Monday, September 17, 2012

Tsy Mety “Bear Hug”


The busy month of September continues.  Eric began organizing a basketball and soccer tournament for youth back in July, and it started this past weekend.  So Emma, Anders (the education volunteer in Itasy, located near Eric) headed to help out.  Emma and Anders did a fantastic job reffing the basketball, Eric kept score and fouls, and I timed.  The title of this post comes from our lack of technical knowledge of the game of basketball in Malagasy, so it pretty much just degenerated into saying tsy mety (not ok) and then acting out whatever the foul was.  Anders demonstrating a bear hug from behind got a pretty big laugh from players and spectators alike.  The basketball tournament was for 14-17 year old girls, with one fun game for guys of the same age.  And the whole thing took place this weekend.  The soccer tournament was reffed by some Malagasy volunteers who have experience, and that one goes on until the end of the month.

I think this was the most “culture shock” I have experienced here.  Sporting events have some pretty serious differences here.  Things went really well on Saturday.  They ran so smoothly, and we were all on such a high hanging out together and seeing the kids having a good time.  So the prelims of the girls were Saturday, and then on Sunday we had the guys’ game at 1 and then the girls finals at 3.  We knew the guys would be a little more physical, but what we were unprepared for was the end of the game.  2 minutes in to the fourth quarter, things are starting to heat up and get physical, and one of the guys swings an elbow at another.  The next thing I knew, there were two guys up on tables taking the nets down and there were fans all over the court.  In slow motion, Anders blew the whistle when the guys took a swing (didn’t make contact, by the way) and the ball went out of bounds.  One of the coach’s had wanted a time out when they had possession next, so Anders called that.  But then the coaches came over to the table where Eric and I were sitting, and the guys helping run the tournament, and started having a discussion about sports in Madagascar, and everyone understood that the game was over.  With 8 minutes to go.  I just stood there with my mouth gaping open like a trout, completely unaware of how everything descended into anarchy in 30 seconds.

So we wrote that off, shook ourselves out, and started the next game.  Well, 3 minutes in to the fourth quarter of the championship game, on of the girls on the team that was down took a dive and began grabbing her knee, even though no one touched here.  This was the other weird thing in Mada: every injury is assumed a cramp, so people are immediately out there pulling and pushing your legs around to try and work it out.  If anyone actually gets injured, that is the ABSOLUTE LAST THING you want to do.  The lifeguard in me was cringing every time.  So there had been a few “injuries” prior to that where this occurred, but this time the girl was crying and didn’t want to get up.  So the coach piggybacked her I presume to the doctor or home or something.  Also weird thing: all of the fans crowded around her just staring, a complete mob.  And people started playing on the courts while she was still down.  Then, the next thing I knew, everyone was crowding around the table with the trophy on it, fans, players, coaches, everyone.  So it was complete anarchy again.  And we were going to have a ceremony and everything, but then the team with the uninjured player (who were ahead before the injury) lifted their captain up on their shoulders and accepted the trophy.  Apparently the team with the injury threw a fit and forfeited, even though they had enough people to keep playing.  And from the moment of the injury until the accepting of the trophy lasted about one minute.

Again, anarchy.

Anders told us later that he was at a pro basketball game in Tana and they had to stop the game because fans ended up fighting on the court.  So we learned that fans are far too involved, and that sportsmanship is not so good.  We are hoping to continue to do this in Miarinarivo and Ampefy, a whole region wide tournament. And have halftime programs about nutrition and sportsmanship.  Anders taught PE for a bit in the states, and has a good handle on the kinds of things that are lacking in the education system here.  We have him for another year, so this could be really great.

Alright, back to the grind tomorrow.

The good, the bad, and the sticky…


Well, there are ups and downs to every job, and this past week has had a lot of both and then some.  So, upon my return to the country, my host family from Mantasoa calls and says that they want to come visit me.  Lesson about Malagasy: they do not plan in advance.  I thought maybe this was just with work, but they called Monday (although I didn’t actually talk to them until Wednesday) and said they wanted to come visit on Thursday that same week.  I got them to delay it until Monday.

So, they arrived on Monday, at about 4 in the afternoon, 3 boys, 5, 9 and 12, and the mom.  I was very excited to see them…and then they got in my house.  I had put most of my really important stuff in my trunk and locked it, but what I didn’t realize is that they were going to pick anything up that wasn’t nailed down.  Pick up, mess with, throw, put in their mouths ect.  I realized that part of this is due to the fact that there isn’t really anything in their house that is just for “decoration.”  They are not used to the phrase “look with your eyes, not your hands.”  And it wasn’t just in my house, but when we went to visit a few of my friends and neighbors houses and when we went to the market.  I ended up being the disciplinarian.  And occasionally gave up and put on a Disney movie.  It is a very different situation when you have your own space to escape to.  But my house is only one room, so I was on Malagasy overload for 4 straight days.  Welcome back to Madagascar, here is your kick-start back into Peace Corps.  Mazotoa! Haha.

Lessons learned: small children touch things, a lot.  5 year olds still put everything in their mouths, and small boys like to get dirty and sticky and bring that mess into your house.  And finally, family is family, no matter where they are from.  (Also, even if they aren’t actually your family, but just adopted you for a month.)

I survived, I learned, and I don’t intend to let them come stay again.  I will love them from afar haha.

