Friday, December 11, 2015

Turning Old in Madagascar


            Today I turned 31 in Madagascar.  This is my second birthday here in country and although I did not turn over a new decade in my life, like I did with the last one, it was no less well spent.  There was no party or large group of friends gathering to celebrate as there was last year, but there was a gathering of a few close friends.  Having been in Antananarivo for the National VAC meeting and hearing of the upcoming World Cup Qualifying game, that Friday, between Madagascar and Senegal, I decided to stick around and treat myself to an early birthday present and attend the game.  The game

VAC Nosy Varika



            It is that time of the year again; time for another VAC. This was my second VAC to plan and was, out of the two, the hardest.  Since our VAC meeting had never been in the northern part of our region I decided to have the VAC in Nosy Varika, a small island in the Pangalanes Canal 100 km north of Mananjary.  What made it the hardest for me to plan was that it is in the north of the Sud Est, 370 km from my site, and there being no one still in country having ever been there.  The limited conversations over e-mail, Facebook, and phone calls that I was able to make gave me but little information on what to expect.  Planning for a more ‘chill’ VAC than normal; I reserved the hotel, a ferry to get us there, food for our first night, and had everyone meet in Mananjary the day before leaving to make sure that we would make the ferry. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

New School Year



            October 5th signifies the official beginning, although not the real start, of the new school year here in Madagascar and the beginning of my last year of teaching (maybe) here as well.  I have gone into this new year looking forward to the year ahead.  The new year brings in a new set of students and a fresh start; a new beginning.  Not that the first year had a bad start; it was just a bit rocky.  I went into it with little idea of the school culture into which I was entering, the scheduling (or the lack of abiding by it), or real experience in a Malagasy classroom.  Any one of these alone would create a learning curve for any teacher, but all of them together are a far greater challenge.  It is not like Peace Corps did not try to prepare us for all of these because they did; at least to some extent.  They told us about the school culture during training, but, like all of you following my blog can most likely attest to, there is only so much one can extrapolate from the words and stories of another without seeing it

MSC

            MSC (Mid-Service Conference) marks the halfway point of my service here in Madagascar.  It is more of a training than a conference but it is one of three times that all of the volunteers from my stage come together.  It is a great opportunity for all of us to catch up on what is new in everyone’s life and to learn what has been happening at their sites.  Not to mention that it is a time for us to enjoy the PCTC and all of the amazing foods that we get to eat.  It is also during this time that we get our mid-service physical and teeth cleaning. 

Nosy Be



Monday, 9/7/15 – Thursday, 9/10/15

            Nosy Be, literally meaning ‘big island,’ is an island off the northwest coast of Madagascar known for it nice beaches, touristy feel, and the great number of tourist (mostly French) that frequent there.  Having heard descriptions of Nosy Be given by other Volunteers, I did not entirely want to go and had all but checked it off the list of places I was going to visit.  Though things being as they are, I had to cancel my own travel plans, due to time constraints, and decided to join a group of friends that were going to Nosy Be on their way back to Tana.  In the end, the trip was very nice and I really

Friday, September 4, 2015

The 'Mbola Gang'

Meet the 'Mbola Gang!'  These are my neighborhood kids that hangout in and around my house almost everyday.
Mbola



This is what happens when you give kids a camera and ask them to take pictures of the neighborhood.  My camera was completely full of pictures and videos like those that follow.







Market Day Vondrozo

When you forget it is market day in town and you walk into this.







The Sky, Bathed in Beauty, Brought Out The Light







Music Videos

Monday, August 31, 2015

Varatraza (The Northern Winds)


Diego
Monday, 7/25/15 - ? (Sunday, 8/6/15 possibly)
            Shortly after lunch I returned to my friend’s house to grab my gear, bike, and say goodbye to friends that were soon returning to America.  I was leaving for Diego to work at the university and would not be returning for at least a month.  Diego is a large town in the north of Madagascar and takes a minimum of 24 hours by brousse to arrive there.  A daunting length of time to ride in a brousse but one I had heard was well worth it.  Diego is a location that all volunteers want to visit at some point in their service and I was lucky enough to be going for a full month, with a place to live that was paid for.  I was still unsure if I would be living at the university or in a hotel or exactly what

Playing with Lemurs (Andasibe)



