Sunday, April 1, 2012

Yep, I just posted a novel

April 1, 2012

Soooo as I mentioned in some of the recent posts (and by recent I mean 5 minutes ago) I wrote a whole bunch of posts in word documents because I didn't have internet, but I wanted everyone to get a feel for things as they are happening.  So there are 10 posts, plus this one.

Hope you enjoy! Let me know if you have any questions, but I can't guarantee a speedy response.

Tiako ianareo!

Summer Camp

March 29, 2012

Back to summer camp.

So I had to say goodbye to my family this morning.  Mom—my host mom is a lot like you, cheery all morning and then cried when it came time to say goodbye.  Which of course, made me cry.  Also, she wanted me to tell you hello.  I am hoping that maybe when you guys come to visit we might be able to go to Mantasoa and see them, since I will not be living too far away.  That will depend on how much time you want to spend in a tax-brousse though…

I hope I got the point across that I am going to come and visit them over the next few weeks, but my language is still limited.  I told them I couldn’t come for Easter, but now I think I might be able to go Easter Monday.

So now we are back living at the PCTC (Peace Corps Training Center).
Here are the reasons why it is like summer camp:
·         We are on a lake
·         We live in “dormitories” with mosquito nets instead of bunk beds
·         We are still living out of suitcases with some stuff in drawers
·         We eat all together in the dining hall
·         We play volleyball and basketball after class
·         It smells like pine trees
·         We put on a lot of sunscreen and bug spray
·         We have to struggle for shower time
·         Our schedule is tightly planned, with activities and classes
·         There are committees to organize different events—I am on the music committee for parties.  Who’s surprised haha.
·         We have to be home by dark, and parties must end by midnight—so there is kind of a curfew

Reasons why it is different than summer camp:
·         Alcohol: after tech trip there will be a bar at the training center
·         Unfortunately, we can’t swim in the lake.  Or any freshwater here.  Prohibited by PC.
·         The food is totally baller.  Or at least way more variety and flavor than homestay
·         We party with our staff.  They are as excited about the bar and parties as we are
·         We get shots—which I assume people don’t usually do at summer camp

So we are planning a party for tomorrow and Saturday to celebrate both being back at PCTC and we have like 12 birthdays (of 29 people) in April.  Plus we won’t see each other (CED vs Enviro) during tech trip so it will be a little hurrah before that.




March 26, 2012


Holy blog post batman!  So much to tell about the day, this is gonna take a freakin year haha.  Gonna go chronologically and try and remember as many details as I can, since it feels like two days, or even three, not one.

So first off, I get up at 4 am to be at the taxi-brousse station at 4:45 to meet the rest of the CED (community economic development, changed recently from small enterprise development—SED) volunteers at the taxi-brousse station because we had told the station that we had 14 people who wanted to leave at 5.  It was dark as all get out haha.  5 comes and goes…so does 5:30, still no taxi-brousse…at 5:45 we call the training director, Robert, because we are supposed to be at the market in Manjakandriana (yes, I can now spell these things without looking them up haha) at 6:30 and it takes at least an hour to get there, assuming the roads are good.  It has been raining lately anyway, as it is the rainy season, but it rained a particularly large amount last night, so we knew it would take forever to get there.

So finally, a guy with a truck pulls up and says he is going to Manja, so we start piling in.  We get about 8 people and two tables (to sell our product on) into this WWII era covered bed of a truck with benches, when the truck just starts going, leaving the other half of our group behind.  We are all freaking out because this isn’t a legit taxi-brousse, we don’t have all of our people, and we are headed in the opposite direction of the way we usually take to get there.  It’s actually a fun ride, once we calm down enough and realize that it will probably be ok.  The sun coming up definitely helped.  We all felt like we were in the army though, about to get dropped in a combat zone.  Sitting on hard wooden benches holding on to the wooden supports in the ceiling to keep from hitting the roof as we bounce through enormous puddles.  At one point we have to get out because the road is so bad the truck can’t handle all the weight.  We walk about a quarter mile while the truck driver attempts to navigate though the muck, getting stuck once.  Pretty hilarious the whole time. We are just giggling and saying “is this really happening?!”

