Thursday, May 24, 2012


May 24, 2012

Manahoana daholo!

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.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New Address


So because I have moved to my permanent site, I have a new address.  Don't worry, if you sent anything to the old address it will still get to me, they just have to forward it from Peace Corps.

Sarah Fowlkes
Lot II D 165 Est Hopital
Miarinarivo 117

Just a reminder--if you send anything, number it.  And if you send a package, put religious things on it, like Jesus loves you and God is watching.  Apparently that deters tampering.

Hope you are all well!
Tiako ianareo,

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

As promised, Malagasy language guide!

May 15, 2012

I hope you enjoy, even if it is probably a little difficult to understand.  Also, for you future volunteers I hope this shows up in a google search.  Also piece of advice—Eurotalk makes software with 200 Malagasy words and phrases.  It isn’t great, but it will give you a jump.  You can buy it cheap on amazon.  Mazotoa sy bonne chance!

The vowels are all like Spanish and French ect. where the a is as in “tall,” e as is “hey,” i and y as in “holy” (holy wow this is hard coming up with English examples), and o as in “too.”  There is no “u,” so if you see it the word is borrowed from French, English, or Bantu (Swahili ect).  The accent falls on the capitalized letter.  I am very sorry if it doesn’t make sense as I have discovered I am lousy at this haha.

It is largely phonetic, but sometimes the syllables run together in everyday speech

They roll their “r’s,” same as Spanish

The subject falls at the end of a sentence (yeah, weird haha).

There is no “to be,” it is largely implied

There are no plurals or masculine/feminine (makes things easier haha)

Verbs are (generally) not conjugated like Spanish or French, so you must have the subject at the end.  They (almost) all start with m in the present, which changes to n in the past and h in the future.

If you have any questions or want a specific word, please let me know!

Useful Phrases

Manahoana (maana-OH-na)—hello, good morning, good afternoon, good evening
Salama (sa-lA-ma)—hello, peace
Inona vaovao? (ee-noon voh-voh)—what’s new? A general greeting following manahoana
Tsy misy (tsee mEE-see)
                The response to the previous question.  Like in America, when you say “what’s up?”
                the answer is always “nothing.”
Iza no anaranao? (ee-zaa noo ah-nAH-ra-now)—what is your name?
…no anarako (noo ah-nAH-ra-koo)--…is my name
Veloma (ve-lOO-ma)—good-bye
Mandrapihoana (maan-drah-pee-O-na)—see you later
Azafady (aa-zaa-fAA-dee)—sorry/please.  Literally “let it not be a taboo (fady) to you”
Tsy maninona (tsee ma-neen)—the response, it’s not a fady
Mazotoa! (maaz-tOO-a)—enjoy! A very common phrase
Mandroso! (maan-drOO-soo)—come in!  Also very common, people like to invite you into their
                  homes, or to enjoy what they are enjoying
Eny (Eh-nee)—yes, although not used very much.  Usually a head nod or a shorter version of
        yeah that I have no idea how to write.
Tsia (tsEE-ah)—No, but my personal favorite is the much more common “aaan” which is really
        just an intonation, like “nuh uh.”  There’s really no way to type either of those
Ampy (AAm-pee)—Enough, plenty.  Useful if people keep trying to feed you haha
Misaotra (mee-sOH-tra)—Thank you
Tsy misy fisarorana (tsee mEE-see fee-sAOH-ra-na)—You’re welcome
(Tsy) Mety ((tsee) mEH-tee)—(not) ok.  You can pretty much add tsy to anything to negate it
Tsy azoko /mazava (tsee AHz-koo/ma-zAH-vah)—I don’t understand/not clear
Velona (vEY-loona)—bless you (when someone sneezes)
Aiza ny kabone? (AY-za nee kah-boo-nEH)—where is the latrine?
Amin’ny manaraka (AH-mee-nee ma-nAH-rah-ka)—next time.  Very useful phrase if you don’t want to buy something, if someone is begging, or inviting you somewhere you do not want to go


