Monday, December 22, 2014

The First Exam



 Monday, 12/15/14
            Today I gave my first English exam to my students and ended my first trimester of teaching English in Vondrozo.  I should start this story on Wednesday and Thursday of last week though.  On those two days I gave a practice exam to my students so that they would know what would be on the test and how the test would look when they took it.  In this practice exam I used the exact directions and the same format of questions, although different question, they would see on the test.  When made the test twice as long as the review, 40 questions, but most of the answers were fill in the blanks

A Malagasy Thanksgiving



Friday, 11/28/14
            Before I start, I know Thanksgiving is on a Thursday, but we are 9 hours ahead of the US and it was the first time we could get most of the Sudesters together.  The Sudest Thanksgiving was at a volunteer’s house in Manakara.  He and another volunteer prepared the turkey and the rest of us prepared and brought the other dishes; except me and Greg, we were not at home to cook so we just bought the drinks.  With the lack of an oven the turkey had to be cooked in a different method.  So the way they prepared it was to dig a hole in the back yard, put some coals in it, put the turkey (seasoned and wrapped in hemp) in the hole, add more coal, and cover it back up with dirt; essentially creating a natural oven.  While we waited we snacked on a gunny sack size bag of lychees

Doing the Brusse Hop



            After leaving Tana I started to make my way back down towards the Sudest.  Not wanting to go all the way back to site just to turn around again a few days later to go back to Manakara for Thanksgiving, I decided to take my time and do some site visits along the way.  So leaving Tana with Blair, we made our way down to Fianar (Fianarantsoa).  Once there we tried to catch a brusse down to her site, but, it being in the evening, there were only the long distance night brusses left so we decided to stay the night at the Fianar meva and wait till the morning.  The following morning we caught a brusse to her site, Kelilalina, and she showed me around the town, her house (amazing

IST



Monday, 11/10/14 – Friday, 11/21/14

            The weekend prior to Monday all of the volunteers from my Stage arrived in Tana as a consolidation point to be taken back to the PCTC for our IST (In Service Training).  Upon arriving at the PCTC on Monday evening we choose what room we wanted, most of us choosing the same rooms we had during PST, and moved our stuff in.  We came knowing we were going to have two weeks of amazing food, hot showers, real toilets, time with our friends, and a lot of classes; knowing that the first of these weeks would be spent with just the volunteers and in the second we would be joined by our counterparts from our sites.  As expected a group got together and planned events for each of the nights during the first week of IST and I think, at least in the end, every night turned out

Where’s the rano mafana in Ranomafana?



            I took a vacation this week on my way to Tana/Mantasoa for IST (In Service Training) in Ranomafana.  Ranomafana is located in the rainforest about halfway between Manakara and Fianarantsoa.  I went there with two of my fellow Stage Sudesters and meet with two others from my Stage.  Once there, the five of us got a room at a travelers hostel and started our plans for the next few days.  It had started raining in Ranomafana shortly after we arrived and the forecast showed that it was only going to get worst as the week progressed; as it turned out, it only rained that day and the next and was nothing but sunshine after that.  So fearing that the rain was going to get worst we

Saturday, November 8, 2014

PCTC Tour

Here is a video tour of the PCTC (Peace Corps Training Center). You can also read a short post about it here.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Vondrozo

Here are some pictures of Vondrozo.
Downtown Vondrozo

Bike Video

Here is a video of one of my bike rides out of Vondrozo.




Mantasoa


Here are some old pictures of Mantasoa.



The Kabone Guard

This is what guards my kabone at night, but lets be honest, it is really its kabone at night because I am not sharing a small, dark, enclosed room with that thing.

That is a broom stick in the corner, so you can get a size comparison.

The Heavens Opened and the Angels Shown Down Upon Us

Here are some pictures of the night sky over Mantasoa, brought to you by David (stagemate).