Monday, 7/20/15 – Wednesday, 7/22/15
            Having a few days to spend before my national VAC meeting I decided to go visit Andasibe, a small town to the east of Tana that is the home of the Indri, the largest lemur in Madagascar.  So leaving shortly after lunch on Monday I broussed from Tana to Andasibe and then walked the one kilometer to the hotel I would be staying in.  The town itself, like many small Malagasy towns, does not have much to offer but also does not have that touristy feel like you would expect with so many tourist coming through it.  The town is surrounded by rainforest that is made up of the national forest and a few smaller NGO protectorates.  It was on the edge of the national forest that my hotel was

They Call Me ‘The Mpanjaka’



Friday, 7/3/15 – Sunday, 7/5/15
            This weekend was my third VAC meeting in country, but my very first to fully plan and lead as my regions new VAC leader.  This was also the first VAC for our new Health Volunteers that had just recently installed in their sites.  We also had a special guest in attendance, Brian, the first volunteer in my town, Vondrozo, who had returned to Madagascar to do research for his Ph.D.  It was great to have him there to see that all the Sud Est traditions were still being upheld.  I scheduled this VAC to coincide with the 4th of July so that we could all be together for both occasions.  Overall the weekend was a great success, though everything did not work out the way I had planned. 

Malagasy Independence Vondrozo Style




Friday, 6/26/15
            Although this is the second time that I have been in Madagascar for their independence, this is the first year that I have been able to devote the majority of my schedule to the celebrations; the first Independence Day being spent during my initial training here in country.  This ability to observe and partake in the majority of their celebrations was an amazing, eye opening, and, at times, exhausting experience.  Madagascar received its independence from France on June 26, 1960, and Independence Day every year is celebrated, in many respects, like we celebrate Independence Day in America, with parades, speeches, and fireworks.  What makes it so much more different than in the States is that the

Friday, July 24, 2015

My Home

Here is a video of my house in Vondrozo.  Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Brain

            What follows is the story of ‘The Brain’ (a rat) and our endless battle for control of my house.  It was written one night while in a stupor of sleeplessness, sickness, and delirium of medicine.  I read it a few days later and got a laugh out of it, so I thought I would share it with you. 
            This story begins about six months ago when I returned to my house after Christmas.  Upon returning to Vondrozo I found that three rats had taken up occupation of my house and were living in a little hole under my gas tank.  This was first realized on the first night back when the rats began to get in a fight with each other in their new home.  This waking me up, I got out of bed with the intent 

Everything Seems Normal



            I have become accustomed to all the quirks and differences in the life and culture here in Madagascar.  Not only have I become accustomed but I have adopted many of them myself.  And it seems everything is normal to me now.  I did not realize this till I was informed of it by a friend.  We were in a brusse on our way to Tana when we crossed a river and there were a few people on the river banks bathing.  She asked if I said seen them and when I answered that I had, but in a very nonchalant manner (a mannerism that has become indicative of my personality I have been told) she responded, astonished, ‘How does that not shock you?’  I did not have an answer for this and I am not

A Day in My Shoes



             What follows is an excerpt from my journal, with a few amendments where needed, about a normal day in my life.  It should be known before reading that almost everyday is different in one way or another, but this gives a fairly good example of the happenings of them; at least as pertains to days I teach.  Even these can change if there is an event like an assembly (Monday mornings) or a meeting.  There are days I am constantly busy with work in both primary and secondary projects and days that I spend with only my hobbies; days I have company all day, others that I am the company of

One Year In



Thursday, 6/11/15
            Today marks one year of me being in Madagascar.  It is strange to think how just one year ago my stagemates and I were stepping off a plane onto a small runway at the airport in Tana and were walking towards the training that would prepare us for the lives we would soon lead.  Seeing today, on Facebook, the picture of the newly arrived stage of Education volunteers outside the airport, it reminded me of the way we looked and thought when we first arrived.  All of us clean and primp, wide eyed, and childish looking compared to now.  Some of us had never been out of the country, or their state even; some never having been to a developing country; some never having taught before;

The Long Ride



5/22/15
            Having made a brousse reservation for today to Fara, I made my way into town at nine o’clock.  As I made my walk up into town I was happy in knowing that I was going to have the front seat; the most coveted seat on my brousse route since it is the only comfortable seat on this long and bumpy ride.  As I made my way up I ran into a few people that told me that no brousse had arrived the day before, but still I walked into town.  Arriving there I found out that they were right and was told by the man that ran the ‘brousse station’ that a cameon was on its way and would be there at noon.  Hearing this I decided to get some breakfast, my daily compuse, and then return home to

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Zandry to Zoky in No Time Flat



