis are all simultaneously abundant
Thanksgiving in the Black Hole- lots of watching Project Runway, washing dishes in Leslie’s bathroom sink, playing drinking games with the French volunteers, and checking out a new region and visiting friends in their own towns and villages
Making Christmas and New Years plans!
Rainy season means some relief from the heat, but it also means more flies, mosquitos, and general itchiness. Also, things are so humid nothing ever dries (EVER).
Two friends left the area- One British friend who worked for an NGO in Ambanja went home because her contract ended. Another friend’s house got broken into so he’ll move to Diego, which is close by but not quite as accessible.
This year for Thanksgiving I went to visit friends in the Black Hole, as the Sofia region is known, because it’s so difficult to get in and out. It took 10 hours over two days to get in, and two very long brousse rides to get out, but I’d never been to visit them before, and if I didn’t make it for Thanksgiving, the roads would get worse and worse as rainy season goes on, and eventually the trip would be impossible.
We killed and cooked 3 chickens, made mashed potatoes, green beans, green mango and cucumber salad, and chocolate cake. Nothing turned out perfectly but we had a fun day of cooking and getting ready, which included rearranging every single piece of furniture in the friend’s house where I was staying.
The weekend also included eating lots of litchis, walking around town, and temporarily adopting a neighbor’s puppy. As per my request, we also played some Christmas songs and watched Frosty the Snowman and Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch. However, it’ pretty tough to get into the holiday spirit when you’re sweating 23 hours per day and your best approximation of a Christmas tree is a Ravinala Palm.
Some of my friends know exactly how many days before they’ll be back in the US (well, none of us know yet exactly when we’ll be leaving here, which makes things more complicated). I don’t have my plan worked out that well, but I do have a more general countdown going:
5 months left: December- Friends coming North for Christmas! We’ll go to my village for a day (depending on how terrible the road conditions are), then head up to Ankarana National Park (I’ve been there with mom and dad, but apparently it’s a whole different experience during the rainy season), and end up in the Diego transit house to cook a big Christmas dinner, which will take some creativity to make it feel like a holiday meal. There are no pecans, cranberries, sweet potatoes or apples- is it ok to eat shrimp, cashews and mangos for Christmas?
4 months left: January- Planning on spending New Years on a beach somewhere (isn’t there some saying about how what you do on New Years predicts how the rest of your year will go? I hope so). Later in the month I have to go to Tana for a conference- it’s the last time my training group will all be together at once, and we’ll choose our date to leave the country!
3 months left: February- Quiet month in my village (last quiet month in my village). I’ll lead my last regional volunteer meeting, probably in Nosy be. It’ll be good to see everyone in the region before I leave, and, as always, to spend time on the beach.
2 months left: March- Packing and getting ready to go! Giving away all my belongings (the furniture and books will stay for the next volunteer, and my neighbors are already starting to claim my cooking utensils and bedding).
1 month left (approximately…but actually less): April- Starting the process of getting out. First I’ll go to Diego to turn in my bike, water filter, metal trunk, mosquito net, and various other pieces of Peace Corps property (otherwise I’d have to drag everything on top of a taxi-brousse to Tana). Then I’ll fly to Tana- that’s right, for my last trip down to the capital I’m forgoing the 18-hour bus ride and splurging on an airplane seat (or, mom and dad are paying for a flight because of the accident last time I made that trip). It’ll take a week or so of medical checkups and administrative paperwork before I can leave, then…goodbye Madagascar! I’m hoping to stop in Jordan on my way home to visit Katrina, then back in the US just in time for my 25th birthday!
Yesterday on my bike ride into town I almost ran over a chameleon, then I almost got lost because the fog was so thick I couldn’t find the road out of the rice field, and then a small child started wailing because I am so extremely frightening. I don’t really think much of incidences like this anymore, but once in a while I do realize that this is not the normal life of a 24-year old American girl.
This past week my iPod died (my 3rd one to die here, this place eats electronics alive) and my kindle ran out of batteries, so I was completely without stimuli. In many ways, I feel grateful that these are the biggest crises of my week. There are far more serious events that could have happened, and sometimes do. However, my quality of life declined somewhat because of my lack of entertainment. There are only so many hours during the day I can sit by the side of the road with my Malagasy friends and watch people walk by- and what else am I supposed to do at night besides read and listen to podcasts? Yes, I am thankful when the lowest point during my week is some mild boredom, but that doesn’t make it any less tedious at the time.
