The weather here showed signs of warming up for a day or two and then went back to being cold and raining. Then it went back to warming up and now I‘m thoroughly confused as to what‘s going on. I think August might be somewhat pleasant from the weather perspective and September maybe even better. The general consensus is that October is really hot, so I’ll try not to think about that. However, with this weather change, the amounts of frogs have increased as well. I really enjoy the chirping of the frogs, but it is there bombing techniques that that have me a little worried. I suppose the frogs here are lazy, maybe too much cane rum, and so when they are on the ceiling or high up on the walls, they take the quickest route down and just drop. Especially at night or early morning, this technique comes into practice and I hear the smacking of the frogs as they hit the floor. It is almost as if these frogs just fall from the sky, penetrate my tin roof, and then plop down right next to my bed. I like it now, but I am waiting until the day that a frog falls from the heavens and lands on my head. If they had a regular schedule I could start to incorporate them as an alarm clock. I find the smack sound much less offensive then the chorus of roosters that starts from around 4am and might go until 7am. Thankfully, my subconscious has decided to ignore the early birds and I wake up with the ones who sing around 6am.
As for my health…It is really like a roller coaster ride of energy and then inconvenient road blocks. I don’t really know what the issue is, nor do I think that the Peace Corps doctor is certain either, so the only step that there was to take was to send some stools. Granted, I hate taking medication, so as awkward and disgusting as it is to take the sample, I was happy to wait before I ingest more medicine for another week. By no means is this a life death situation, or at least not in my opinion. Really, my body seems to be working on overtime and it is a little inconvenient to frequent the bathroom so often. I’m sure something will be figured out. The Peace Corps doctor has been a tremendous help with everything and trying to figure out what I need to do to improve my situation. Once again, I’m really not in bad shape, I’m just not regular; and that’s not regular for me. Also, my community is starting a water project, so if it is water issues, that might be fixed relatively soon anyway. The most annoying part is that I don’t know why I am sick, so I don’t really know what I need to do to improve my situation. I thought I was OCD beforehand; this might make things even crazier. As for the actual taking of the stool sample, I’ll spare you the details. I’ve heard from many people that I seem much more mature after being here, so I suppose I should run with that for a while.
In other, less disgusting news, I was lucky to have an Environment Volunteer from Antalaha visit me for the weekend. It was nice to have a visitor and I got to know what it would be like to host a person should family or friends decide to visit in the far future. It is funny, because she has electricity and running water in her house, so visiting me was like having a real Peace Corps experience. After cooking for one person for so long it was kind of weird to prepare food for two people. I almost felt like I was learning to cook all over again. We mostly hung out and went to Antanetiambo Nature Reserve, the Reserve I work for. We didn’t see any lemurs in the reserve, but we didn’t go at the right time of day anyway. It was cold and raining for most of the time too, so she got a real Andapa welcome. It was nice to joke around a bit, because my language skills in Malagasy are not good enough to joke with people without possibly offending them. She asked me what my 10 year plan was, and I told her that I didn’t have and didn’t want one. I keep thinking about that and whether it would be a good idea to have one, to have a direction for the future. However, the more I think about it, the more I think that I’ve signed up for a two year plan at the moment, and that is far enough in the future for me.
The garden was doing well and things that I recently planted were starting to grow. At the moment, the squash is ready to eat and the pumpkins are growing fast. The cilantro is doing well too. Hopefully, after a while I won’t need to go to Andapa or any other markets for a lot of food. However, the pumpkins have been attacked in some places or are just dying so I hope the fruit still grows to its full potential and to being ripe. I’ve also decided to start building a fence with pineapples around the fence that I’ve already built. I should finish the fence at the end of service and it will probably work after I have already left, but it is a nice project for the moment. I think I’ll wait until the avocados, eggplant, lettuce and new tomatoes and corn grow before I make any more big decisions with it.
I am in wonderful biking shape at the moment and it shows with my travels to the two different towns named Andasibe in the area. I built a hotbox in one community and then I visited an English Club in the other. Both visits were great because I met new people and me just knowing a little Malagasy was already good enough for them. In addition, when I visit people they always feed me and give me a ton of food. With my beard and usually dirty clothes from the bike ride I sometimes feel like I am that bum on the side of the road with the sign that says ‘will work for food‘. Receiving food is great because the people can feel good about giving me something that they actually have and I love to eat. Really a perfect match when I think about it.
