Here is the promised fact sheet about my service. Please feel free to post if you have any additional questions!
Sarah’s Madagascar Facts
o Large Island on the east coast of the continent of Africa, more area than California but less than Texas
o Fourth largest island in the world
o Environmental “hotspot, with many animals and plants only found here, such as the lemur
o Democracy with 5-year presidential terms with a two-term limit as of 1992
o French colony from 1896-1960, with large British influence prior to that
o People of Asian and African descent
o Population: about 22 million
o 50% Christian, 2% Muslim, 48% other, including a large indigenous presence
o Largest exporter of vanilla in the world
o Madagascar is near the equator in the southern hemisphere, so the climate is tropical. However, there is a lot of difference in the climate depending on your altitude, as there are mountains running down the middles and lowlands near the coast. It can get near freezing in the plateaus and the desert at night.
o French, Malagasy, and limited English
· Peace Corps Madagascar
o Began in 1993
o Business volunteers in 2007
o Had to evacuate briefly in 2009 due to political unrest. There is a very good system in place for evacuating volunteers at the first hint of danger. The volunteers returned 6 months later, and the political system put in place has been stable since.
o From February 27-28, 2012 I will most likely be in Philadelphia for staging, but the city may change
o From March 1-May 4, 2012 I will be in the capital city of Antananarivo (Tana), which has a population of around 900,000 people, for training.
o From May 4, 2012-May 3, 2014, I will be assigned a town or city in which to work.
o For 4 weeks of the training I will be staying with a Malagsy family, the other 5 I will be staying at the Peace Corps Headquarters in Mantasoa, just outside of Tana.
o Training is intensive: 7 days a week of language, culture, technical, administrative, and health and safety.
· My service: Small Enterprise Development
o I will be working with a Malagasy counterpart in a government organization, NGO, village association, or microfinance institution. My focus will be in advising these businesses and transferring business skills to my counterparts.
o There is a focus on women and youth, but that does not mean I will necessarily be working with them.
o In recent years there has also been a focus on developing ecotourism.
o I could be placed anywhere in the country, but will most likely be in a larger town or city within a days travel of Tana because of the nature of the business advising program.
§ I can send and receive mail and packages, however this does take some time. Mail takes 3-4 weeks and packages take 6-9 weeks.
§ Advice from the Peace Corps is to write Airmail and Par Avion on envelopes and packages and keep packages small. If you can you should put packages in padded envelopes so they will be treated like letters.
§ You should never send valuable items, as they may disappear
§ The packages are subject to duties, often on cosmetics and food
§ NUMBER THE LETTERS AND PACKAGES
§ Address during training. This will be how to reach me for the first 10 weeks. After that, I do not know yet where I will be.
· Sarah Fowlkes, PCT Peace Corps
Corps de la Paix
Poste Zoom Ankorondrano
§ The advice of the Peace Corps is to purchase a sim card for a cell phone upon arrival through a carrier in the country, so I do not know what my phone number will be yet, or how good the coverage will be.
§ There is an emergency phone at the Peace Corps office in Tana
§ Large cities have Internet cafes, and there will also be limited computer access during training. As a Business Advising volunteer, I will likely have more access to Internet than many other volunteers.
§ My email address is email@example.com
§ I will hopefully be able to maintain a blog as well, detailing my work
o I am not permitted to operate a vehicle in Madagascar, but I am issued a bicycle and helmet. Because the roads are often in disrepair, a bike actually may be a more efficient way to travel short distances.
o There is also extensive public transportation available, including taxi-brousse, which are vans that leave from specified locations and travel. There is also an extensive bus system in larger cities, such as Tana.
o Dress is conservative and the Malagasy are very concerned with appearance. As a woman, I will be expected to wear long dresses and skirts, unless I am riding my bike where I am permitted to wear shorts.
o For every month that I work I earn 2 days off, except for the first 2 months when I am training. I cannot travel in the first 5 or last 3 months. I may be granted these days on a monthly or quarterly basis, depending on the system in place. I am also given a small travel stipend for exploring. My best friend is getting married in September 2012, so I intend to come back to Michigan for as long as I can, depending on how long it takes me to get to Tana from where I am stationed.
o There is very little in the literature on visitors, but from talking to past volunteers I have determined that visitors are encouraged, as one of the goals of the Peace Corps is to educate Americans about the country in which you are stationed.
o I am unsure at this time whether or not visitors will count as my time off. According to one past volunteer it is up to the administration in the country. The volunteer I talked to only used vacation days if she went with her visitors to visit a neighboring country.
o My family is planning a trip, probably in one of the falls when I am there.
o There is always some risk when traveling to a foreign country, or even some larger cities in the US. There is also some petty crime, but very little violent crime. There is extensive safety training during my 10 week training, and the Malagasy people are generally welcoming and friendly people.
· Time Difference
o Madagascar is 8 hours ahead of EST
o Madagascar has the highest per capita rice consumption in the world. Pretty much every meal is something served over rice. They raise cattle called zebu, so there is beef. They also have chicken and pork. At the coasts they have a lot of seafood. According to my literature, most meals are rice, meat, and a sauce. Roadside stands sell a lot of doughnut like treats, as well as a special yogurt.
o They also have a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables sold in marketplaces.