Sunday, 4/26/15
            The way that Peace Corps Madagascar is set up, the new Agriculture/Health volunteers install into their new sites in the Sud Est at the end of April and the new Education volunteers in the beginning of September.  So being an Education volunteer, I have the longest time of being the zandry (younger sibling).  As of today, the new Health volunteers showed up in the Sud Est and I am officially not the youngest stage anymore.  This is a weird feeling.  As zoky (older sibling) we are expected to be knowledgeable and to show the newbies the ropes, but I am not wholly sure I want all of that responsibility.  It also brings me closer to that half way mark in my service; something that is

Religion



            Not long after leaving church, just enough time for me to go home and eat lunch, the word had spread throughout Vondrozo that I had been to church.  Word here in Madagascar spreads like wildfire and people all over the country will know things faster than you can believe.  For the rest of the day everyone was stopping to ask me if I had gone and telling me that it was beautiful and/or that I should come to their church.  Which I readily agreed to do, since I am wanting to observe all aspects of Malagasy culture. 
Religion plays a significant role in the lives of the Malagasy people.  Whether it is

Going to Church



Sunday, 4/19/15
I woke up this morning and went to meet Donald at the Lutheran Church, which I had promised to do the night before.  I had planned to meet him there at 8:30 am, but not thinking about gasy time I arrived there at 8 and waited till he showed up shortly before 9.  As I stood outside the church during the interim time, I greeted the people I knew that were also showing up to the church early.  The church itself is of a relatively large size; standing at approximately 30’X 60’.  The building is a grey cinder block building with a corrugated metal roof; mostly rectangular in shape except for an outcrop of 5’ on each side of the rear of the building.  Each of these outcrops has doors leading into small rooms which each have doors leading onto the stage at the rear of the building. 

Second Proclamation

I have already wrote about what happens during the Proclamation in a separate post located here. So I will not rewrite it again, but what follows are some pictures of my second proclamation (more to come at a latter date when I have better internet connection).



Mauritius

Monday, 3/30/15 – Monday, 4/6/15
            I recently posted pictures up of my trip to Mauritius and had planned on leaving it at that, but I was recently asked to also write up a post as to what it was that I did while I was there and a little about the country itself.  First I should give a little background information about the country itself.  Mauritius is a small island country to the east of Madagascar.  The country, before it gained its independence, was once a part of the British Empire and is where Britain first tried out its “Great Experiment,” in which it abolished slavery and imported indentured servants as a labor force.  Most

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Mauritius


Mauritius!

3/30/15 - 4/6/15
Just a few pics from Mauritius.


Vac #2

Friday, 3/13/15 - Sunday, 3/15/15

            This weekend my region had its second VAC meeting and the first one for me to lead.  The VAC itself was in Amporoforo, a small village in the Sud Est and the site of one of our PCV’s.  Different from the previous VAC, it was decided to couple the VAC meeting with work and host a girl’s club/opening of the new basketball court that Banaz had built at her CEG (the equivalent of a middle/intermediate school in the States).  The first night of VAC we had our meeting which was started with the election of a new VAC representative and warden.  I was elected VAC Rep and Julissa was elected Warden.  Once the elections were over I lead the meeting by reading the National

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Random Photos Around Vondrozo

Road out of the Lycee

International Women’s Day


Lycee Had A Special Visitor



Thursday, 3/5/15
            Today my Lycee (high school) had a special guest visitor, the Director of Education for my region.  There had been a big party planned outside in the school courtyard but do to heavy rain we were forced to move the whole thing into one of the classrooms.  So after the room had been prepped everyone piled in and the room soon was filed with teachers, soon to be teachers, and officials of all levels.  Not wanting to be jammed in with so many people my sitemate and me hung around outside until we were asked to come in and sit in the front row; a row completely empty except for us. This we knew would inevitably happen since it happens at every event we attend or happen to

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Filling That Empty Time



            No one ever tells you when you are filling out the application for Peace Corps, or at any time between the thought popping up in your head and the time you get to country, just how much free time you will really have during your service.  They do however mention it during your training, but this is easily over looked as something that will not be a problem for you.  ‘I never get bored.’  ‘I can sit forever doing nothing and be ok.’  ‘I have all these hobbies I can work on.’  ‘I am going to read all these books or do all this writing.’  ‘I will always be working on some new project.’  Although these may take some of your time and are all noble efforts at passing the time, you will still find yourself

Oh How I Loath You



           I have never really thought about animals that I disliked, hated even, till I came to Madagascar.  During my time here though, a list of animals has formed that I have grown to hate.  Below is a list of those animals, in order as they made the list.
  1. Geese (My host families geese used to guard the kabone every time I wanted to use it, but they are also just mean, loud, sassy, annoying creatures in general.)
  2. Pigeons (I have a family of them that live above my ceiling and make a lot of noise at all hours.)
  3. Flies (Flies in Madagascar are the most relentless animals I have ever seen and they will never