My language is coming along more and more and it really helps when I just go into the community and talk. I understand about half of what is said to me, write down the other half and then ask my counterparts to translate later on. It is weird because it doesn’t feel like work at all, but at the same time it is helping to learn the language and gain community trust so it is probably good to keep it up. The only hard part is that I don’t really care for talking that much, let alone in a different language, so we’ll see how long I can last with all of this before I need to just spend some time in my house and read.
My food intake has been pretty much the same thing except I’ve started making sandwiches with rice, ground beef, onion and ginger. I think they are pretty good, but I eat pretty much anything, so I still wonder whether these new concoctions are really good, or if it is just something new. The other day I came across some great street food. It was like a Cracker Jack rice crispy treat. It was pretty much the best thing ever and really hit the spot for my sugar craving. Also, I’m fairly certain that the lady I buy pineapples from is genuinely crazy. If her pineapples weren’t so good and cheap, I really would avoid her, but it’s impossible. Also, if I don’t go by her stand she seems to see me in other places in Andapa and asks why I haven’t been visiting. She has no cats, but she kind of reminds me and kind of looks like the crazy cat lady from The Simpsons.
I built another cook stove in the community and it turned out really good. I wish they didn’t start cooking with it so soon because I think it might break on them. They seem happy for the moment and if it doesn’t break then it’s all the better. I think the cook stoves are building community trust as well because they realize that the things that I’m talking about (partially because the only Malagasy that I know consists of how to build certain things we learned in training) really do work and that maybe I do have some good ideas and systems. I’ve also ran into the problem of saying maybe too much. I really don’t want to lie to anybody so I’ve been saying that something “might” work. It didn’t hit me until the other week that when Malagasy people say “maybe” it usually means “no”, so I should really get out of the habit. So, when I built one in the community just north of my community I didn’t say maybe at all and hopefully it will work out for them. The best part about my latest cook stove is that it was with one of the community heads and so it has been some very good networking for me.
I’m still reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. I like it, but it has reached a point where I am slightly interested but not on the edge of my seat eager to see what happens next. From time to time I’m really interested, but I have no problem stopping in the middle of a chapter and waiting until the next day. However, I really do love all of the characters and the town of Macondo is quite magical (as cliché as that sounds). It is kind of nice to read about the generations and the changes that occur in the swamp village. It sometimes makes me think of my life in Andapa and how it is somewhat similar, at least geographically.
The beard still exists and I will be thrilled to do away with it in about a month. It doesn’t really bother me anymore; I’m just tired of having the growth on my face. I think with the weather changing it will be nice to be free of it as well. Now, I’m just trying to contemplate when I will buzz my hair really short again. I don’t know if shaving my face and buzzing my hair at the same time would be too much change at once for my community.
For future projects, I’m still just thinking. I really need to find out what organizations could help donate books for a library. I think if I have the books then the library can just come together. Probably not the neatest or most well run at first, but I think the books would be the most important thing to have 🙂 I’m still doing research on the rice cooperative project as well. I think it is slowly turning away from a cooperative and transforming into a small business. I would be happy with a nonprofit to tell you the truth. As always, storage is the biggest issue and in constructing a building I need to think about the type of material and location of the building. Also, whether it would need to be staffed or if the family of my counterparts could run it. Very much in the future. As for the rice plot, I just need to find an eager farmer for the moment and then the planning can really be done for a plot in January.
But all of these things have been put on hold because a new education volunteer should be coming to work in Andapa. I went to Sambava last weekend to greet the group with another volunteer and there will be 4 more volunteers in the Sava region so I’m very happy about that. They all seemed very cool, a big plus, and I think it will be nice to have another volunteer that I can talk to because the taxi ride from Andapa to Sambava is such a pain. It is also nice to help the new volunteers because it seems that everywhere in Madagascar is drastically different from where we do our training. It seems like we are living on a whole new island at times. Who knows, it might just be the change of having a more independent lifestyle after two months of schedules and being watched over.
Now, two last points. One, it has been over 100 days since I’ve had a drink of alcohol. Not really counting the days, but I did mark the big 100. Judging from my lifestyle back home that is quite a feat, although here I really don’t have the urge to drink (the offers do come daily). Second, I want to make sure that it is clear that I really do enjoy my life in Madagascar and my life as a volunteer. I learned from my family that my grandmother came across my blog and was concerned that I wasn’t happy. That is not the case. There are things that piss me off everywhere in this world and I could probably write about a ton of them back home that if I kept a blog then, would make one think that I was unhappy there. I think 6 months ago I could have easily written a 4 page blog about how much traffic pisses me of. Instead, I write about speaking like a four year old and the mice that I would rather do without.