Well, we finally arrive in Manja, over an hour late, and find our spot to set up.  Our tech director Lucie stops by as we are setting up and asks us how it is going.  We tell her the whole story to explain why we have only been at the market for 5 minutes haha.  All the while setting up our table and sign, lighting our tiny charcoal grill-ish thing, and cutting up fruit.  Oh yeah, we are also missing a group member, who was about to get in the truck as it just drove off.  After that, selling was insane.  We always had an audience, and we were cranking out the fondue.  We sold a ton of it, and had to keep running to other parts of the market to get fruit and chocolate.  I literally did not leave a squatted position in front of chocolate and fruit for three hours.  Absolute insanity.  We are not sure how well we did in terms of profit yet, as we were accumulating cost as we went as well, so we have to add it all up.

Alright, done with selling at the market—part one.  On to part deaux—site placement J

So after we get back to Mantasoa and eat lunch with our families, we head to the PCTC (peace corps training center, PC is all about acronyms) for site placement.  There is a large map of Madagascar painted on the basketball court there, with big cities painted as well.  The current PCV (PC volunteers, see, acronyms) trainers that come back to train us drew all of the CED and Enviro sites on the map in chalk.  Then they blindfold us and lead us to our sites, so we all find out at the same time.  I got my number 2 choice in my top 10 ranking J Miarinarivo.

Here are the facts that I know so far:
·         It is located in the Itasy region, about 2 hours west of Antananarivo (the capital).  I am about 2 hours east of there right now.
·         It is a replacement site, I will be the second CED volunteer there.  Minnie, the current volunteer, was a PCV trainer last week, and will be two more times before the end of training, so I will have a ton of time to talk to her before she COS’s (close of service) at the end of April, just before I get there.
·         We will visit my site during tech trip next week.  Yay!  So I will get to see it before I live there.
·         There are two other CED volunteers from my stage very close to me—Eric and Emma, located in Arivonimamo and Ampefy, respectively.  There are also a lot of CED and Ed vols from other stages located near Tana.

The rest of this information will come from the information contained in the site description binder.

·         I will predominantly be working with artisans (yay!), such as granite sculptors, silk weavers, silkworm farmers, and sewing, as well as peanut oil makers.
·         I am working with a French NGO called PROSPERER.  Here is what my sheet says about them
o   PROSPERER is a 7-year national Malagasy governmental program (2008-2015) funded by IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) and working in collaboration with the Malagasy Ministry of Agriculture. PROSPERER works in 5 regions based on the highest population density and lowest poverty levels.  Each district office partners with another actor for office space and collaboration – in PROSPERER Miarinarivo the partner organization is Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
·         My vague job description, as I won’t know exactly what I will be doing, and almost all of the PROSPERER sites have this description, with a few tweaks.
o   To provide existing small-scale entrepreneurs with a range of business development services, from training services to improved technologies, to overcome bottlenecks and to support economic growth.
o   To create and support a network of professionals to meet rural enterprises’ needs;
o   To contribute to the formulation of a national policy and institutional framework in support of MERs (micro-enterprise rural) development;
o   To improve the MERs competitiveness in order to boost the clusters and value chains performance with linkages to regional growth poles;
o   To enable entrepreneurs access to sustainable financial and non-financial services and markets in a favorable risk management context;
o   To help establish an enabling environment for the modernization of rural value chains.
o   Every month the volunteer must create and submit a monthly plan and report
o   Help the associations of artisans named above to generate more income.
o   Develop marketing strategies and find markets abroad if possible.
o   Help other young people and adults who want to create their own microenterprises along key value chains.
o   The program offers professional and apprenticeships training to youth.
o   Help strengthen public-private partnerships with professional federations, the Government and the Trade Chamber Federation.
·         Secondary projects: according to the letter from my technical director, Lucie, I was assigned to Miarinarivo in part because of my marketing background, in part because of my interest in youth, and in part because of my interest in IT.
o   Minnie, my predecessor, started in English club at the schools in town, that I will likely be taking over
o   Lucie also mentioned that the Chamber of Commerce would like help promoting the new cyber cafĂ© for entrepreneurs.
·         About Miarinarivo and my living situation
o   It is a semi-urban town located in 92 km west of Tana on the Route Nationale 1, in the Itasy region. It is the Capital of the Region and therefore is a great location to find several government offices as well as other international actors.
o   It is mostly hilly and green. It is known for its temperate climate, temperature varying from 30 (in December) to 10 (in June) Celsius
o   I will not be learning a new dialect, as they speak standard gasy in the highlands.  I am both happy and sad about this.  I am sad that I don’t get to learn something new and unique, but since I am a replacement volunteer I am happy that I will be able to further my current gasy skills so I am able to hit the ground running (or at least stumbling) with what Minnie has planned.
o   The Volunteer will be expected to dress professional casual and to respect local norms in regard to dress when going to the different villages which might be a little different from the norms in Miarinarivo. Be aware that Miarinarivo is more advanced in terms of education and socioeconomically speaking. As a city of approximately 75% salaried employees (versus a typical community of farmers) the people of Miarinarivo tend to be a little more westernized.
o   The Volunteer in this site may collaborate with the volunteers and/or interns of:
§  Region Aquitaine: French Region collaborating with Region Itasy to develop tourism, artisans, and overall development of Itasy.
§  Antseranantsoa: Every school year there are 2-3 German volunteers who run activities with the students of the Center. The former volunteers conducted a small business training program with the students there; said program can be continued.
o   Nearby towns
§  Tana is at 92 kilometers east Miarinarivo.
§  Manazary is 17 kilometers south Miarinarivo
§  Soamahamanina is at 14 kilometers east Miarinarivo.
§  Ampefy is 23 kilometers west Miarinarivo.
o   Miarinarivo is the banking town for my fellow Itasy dwelling vols, so there is a regional hospital, government offices, a post office, and a bank.  I will be sure to post if my neighbors and I decide to get a PO box there.
o   I will be living part of a house that has been sectioned off specifically for the PCV. The building is a two-story house and I will be occupying one of the two sections on the bottom floor. The living space is like a medium to large sized studio with a bathroom and a small living room.  There is electricity and cell phone service from several providers, as well as several cyber cafes.

