So let me start this blog by saying that I’ve spent the last 3 weeks away from my site. A lot of stuff has happened in that time, and to be honest, I really don’t want to write an in depth blog about all of it. Sucks for all of you who are interested, but I’ll try to keep it somewhat interesting. For the most part it is really just an itinerary of what happened and not so much of an observation of things or any weird comments.

The main reason that I went on vacation was because we had our In-Service-Training for a week. That meant that Peace Corps paid for my flight to get to Tana and I could delay the return flight so I could travel around central and western Madagascar. The training was a bit of a joke because Peace Corps didn’t have any money left in the budget and we were towards the end of the fiscal year. That meant that the environment volunteers mostly just presented on their own sites and talked about their own work for most of the time. We had a few presentations on funding [but the funds aren’t applicable to our work or are not available at the moment] and then some other general Peace Corps sessions. We also had some tree grafting and air layering sessions, which were really cool and I hope to try and do a few at my site. Altogether, it was nice to see everyone and catch up. See what people have been doing and/if anyone changed at all in the 4 month process of living alone. It was kind of nice to see everyone to see that everyone really does have their own unique Peace Corps experience and that it is really impossible to compare the service of two volunteers. However, by far, the best part of our training was the fact that I could shave. It was sooooo nice to finally free my face of the beard. Of course, this being Peace Corps, and me being me, I had a white fungal thing on my face that I hadn’t seen because of the beard. It’s not dangerous at all and is the same as the white spots I get on my chest and back sometimes, but it was still quite the surprise.

We had a short block of time to see our host families as well. It was nice to see them again and I think they were happy to see me too. It is amazing how much my language skills have improved when I think about the conversation I had with them in September when compared to living with them in March and April.

After training I went with a few volunteers to PK 33, a small village outside of Moramanga. We were suppose to do an SRI rice training in the village, but the guy who was suppose to lead the training never came to the site. It was quite the let down and even more so frustrating because it was such a pain to get out to PK 33. We walked most of the way to get in, because there were no vehicles when we were ready to leave and a brousse didn’t get us until it had already rained on us quite a bit. To make matters worse, I had only brought my new sandals that I had bought in Tana and they were not the sturdiest so I almost walked right through the bottoms of them. On the 2nd day at PK 33, when nobody showed up, we decided to improvise and we built a cook stove. It was mostly just to do something productive and the community did seem pretty interested, so I guess the whole visit wasn’t a complete epic failure.

From PK 33 I began my vacation. We went to Antsirabe and met up with another volunteer who had helped plan a river trip. We left the next day and got on the Tsiribihina river. It was so nice to have a change of pace. First, the landscape was really dry and hot, completely the opposite of Andapa for the past few months so it was nice to sit in the hot sun. Second, it was great to not sit in a taxi brouse and just have a relaxing boat ride rather than loud, bad, static music being pounded into my skull while five Malagasy people sit on my lap. Very relaxing.

For the trip, we saw a lot of birds and a few types of lemurs, which were pretty cool. We also saw some small crocodiles, but they weren’t large enough to impress me with fear. On the last night the boatmen all got drunk and a few of them got in a fight. It was quite the experience. Especially when they had to paddle the next day and I thought the guy for my boat was going to puke multiple times. Let’s just say we weren’t moving at a grueling pace the last day on the river.

After the river we went to Tsingy Park. It was weird to be there with so many tourists, but it was still really beautiful. All of the rock structures were really cool and it was a time that I wished I had a better camera to really pick up all of the shadows and different formations. We also saw different kinds of lemurs in the park as well.

We went to Morandava afterwards and saw the famous avenue de baobab. All of the baobab trees are really beautiful and see them around sunset made things even nicer. It’s really cool to see the trees change color with the different light as the sun goes down. The only down side is that it is a major tourist destination so there are greedy Malagasy people. I pretty much yelled at some kids that I jus didn’t feel like dealing with. Morandava itself was not the coolest in my opinion. However, the beaches are cool because the stone houses are all destroyed on the beach and then there are these white sand like beaches. It’s like a cyclone came by and nobody thought it was worth it clean stuff up. A nice contrast for the eye, but kind of sad when you really think about it.

Getting from Morandava back to Antsirabe sucked and it required a long time. However, once we got back I went to Ranomafana and stayed with a Peace Corps volunteer. We went on a hike one day and the area really reminded me of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I thought it was really beautiful, but I’m not sure the other volunteer liked the idea of me comparing his sight to California. The next day we went into the park and it was really cool. The only downside is that because you can see everything in the park, a lot of tourists come and there are a lot of people. The trail is really easy too, especially when one compares it to Marojejy. We saw 4 different types of lemurs on a 3 hour hike, along with other animals, so that can give you an idea of how many things you can see in the park if you spent some serious time there.

After Ranomafana we made our way towards Fianar and stayed in a town outside of Fianar with another peace corps volunteer. It was nice to hang out and that was pretty much all we did, because not much else was going on in his town on Sunday.

Now, I’m back in Tana and I have my flight back to Sambava tomorrow. Getting all of my internet use out of my system and dealing with other work related things as well. Sorry to have such a factual, boring blog, but I felt like I should update everyone on my trip at some point and if I kept waiting the blog would never happen. I hope to return to the more interesting things in the next few weeks. Besides, I’ll be eating less chocolate, and in general, lower quality food in the next few weeks so that should get me to thinking and complaining all over again.

The last thing, and a positive one, is that I can’t wait to go back to site. I miss it. I miss the people, the beautiful location and my routine. I guess that’s a good thing. Good to know that I want to work and want to get back into things. September went by quickly, but we’ll see how October and November go.

Ps- sorry for the boring post. i’m sure something real noteworthy will happen upon my return to the village.