1st Vac



Friday, 10/31/14 – Saturday, 1/1/14

            This weekend was my first VAC (Volunteer Action Committee) since I have been at site.  Each region has their own VAC’s, every three months, in which the PCV’s in that region come together and talk about what the news is from the national VAC and what is new with each of us at our sites.  For this VAC it was decided that we would meet at a beachside ‘resort’ outside of Manakara, which was listed as an ‘edge of the world’ location.  To get there most of the PCV’s rode there bikes, but a few of us did not bring them so we took a moto posiposy.  Stacking all of our stuff in and on top of the moto posiposy, five of us climbed in and started to make our way to the hotel.  It turned out though that we were too heavy for the posiposy to make it through the soft sand road and

Sambatra



Friday, 10/24/14 – Sunday, 10/26/14

            Sambatra is a huge circumcision celebration here in Madagascar.  It only happens every three years, so I was very fortunate to be in Madagascar and living in the Sudest when it was going on.  I attended only the second to last weekend, but the festival itself last the whole month of October.  Circumcision is an important event in Malagasy culture and all circumcisions are accompanied with a party.  Although most circumcision celebrations are just with family and friends, Sambatra brings together people from all over the region for one joint celebration; as well as people from all over Madagascar to witness it.  The actual cultural celebrations do not last all day, but are only for a few hours each day.  These celebrations also differ each day.  The fist day that I was there I witnessed a

Real First Week of School



            Today, Monday 10/13/14, I started my first real day of teaching in Madagascar, as well as my first day of teaching English.  The rooms in my school are cement rooms with a blackboard on the wall in front of the class and two windows on each of the walls perpendicular to the blackboard.  These windows are the only source of light and airflow in the rooms.  The room is then filled with four rows of desks.  Each of these desks is about 3’ wide with a bench in which 3-4 students will sit.  Each room is has about 60 or so students and not all of them have a place to sit; though I am told more desks are being made. 
I have to say that overall my first days went fairly well; far better than I truly expected it to. 

The Dying Lemur



Friday, 10/10/14

            Today after doing my laundry I was laying around reading when I heard a bunch of kids in my backyard.  Curious to what they were doing, mostly out of boredom, I got up and walked to my backdoor.  Upon seeing me, one of the kids held up his hand in a motion for me to stay where I was and then ran around the corner of my house.  He shortly reappeared with a small fury animal in his hand.  As he approached I was unsure of what it might be; a mouse or a squirrel I thought possibly.  When he got to the bottom of my steps he laid it on the ground and I could finally see what it truly

School Started Today; No tomorrow; No…Well Maybe Next Week



10/6/14 – 10/10/14

            I was told that Monday, 10/6/14, we were going to have an assembly at the school and that classes would also start.  So having lessons prepared for the week and ready to start teaching, I woke up at an early 6 am to get ready for the 7 o’clock assembly.  At 6:45 I stood outside on my porch overlooking the Lycee, with my friend Pascel and sitemate Greg, and awaited people to show up; really anyone to show up since we were the only ones there.  By 8 o’clock only about 30 of the roughly 500 students had arrived, as well as only half of the teachers.  So at 8:30, things having not improved, the Proviseur informed me that we would try again tomorrow. 
            The following day did not fare much better.  Although the students had doubled to about 60,

Cold Front…?



Sunday, 10/5/14

I feel bad saying this, but it is really cold in Vodrozo right now.  The rain last night brought in a cold front, at least that is what we are calling it.  You know that you have become accustom to the hot weather when it drops to 70 degrees and you have to pull out a jacket because it is to cold outside. 

Parasy….



Friday, 10/3/14

            I am a real Madagascar Volunteer now.  Today I was able to check off another international ailment.  Today I found out I had Parasy.  Although not a disease, I am still counting it.  Parasy is a sand flea that burrows under the dead skin on your feet and lays an egg sack.  It causes a pressure feeling that is slightly painful.  It is easily removed though and then you must just wait for the wound to heal. 

1st Recorded Strava Ride



Tuesday, 9/30/14

            Today I decided to go on another bike ride down the northern road out of Vondrozo to the waterfalls/rapids.  This has become my favorite road to ride and is one that I have done a few times now.  It’s a beautiful ride with amazing scenery of rolling hills, forest, and rice fields.  It also has a few precarious ‘wooden bridge’ river crossings and ends (well I stop) at a set of rapids on the river.  The whole trip is on a red dirt ‘road,’ that in most places is washed out and rocky, but great for mountain biking.  Since my phone broke in Mantasoa I have not been able to record any of my rides till now.  I finally got a new smartphone (thank you Elena) and with it my Strava app.  So today, for

