June 30, 2012
Just returned from my Volunteer Advisory Council meeting in Antsirabe with the rest of the “Mahaylanders,” the nickname for those of us who live in the highlands of Madagascar. Every 4 months there are regional meetings of all the volunteers. We get together and talk about various issues and provide feedback to our VAC rep. They then take our responses to the national committee meeting. The VAC rep for each region plans the day and location of each meeting. This time it was in Antsirabe, and happened to fall (and by happened I mean meticulously planned for our enjoyment) the day before Independence Day here in Madagascar. Emma, Eric, and I (The Itasy TroisTM) headed down to the meeting on Sunday, June 24. Got to our hotel and were reunited with Amy and Nick, the other two people from our training group that live in the highlands. After much catching up we headed to the hotel where most everyone else was staying to say hello. This hotel, Chez Billy, is a popular spot amongst volunteers. I posted pictures of it from Tech Trip on facebook as well. There are two rooms up on the roof, and many lounge chairs and umbrellas. So that is where the 20 of us Mahaylanders spent a great deal of the 3 days we were in Antsirabe.
Sunday night we went and had fabulous pizza (well, fabulous for Madagascar anyway) and did a “speed dating” session to get to know one another. Reminded me a lot of rushing DSP haha. There was a carnival set up in street and people everywhere. When your country is only 50 years old, Independence Day is a really big deal. Monday was the actual VAC meeting, so we met and chatted about issues for a while, and then took advantage of how European Antsirabe is (founded by Norwegians) and ate ourselves silly on bread and cheese J. That night, the 25th, the day before Independence Day (fetim-pirenena) children carry brightly colored paper lanterns through the streets when it gets dark. Reminded me a lot of Halloween, with the lanterns like pumpkins to carry candy. There were also quite a few fireworks that we watched from our awesome roof location. The next day, we decorated our roof with lanterns we had purchased from the day before. We didn’t participate so much in the activities below, but mostly just watched and relaxed together. There were a great deal of speeches and parades of military and school children in the town center. And fireworks again at night. One of our group found sparklers for sale on the street so we spend the evening eating steak fritte, drinking boxed wine, playing twister, and lighting sparklers. Overall, a very enjoyable time. It was really nice to get to know a lot of the people from other sectors, although now I will be very sad to see the health and education volunteers who are finished leave in August and September. Oh well, we have a new stage coming in soon and I will be a zoky! (Older sibling).
That’s all for now, more to come on our return trip from Antsirabe through Tana and the delicious and productive business meeting that ensued.