A lot has happened since my last post, and I have to admit that not all of it is really interesting. However, I having been doing a lot in the form of work, so I suppose that is something to be proud of.
But first things first. I will most likely not get a cat, as I am pretty sure that I have an allergy to them. I had one kitten spend the night in my house to try and solve my mouse issue. However, the cat slept like a rock and didn’t wake up for any of the scurrying, took a dump on my clothes and then I woke up fairly congested and not as jolly as I would have liked. The whole event was not as productive as I would have liked, and so I think I will have to wait on the cat. The mouse trap will do for now. As for the mouse trap, I was on quite the killing spree last week, but it appears a clever mouse (or maybe a trap set by a not so clever human being) has been able to snag the peanut off of the trap on a routine basis. I wanted to build a proper house for my Counterparts rabbits, but after all the material was figured out, it was ridiculously expensive. I could build around 75 hotboxes for people or I could build a house for rabbits. It didn’t make sense to build the house, but I will try and figure out a cheaper way somehow. I don’t plan to buy and build 75 hotboxes either, but it was just a point of reference.
Now for work. I have been on a real hotbox and cook stove kick as of late. I made a hotbox with the English Club and they were all very excited to build one (it was also the start of their vacation, so that might be why they were in high spirits). I had told people in my community about the English Club coming to my house to build the hotbox and one woman and her friend came to the event with their own material and built a hotbox too. I was thrilled! It’s like something actually happened like it was supposed to! I also brought my hotbox to the lady that I always buy soy milk and mofogasy from and she said she wanted to build one too, so we’ll see if that actually happens. I built a cook stove for the one bachelor pad in all of Matsobe. I’m not sure if it was the most productive use of my time, but it was a good test run. I always see this guy when I go through Matsobe and it seems to me that he is never working. So I said to him that if he didn’t have a program that day then we were going to build a cook stove. So we did. He helped me get all of the material and sift the dirt and build some bricks, and at the same time his two friends just kept looking at me like I was crazy and one insisted that it would never stay up. It fell over twice while I was building it, but I managed to get it all together and it has managed to stay intact for a week with no problems (it’s still wet so we can’t use it yet). I also had my first meeting with the group A.P.E. (Association Parteners Ecotourism (it’s in French though so the name makes more sense)). It was nice to meet all of the members and to give me an idea of all they have to offer for plans with tourists when they come to Andapa. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but altogether it seems like a very good organization that can accomplish a lot. I hope to do some seasonal calendars with them so we can create different “farming” tourist events and create a real menu for the Reserve. We also took some group photos, so when I get a chance I will make sure I post at least one of them with Picasa or Facebook. I still haven’t shaved and I was worried that my counterpart would want me to shave, but he told me that I looked like Jesus Christ. He’s a religious man, so this was obviously a compliment. Second, my beard in nowhere near long enough to be compared with Jesus and I would like to think that I have a little more meat on my bones than the Jesus in all of the images Christianity has provided for us. I finally fixed the fence for my garden and now it doesn’t look extremely pitiful, but just weak. Things are growing, but it is definitely sparse. The pumpkin and squash are doing well and I really should have planted the pumpkin around the garden and not in it, because it is spreading like wildfire. Who knows, maybe I’ll grow a bunch of corn too and come Halloween I’ll have a corn maze and a pumpkin patch. I suppose it could be considered ecotourism. Last, i built a canal in front of my house, which seems to help with the mud situation. It is also nice because i can dump all kind of water in the canal and it doesn’t make such a big mess. I hope to plant some trees near the fence in front of my house and from there rebuild the canal as an irrigation system.
The past few weeks have been big in the food department as well. I’ve started eating a lot of eggplant, which is kind of a big deal because I thought I didn’t like eggplant. I’ve been mixing eggplant with ground beef, tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onions (and rice of course), which has been pretty phenomenal. Also, the ground beef doesn’t get stuck in my teeth as often as the steaks, so it’s been a real plus. Also, to satisfy my sweets craving, I’ve been making banana pancakes and then putting pineapple slices on top. It’s pretty much the best thing ever. Finally, I’ve been experimenting with rice pudding and the other day I made a chocolate and peanut rice pudding that was pretty good. I just added some cocoa and roasted peanuts into the mix and it turned out as good as I had hoped.