That’s pretty much all I know! I will probably know more after tech trip next week, when I actually get to see it and I will be able to talk to Minnie some more.  She can show me where to get the best food and second hand clothes (frippe) J

Soooo, after we found out we pretty much spent the rest of the afternoon chilling and reading our info at the PCTC.  I also took a fabulous shower and scrubbed off all the soot, chocolate, condensed milk, bananas, pineapples, and dirt from this morning haha.  Being at the PCTC almost feels like a spa at this point.  Gonna be so spoiled after living there for 6 weeks.  Also busted out the yoga pants for the first time and felt so pampered.  Excited to move back there on Thursday and super excited for tech trip!

Let me know if you have any questions, I would be more than happy to answer them if I can.


Culture Shock and Porkchops

March 25, 2012

It is miraculous how quickly things that are so different from life at home start to seem normal.  It isn’t strange to tuck in my mosquito net at night.  It isn’t strange to look out and see rice fields in the morning instead of large houses across from me.  It isn’t strange to boil water and wander down to the ladosy to shower with a cup and bucket.  It all feels normal now, but then that startles me—how much culture shock is missing haha.

It is also amazing when I think back to my first weekend at homestay and compare it to four weekends later.  How much more comfortable I am around my family, how much more I can say to them haha.  In just a few short weeks you can learn a whole lot of language when it is a sink or swim plunge.  We have a test on Wednesday, about 7 minutes of conversation each.  A little nervous, but I have confidence in my speaking abilities.  We are supposed to be at novice high on their scale for this test, and then we have one at the end of training as well.  Since the instruction and homestay involve so much conversation we are all getting pretty good at that, which is different from instruction in the states.

That’s all for now.  This was my study break, so not too much content since most of my thoughts are concerned with how to talk about my family and what I did yesterday in Malagasy haha.  Also super psyched to learn all about my site tomorrow and sell some fondue!!


“Ny hazo tokana tsy mba ala…One tree does not make a forest”

Yep, two posts today, because what started out as a mediocre day became awesome.  So I was studying and what not and then decided to go outside and play with the bros.  Then it started to rain and we came in for dinner.  We had PORKCHOPS that were incredible.  They were fried so the outside kind of tasted like bacon too.  Soooooo good.  Then, when dinner was over and we were eating oranges, my mom comes out with a bag in her hand, the kind they use for shopping at the market. I have one too, from PC.  She tells me a few things, but I don’t quite get the gist.  Then I realize she is talking about the fact that I am leaving Thursday to go live at the training center.  She pulls out a purple and yellowish woven hat, and a small bag in the shape of a house with a baobab and pineapple on it.  Inside was a lamba’hoany, which is kind of like a sarong with a proverb on it, much like ones in Kenya.  Women here in the highlands mostly as aprons to keep their clothes cleaner.  I hear women on the coast wear them just as skirts too.  Mine is pink with the image of a village with a bridge, a few trees, a pond, and a man fishing.  The quote at the top of this post is written in a box at the bottom.  I nearly cried right there at the table, but laughed and ran to get my camera. They took pictures of me wearing everything.  I am going to miss them a ton.  Excited to give them things at the end of April as well.  They come to the training center to hear a presentation we give all in Malagasy.  They really are wonderful people.

