May 24, 2012
So I realized that I have mostly been posting about quirky little things that have happened, and have yet to talk about what I will actually be doing here in Miarinarivo. So, here is the job description plug. I have gotten very good at delivering the same speech in Malagasy, as I try to integrate myself into this big town.
So, I work with PROSPERER, a French NGO concerned with economic development here in Madagascar. In every city in which PROSP works, they have a host organization, which will take over the work when PROSP is finished in 2015. In my case, it is the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie of Itasy, or CCI. They are my counterparts, and the people who introduce me to the people I will be working with. They are also business advisors, and so they know how to support my work with cooperatives.
These first few months I will spend trying to get to know both my community and potential groups to work with. So far, I have met with a silk weaving cooperative. Minnie worked extensively with granite sculptors, and I will try and go out to see them again soon. The downside to living in Miarinarivo is most of my clients live in smaller rural communities outside. Most of the people who live in town are salaried employees, mostly who work for the many, many government offices here in town. So I do not get to see my co-ops on a daily basis. From talking with my counterparts, Julia and Nary, I have also determined a few other potential partners in communities near to Miarinarivo. We have the silk weavers and rock sculptors, as well as fish farmers, peanut oil makers, and embroiderers. So far, the silk weavers have been the most eager to get in contact with me and get started, which I am all for because I think that the product is so cool. Minnie introduced the idea of doing training with the silk weavers at Natalie’s, now Amy’s, site in Sandrandahy. Those silk weavers have a very established and effective association, and have exported to festivals in the US. It is going to be hard to tell them (and keep telling them) that I need to get to know their co-op first, before I can begin to help them. It is hard to tell myself too, but I do need to focus on learning Malagasy and my town before I can begin to branch out. I have to keep telling myself I have two years, but sometimes I get impatient.
So that is what I am looking at in terms of primary projects. As far as secondary is concerned, there is a wonderful youth center down the street from my house that I have been visiting. The German man who runs it speaks very good English, and his Malagasy wife is vibrant and enunciates very well, so I really like talking to her in Malagasy. I have started tutoring a student there in English. She speaks pretty good English, and is giving a presentation at the US embassy next month, so I am helping her prepare for that. This week, after we recorded her “how to make a birthday card” speech, she asked me to tell her about American weddings, since that was their next topic. Could not have come at a better time, as I have been thinking about weddings like crazy because RACHEL AND PINCH GET MARRIED ON SATURDAY!! So absurdly pumped for that. So I went through some pictures on my laptop with her and had a great time telling her all about American weddings. She got a big kick out of the garter and flower toss.
So that is my current work. I go in to the office everyday in the morning and have been using our lovely Internet to try and translate documents about Itasy and Miarinarivo from French to English for my Community Diagnostic Survey. We have to present information about our towns at IST in August. Then in the afternoon I usually try and go talk to people. I have some regular sellers at the market that I enjoy talking to, but I do not like the market on Wednesdays so much because there are a lot of people that come in from outside of Miarinarivo to buy and sell. They do not know me, and are not used to seeing me on a regular basis, so the men are much more rude and there is a lot more “bonjour vazaha” that gets thrown at me.
All in all, I am just trying to make some friends and learn Malagasy as much as I can so I can get started with the real work, which I am very much looking forward to.