Received My School Schedule



Monday, 9/29/14

            I think a bit of information about the Lycee (high school) is need here before going into my schedule.  There are only three grades in the Lycee: Seconde, Premiere, and Terminale.  These grades are then separated into sections or classes.  There are fewer sections as you go up in grades due to the drop out rate. Now that the ground work is set, I had my first teacher meeting this morning at my new school in Vondrozo.  The Proviseur, sitting in the front of the classroom, lead the meeting and the 15 teachers and I sitting in the student’s desk facing him.  He started by going around the room and introducing everyone, as two of the teachers and I were new to the school.  After this he gave a

Fara trip



            Fara is my banking town and is only 43 miles from me, but due to the condition of the road it takes about 6 hours during the dry season and, I am told, 12 hours during the raining season; which is fast approaching.  So at the end of each month I will be making the trip into Fara to withdraw money and to buy anything I can not get in Vondrozo.  This trip will, in the future, have to be taken during the weekend since I will be teaching during the week, but since we have had this month off to settle into our new towns I decided to take a mid-week trip and meet up with all the other Sudesters from my Stage.  For this trip I had a list of things I wanted to purchase, a few items of furniture I wanted to

‘Wake’



Wednesday, 9/17/14

            This evening, on the way home, Marolahy learned that someone in the Antefasy tribe in Vondrozo had died and that there was a ‘wake’ being held in the Antefasy house.  I convinced him to take me about the time we were passing the trail to the house, so we made our way up to the house.  Entering, we made our quick introductions and then left to make preparations for our time at the ‘wake.’  During these events the people in the house do not sleep the entire night.  To accomplish this they spend the whole night sitting around talking and drinking.  So leaving the house we made our way to the bar where I bought a liter of ‘alcohol’ as a gift to the family.  We then went to Marolahy’s

The Long Walk Home



9/12/14

            Yesterday evening a Malagasy nature group out of the Highlands came to Vondrozo.  They were kids and young adults, ages 15 – 25, from Fianar and Ansirabe, that were participating in a summer camp that lead them here to see the Corridor and then down to Toliara region.  When they arrived at the Lycee, we cleared out a few of the classrooms for them to sleep in and left them to prepare the rest of their ‘camp.’  This morning I was awakened by camp chants and as I made my way outside I saw that they were all in a circle chanting, listening to speeches from the camp heads about the day, and receiving backpacks as gifts.  After all of their camp stuff was done and they had

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall…Wait, What Mirror?



            I have gone almost two weeks now without a mirror and without ever knowing how I look and I have to say it is somewhat liberating.  For the first few days it was a little nerve racking trying to keep up appearances so I could go into town to meet everyone and not knowing if I truly was.  Though after a few days this feeling began to dissipate as I started to realize I could only do what I could with what I had.  The only problem lays in my need to see myself to trim my beard.  This has lead to little ingenuity on my part.  I have come to realize that the lid to my water filter works as a fairly good mirror, till I find a real one, and by hooking it to the door handle can serve as a mirror for trimming.  And so, now after almost two weeks, I have finally seen what I now look like. 

Barefoot Basketball



9/10/14

            The Lycee has a basketball court on its grounds and so today Greg, four neighborhood Malagasy, and I went out to shoot around.  Nothing wrong with that, but where I made my fatal mistake was throwing of my flip flops off when we decided to play a real game.  The concrete is extremely rough and it was not very long before I unknowingly acquired blisters on my feet, namely my big toes.  This too was fine till one was cut open on a rock and left the bottom of my left big toe literally skinned.  I had to return home clean and bandage my wound and am now laid up waiting for it to heal. 

