I made it…I think

 We had our final language exam this morning and I hope that I passed. The exams are actually pretty difficult for me, but I can speak Malagasy; at least enough to save my life. If I did fail, I’ll have another chance this week, otherwise I’ll be stuck at the Training Center for a week and I don’t know what would happen if I couldn’t pass after that. So I’ll just continue to be positive about the whole thing.

 A lot has happened since the last post, and I have gotten my act together and actually planned ahead to have this blog post ready. Also, let me apologize for the last post because it was so random, but I was having this weird stomach/headache/fever thing going on and I didn’t exactly feel 100%. Training has obviously continued and everything is moving along more or less as it should. I really enjoy or technical sessions and the language classes are very useful, but I am getting burnt out on classes 6 days a week.

Since the last post I’ve had the chance to go fishing with my host family sister, harvest rice, pound rice, eat a grub, learn a ton more about where I’m going and met a woman I will be working with, done some serious walking, had a distant relative of my host family die, took a family photo, had some mental health days and finally went running again. So…I’ll start from the beginning of my list.

 I went fishing with my sister one Sunday afternoon. We caught about 8 (tiny) fish and I was able to walk around many of the rice fields with her and practice my Malagasy. Technically, I’m learning Sakalava, but because I speak Standard Malagasy at home, it is kind of a hybrid between the two dialects. It was kind of fun to go fishing with a bamboo stick, dig up worms and then hope for the best. The best part is that we could carry all of our fish with this long blade of grass, so I felt very efficient.

 On two occasions, which were separated by quite a bit of time, I was able to harvest rice and to pound the rice. The harvest day was pretty confusing, because I thought I was going with my family, but nobody was awake at 5:15am like they said so I just started walking into the dark rice fields. I came across these two guys and I told them I wanted to learn how to cut the rice. They said it would be fine and I jumped into the muddy rice field and started cutting the rice. All in all it wasn’t that hard, although a lot of people were worried I would cut my hand, but it was somewhat tiring to stay hunched over and because the sun wasn’t up yet my feet were pretty cold in the mud. A few weeks later I pounded the rice with my family. Once the rice is harvested it is brought to the house and the next day people pound the rice. We would grab large bunches of rice and then beat the plant against a metal barrel so that the rice would fall off. I only did it for about 45 min, but it was definitely enough for me to be sore. The internet here is very slow and I’ll most likely not be able to post many pictures or videos, but I have both of the process.

A weird side note, and for anyone who really knows me, this probably won’t be a surprise, but I ate a grub as part of a bet when planting trees. We were planting these trees in our village and for some reason there were a ton of grubs. We were all goofing around putting them on each other when someone suggested that I eat it. So I did. Obviously not for free, but I did and it was absolutely awful. I guess I don’t really know what I expected, but it was bad. However, I made some money on the deal (worth pretty much nothing in dollar standards) and we all had a good laugh, which I guess was the most important.

The most important thing that has happened since my last post is that I’ve figured out a lot more of where I’m going. If you really want to know my exact location, just email me and I’ll let you know, but Peace Corps doesn’t want me posting on my blog my location. My house is a 3 room, two story wooden house with a porch. I have a place for a bucket shower, a hole in the ground toilet (kabone) and I’m not too far away from the river. It’s in the northern highlands of the country so it should get pretty cold in the winter, but I’m not too far away from the warm beaches should I need to take a mental health daytrip somewhere. I will be working with a family that runs a Reserve in the area and also be doing a lot of work with SRI farming. I’m 5 km away from my banking town, which means that I’m 5 km away from internet; so these posts should become a little more regular. The woman is very nice and very understanding to all of my language limitations and I think overall it should be a pretty good fit for the next two years. All I can really hope for is that the political situation here is stable and that we don’t get evacuated.

 One of the more awkward host family experiences was when a relative died and a ton of family came to the house. Because I’m not suppose to be involved with the funeral/burial site I was forced to eat lunch by myself, in my room, with the door closed. With limited language knowledge it was a very weird experience and I really didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. However, on the plus side, there was a lot of family that stayed at our house and I was able to practice speaking to other people.

 Peace Corps took family photos of us with our host families. Don’t worry, I’m definitely getting a copy and hopefully I’ll be able to post it somehow when I get it. I look like a bright white giant with red cheeks next to my host family so it’s pretty comical. I’ve only seen the ones that are on my camera, so maybe Peace Corps captured something different.

More recently, I’ve been pretty much over training and all of the classes. I definitely don’t have the same interest that I use to and it’s definitely because I need a break from it. I’ve made more use of the nice French hotel that is nearby, which has been a lifesaver, and then of course, me loving sweets, gone on some pretty good chocolate and suckers binges. I went running the other day for the first time in about a 5 weeks.

 I had pulled my hamstring pretty bad, but had no problem running what I think was around 5- 5 ½ miles. Nice to know that I’m not broken.

 I also managed to give a 10 minute speak about natural insecticides, which was pretty much awful, but I think that I made a little sense (it was all in Sakalava).

 I’ve spent the last two months with 23 other Americans and so it has made the past two months blow by pretty quickly. I’m not homesick and for the most part I love every day that I’m hear. When I get to site things will change drastically, but I’m sure it will still be positive. Once again, please email me if you have any specific questions, as I don’t always know what people really want to know.

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