Selling bright and early tomorrow.  Veloma!


March 24, 2012

“Follow the dream doesn’t mean leave the love.  Roam if you must, but come home when you’ve seen enough…” –Atmosphere (my current theme song)

So after talking to my parents this morning I know that there are some questions concerning my future living situation, so I thought I would elaborate a little bit.  No matter what site I am assigned, my housing will provided.  Part of the site selection process is the community is required to provide housing for the volunteer.  This works because the community requests a volunteer, which is part of what makes PC successful.  We don’t go in to communities that have not requested a volunteer.  They want us there, and they want to work with us.

For most of my top sites I would work with Prosperer, a French NGO here until 2015.  In this case, Prosperer pays the rent for my housing.  If I end up in a place where I am working with a commune, the community pays the rent.  In some cases the house is a divided house where I would have a couple rooms and share the house with some other tenants.  Others I have my own apartment or small house.  In no case will I be living with another host family, that ends this week.

The installation process is really impressive.  PC staff not only drives you to site, but stays with you and helps you buy all the stuff you need for your home.  They also help you introduce yourself to the community and the local authorities, since you are not yet fluent in the language, (and no one will speak English).  This also gives them a chance to check and make sure that the housing situation is up to PC standards.

That should cover most things.  If you have any more questions, please feel free to post!

“May the odds be ever in your favor…”

March 23, 2012

Happy Hunger Games premier day!  I get goosebumps just thinking about it.  I hope the movie is amazing; I can’t wait to see it.  As soon as that comes out on DVD that is going to be my package request haha.  Congrats Brian J I am sure the stunts are rad.  I am listening to the first audio book right now, since that is the closest I am going to get (thanks Thomas James and Karen).  I don’t really like the woman who reads it.  She sounds too old and far too meticulous in her articulation.  I hope this girl who plays Katniss in the movie is better.  I have also been rockin the Katniss signature hair do for a few days now.  My hair is still too short to cooperate fully but it is on it’s way.  Tina, I am practicing French braiding, and I can get a good 3-4 inches in before my arms start to fall asleep haha.  Also funny note, my laptop wants to autocorrect Katniss to catnip, which is what Gail calls her.

Got on facebook and email briefly this afternoon.  Enough to realize that I needed to unsubscribe from everything before I left haha.  Sooo much spam.  Got a chance to respond to a few facebook posts as well.  Thanks Ashley and tuba co for the pic upload!

We are cooking for our families tomorrow, which should be fun.  My group has decided to make Mexican, guac, salsa, tortillas and all.  Mmmmmmm avocado haha.  PC gives us a really awesome cookbook with all kinds of recipes and tips.  Looking forward to being able to cook for myself, at least for a bit.  I’m sure I will get tired of the amount of time it takes haha.

That’s all for now!  I will let you know how our fondue selling goes and where I am headed in May!



Saaaaaaaaad panda.  Jumps from getting on the train to training L

Tech Training

March 20, 2012

So I lied.  I realized that I was so focused on site placement because it is exciting that I didn’t really mention the tech training.  It is mini business school, where we have a different lesson each day, kind of like study abroad.  So far we have covered SWOT analysis, feasibility studies, business plans, and marketing.  It’s actually really useful review, since I haven’t thought about some of this stuff in a long time and grassroots business skills are what we will be teaching our counterparts.

We are also doing projects.  The first one is working with a carpenter, embroiderer, or storeowner and talking to them about SWOT, marketing, and finance.  We meet with them each Wednesday for three weeks and then give them some recommendations.  This has been pretty good so far; we ask the marketing questions tomorrow.  I am in the embroidery group.  The woman we are meeting with has an organization of about 70 embroiderers.  They do really beautiful work.