First Bike Ride in the Sudest



9/9/14

            I decided today that I wanted to go on a bike ride and try to get back into cycling shape.  The Sudest is known for cycling and most of the volunteers in this region are cyclist.  So after I finished eating lunch, I got my bike and headed up to Greg’s house to meet him for the ride.  I could not have picked a hotter pat of the day.  I do not know how hot it was, but it had to be in the mid 90’s and on a clear day that tropical sun really beats down on you.  But we went anyways.  We decided to head down the southern road, a road that I had walked partly down two days ago while exploring and one that Greg had yet to explore.  The ride was beautiful.  Vondrozo is a beautiful place and, I think it can

Circumcision Fety



9/6/14

             Circumcision is a huge event here in Madagascar and is the reason for one of the big parties that the people here throw.  Circumcision in Madagascar is not done when the boy is a baby like in the States though.  It is done when the boys are older (I am still acquiring into the details of the ceremony, but I believe that it is done anywhere between 5 and 10 years of age) and are knowledgeable enough to be scared and try to run away.  The party that I attended was hosted by Mr. Marolahy, at his house, and was for his sister’s son.  The circumcision and party started at 5 am this morning and consisted of a few ceremonial acts.  The most striking was that the grandfather of the boy eats the foreskin on a banana.  It is also customary, in all important circumstances, to bring some

Finally Have a Home



9/5/14

            Today was spent assembling my bed and trying to put the furniture and everything else I brought or acquired in country in its place.  This was done under the close supervision of some of the neighborhood kids, who started by watching me work from their seat on the back steps, but then slowly made there way into the house to get a better look at what I was doing.  Once I set up my bed, my kitchen area, and had tried to find a place for most of the other stuff, I finally pulled out my maps and laid them on the floor to examine.  This was a delight to the kids and they came over to also look for the places they knew.  After they were done pouring over the maps, they helped me decide how to hang them on my wall.  Unable to use the push pins I brought on the cement wall or easily use nails either I resorted to using duct tape, but this also does not seem to work as they keep falling off. 

I Finally Have Furniture



9/4/14

            So I was told that my furniture was finished and that it would be arriving today on the taxi brusse, so the Proviseur, Greg, Marolahy, and I waited at one of the local hotelys for it to arrive.  When it finally arrived at 9 pm this evening it was already dark and the bed having arrived in pieces to be able to fit in the brusse, was unloaded there in the middle of town.  I paid the brusse driver the fare for the shipment and then the Proviseur, not wanting to carry the furniture the long distance back to the Lycee, hired three guys to haul it for us.  Walking behind these guys carrying my furniture, with my insanely bright headlamp lighting there way, made me feel extremely colonial.  Not a nice feeling to have, especially when your new in town and everyone still thinks your French because they

101



9/3/14

            I do not know how I managed to go for three months in Madagascar without ever using a 101, but that streak came to an end today.  For those that do not know what a 101 is, it is a type of “toilet.”  I use the word toilet loosely here because there really is not a toilet and in most cases, mine included, it does not flush, but is only a hole in the ground.  It is called a 101 because it has two places on each side of the hole for you to put your feet and so with those and the hole it looks like the number 101.  So today was the first time for me to use one and I have to say I may never want to go back to a western toilet again, though having a flushing 101 that did not smell would be nice. 

Installation



Saturday, 8/30/14

            This morning we awoke to the sound of a bustling early morning in Tana.  A sound that would be deafening if not for the music like attributes playing the song of Gasy life in the big city.  It was almost tranquil in its confusion of sounds; a reminder of where I was.  This though would be the last time I would hear such a bustle for many months it seemed.  So as I stood at the window, over looking the city, I reveled in its sound.  This was not a feeling of dismay or regret, but a feeling of joy for what was to come.  And with this I grabbed my bags and headed down to the car that would be taking me to the Sudest.  Upon loading up we said our goodbyes to those of us at the hotel not going to the Sudest and Julissa, who though going to the Sudest had to ride with a different group due to the

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ode to the Volunteer Families



            I have been told by some of my Stagemates that they have been guiding their family members to my blog.  So this post goes out to all of the families of Volunteers in my Stage that have been looking in and following what we have been up too. 
            Your kid, sibling, cousin, whatever they may be, is an amazingly awesome person.  I feel privileged and am happy to have gotten the chance to spend the last few months with them.  Through the good and bad, ups and downs, they were there for each other, if only in their own special way.  Many great friendships were formed with them that will undoubtedly last a lifetime.  I am honored to know them and to get to serve with them.   They are going to be doing some awesome work here in Madagascar and helping so many people better their lives.  It takes a special person, I think, to leave

I’m a Volunteer!!!



