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