The other project we are doing is really interesting and kind of scary because we could totally fail haha.  Each group of four is creating an IGA (income generating activity) for the market in Manjakadriana, about an hour from where we are in Mantasoa.  We have to come up with an idea and sell it at the market there, and we have to do it as if we are a typical enterprise.  Therefore, we have to rent or buy all of the materials, anything we are using, such as a table, stove, raw materials, markers to make a banner ect.  If we use something we already own we have to “rent” it, i.e. put it in the budget.  Each person in the group gets 20,000 Ar (about $10) to spend on everything.  We got the assignment yesterday (Monday), and we sell on Monday.  Yikes!

One of the requirements is that you cannot sell anything that is already being sold there, so you don’t take away from someone’s existing business.  Our group has decided to sell fondue.  We are currently looking at melting chocolate that we buy from a local “epicerie” (store) in a couple pots that we “rent” from our host families over a charcoal stove-like contraption that we also rent.  We are going to buy pineapple (mananasy), bananas (akondro), and goavy tsina (a cherry like fruit) to dip in the chocolate.  I have decided to call it “when I dip, you dip, we dip,” so long as that doesn’t translate to something vulgar, and we are totally going to play that song to drum up some business J.

Should be an interesting endeavor to say the least.  The scariest part is the PC van drivers aren’t taking us; we have to take our first taxi-brousse ride!  And we have to be there and ready to go at 6:30 am.  Now, we do get up early here, but that means getting up around 4! I haven’t done that since high school swimming haha.  Usually looking at that time from the other side…

Hopefully it will go well!  Monday’s post is gonna be hella long, talking about my IGA AND placement.  Holy wow, crazy day.  Gonna be exhausted by the end of it too!

Tiako ianareo!  Veloma!!


March 19, 2012

Manahoana daholo!
So the current trainees and I are all in a frenzy trying to decide where we want to be placed in the country.  They are trying out a new system this year where they give us information about each site and the job there. Then we write an essay detailing our top 10 and our qualifications and interests for each.  In the past the placement officers just decided based on our resumes and Peace Corps application.  The tradeoff is you learn where you are going earlier and there is no stress involved in trying to decide where your priorities lie.  However, this way we know what is out there so we get a chance to perhaps learn what we are interested in.  My top sites are in the North and Central regions.  We find out in a week where we will be placed.  We are all anxious to find out now so we can get started learning about or new home and what we will be doing there.  We also may have to learn a new dialect, as there are 18 in the country.  They can, however, all understand each other, so it more like colloquialisms.

In communication news, my iphone did not successfully unlock, so I am planning on working on that when I move back to the training center in just over a week.  Christina’s did, so I managed to get on the Internet for a few minutes on St. Patty’s day when we walked to the other village where the Env trainees live.  Most everyone went, so we went to the really nice hotel to grab a cold drink (a serious luxury) and sat around listening to music.  Overall a nice way to spend the holiday.  I am planning on purchasing an Internet “stick” to use at my site, but I will need to find out where I am placed before that can happen because I do not know which provider will work best.  By the time you read this that may have already happened because that will be how I post this haha.

Also, it seems my phone here is missing text messages from the states, so if you texted me and I did not text back I probably did not get it :/ I do not really know how to go about fixing that one though.

In food news, we had potatoes with dinner and I kind of freaked out, so they know I like potatoes a lot now haha.  Also, the trainees went to the market to bargain and bought a bunch of food for the training center.  They cooked a lot of it on Thursday when we went to the center for health and safety training.  Best.  Meal.  Ever.  Pasta with tomato and ground beef sauce, beef, sausage, mixed veggies, rice (of course), apples, and AMAZING avocado with tomatoes and lime juice J.  I could have eaten the whole damn pan.  Really excited to cook for myself so I can determine my own menu.  Potatoes, onions, garlic, avocado, ginger, curry, cucumbers, tomatoes, and fruit will factor in heavily.  Yum!  Also salt, my family doesn’t use nearly enough.

I love my host family dearly, but I am also excited to move back to the training center to see the Env people every day and have amazing food.  Snack time right now is often the highlight of the day.  Our language class gets so excited for that half hour break, it is like kindergarten all over again.  The trainers bring us a snack, usually some kind of bread, like banana or fried.  We are also now regulars at the tiny coffee shop at the top of the hill near my house.  Someone buys a round of small fried dough with onions in it called mofosakay.  Sooooo good.

I think that is all for now.  Shouldn’t have too much else to report until site assignments come out.  I am sure that post will be loooooooooong.