Friday, 8/29/14

            Today was crazy and there was a good portion of it where some of the hotel people could not get there acts together, me included.  But let me start at the beginning where it was all going well.  I’m a Volunteer!!!  Well not yet in the story, we had to be sworn in first; although we did already sign the document yesterday.  So all of the hotel people were up and ready before the car arrived to pick us up and take us to the U.S. Ambassador’s house for the swearing ceremony.  By the way, the U.S. does not have an ambassador in Madagascar as of yet, since the coup, but that did not stop us from celebrating there.  The swearing in celebration was really nice.  It was set up on the lawn with a stage for the honored guest a speeches over looking the audience in front and us sitting off to the side at an angle to see both the stage and audience.  The whole event started out with news reporters

End of a Chapter



Thursday, 8/28/14

            Today ends our time as Trainees in PST.  This morning we all loaded up all of our stuff in the Peace Corps cars and said goodbye to the Training Center for the last time till we return for IST (In Service Training).  For most of us, this was a happy time.  We have all been waiting for training to end so that we could get to our site and start our lives as PCV’s.  After saying our goodbyes and, for most of us, taking our motion sickness pills, we started our long, bumpy, winding ride to Tana.  Once in Tana the stage would be split again into two groups; one staying in the meva and the other at the Zenith hotel a few miles away.  I, along with the rest of the Sudest group and a few others, were at the hotel because we would be leaving the day after swearing in, where most of the people at the meva

Thank You Community Celebration



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Field Trip to Tana



Wednesday, 8/21/14
            Today we all loaded up into the PC vans at 7 am and rode into Tana on a field trip to learn about PC Madagascar.  Our first stop on our tour was the U.S. Embassy.  After making it through security, which included a security guard feeling up my leg because the titanium rod in my femur kept setting off the metal detector, we were able to make our way to the main embassy building where we were to have a meeting with the Madagascar Police, Gendarme, and the U.S. head of security in Madagascar.  This, all in all, was just a security meeting in which we were told the protocols if something were to happen and what we should do while traveling. 
            After the meeting at the embassy we left and went to the PC Madagascar Office.  Here we

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Just Some Pics

The guard dogs had puppies

I Got A New Bike!!!



Monday, 8/18/14
            I have been waiting for today for a while now, most intently in the past few days, and it ended on a very happy note for me.  This afternoon is when we got to pick out our new bikes that we would have for the next two years.  I say that I have been waiting more intently for the past few days because just a few days ago we saw the bike boxes laying out open on the ground and were informed that we would be able to test ride the bikes this previous weekend.  Unlike with many other things, of which we have grown accustom, we had to wait for a later time than what we were told.  After lunch today though we were able to go out and see all of the brand new bikes and pick the one that we

Final LPI



Monday, 8/18/14
            Today we took our final LPI to determine if we had the language level to continue our service.  To pass the LPI we had to receive Intermediate Low, which is just slightly higher than what we needed for our mid PST LPI.  Going into the LPI I was pretty nervous about the test, although I do not know why.  After the LPI I felt fairly good about the test, but we will see soon what I made.

Wednesday, 8/20/14
            After waiting all day we finally found out if we passed the test today.  I failed… It turns out t

The Injured Lost



Friday, 8/15/14           
            Today many of the trainees and some of the LCF’s played a soccer game against some of the people in the Mantasoa community.  Little did we know that we would be playing the Mantasoa soccer team.  Not only that, but the field we were playing on was horrible.  Half of the field was grass, but the other half was wet, hard clay that none of us could get grip on.  During the game the majority of our players ended up becoming injured in one way or another.  I myself ended up getting a big chunk taken out of my ankle by a rock.  In the end we lost the game 4-0, but to our credit we did get a few good tries on the goal.  

End of Practicum



Thursday, 8/14/14
            Today is the official end of our Practicum.  During Practicum we were split into two groups so that we taught classes every other day.  For each class we were given different class levels and lessons to teach, which we had to prepare our own lesson plans for.  This lasted for 2 ½ weeks and on the third week we had to prepare a test and give a review for that test.  Today, the final day, we gave corrections to our students for the test and then played games with them till the end of our time.  After that we all gathered and sang our national anthems to each other.  Singing the national anthem

Sunday, August 10, 2014

You Can Never Be Ready to Teach Slavery in Africa in Africa



Friday, 8/8/14

            I think the title says it all.  You can never be ready to teach ‘Slavery in Africa’ in Africa.  But this is what I was assigned to teach for today.  All in all it went fairly well.  We did a history lesson about Madagascar, West Africa, and America.  After that I taught them ‘The Drinking Gourd’ song and we did some language activities. 