As for free time, I have been working a lot, but it has become clear that there is a reason why I do not have weekends. There are some days that I plan to do something and then things change so rapidly that it really ends up being a very unproductive day. Also, I read Death of a Salesman, which I found overall to be annoying and overrated. Maybe I just didn’t get it. I’ve started reading Catcher in the Rye, which I really like, but in small doses. If I had to read it for a class I could easily see hating the book, but because there is absolutely no rush at all, it makes it much easier to read. Sometimes I feel like it is something I would have written with all of the explanations and sarcastic comments. i don’t know what that means though. Also, with school being done for the summer (or winter), I had an opportunity to go to the countryside with one of the students from the English Club. It was nice to meet his family and hang out for a bit. We also went to another village where he wants to start an English Club of his own and so I helped him for the first meeting. I obviously can’t teach English everywhere (or everyday), but I think it would be really cool if I could start English Clubs in many villages and help the teachers create plans and figure out how to teach their own community basic English. Often, they are more capable than I am because they can speak Malagasy efficiently. But this is not as easy as it would seem. i told one man that i could help him start an English club in his village and that translated to him that i would teach the English club every week and he would stand up there with me. That obviously didn’t fly and so i told him that he can start now and i would come back in two months. If the village is serious about learning English and people are making progress then i will see what i can do. If I’m going to teach English, i should probably do it in my own community first. I’ve also noticed that doing laundry can help clear my head. Because everything is hand washed it takes more time and it can give me a chance to think a bit. That being said, yesterday I did laundry and two things were of interest to me. Both of which were equally unimportant. First, that a mouse decided to eat part of a pair of my boxers. I’m not sure why, but it did. No other pair, no other piece of clothing, just that one pair. I think it was taking its vengeance on me in the only way it knew how. I can only hope that I have already killed that mouse as I do not have enough underwear for this kind of thing to continue. Second, I had 5 pairs of socks that I washed in this load and it came across my mine that while I washed my socks, I saw every sock as if it were made for the right foot. We all know the one can put a sock on either foot, but when I hand wash the socks they all seem like they would be a better fit for my right, rather than left foot. I wonder if this would be different if my left hand was my dominate hand.
One of my counterparts has won an award in the United States and so if he gets all of his passport stuff together he will get to go to the U.S. in October. I hope to help him with all of that stuff as much as I possibly can. I think it will really help out with the Reserve that he owns and preparing it for when Madagascar becomes a more popular tourist destination. I’ve also been in communication with an Eco-Architect in South Africa, who might be able to help us out with some projects too (she has already been to Madagascar and wants a reason to come back).
As for the future, i have been speaking with the WWF office in Andapa, and i hope to work with them in the future. i think a lot depends on what peace corps says it ok, because i will need to spend some time in the office in Andapa and then possibly go into the forest for a few days, which would require leaving site. I also hope to work with them to acquire funding for various projects that might be possible. In addition, I’ve discovered that bank loans do exist here and i need to start doing some serious research for the rice cooperative that i talked about a while back. Hopefully, everything is actually feasible and i can put it all together by next year. I really think that storage will be the biggest problem to overcome for the rice cooperative.
As i write this the weather is absolutely awful, but July as a whole has been gorgeous. Hot and sunny during the day and then cool at night. My cold is gone for the moment but occasional stomach issues follow me around. The days are getting longer here and i couldn’t be happier. I cook dinner with the sun, so that means I’ve been eating later too. I’ve tried studying more lately and with my work in the community i am always practicing. i use to bring a notebook around so i could write things down, but I’ve shifted to just bringing a pen in my pocket and then writing on myself. I find that it is more convenient and with it being on my body i have a chance to look at it more often. Not to mention, with my current hygiene situation, that pen might stay on there for a few days if i don’t take care of it. The problem with this method is that when I learn swear words, I sometimes feel that it is inappropriate to tattoo myself for the day with the Malagasy equivalent of “fuck you”.

I would kill for a salami sandwich and some Ritz crackers…and a pack of purple skittles.