March 16, 2012

So now that I have my laptop at homestay with me I will likely be writing much more often.  However, I realize that these will all get posted at the same time, but I like to keep the idea and feel that I am writing to you as things happen.

This post will be things I have learned in the last 2 weeks:

·         Flea bites suck.  I have 37 of them, and I am not the winner in quantity…
·         You can get awesome cheap clothing at second hand “fripperies.”  I haven’t been yet but we have a current PCV training us and she has the best clothing, all purchased here.
·         You can get a ton of fresh produce for cheap, which is good because no one has refrigerators
·         You have to drink the coke at the store when you buy it or you have to pay more (a deposit) that you get back when you return the bottle.  It also costs more for a cold one.
·         Cell phone carriers try and trick you.  A lot.
·         Note for future vols in Mada: the language book they give you is your BEST FRIEND.  I just now started going through it because we don’t really in class.  It is very clear and well organized, and has great cultural and safety tips.  They give you a ton of material but this one really is important to go through.
·         People in Mada are very indirect when they talk about things, except physical appearance.  They readily point out flaws and physical feature differences.  Also fat is a good thing because you are healthy and wealthy, so people will call you fat, even if you are not.
·         You can get a lot done before noon when you get up at 5:30.
·         Oranges in Mada are not orange they are green.  Good thing to note before you try and find them at the market.  Lemons and limes are not differentiated and they are also green, just smaller haha.
·         People do not talk to animals.  My host siblings mock me every time I tell the cow good morning.  Pets are for protection or catching vermin.  Our cows do get vaccines though.
·         Rubbing a coconut shell on wooden floors kills flea eggs.
·         Bucket showers are not the worst thing ever, but boiled water makes all the difference
·         People will assume you are French in the market and quote you in Francs, even if you are speaking Malagasy.
·         Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, and Miley Cyrus are icons here too.
·         Language trainers are really good at volleyball; they have more free time than we do.  When they bust out matching jerseys you know you are screwed
·         Small children will eat chicken legs and spit out the toenails.
·         They eat rather large fish whole.
·         You cannot point at anything with your finger, you must use your whole hand or your knuckle.
·         You cannot touch the top of someone’s head unless you are close family or lovers.
·         Disney movies are awesome in any language.
·         Typhoid shots suck.
·         People will giggle a lot, even in their 20s and 30s, when the Peace Corps doctor gives a sex talk.
·         And finally, Madagascar is an awesome country J


March 15, 2012

Manahoana daholo! (Hello all!)

So much has happened in the last few weeks I do not even know where to start, so if you have questions, please post them to the comments section!

I have been at my homestay for about 2 weeks now.  I live with a family in a small village near the training center called Mantasoa, about 2 hours from the capital of Tana.   The environment volunteers (15 of the 29 vols) live in the neighboring village of Anjojoro.  There are a few small shops that sell various food and household items.  We are given about $15 weekly to spend on snacks and phone credit and things, but none of us go through it.  Things are very cheap here.  To give you a comparison a bottle of coke is 700 Ariary, which is about 35 cents American.  Fresh produce is readily available because so many people in the area are farmers.

My dad (Liva) is a butcher in town, so we have more meat than most families.  My mom (Vero) is an adorable little woman and takes care of our 5 cows, 1 pig, and a whole bunch of chickens, as well as the 4 kids and housework.

I have 4 siblings.  Lanja is the oldest, and I actually have now developed my Malagasy enough to find out that she is actually the daughter of my mom’s sister but she lives with us during the week because she goes to school close to our house.  Oly is my oldest brother at 11.  He likes to sit in on our language classes, which is really great because he makes me practice what he knows I learned later.  Rajo is my 9-year-old brother and my official photographer.  He has taken over 200 pictures with my camera.  I love this because that means not only is it pictures of Madagascar by a Malagasy, but I am also in a lot of this pictures.  I am planning to print a bunch in the capital to give to them at the end of my training.  Ialison is the youngest brother at 5 and probably the most adorable thing in the entire world.  He just walks around giggling and making weird noises and singing.  He just makes me giggle all the time.  He is also my little duckling, just following me around and demanding my attention.  I have made a ton of bracelets with all of them and we play with the bouncy balls and coloring books I brought.