There were good things about last week as well.  The website for the Village Store launched while I was in the states, and we sold out of two colors already!!  I spoke with the founder of Madagascar Cooperative Foundation, and he is planning on doing another silk order next week or the week after.  Hooray for exportation!  The website is which you can also find under the communication page at the top of my blog.  There is no shipping costs, and the items ship from Utah (all of the products are shipped to storage there until they are ordered) and they take about a week to arrive.  The website explains the story of silk, from the blog post I posted a couple months ago, and they offer other fun artisanal products as well.

Check it out!!  And help us keep up sustainable development.

Monday, September 10, 2012

America: “Everything is so tall and clean!”


Manahoana indray! (Hello again!)

Hope you all are well.  Sorry I haven’t been writing, but my trip to the states was an absolute whirlwind, and I am very happy I didn’t write as soon as I got back because the range of emotions that crept up on me upon my return was overwhelming haha.  So, back to the beginning.

After a lovely week back at the training center with my stage, retelling all of the shenanigans of the previous 3 months, I headed back to Tana with everyone to pack and hop on a plane.  Conveniently, there was another volunteer who was finishing her service and on the same flight, so we split a cab to the airport for our 1 am flight.  We get through everything and board the plane, and I realize that I am seated in “premium economy,” one step up from economy.  Either it was a mistake on the part of my mom and myself when booking through Expedia, or I got bumped somehow.  Either way I was ecstatic.  If there ever was a time for me to appreciate a premium class, it is after 6 months in a third world country on a 20 hour trip home.  So I settled in comfortable to my first flight, 10 hours.  I quickly took inventory of the movie selections, as I hadn’t even heard of some of the new releases.  I ended up watching the 5 year engagement first, because I knew it was filmed in Ann Arbor.  What I didn’t know was how much focus there was on Ann Arbor, which of course made me cry haha.  Luckily it was the middle of the night and most everyone else on the plane was sleeping.  Got to the Paris airport and found my new gate, and quickly grew very excited that people around me were speaking English.  AMERICAN ENGLISH.  The distinction is subtle, but still exciting.  I have a few friends in Madagascar that do speak English, mostly French people, but to hear American English was very different.  Hopped on to the next plane and was again surprised by premium economy.  So, in the 20 hours of travel, I got to have a mini French vacation, with wine, and cheese, and movies, and chocolate cake.  I got off the plane at DTW after another 8 hours and queued up for passport control.  Turns out, when they ask you why you were overseas and you respond “I’m a Peace Corps volunteer,” their response is simply welcome home, no questions asked.  The luggage hadn’t arrived yet, so I went to the bathroom to make sure I was presentable for my favorite person on the other side of the customs door.  My luggage came around fairly quickly when the carousel started moving.  Getting through customs was an easy feat, and then I practically ran to the big gray doors separating me from Michigan.  When I busted through them I started scanning the sparsely populated atrium and finally found Alex, who had come to pick me up.  We both had huge grins on our faces as we went to greet each other.  The whole thing felt so surreal. It still hadn’t sunk in that in less than 24 hours I could be back home.

We walked out to Alex’s sleek black Mustang (ahhh yes, America) and began driving back to his apartment.  The car ran so smoothly, quickly, quietly.  Everything was so tall and shiny and clean.  And no one was staring at me (well maybe Alex, who probably was having a hard time believing I was actually there).  We dropped my stuff off at his apartment, and since I had been craving sandwiches for 6 months (Madagascar does NOT do good sandwiches) we went to Panera (judge me all you want for my first meal, it was delicious).

The next morning, we went to surprise my mom at church, because I hadn’t seen her yet.  She knew I was in town, but she didn’t know I was coming to church.  So we stood across the lawn during social hour when she finally spotted me talking to a group of friends.  Mission accomplished haha.

I will spare you the play by play of the three weeks that followed, but I had a wonderful birthday, a great time at Tina’s bachelorette party and rehearsal dinner, a wonderful time seeing one of my best friends get married, a fabulous weekend in Chicago going to Wrigleyfield and seeing DSP people again, and a magnificent time with my visiting grandparents.  Overall I got to see a lot of people and catch up with them, making three weeks feel about like three minutes haha.

Before I knew it, it was time to get back on the plane to come back to Mada.  The whole time I was in the states, it felt as though Mada had been a dream, because everything in America was pretty much the same as I had left it.  My sister had a new house, my boyfriend was switching jobs, but all in all, I was still dropping my mom off at work and then running errands.  It was a very weird feeling.  It felt like 6 months just disappeared, not in the sense that they went quickly, but that they just didn’t exist.  The same feeling occurred upon my return to Mada; I felt as though the month in the states didn’t happen, and it should be August 12.

It was also harder to leave the second time.  Maybe it was because this stint will be longer, or maybe because the sense of adventure wasn’t as poignant because I knew more of what to expect.  Maybe it was because I didn’t have 29 other people going through the same thing.  Whatever it was, I was not a happy camper on the plane, or when we touched down in Tana.  Getting back to the Meva with other volunteers cheered me up a bit, but it wasn’t until I got back to Miarinarivo and saw Emma, Eric, and all my Malagasy friends that I started to feel settled again, and remembered why I was here.  Having other volunteers as your support system makes a world of difference.

So now, on to the next chapter.  Apparently with a kick start, as my host family from Mantasoa called me on Wednesday to tell me they wanted to come to Miarinarivo on Friday (GAHHHHHHH NOOOOOOOOOO), which I got them to push back until Monday (stress level midnight).  But it will be great to show them around, and certainly an interesting experience.

More on that next time.