Student Week



Wednesday, 1/18/15 – Saturday, 1/21/15
Every year the schools in Madagascar have a week off to celebrate the students. This week was that week.  Although there was an assembly and then scheduled classes afterwards on Monday, most students and teachers did not actually have class.  Tuesday was also spent with no classes in preparation for the festivities the rest of the week.  Wednesday morning is when the actual Student Week started.  All the students from all three levels of the public school (EPP, CEG, and Lycee) and from all four of the private schools (Success, Light School, Lutheran School, and Catholic School) meet at the Lycee, outside my house, to begin their march through town to the CEG.  Each school took its turn, with all the students wearing their uniforms and carrying their school sign, in the

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Market Day

Here are a few pictures of my market in Vondrozo on market day.

The Proclamation!



Saturday, 1/24/15
            Today the Lycee had our first proclamation of the year.  The proclamation is where the students receive their report cards for the previous trimester.  Here in Madagascar this is done a bit different than what you would experience in the States.  For starters the proclamation happened on a slightly rainy Saturday morning in the open court yard in the middle of the Lycee compound.  All students must attend the proclamation to receive their report card otherwise they have to pay a fee at a later date.  The students and teachers are not the only ones to attend the proclamations either.  This

Weathering the Storm



            This past week I experienced my first big storm in Madagascar as tropical storm Chedza passed across the island. A storm formed in the Mozambique Channel and crossed the island, exiting in the SudEst.  The storm caused fourteen deaths, displaced tens of thousands, and caused countless damage in Madagascar.  Many parts of the SudEst, mainly the coastal areas, were flooded up to the roofs of the houses.  I myself, living in Vondrozo, did not have to worry about flooding as much since my area is very hilly and most of the water simply flows down.  This flow of water does cause one major problem, which was the cause of most of the deaths, and that is mudslides.  There was only one major mudslide in Vondrozo and although it did not injure anyone it blocked the road into town.  The

Friday, February 6, 2015

Tratry ny Taona!

Tratry ny taona (Happy New Years)! This week I brought in my first New Years in Madagascar.  I spent a few days with some of my friends in Loharano, a resort 30 miles north of Manakara.  It is located on the shore of a lagoon on one side, with the ocean only a minute walk on the opposite side.  The water level in the lagoon, we were told was not normal, was very low; it only came up to our knees when we were in it, which was great.  We were able to take advantage of the water level being so low by playing a few games of ultimate Frisbee in the water.  The ocean, on the other hand, was a different story.  It has to be the strongest ocean I have ever been in.  The water level

A Tropical Christmas

            I have been asked to write what I did for Christmas in Madagascar, but since I did not do much this post will be short.  Having spent the week previous to Christmas in Tana on a business trip, I spent the day before Christmas Eve and most of Christmas Eve itself in a hellish attempt to try and make it back to Vondrozo for Christmas.  There were no brusses going from Tana to the Sud Est, which is unusual, so I caught what would be the last brusse out to Fianar.  Arriving in Fianar the following morning, Christmas Eve, I found out that there were no more spots on the brusses going to Farafangana, but was able to find one seat going to Manakara.  So calling ahead to Manakara, where

Ambohimanga



Sunday, 12/21/14
            Today I got the chance to go to Ambohimanga.  Ambohimange is a UNESCO World Heritage Site about 30 minutes north of Tana and has been a cultural/historical site that I have wanted to visit since I found out I was coming to Madagascar.  The site itself is what is left of the fortified city atop one of the twelve sacred hills of Imerina.  The fortified palace area, which is the main tourist attraction, and most of the gates are still intact, though many of them are covered in dense vegetation. 
            Arriving by brusse we made our way up the road to the small modern town of Abohimanga

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Hardest ride in Madagascar!!!



Friday, 1/9/15
            I have, since finding out that I was going to be living in Vondrozo, wanted to bike the 44 miles from Vondrozo (where I live) to Farafangana (my banking town).  Today, wanting to save money and get in some miles on my bike, I finally decided to do it.  Having packed my saddlebags the night before I had planned on leaving at 5 am, but upon waking up and finding that it was raining outside I had to wait and debate if I really wanted to make the trip by bike at all.  I knew the road would be a mess after a rain like that and it would make an already hard ride even harder.  I knew that the worst part of the ride was the first part, with its steep and rocky climbs and downhills and its