Immersion…



Monday, 8/4/14

            Today started our language immersion at the PCTC.  Since we are back at the PCTC, PC and many of us were worried about our Gasy being affected by us never speaking it since we had each other to talk to.  So to combat this PC put in place rules for language immersion in which we are unable to speak English during meal times.  During these times we all sit at tables with other trainees and language trainers with our dialect.  We were given 10,000 points to start the immersion and if we lose them all we have to pay 500 Ar, but if we get up to 30,000 points then our trainers will do our laundry for us.  The rules are if you are caught speaking English during the specified times you will

Our Return to the PCTC



Saturday, 8/2/14

            Today all of the trainees moved out of our host homes and back to the PCTC.  Everyone was very excited about this, especially me.  Being back at the PCTC allows us to make our own decisions on so many things we were not able to do before.  We can choose if we want to eat or not, when we go to bed, and so many other things that leave us with a filling of freedom that we did not have at our host homes.  We also are able to hangout with everyone when ever we want.  At our host homes we were not able to do this as easily due to the distance between each of our houses and having to be

Manasa Lamba



Tuesday, 7/29/14

            Today was the first time I was able to do laundry in 2 ½ weeks.  We were on Tech Trip for a week and then when we got back it started raining and it has been raining ever since.  Today was the first day that it has not rained since then.  This is a really long time not to wash clothes seeing that I did not bring that many clothes to this country.  Dirty has taken on a very different definition here Madagascar.  Most things get worn multiple times before they are considered ‘dirty’ and ‘dirty’ really only means that they are visibly dirty and/or fail the smell test.  You also can not just wash your clothes when ever you want to.  Here in Madagascar we have to wash our clothes by hand.  This

Practicum



Monday, 7/21/14

            Today started our practicum for our language teacher training.  There will be two and half weeks of practicum in which we will each get the opportunity to teach at least ten hours.  The Peace Corps trainers have assigned us all topics from the curriculum that we will lesson plan for and teach.  We will all get to teach many of the different school levels so that we have experience in each.  On our teaching days, if we are not teaching we observe the other students to both get ideas and give feedback to them. 

Mefloquine Took a Turn for the Worst



Monday, 7/21/14

            Madagascar is a malaria country so Peace Corps trainees/volunteers have to take malaria prophylaxis to keep from getting malaria.  On the day that we got here Peace Corps started us all on Doxycycline, which has to be taken everyday.  After two weeks of taking this and forgetting on multiple occasions I got the chance and decided to switch to Mefloquine, which only has to be taken once a week.  This is so much easier to remember and it also gives you really vivid dreams for a few nights which is pretty cool.  So I have been taking Mefloquine for the past few weeks and it has been well till last night.  Last night it took a turn for the worst. My vivid dream turned into a nightmare

Tech Trip!



Monday, 7/14/14 – Saturday, 7/19/14

            This full week was the Tech Trip for all of the Trainees.  I am still trying to decide how to state and how much of the week should be stated in this blog, but I will use this section to lay out the foundation of what Tech Trip is.  Tech Trip ultimately is a chance for the trainees to visit and observe schools and to talk to and ask questions of the students and teachers.  It is also a chance for us to explore and practice some of the things that we had been learning in our language classes.  This also would be the first time that we were outside of the Mantasoa area since we have arrived.  We have been unable to leave the area because, until now, we had not received our official documents from the

Antefasy!



