I’ve been ridiculously busy lately. I thought Peace Corps was a 2 year vacation where I got to hang out on a tropical island…

But the important stuff first. As far as creatures go, I almost stepped on a frog, but managed to hop like a frog before I put all of my weight on him. Also, I finally got around to washing my sheets again and I was a little surprised to see that a giant spider seemed to be living about 6 inches away from where I put my face every night. Guess other than the smell; it’s another reason to wash the sheets more frequently. To change things to a more somber subject, the mice have returned, and of course, with there return, came an epic tale of their return in my head. Here’s how it went down:

Back in July the mice did split into two different clans. That’s true, it’s what happened. My blog back in July alluded to it, but mouse life after that didn’t receive much press. However, in the months of August, September and October the introduction of poison was thrown into the mix and the two groups of mice were forced to join again as one because the poison was destroying them. There was no awakening with the light of death and no broom attacks, just a drink of water after eating and then the eerie mouse cry of death upon the tin roof: squeak, squeak, clank, and thud. The religious mice and the group that disregarded the prophecy both were losing mice at an alarming rate and the cat that lived nearby was taking out their children so things were looking pretty bad. There was no time for evolution the creation of a super hybrid, but things did change. Even the outsiders that live in my outhouse were running into problems with snakes. All was not well in the mouse community.

This brings us to today and the problems that arise at my house at the moment. All three groups eventually came together and established order amongst themselves. With this new, united, and much stronger Mouse State, rules and regulations were put into effect. There was a code of conduct and discipline within, so that chaos and havoc can be wreaked upon the outside world. Such examples have been teaching self discipline. Mice no longer eat food that is in the trap. Even if the trap is not set, the peanut will remain; they know. Second, they have perfected techniques of moving pot lids to get into rice at night. A feat that once trumped the mice; they now have the acrobatic ability. Third, they have no fear. They use to run for high ground when fronted by me, but now they will run directly at my feet making things quite difficult.

However, it is only a matter of time until this Mouse State will fall like all of the others. I have started spreading poison in different mouse “hotspots” and leaving a little bit of water in places for them to activate the poison and have their last supper. If they keep waking me up it will just prompt me to start killing them with a blunt stick. Something I don’t want to do, but if you mess with my sleep, I will destroy you. I sometimes accuse the dog of being a double agent because he does not kill the mice and he receives the rice that the mice have eaten. There has been little mouse activity lately and I think that they are regrouping for another large initiative.

A lot of people have been interested in my food situation, since I haven’t written a whole lot about my food. In general, it’s boring, routine and nothing really to comment on. However, lately, the season for fruits is upon us and I have been indulging. At the moment, there is jackfruit, litchis, pineapples, mangos, and of course bananas that are available (others as well, but I don’t eat everything) Even better, is that people love to give me these fruits so I am constantly eating all of this awesome fruit. The only downside is that it’s self-induced diarrhea; my vitamin levels are going up and my toilet paper supply is going down. I’ve also decided that litchis are nature’s crack. I can’t eat just one and if there are any in my house I am forced to eat all of them. I can’t possibly save them. Which got me thinking about America’s war on drugs (if there still is a war on drugs/if there ever was a war on drugs/or if we decided that we could waste more time, energy and money with a war on terrorism (is that still going on too?)) and how all of that could be solved. We just need to make drugs legal, tax them and make them seasonal. Nobody thinks badly of a person who is a “connoisseur”, but an “addict” has a negative connotation. By making people “connoisseurs” of drugs we would no longer have addicts and everyone could be happy. I am a connoisseur of fruits, and when the litchi season ends, I will no longer require my litchi fix because it isn’t available. I can move on to the next seasonal fruit. Problem solved. You’re welcome US government.

And all of these weird, random thoughts were possible because of my SRI training. I was working with the owners of the land to prepare everything. Needless to say, all of the physical labor gave me a lot of time to think. Everyone should be forced to do physical labor for at least a small portion of their life. I think it’s good to think about the things that one might like to think about rather than the things they are told to think about.

