The ramblings of a Peace Corps trainee in Madagascar....

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Brief recap of my first 1.5months in Mada...

(Written April 16th)

Hello all!  Sorry it has taken so long for me to post…I’ve spent a grand total of 30mins on the internet since arriving in the lovely country of Madagascar.  Time is a funny thing ..I feel like I’ve been away for 6months…not 1.5.   So much happens in a single day, they seem to drag on forever…but at the same time, I can’t believe PST (pre-service training) is almost over!  So much to catch you up on….let me take a trip down memory lane here..

When I first arrived, March 2nd, I spent a few days with the other PCT (Peace Corps Trainees) in Mantasao (about 60 miles from Tana, the capital) at the PC training center, and on 3/5 (my bday!) met my host family and moved into their home (about 5k from the training center).  My host family consisted of my Neny (farmer), Dada (carpenter/farmer), my 15&10yr old bros, 20&16yr old sisters, and my 20yr old sister’s baby (around one month old).  They are a very nice, respectful, and hard working family.  I was the 3rd Peace Corps volunteer they hosted, and I definitely learned a lot from them.  I killed a few chickens with a dull knife, harvested and prepared rice (which entails a hell of a lot more than just boiling water), sat through 3hour church services fighting sleep while dozens of Gasy children stared at me, without blinking, for the entire duration of the service, played street soccer with crazy kids, manasad  my lamba (engligasy for washing clothes) in a pond next to the rice fields, and ate lots and lots of rice, for every meal, with them. 
            There are sooo many children on this island.  50% of the population of Mada is under the age of 15.  They sell condoms at all of the epiceries here, in every small town, and have the pill and the shot available for an incredibly low price….yet there are babies everywhere.  Six year olds babysit 10month olds while the newborn is strapped to mom’s back as she harvests rice out in the paddy.  It’s crazy.  They are adorable though.  It’s a good thing I’m a sucker for a cute kid, even as he/she yells “Manahaona Vazaha!” (hello foreigner, sometimes used in a derogatory way) at me, over and over again. 
            Ok, so for the first 4 weeks in country I lived with my host family and attended language, cross-cultural, and technical class 6 days a week. After leaving my host family I moved back into the PCTC with my fellow trainees for the remainder of our PST.  I spent one weekend with a current volunteer that has been in country for over a year to see what the daily routine of a volunteer is like.  This past week all of the Environment trainees in my stage (my stage is split between environment/business trainees) went on our Tech trip, and were finally able to see a decent chunk of this beautiful country.  It was so good to get out of the training center—sometimes I forget I’m in this amazing place because I’m in class all day and don’t get to explore.  On our tech trip we stopped in some interesting cities that had a slightly Euro feel to them (Ambositra), we hiked through the rainforest  (a few of us went on a night hike during a really intense thunderstorm and saw tons of chameleons and sleeping birds, it was freaking awesome) and saw lemurs in Andasibe, spent the night in Ansirabe (big tourist town, it was kind of strange seeing so many white people, mostly French, and some American Mormons riding around on their bikes spreadin’ the word), and spent two nights in what will be my banking town, Fianaratsao, which was a pretty cool place as well. Needless to say, the schedule has been intense, and I have to admit, I am looking forward to moving to my site so I can relax, and actually start working. 

Ahhh….my site.  A few weeks ago, after much anticipation, we received our site placement.  Sometime shortly after swearing in as a PCV on 5/3 I will be moving to Morarano (translates to “cheap water”), which is a smallllll town right at the gates of Andringitra National Park in Southern Madagascar.  It looks beautiful!  I’m so excited.  The park is host to the 2nd highest peak in the country, and is famous for it’s rock faces and huge granite slabs, as well as 14 species of lemurs and 20ish different species of orchids.  So far I have only seen a few pics of the park in various guidebooks, and have seen a picture of my future home, which is much nicer than I was expecting.  I will be living in a concrete/brick building owned by the park service, and have an apartment on the second floor with my own veranda.  I’m pretty excited about the veranda.  I am also happy about living on the second floor, as I will have some amount of privacy, which is as tough as ice cubes for a vazaha to come by in these parts (and no, I do not have electricity, don’t be silly).
It’s time for me to wrap this entry up.  I miss everyone back in the states, and  I have definitely experienced intense feelings of homesickness that are new to me.  I get homesick for people, food, American culture, privacy, and my old routines.  I miss rock climbing.  It looks like once I get to site I will actually be able to climb…which is verrryyyy exciting.    I miss grape nuts and vanilla soy milk.  Overall, I like it here, and I think once I get to my site I will finally be able to make a home for myself.   It’s going to be hard to leave my fellow trainees and live by myself (the sole vazaha in a small village), but I think I’m ready for it.  A good friend of mine will be living about 30miles from my site, so I will have some support (sort of) nearby. 
*I will post again very soon with more up to date info....As of now I am officially a Peace Corps Volunteer and am en route to my new site!! I miss everyone!

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