Be (bay)—big, a lot (uncountable)
Kely (kAy-lee)—little, small
Betsaka (bAIt-sa-ka)—a lot (countable), also when used with misaotra
Ratsy (rAH-tsee)—bad, particularly fun in a growling voice
Tsara (tsAH-rah)—good.  Very similar to my name, and this word is used A LOT.  So to avoid
           confusion during homestay, so I would know when they were talking to (or about) me, the
           emphasis got shifted to the second syllable in my name—sah-RAH
Faly (fAH-lee)—happy
Malahelo (ma-la-EH-loo)—sad
Voky (vOO-kee)—full
Noana (nOH-na)—hungry
Rereka (rAIR-ah-ka)—tired
Mangetaheta (ma-ng-eh-ta-EH-ta)—thirsty
Mahafinaritra (ma-fee-nAH-tra)—beautiful, used a lot to describe lots of different things
Lava (lA-va)—tall, Americans get this a lot, I am a giant in this country
Fohy (fOO-hee)—short
Mora (mOO-ra)—cheap, easy
Lafo (lA-foo)—expensive
Mafana (ma-fA-na)—hot, as in the weather
Mangatsika (ma-ng-aht-sEE-ka)—cold, which you will here a lot as they are always cold if it
                    isn’t boiling


Tsena (ts-EH-na)—market
Epicerie (eh-pIH-sih-ree)—store/shop.  French word.
Rano (rAH-noo)—water
Vary (vAH-ree)—rice, and a word you will hear a LOT
Sakafo (sah-kAH-foo)—food!
Ladosy (la-dOO-see)—shower
Kabone (ka-boo-nEH)—latrine (most people do not have bathrooms, but out houses)
Alika (ah-lEE-ka)—dog
Saka (sAH-ka)—cat
Omby (OOOOm-bee)—one of my favorite words, you don’t need that many o’s, but it is more
Akoho (a-kooh)—chicken, the h on the end is kind of just a ghost
Kisoa (kee-SOO-a)—pig
Gidro (gEE-droo)—LEMUR J
Biby (bEE-bee)—animal
Bibikely (bee-bee-kEH-lee)—insect/bug.  Literally “small animal”
Vola (vOO-la)—money
Trano (trAH-noo)—house


Mianatra (mee-AH-na-tra)—to study/learn.  Use this one a whole bunch haha
Marary (ma-rAH-ree)—to be sick…yeah this one too haha
Mipetraka (mee-pAY-tra-ka)—to sit/live
Mitsangatsangana (meet-sahn-ga-tsAHn-ga-na)—really fun to say and means to walk around or
                               stroll.  People like to state the obvious here so they tell me that I do this a lot.
Manana (mA-na-na)—to have.  Not pronounced in the same fashion as “banana,” so threw us
Misy (mEE-see)—to exist.  Sort of to be, you ask if there is something in the store or market
Mihinana (mee-hEE-na-na)—to eat
Misotro (mee-SOO-troo)—to drink
Mahay (ma-HI)—a great word, the English translation is not exact, something like to be
             knowledgeable, skilled, adept…
Mazoto (ma-zOO-too)—hardworking 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ramen Noodle TWO POINT OHHHHHHHHHH (Sup Vajayjay and Teej)

May 12, 2012

Sooo my dad goes to China and Japan a fair amount, and also has colleagues at work of Asian origins.  As such, we are often trying new instant noodle dishes, in a constant search for the best.  I know you think you’ve won dad, and I will probably inform you of this in like an hour when I talk to you, but Sedaap here in Mada is the champion of the world.  I have no idea where it is actually from, there is a halal seal on it that says Indonesia but who knows.  It comes with not only a flavor packet, but 3 sauce packets—chili, soy, and something unknown AND crispy fried onions.  Oh yeah, this is where it’s at.  Look for it in Asian markets everywhere.  I don’t know if there are a lot of different flavors, mine just says “Macarrao Frito” on it, which doesn’t mean anything to me haha.

Small things make me happy, or in Alex’s phrase “I get simple Christmas presents, can you tell?”


Holy Information Overload Batman!

May 12, 2012

This is going to be one of those situations where I leave out important details because my brain is working overtime to try and process everything that is happening and everything that I need to do.  So I am going to take this step by step and see if I can cover most everything that has happened in the last week.  If I miss anything please ask!

