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 café 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.