They have electricity but it sometimes goes out at night when everyone is trying to use it in town.  They have a TV and DVD player, which they use to watch poorly dubbed American movies in Malagasy, as well as bootleg movies in French.  We have watched Commando with Arnold Schwarzeneagger, as well as RETURN OF JAFAR AND MADAGASCAR 2!!! I got really excited about those.  They were in French, but still exciting.

I try and spend as much time with my family as I can.  I get up around 5:30 am and we eat breakfast around 6.  The kids go off to school and I have language class at 8 am with 3 other trainees at my house because we have room.  Then everyone comes home for lunch at noon and then I go to the commune in town for classes in English, such as tech training, cross cultural, ect.  I get home around 5:30 pm and help with dinner and maybe play some games with the kids.  We have dinner around 6:30 or 7 and then I go in my room to study or write things like this haha.  Usually asleep before 9, and I am definitely the last one awake in my house.  They all sleep in the same room because Peace Corps requires that I have my own lockable room.  I think my room is the kids’ room when I am not here.

Nicole-rabies shots are not that bad, you baby :P but that is compared directly to the intramuscular typhoid shot which is evil.

Dad-food section just for you
Breakfast—at the beginning it was what we had for dinner the night before with the “wet” rice.  Pretty much really soggy rice.  I think they realized that I wasn’t a fan so we mostly have bread and butter and boiled milk with sugar.
Lunch and Dinner—rice.  It is always rice and…And a whole lot of it.  They eat mounds.  It is the main course, and everything else is a “laoka,” or side dish.  Sometimes we have beef or pork at lunch, and we usually do at dinner.  This is usually cooked with beans or greens in a broth.  There is a salad type dish that is usually carrots, cucumbers, or tomatoes always with onions, vinegar, oil, and a little salt.  Today we had potatoes for the first time and I got ridiculously excited.
For desert after lunch and dinner there is always fruit.  We have had apples, the best pineapple in the world, oranges, bananas and a fruit called “kaky” that I don’t think we have an equivalent of.  It looks kind of like an orange tomato with a thin skin.  It is very pulpy and sweet and has no pit.  No idea though haha.

I stay here for another 2 weeks and then I am back at the training center for 6 weeks.  We should find out where we will be placed in the country when we get back to the training center so just a couple weeks! Then we go on a “tech trip” to visit current volunteers and start learning regional dialects applicable to our service.

That’s all for now! Actually kind of a lot haha.  Let me know if you have questions.  Also I have a phone now and my parents know how to contact me, so get in touch with them if you need/want to.

Tiako ianao! (I love you!)

Flight Recap

March 2, 2012

Manahoana (ma-na-o-na) blog followers!

I don’t know when I will get to post this, but I figured I would write it now while my computer is fully charged.  After several in-flight movies (the Descendants is pretty good, but not Oscar worthy, In Time with Justin Timberlake was rad, and the invention of lying with Ricky Gervais was alright), a lengthy nap, an overnight stay in Johannesburg, South Africa at a very nice hotel, another plane ride, and a two-hour van ride, we finally arrived at our training center in Mantasoa (man-ta-soo-a).  And it actually kind of feels like America! A lot like summer camp, complete with a lot of pine trees haha.  Not like my previous trip to Kenya.  This part of Madagascar has a very Up North feel to it.  Speaking of Michigan things, people in my group don’t know Euchre!! Such a shame. I may be doing some teaching of that, although my Malagasy will have to be really good to teach it to the locals, it is hard enough in English.

The training center is large compound on a lake complete with dorms, a dining hall, and small classrooms.  This is the second night we have stayed here. Today (Day 2) we went through a welcome and a bunch of health information.  We also had a language session.  Sadly it was only an hour, so when I move in with my host family tomorrow I will pretty much only be able to tell them hello, thank you, and my name haha.

It has been raining a lot but that is to be expected this time of year. We did get a chance to enjoy the sun earlier today.  The rainy season (summer) is on its way out and we are moving in to fall here, where it should dry up.

Like I said before, I move in with my host family tomorrow.  Then training takes place in the village with 3-4 people in each class.  This is really helpful when trying to learn a brand new language haha.  I will stay with this family for 4 weeks until I move back into the training center.  6 weeks after that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will be sworn in as a volunteer!

I should know the region where I will be stationed around the 5th or 6th week of training.  That will be useful considering there are 18 different dialects.  Also, my attempting to learn French was not a total bust, as many of the signs are in French.

That’s all for now, I will post this as soon as I can.  Hope you all are well!