Anyway, here are some other things I’m grateful for right now, a little early in honor of Thanksgiving next week:
Now is the beginning of rainy season, which is also the best part of the rainy season, because it’s not raining every day yet, just enough to cool things off and water the gardens and rice fields
Packages full of magazines, healthy snacks, and love (thanks Mom!)
Mango season now, pineapple season just starting, and litchi season coming soon (unfortunately, I have already seen my last avocado season in country)
Awesome Peace Corps friends who understand my life here and commiserate and/or celebrate with me, Malagasy friends who make my life better on a daily basis, and family and friends back home who I am SO EXCITED to see in 5 MONTHS!!!!
Lots of things to be grateful for here in Northern Madagascar. Next week, adventures into a new region to visit friends to celebrate Thanksgiving!
This week was our regional volunteers meeting- every three months all the volunteers in each region meet, then send a representative (yours truly, for the North) to the capital to talk about Peace Corps policies and issues (most exciting meeting ever, as you can imagine). We usually switch locations within the region, and this time we were in Diego (my favorite city in the entire country). This meeting weekend included a Halloween party with some fantastic costumes (flapper, cowboy, cyclist, urban lumberjack, and toilet-paper mummy), and an outing to nearby Montagne D’Ambre. It was a super rainy day (well, it is the rainforest), but we had a great time and saw lots of wildlife, including the smallest chameleon in the world. (Please excuse the extreme close-up of my face)
Madagascar had its first election last week since 2006. It was the primary, and there were 33 candidates (narrowed down from 46 originally). Unfortunately, a lot of friends in my village didn’t vote, but so far everything’s gone peacefully and results are starting to accumulate. A successful election would be a landmark in the country’s stability.
(Please note that I’m not supposed to have a real opinion about the election or post anything controversial, so this is just a brief overview of the political situation at the moment. See the bottom of the page for the required disclaimer- these opinions are all my own and not Peace Corp’s or the US government’s).
My back is not seriously injured, and the soreness is beginning to fade. I got myself a massage because I think it was essential to my healing process.
Lots of friends are passing through the area, some of whom I wouldn’t have seen for a long time. I’ve also been meeting some new fantastic people, so in general it’s good to be around great people and do fun things. Last week we went out to buy tree seeds, baked an apple spice upside-down cake, went to a hookah bar, and this week is the music festival Madajazzcar
I’m managing to be very productive despite the many distractions (internet, hot showers, friends). I’ve gotten a good chunk of work done on my grad school applications for fall 2014- maybe I’ll aim to finish them this week?
Tana low points:
I go through money very quickly here because there’s beer to drink, good food to eat, and transportation is ridiculously expensive. Also, the grocery store is like Americaland, and I can buy (for a price) things like oatmeal, popcorn, apples, and cheese.
No exercise to speak of. A little bit of yoga yesterday was the first time I’ve moved around in way too long. I will be excited to start working out on a regular basis when I get home.
I’m stuck here for almost another week because all the flights up north are full until then. I may go out into the countryside to visit a friend who lives nearby because I need to get out of this transit house soon.
So after the accident (see previous post), I was having some back problems, so Peace Corps brought me here to Tana to check it out. Luckily, my x-ray and cat-scan were normal, although my spine was pretty contorted because the muscles were so out of whack that they were pulling it in all different directions. (The Peace Corps doctors did not prescribe me a massage, although I think that would have been an appropriate and necessary treatment)
In the meantime, I’ve been here in the Capital, spending time with friends passing through, eating good food, spending way too much money, and working on grad school applications. Then there was a discrepancy about how I was going to get home, and I thought I would be stuck in Tana forever and have to switch my site and stay here until I leave the country until April.
Fortunately, things have worked themselves out and I’ll be heading back to my village soon! Needless to say, I’ll be happy to get home and reestablish a routine of gardening, biking, weighing babies, and hearing everyone tell me how long I’ve been away and how fat I’ve gotten.