Wednesday, 7/9/14

            So today everyone was put into new language classes and we started our dialect training.  There are 18 official tribes in Madagascar, each with their own dialect of Malagasy.  Up to this point all of the trainees have been learning Standard Malagasy, which is the official language and is understood throughout the island, and some of the Highland trainees are continuing to learn it since that is what is spoken there.  As I mentioned in a previous post, my site is in the Sudest. The Sudest has three different dialects, mine being Antefasy, but they are so similar to each other that all of the trainees in the Sudest are learning together.  The dialect so far seems fairly easy with just some of the

Had My LPI Today…


Tuesday, 7/8/14

            So today I had my first LPI, which is our test to see how we are doing with our Malagasy language training.  We had one today, mid-training, then we will have another one at the end of training, which will determine if we get to go to site or not.  This LPI is to determine where we are with our training and what aspects we need help with.  To pass this test we had to have Novice High or higher, which basically means that you are able to understand question words and put together simple sentences.  In the days prior to the test I did not fell very confident with my language ability and was dreading this day.  We did though, the two days prior to the test, have mock LPI test with our

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Host Home

Cousin (left) and brother (right) making salsa

My Neny

My other brother

My sister (left) and my Neny (right)

My sister

My sister

Language class prior to going to the wedding

Wedding cake my Neny made

My Neny

My host home

The grandparents

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pictures of the Jean LaBorde Tours


Model of Mantasoa during Jean Laborde

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Day 2



Friday, 6/13/14



Breakfast was great.  They serve rice with every meal; it is the staple food in Madagascar.  Lunch and diner is just boiled rice, but for breakfast it is always a specialty cooked or seasoned rice. All of the volunteer’s plates are divided into the different foods that they give us with what I would call an average amount of rice, but if you looked at the workers and staff plates they had a mountain of rice with all of the other foods just stacked on top of it.  This being my second training day, it was a lot easier than yesterday.  We started with a two hour language lesson class, which was far easier than yesterday thankfully.  I found out today that it will be our last real lesson before we go to our host home tomorrow.  That I think will be a shock.  I am really excited to go, but I can not lie, I am a little

Saturday, July 12, 2014

1st Malagasy wedding!

Wedding

Fourth of July!!


Site Announcement!!!


Wednesday, 7/2/14


Today is the day that everyone has been waiting for since we found out we were going to be serving in Madagascar.  It is the day we found out where our sites were going to be for the next two years.  Before getting into the site placement announcement I should first give a little background into the process.  Madagascar is one of the only Peace Corps countries that allow the trainees a say into where their site will be.  Whether there is any weight to what the trainees say is questionable and it is relative to each individual case.  Peace Corps takes into count what the Medical officers, placement director, and language trainers have to say and then look at the trainees preferences.  What is certain

Madagascar’s Independence Day!!!


Thursday, 6/26/2014


The Independence Day celebrations here in Mantasoa went on for three days and I was told that in the capital they went on all week.  The actual independence day was on Thursday, 6/26/2014, but people started celebrating the night before.  When I returned from our meetings at the PCTC, knowing that there were going to be festivities going on that night, I asked my Neny what was going on and if we were going to be doing anything.  When he answered that we were going to watch the fireworks in Tana on the T.V. I was super bummed, but there was not much I could do.  Fortunately

First Day at the “Big Market”



Monday, 6/23/14

As part of our training Peace Corps took us to the market in a town 40 km (or 30 minutes) away to practice our numbers and bargaining skills.  To do this they gave each of the trainees 5,000 Ar (equivalent to $2.50) and a list of stuff that we had to buy.  We were informed that we could only spend that money and if we had extra left over to buy whatever other food items we wanted and that all of it would be prepared for us for lunch on Wednesday when we came to the PCTC.  The list I was given to buy was as follows: 3 kilos of oranges, 2 cups of wet beans (fresh beans), and a bunch of

My First Sickness



Saturday, 6/21/14

So I have just got over my first sickness here in Madagascar.  Fortunately it was not a bad one, but only the common cold (and not really that bad of a cold).  The bad ones are still to come and there is no doubt that I will be checking off a few boxes of international diseases while I am here in Madagascar.  This sickness all started a few days ago when the weather turned for the worst and it started raining and continued to be cold.  I was not the only, nor the first, trainee to get sick, nor was I the worst.  Although for the most part I did the same as I would have done in the States (nothing) to

Church and Tourism in a Foreign Land


Sunday, 6/15/14

My host family is Protestant and today being Sunday, they go to church.  Previous to leaving for Community Based Training many of the trainees had stated that they were not going to go to church with their families, me being on of them, this Sunday because it was the first day out “in the real world” and we could not even answer a few questions from a few people much less a whole congregation.  As it turns out not very many of the trainees were able to see this through, me again being one of them.  How are you supposed to say no and politely explain why when you can not even understand each other?  So I went to church.  And this is not a ‘get in the car and drive to church real quick’ kind of travel; it is a

First Day at My Host Home!!!