I had my SRI training the past few weeks. It has happened, so I must be happy with it, but it could have been a lot better. However, I was hoping for the world and I got Madagascar, so I’ll take whatever gain I can; as small as it might be. The biggest stress in the training was that 3 days before the training was scheduled to start I found out that my counterpart (who didn’t set up the program) changed the dates and was telling people that the dates had changed. Needless to say, I straightened that out about as quickly as I found out about it and the two of us had a very firm conversation (aka I yelled at her). The second stress ball that was thrown at me (on the same day) was that the people still hadn’t prepared the field. It was suppose to be done a week before and I kept asking and they kept telling me “tomorrow”, but the day that I asked I knew that I would have to go “tomorrow” if “tomorrow” was ever going to happen. So, I did. I was really happy to go, I missed out visiting a friend of mine in another village, but I worked in the rice field and got to use a plow for the first time. Pretty cool experience, but I’m not the best at it. I think with a little more practice the plow won’t wander as much.

As far as the actual training went, the turnout wasn’t amazing, which was a little upsetting. It really makes me hate the way that Malagasy people lie like its second nature. Just tell me that you don’t care about anything and I won’t waste my time trying to help you. In addition, the field preparation was late and a lot of the transplanting wasn’t done perfectly, but the training is over so I am happy with that. It consisted of a lot of my own physical labor, a lot of harassing people to get their shit together and just staying positive. Hopefully, it produces a good amount of rice and I can keep the people on top of things so that if things are positive they can do it on their own for the next harvest and not need any help at all.

For better or worse I am doing a similar rice project with my counterpart this month and then a guy in another village in January (he heard about my program on the radio; some people really do what to learn and improve their lives here). So it seems like altogether if I can get 3 people to improve their farming methods as a result of one training, then I can’t complain. But I will wait until February to make such a statement.

For my little bit of leisure time, I’ve been expanding my social network. I don’t know how to play soccer. I really am quite awful when it comes to kicking a ball. However, I had to prove this to some people. I can only imagine how ridiculous I looked trying to kick the ball. The only point of redemption was when I stepped in the goal. They were quite surprised that I was able to catch and stop the ball after that poor showing of kicking. I tried to explain to them American football and it is altogether a truly foreign concept. Needless to say, I saved face by playing goalie. I was also invited to a party a few weeks ago and it was my first real invitation to an organized party. It was pretty fun and I did drink a little bit of alcohol, so that whole façade is over. I think it is good that I no longer lie to them. Another way to justify it is that I can drink and still be a productive human being…unlike some of community members. I’m still reading Anna Karenina. I still like it, but I think that War and Peace was better so far. The funny thing about Anna Karenina is that I think this is best time so far in my life to be reading it. I feel like a lot of the social and farming things that are going on are similar to my little Malagasy soap opera life. I also had a chance to read my Dad’s autobiography, which I thoroughly enjoyed as well. I think it should be expanded to have more specifics, but it’s his life and his biography so we’ll see if there’s a sequel. Kind of an interesting concept to have a sequel to an autobiography.

My English class has continued. I am starting to be really proud of some of my students. They are really learning how to speak English and I think it is so great that they are enthusiastic and willing to learn. The other day I taught them ‘Maybe’ by Ingrid Michaelson. It is pretty much a cheesy pop song, but the lyrics were minimal and more or less simple so I decided to teach them. We’ll see if they actually start singing it in a few weeks or if it’s just one of those things they want to know, but not learn. They quit giving me shit about learning a Malagasy song when they realized it’s kind of difficult to sing in a foreign language that you don’t really know.

But the project I am most proud of at the moment is the tree nursery. It didn’t take a lot of effort to start it (the people wanted to work) and we are already seeing results. Besides there being multiple trees growing, the Moringa trees were ready to transplant and it actually happened. I was still busy with my SRI training, so I taught a bunch of people how to plant a tree properly and then next thing I know 80 Moringa trees have been planted. Only myself and the sick old women are left to complete the full 100. With their hard work I am pretty sure that this is a project that could be successful and sustainable without me. It might even turn into a business for them.

And then there’s Jesus. You can’t forget about him (even if you wanted to). My church endeavors have continued and they have been more or less good. I’m convinced that anyone who goes to church every Sunday is a masochist, because I just can’t put myself through it just for the sake of going. Me, I’ve sold my soul to God (or Jesus, depends who’s working in the office – neither on Sunday). I figured the more I go and the more I’m seen by the “churchgoers” the better it is for my work. And, so far, the people that really back me up and show initiative are the ones that go to church. So all that being said, I went solo to a regional church session a few Sunday’s back. I was suppose to meet people I knew from Matsobe Sud, but that didn’t happen. Luckily, I met a person that I kind of knew and he hung out with me for the whole thing. I think I just need to learn the songs, because after that, if I can sing in church it will probably help the time pass a little more quickly. As for sounding good, you should hear some of the people that I’ve stood next to…