So we left the transit house Monday morning to go to Itasy, my region.  From Monday thru Wednesday, we ran around trying to meet as many authority figures and important people as possible.  This includes the mayors, chef du fokontany (fokontanys are smaller communities within a commune (sorry for the “ys” but there is no plural in Malagasy!)), chef du district, chef du region (who actually was busy), gendarmes, and police.  Not to mention all of our bosses and counterparts with PROSPERER, the French NGO the “Itasy Trois” (the nickname I gave the three of us CED volunteers who live in Itasy) work with.  For the most part everyone seemed very nice and helpful, some more than others.  The PROSPERER people are very nice and excited to work with us.  It will be nice to have that structure and their resources going forward.  So after spending every minute together for the last two months, I watched the last of my Peace Corps ties drive away forever…or at least for a couple of weeks probably haha.  It was a very weird feeling to be by myself and to decide what I was going to do and when.  As my mother knows, I function best when I have schedules and deadlines.  However, the free time and space has been really nice.  I am glad, again, that my placement involves some structure, unlike some other sites.

My New House
It’s beautiful.  Largely due to Minnie, the former volunteer, who did a great job decorating it.  Then I bought everything from her haha.  In some ways that will make it harder to feel like my own, but most of me is just happy that I don’t come home to an empty space everyday for the first few months.  I am also glad it isn’t any bigger.  Eric’s house is stunning, better than anything people our age could afford in the states, and brand new.  But it is going to take him so long and so much money for it to finally feel furnished.  Then he is never going to want to leave! Haha, stay tuned to facebook for pictures of the houses of the Itasy Trois.  I have started putting stuff up on the walls, which is somewhat difficult since it is concrete, but duct tape works some and Minnie left me some nails in the wall.  I am thinking about maybe painting a mural, but I am not sure yet because I would probably have to paint over it when I left and the walls are peach, not white. So I will have to see if I can find this color first haha.
Favorite part about the house (inside that is, because you can’t beat a mountain view J) the BED!! Surprise haha.  Minnie if you are reading this, you are a goddess.  Binh (The former volunteer in Arivonimamo where Eric is now) and Minnie had beds custom made together with canopy posts for the mosquito net.  Minnie also left me a bunch of pillows, plus I brought my own, and a DOWN COMFORTER that she found fripping (second hand shopping).   So much like my bed at home now J. This portion should probably go under the “spoiled rotten” section of this post, because that bed is truly wonderful.  The only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is the sun that filters in perfectly through the window just opposite it, just enough to wake me up slowly.  So perfect, I love it.  I put my lambahoany (sarong like wrap with proverb) from my host family over it so the light goes all pink when it comes through.  My house gets great natural light, especially in the “living room.”   Really the house is all one room, but it is sectioned nicely.

My New Town
Is huge, which is slightly overwhelming.  I went and walked in the rice fields today just to hear myself think haha.  It is the regional capital, so there is a lot going on here.  I think the estimates I posted earlier were wrong concerning the population, as the Mayor said it was only 18,000, and I was told 40,000 haha.  I guess I will see over the next few months.  I am excited to get to know the smaller fokontanys included in my commune.  PROSPERER held a beneficiary meeting for me on Wednesday, and several silk weavers from Amboalefoka and a schoolteacher from Manajary (each about 6 km away from me) came to the meeting.  They seem very excited that I am here and are very ready to work.  I am hoping I can get to know the smaller communities well so I can have that kind of place where people know me.
I think it will be hard for people to get to know me here in Miarinarivo, and I will probably get “vazaha” (foreigner) yelled at me by children until the end of my stay.  I am hoping that if I just keep walking around enough people will start to recognize me. We don’t get that many tourists here because there aren’t attractions, but there are other international volunteers.  Which brings me to how wonderful they are.  My first night here Minnie called me and told me she was giving my number to David Pierre, and French volunteer in Miarinarivo with whom she left a bunch of electronic documents for me.  He and his roommates, Emeric, and Julia, all work with the Itasy regional office here.  They invited me over for dinner.  They speak wonderful English, have two cats and a hilariously huge dog named Pixie, and Emeric is a great cook.  We had pasta, French wine, French cheese (which is a serious treat, as cheese here is not good, if any), and a French sausage that is apparently a popular delicacy.  It was all phenomenal. Again, I am a spoiled rotten volunteer, which I will go into shortly.  Unfortunately, David is going home to France for a bit next week, so I won’t be seeing him for awhile, and Emeric lives part time in Tana.  Also, Julia is out of town and probably leaving for good in June.  The good news is, both the guys are supposed to stay at least another year.  It will be nice to have them as a buffer if I need to feel “vazaha,” or speak English haha.  Also, if I do end up taking French lessons then I can go speak French with them!  Which I am fast thinking is a good idea, since I am working for a French NGO and all formal documentation is in French in this country, even though most people speak only a little, if at all.  Eric and I might do that together, but not for a while.  We need to be good at ‘gasy first.