Saturday, 6/14/14


Today was probably the most nervous day for all of the volunteers.  Today at noon we went to our host home for Community Based Training.  Everyone undoubtedly had an array of different fears to contend with, but what was on everyone’s mind was the lack of communication capabilities.  We had only three half days of language training and most of it we could not reliably remember.  So we were off with what we thought we would need for a week and the very little language skills we had acquired to meet our host family.  Arriving at the Commune we all piled out of the vans and stood around waiting to be adopted by our new family.  The Commune is a small compound which is the

“I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane, Don’t Know When I’ll be Back Again”



So I left today for Madagascar.  Well it won’t actually be “today” when I am finally able to post this so that you can read it.  But on Tuesday, June 10, at 2:30 am I left the Hampton Hotel in Downtown Philadelphia for what would be no less than a tiny, but long, adventure to get to Madagascar.  Leaving the hotel at 2:30 am with no sleep the night before would begin the longest session of travel, including the longest airplane flight, which I have yet accomplished and ever want to do again.  We all loaded into a greyhound bus outside the hotel and began on our way to JFK airport where we were to catch our flight to Johannesburg, South Africa, at 11:15.  Knowing it was just shy of a nine hour

Peace Crops Application Timeline



I have had a few people ask me about the timeline of my application process, so I have decided to post a bulleted version of it.  What follows are just the events and dates that I found important.  There were a few other follow up interviews and questionnaires that I had to also fill out, but I think the following gives a good idea about the time frame between the major events.  If there is any questions about any of the events or anything fill free to comment or e-mail me.

2013
Applied to Peace Corps: June 4
Had my 1st interview:       July 9
Nominated:                       July 15
Placement interview:         November 20
Received my invitation:  November 29
2014
Staging:                           June 8

I Have Internet!!!



So since my last post I have not had access to internet till now and will probably not have it again for another month.  So below are the all of the blogs that I have written since I flew out from Philly on my way to Madagascar.  I apologize in advance for any grammatical or spelling errors, any places where it seems to jump from one topic to the next, or any places where it is just point to point with no explanation in the blog.  All of these blogs were written at different times during the day, most often while exhausted at night, and have not been proof read.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 13, 2014

First day of Training



Thursday, 6/12/14


So today was my first day at training and it was a very long day, but at least not as long as yesterday.  So getting up at 8:00 am for breakfast was a huge change in my old schedule.  The breakfast was awesome though and well worth it.  They have honey here that out of this world and the peanut butter is more like homemade peanut butter and is great.  I also ate pink rice, ground beef and eggs, but the honey on the fried bread is what made it.  Following that we had a meeting with the staff and were introduced to them, our schedule for the day, and a little info about Madagascar and our training.  I

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Life in the Compound



Thursday, 6/12/14


Life at the training center compound is awesome!!!  It is in the Mantasoa area, which is amazingly beautiful.  It lies on the eastern banks of the highland area with rolling hills, beautiful tress, and an awesome lake (we can not get in the lake for safety reasons…some parasite that lives in standing water we are told).  Being at the compound is like being at summer camp.  Many of the people only share their room with only one other person, but in my room I share it with five other volunteers and it is great.  They are all awesome people.  The rooms are much like you would see at a camp in the States with comfortable beds, a shower (with hot water!!), toilets, and a couch, but with mosquito nets and a ton of luggage that seems to be growing by the hour with all the stuff they are giving us. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Im Leaving for a Place Far Far Away!!!

Many of you have heard me say for quite a while that I was going to keep a blog of my adventures in Madagascar time and time again.  Well here it is!  Although the blog has been up for a bit this is my first of many blog post.  I will be post on here as often as possible about all of the stories of my adventures during my Peace Corps service.  Until I get to my site (in about 11 weeks) I will not know how often I will be able to get online, but I do promise to update when I can.

Many of you have asked why I decided to join the Peace Corps.  I am not sure if I can give a singular