Tuesday, June 25, 2013



Totally and completely surreal.  I still can’t believe they are FINALLY coming.  As proud and excited as I am about my other projects, I feel like once my family visits I can really feel accomplished about my service.  It is kind of the one thing I am still really waiting on to happen.  There is only so much you can tell from pictures, and I am so excited for my family to experience everything for themselves, and for my friends here to get to meet my family as well.  Plus I am excited to vacation to Ft. Dauphin and Andasibe, of course.

So here is our plan:  They get in on Sunday night the 21st of July, and we will stay the night in Tana.  I have hired a friend as our private driver, and he will take us to my town, Miarinarivo, the next day after breakfast.  We will spend the day in my town meeting people and seeing where I live.  The next day the plan is to head to Emma’s town, Ampefy, to hang out by the lake and see the waterfall.  We will also be seeing more people that I know.  The next day we plan to head to Andasibe to do some night hiking and see the indri, the largest lemur in Madagascar.  We will stay one night out there and then head back to Tana to catch an early flight to Ft. Dauphin.

Two days in Ft. Dauphin, on the southern tip of the island, then we head just slightly west throught he spiny forest to Berenty, a large reserve.  We will spend a day and a night there and then head back to Ft. Dauphin to fly back to Tana.  Then I put my parents and my sister on a plane and Alex and I take off to go south a bit to Antsirabe for a couple of days before I put him on a plane to meet up with my family in Paris.

Wish us smooth sailing for them flying in!  And for all of our domestic flights, fingers crossed haha.


Best Trip Ever Trip!


So, after our mid service conference, 9 of my fellow volunteers and I embarked on a 7 day trek down a river to see lemurs, crocodiles, tsingy (limestone rock formations) and baobabs.  We spend two and a half days canoeing west down a river towards the coast, swimming in waterfalls, sleeping on sandbars, and spotting all kinds of wildlife.  Also, some of the guys purchased slingshots, so they were shooting some of the wildlife, but mostly each other, with dried chickpeas.  My boat mostly just lazily listened to music and read harry potter out loud (yeah we know how cool we are).  We had guides to navigate the river and to cook for us, so it really was a lazy vacation.

Halfway through day 3, we hopped out of the river and into a 4x4 to drive the rest of the day and arrive at the tsingy after dark (flat tires didn’t help, really terrible road!)  The next morning we got to climb the grand tsingy and the petit tsingy.  These enormous limestone formations and caves used to be coral reefs that dried out thousands of years ago.  They carve their way through some cool jungle and we got to climb all over them.  Truly awe-inspiring.  We spent another night at the camp there, including a short walk to an actual hotel to dirty up their pool with 10 people who hadn’t showered in 5 days, and then headed out the next morning to try and make it to the baobabs by sunset, the best time to see them.

We cut it close, but we arrived at the absolute perfect time to see these breathtaking trees tower over us, some over 700 years old.  My favorite was the baobab amoreaux, or lover’s baobab.  These are two baobabs that grew twisted together.  There was also the sacred baobab, where you bring an offering and ask for something.  That is the 700-year-old one.  Then we finally arrived at the allĂ©e de baobab, or Baobab Avenue.  Rather packed with tourists, but still a wondrous site.  We took pictures for nearly an hour there before we packed up and made it the rest of the way to Morondava.  There we finally stayed in a hotel, so we got to shower, and had an amazing seafood dinner at a Rastafarian bar on the beach.  We sang with the rastas, and then went a little ways down the street for some karaoke.

The plan was to head out the next morning at 10, so most everyone slept in.  But Christina and I decided to get up early and go have breakfast on the beach about a 5-minute walk away.  Then we ventured a bit into town, where I realized I would kill to live. The laid back atmosphere, the wide streets, the coast; it really was an amazing town, and I really wish I didn’t have to come back to work and could have explored for longer!!

So that was by far the coolest trip I have ever taken, and I can’t wait to continue my travels next month when my family arrives, and in August with Erica Kim!  Wish you could all come and experience this country for yourselves; it truly is an amazing place.


Mid-Service Conference (MSC)


One year into service, every training group comes back to Mantasoa and the training center and spends a week in a conference together getting updated on administrative and technical practices.  So we get to see everyone in our stage, some of whom we haven’t seen since August.  The cool thing about this conference is our staff decided we would try something called “open space,” where we decide what sessions we want and run them ourselves.  This meant we learn exactly what we want to learn, and if there is nothing we want to attend, we can work on our own things.  We get to here what other volunteers in our stage are doing, and get really valuable advice from them.

Also, we get to have parties together!  The weekend before the conference began, I went to a second hand clothing market with some friends and found an awesome sweatshirt that zips over the head into a bear costume.  This gave birth to “bear crunk.”  You put the bear on, and no one can see you anymore, so you just dance around like a crazy person.  It was a lot of fun.

So it was very nice to have a reunion with everyone, and to hear about all the wonderful work they were doing.  Next time we will all be together will be in January at our close of service conference, which is crazy!!


Christmas in May


Manahoana daholo!

So I just wanted to tell you all a little story about a program that I stumbled into helping out with in May.  The pastor of my little church down the street from my house called me and asked for me to come to the church on a Saturday to come take pictures of a program for kids.  He didn’t really elaborate, but I had some time and so I headed down there that Saturday morning.  When I arrived, there were tons of kids hanging out, more than usually attend.  There we 4 or 5 boxes on the stage, which said “operation Christmas child” on them.  Then I started to talk to the pastor, and found out that these were boxes from the states that an organization called “Samaritan’s purse” had sent, and that there was a representative coming from Tana to help distribute the presents and she needed someone to take pictures (which was where I came in).

So a few minutes later, the two women arrived from Tana to help distribute and we got underway.  The pastor introduced me and as soon as I said “nice to meet you” in Malagasy she said “Peace Corps?” Haha.  Then a few minutes later she even corrected herself saying numbers in  French (which actually I am pretty good at because gasy people use them all the time) and repeated them in gasy.  I love people like that.

Anyway, each kid got a wrapped shoebox for themselves, and we took a few pictures of them all together before they opened them.  Then, the kids started cautiously tearing into their boxes of goodies.  The smiles, the excitement, the shock, all completely priceless.  Some of the younger kids were so shocked that they got a whole box to themselves.  I wandered around trying to discreetly take pictures (because if they realized I was taking a picture they stopped smiling and started posing.  The kids got things like candy, toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash (that they had to ask me what it was for), small toys and balls, play-doh (which they thought might be yogurt since it came in the same kind of container, so I had to stop them from eating it haha).

The pure joy on the faces of those kids was one of the best things I’ve seen in this country, and I just wanted to share it with all of you.