Spoiled Rotten
So as I mentioned, spoiled rotten.  Nice bed, already have furniture and cooking supplies ect (the perks of replacing a volunteer.  In this respect I am not alone, about half of our stage are replacements in the CED sector), other international actors here that speak English if I get in a bind or just want to relax in semi-luxury (unfortunately, they do not speak fluent Malagasy, so direct translation is out of the question).  I also have running water and a toilet.  Not hot water, so showers definitely wake me up haha.  If it gets cold enough we will see if I heat up water or if I continue to be lazy haha.  I also have a rice cooker that I bought from Minnie, which has been super helpful since I haven’t managed to buy a gas can because I need to go to the bank first.  I also have electricity, but I try hard to use it sparingly, both for environmental reasons, and the fact that my landlord pays for my electricity.  My yard is fenced, I have a solid concrete building—no cyclone is taking this baby down (don’t worry, it is worst at the coasts, I am as central as it gets), my office has WI-FI (this makes me beyond spoiled, you have nooo idea), and PROSPERER pays for a “flotte” phone for all of its employees, so we talk to each other for free. I am also really close to two other volunteers from my stage, which is highly unusual.  Many other volunteers live close to other volunteers but generally from other sectors, even some in the same town.  So, moral of this section is I am very thankful for all that I have, and I know PROSPERER expects a lot of results when they shell out this kind of money, and I intend to deliver.  Also, shout out to my environment homies in the boonies living the real ‘gasy life.  I have so much respect for you, and as hard as it may be, you are going to have so many stories about it that I look forward to hearing at IST.

The Next Steps
You have just become a Peace Corps Voluteer, what are you going to do next?!  Answer: figure it out one day at a time, haha.  So far, I have mostly just walked around.  I have gone in a couple stores, bought some food at the market, and just talked to people.  Mostly people say “bonjour” on the main streets and children yell “vazaha.”  They also quote me in the French numbers, which I find very annoying because I don’t know if they are quoting me in Ariary or Malagasy Francs (the old currency, divide by 5 to get Ariary).  Also, I am better at ‘gasy numbers currently, it hurts my brain to try and switch back to left to right from right to left (yeah, this language is hard! Haha).  I have learned that people are friendlier off the main streets, and really want to engage in conversations.  Also children giggle when I answer them in ‘gasy instead of French.  Freaks them out haha.  I have started reading all the information Minnie left me, but it is hard to wrap my head around at the moment.  Today, I walked down my road away from town and met the pastor of the small Assembly of God church, his wife, and six kids.  After a lovely conversation with them, I decided I am going to go to church there tomorrow, rather than try and brave one of the larger churches in town.  Baby steps haha.  In about an hour I am going to try and see if my landlady is home, because she was in Antsirabe when I arrived.  They were wonderful to Minnie, so I am hoping we can be good friends, and I can use them to introduce me to key people in town.  Monday, I have my first meeting at PROSPERER, and I am hoping we can set up a schedule for the next few weeks and I can get some questions answered, if I know how to form them.  I am also hoping they will show me how to get to the other fokontanys and accompany me so I can get to know them.

For now, I am just listening to the radio (best purchase ever, by the way.  I crank it for like a minute and it goes all day).  I pretty much listen to it all day to A. have people talking Malagasy at me and B. to drown out all the thumping caused by the family above me haha.  Seriously, Munces—I think they did a cultural exchange and have the partner bowling alley from Ave G.  I can pick up two stations, one better than the other.  I’ve stuck to the one because I like it and it’s hard to change because it is a manual dial.  There’s Malagasy music, American music (I got excited for Justin Bieber today, not gonna lie), news, talk, and commercials haha.

Alright, all for now.  More to come I am sure.  Hopefully I will be able to slow my brain down a little bit and just look around and ENJOY THIS BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY!!

Tiako ianareo!

Short addendum to my thoughts on my radio—I am now assuming it was running on a full charge, because it died and I cranked it for a minute and it ran for about 5 or so.  Still an awesome purchase, but not quite as baller as I thought. I will probably make it sit in the window during the day, as it also has a solar panel.