Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Back to Summer Camp


Manahoana daholo!

I am back again to tell you all about my 2 weeks training the new volunteers back at the training center in Mantasoa.  Although looking at the “views” on my blog since the beginning, looks like I am writing for a very select audience now haha.

So anyway, I was a little nervous training the new volunteers because they are all under the new agriculture framework; there are no more community economic development volunteers like me, they were folded in with environment.  So the trainees spent the first 5 weeks pretty much only talking about improved farming techniques and small animal husbandry.  They Dan and I come in to teach bookkeeping, recordkeeping, costing and pricing, and assigning an agri-business feasibility project.  All of which was pretty much in the classroom, when prior they had been spending a lot of time outside.  I know that I would have been snoozing by the end of the week.

But to their credit (and I guess to mine and Dan’s) they were still pretty engaged by the end of the week, asking great questions.  All of the sessions seemed to go pretty well, even though we were flying by the seat of our pants some of the time.  I have said it before and I will say it again, communication is not Peace Corps’ strong suit.  But we survived and I think the trainees learned a lot.  The best was the project, where they got to apply business concepts how they would in the field, literally.  They each had to talk to a host family and find out about their income generating activities and give advice based on questions they asked in Malagasy.  Overall I think it was a success, even after PC cut one of the sessions.

But enough about the actual training, on to the fun stuff!  The real reason I wanted to be a trainer haha :P just kidding.  So the first week I was training with Dan, a fellow CED volunteer, and Corey, Tisa, and Raf, all health volunteers, which was the sector of the other half of the trainees.  Each sector has 18 this round.  So even though we had to spend a lot of time preparing sessions and evaluating how sessions went, we still had time to play hilarious games revolving around Jurassic Park (which resulted in a “how many dinosaurs can you name?” poster board, as well as a “did you know…” board), introduce the new vols to “cards against humanity,” a hilarious politically incorrect version of apples to apples, and write mahay-kus (haikus) about training and beyond to share at the talent show put on by the trainees.  Complete and total hit.

World Malaria Day also fell during my training weeks, and Raf, the Malaria Coordinator, helped the trainees put on a great festival for Mantasoa Village.  This included a mosquito piƱata, which was absolutely terrifying to watch with the several hundred kids in attendance.  Corey, Tisa, and I also gave the trainees their stage name—Bougie Stage.  This comes from the word bourgeoisie, because this stage was getting fancy.  They had a milk frother for tea and coffee, drank wine, which I didn’t even know Mantasoa had, and (though not their fault really) were the first stage with access wi-fi.  They were pretty pleased with their new name, and have really taken it to heart.

The second week, I trained with Meghan (health) and Dan (environment).  That week saw the introduction of an epic blanket fort created by the trainees for movie watching and Nintendo simulator playing, a great capture the flag game, the very stressful language test for trainees, preparation for final presentations, expired jell-o found in the games cupboard (still tasted good), a giant bowl of popcorn to celebrate the end of the test, a bonfire and s’mores, presidents and assholes card game, and a few decent dance parties.

Overall, I had a great time really getting to know the new volunteers.  If I hadn’t been a trainer, I might never have met some of the ones who live far away.  Now I have “zandry” (younger siblings) who can be great friends for the next year and beyond.  Excited to really welcome the 5 new highlands regioners at the next VAC in June!


Easter With My 'Gasy Family


Hello again!

I am still a bit behind on my blogging, but I am trying to catch up now.  So going back a bit to Easter and Easter Monday (which is also a holiday in Madagascar).  I promised Claude and his wife Adalene (from my silk co-op in Amboalefoka) I would spend Easter with them like 6 months prior, and every few weeks Adalene would jokingly ask me where I was spending Easter, just to make sure I remembered.

So I headed out to their place 6 km from my town on Saturday morning to spend the weekend.  Claude’s brother and his family came out from Tana as well.  They were very interested in learning all about me and the things I do here, also about America.  It was really difficult to get the wife to stop talking to me in French, but she got it eventually.  They also had an adorable daughter around 8 and a son in his early teens (who was very shy and off playing with Claude’s son, so I didn’t see much of him).  We spent most of Saturday watching TV and chatting and walking a little bit around the fields.

Sunday rolled around and we got up early to head to church.  I had no idea, but Claude is the organist at church.  They have a little catholic church near their house and the church has a basic electric keyboard.  Claude doesn’t play anything fancy, mostly just chords, but I was still really surprised to learn he was the keyboard player.

So after a very long service where the pastor got a bit mad at the congregation for arriving so late (come on man, it is Madagascar, that is the culture.  Although 2 hours late is a bit much…) we returned back to the house for a nice Easter lunch.  While it wasn’t a Petit Jean Ham from Arkansas and my mom’s potato salad, we still had a good meal that included pork, something definitely out of the ordinary for them.  We also had duck, which was delicious J.  A couple of weeks after Easter I also got a package from my mom that included Easter candy and toys, so all in all not so bad.

So the Monday following Easter is also a big deal in Madagascar.  Everyone goes on a little walk or vacation or picnic.  I spent the last “Lundi de Paques” in Mantasoa, where people come from Tana to picnic on the lake.  This time I headed with Claude and Adalene and their family to Ampasamanatongotra (say that 5 times fast) about 5 km from their house so see “hira gasy,” which literally means Malagasy song.  We paid a small fee to see large groups of singers perform songs in traditional meter and dress, set to a small group of instrumentalists including brass and strings.  There are also young men in each group that do kind of martial arts and turn all kinds of cool flips with twists, kind of like break dancing.  Too cool.  So we sat in the hot sun and drank homemade orange juice with waaaay too much sugar and snacked on fried goods.

When we got there, everyone was sitting on the ground in a big circle around the singers.  We circled for a bit and found a good spot to sit with the crowd.  A lot of people recognized me, because most of the people were the same ones who attended the women’s day activities the month before and watched me play soccer.  A few minutes after we found a good spot and sat down, a few men came over with a chair, insisting that I sit on it.  Now, there are probably 500 people sitting on the ground, and not one has a chair.  So I adamantly (but politely) refuse for a solid 5 minutes until they finally give up.  No way man, I stand out enough, haha.

It was not Ann Arbor, but it was still a pretty good Easter.  One more like it and I am home!