The heat has come. The worst part is that it is only suppose to get warmer. This means that 7am is already extremely hot and humid. If I ride my bike to Andapa, it looks like I swam there because of all of the sweat. Thankfully, I received a package from my mom that contained some wife beaters and a Kobe Bryant jersey. The wife beaters have been great for the hot weather to limit the amount of cloth that my sweaty body destroys. However, as for the jersey, I like it too much. I don’t know if I want to wear it and have it become really dirty/destroyed. I’m like a 5 year old kid again. There’s no real reason for me to have any nice clothes because I just get them all dirty and messy. So the heat and the sun (minus the occasional humidity) is giving me the California summer that I missed so much this past June, July and August, while it was cold and raining everyday. However, this may be at a close because we had our first real thunderstorm last night. Yes, the roof and walls leak; I had to move some furniture.

In the wonderful world of food the fruits are still flowing freely. Litchis are in abundance and I need to limit the amount that I take just so I don’t make myself sick by eating too many. I had a great experience last week when I went to pick a bunch of litchis. While my friend was up in the tree collecting litchis, this giant toad fell from the tree. With this giant kurplop, it just laid there on the trail. Of course, being the Vazaha, I went up to it so I could see it and take a picture. Surprisingly, it was even affected by the fall. It just sat their sleeping. Indifferent to the world around. That’s what I call a deep sleep. It made me think that to “sleep like a rock” or “sleep like a baby” weren’t right at all. A baby always wakes up at an inopportune time and people still breathe when they sleep so it isn’t really like a rock. However, if I have a good night sleep from now on, I will say, “I slept like a toad.” It just makes more sense. I’ve also switched from eating a lot of eggplant just because I felt that I was eating too much oil. I’ve switched to eating a lot more cucumbers and I think that’s good when it’s hot. However, I got a real good deal on some eggplant the other day so I’ve been eating that.

The mice are back in full force and I believe they’ve taken a strong offensive. The other night one ate the tube for my gas stove. Thankfully, the tube was long enough that I could cut it and didn’t have to buy a new one. I guess I should be more thankful that I saw the cut in the tube and that I didn’t make my house explode. I’ve bought two kinds of poisons; we’ll see which one kills them. I really don’t want to have to crush a mouse in my house, but I feel that it might come to that.

The fun story for this entry consists of my skin fungus. I have and always have had these white spots on my body that is tinea vericolor. It was never a big issue for me because in the past it was only on my chest and back. However, after I shaved my beard a few months back I noticed it was on my face. Then, when I shaved my head I saw it was all over my scalp. So, seeing that this time it might not improve on its own, I called the Peace Corps doctor and he sent me some medication. That’s were things get fun. I had to get my entire body wet and then apply the cream to my entire body…then wait 15 minutes. So, I hopped into my shower (made of loose bamboo boards and no roof) and went after it. The first 3 minutes flew by – I was still putting on the cream. Then a few people walked by and looked at me standing there. Then a man walked by and spoke to me for a little bit. Then about 4 minutes passed which seemed like a life time (I really should have brought a book). Finally, some people from Andapa that I had met earlier that day came to visit. Perfect timing. We talked, awkwardly, but mostly for them, for a while, while I stood in my shower naked (still not bathing) and they insisted on speaking English although they didn’t know it well enough. Thankfully, I had an excuse to end the conversation (I had to bathe) so we just decided to talk the following week and that was the end of that. The whole escapade wasn’t as bad as I had feared, but I don’t plan to do it often if I can help it.

It appears that rice is never ending and so is my project from the previous month. We finished all of the planting requirements, but it was already time to weed, so I went out there a few times with them and helped weed the field. I hate weeding. It is pretty much the worst thing ever and that’s why so many people have paid me to weed their gardens in the past. It’s the worst and always needs to be done! The other rice field work (with my counterpart) has finished harvesting and so I got paid…with rice! To say thank you for my help, they gave me 10 kilograms of rice. I was pretty happy, but pretty much every container that is in my house is filled with rice right now. Hopefully the mice don’t get to intelligent and I can get through the rice before they get to the rice. I also started my new SRI project with another farmer, so I’m organizing all of that so that people can hopefully pass and learn the technique.

My English class is going smoothly. The education volunteer has let me borrow her radio that allows an ipod to plug into it, so I’ve been teaching them songs and the vocabulary. I taught them “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King. It was a horrible song to have to write on the board, but good for them because it was slow and repetitive. I’ve also been doing a lot more review to help them remember what they’ve learned. Last week we just went over questions (they can already ask a lot) and I told them if they see me they should ask me a question. So far, a few people have been asking questions and it is so much more tolerable for me than just saying “Hello” five thousand times to a group of screaming kids. But the screaming kids do bring me joy and I like them better than the kids that already know English and those who I help other teachers teach.

I started building a map of Matsobe-Sud. It basically just consists of the houses and the road. I also know how many people live in each house. When I get the time I am going to make two large maps to present to them: one with just the houses and then one with the names of all of the people (partially to help me with names). I hope to divide the town into sections and then start a garbage project for trash and then natural waste. If I can get the project going it will really clean up the town and also help jump-start a compost program. At least in an ideal world.

I’m waiting on my counterpart to get back to Matsobe because we need to talk about the future of Antanetiambo Nature Reserve. When I went with a tourist it wasn’t in good shape and my notions were solidified by my walking to the forest near Marojejy with a friend of mine. We went on the gorgeous walk into the mountains and it was amazing. Everything was just gorgeous – not the way things are now in the Reserve. I hope to do some considerable work with Antanetiambo in the next few months so that it can begin to become something special.

I played soccer for the first time this past week. It was really nice just to move. It has been 7 months since I went running. Needless to say, I was out of shape…horribly. But I managed to push through it and could keep up for the most part. I’ve been walking and riding my bike a lot, so it wasn’t like I’m completely out of shape, but my muscles definitely weren’t ready to be running so much. Also, my muscles still aren’t ready to kick apparently, because I’m still more or less incapable of kicking a soccer ball properly. I hope to start “training” whatever that really means and get ready to play with the team in Matsobe-Sud for the next season. I can argue it is good for my community integration; it might not be a lie. I played a few days ago and was quite a bit better. I think it was just because I could do nothing but improve from the previous time.

The water project started by the previous volunteer should finally be finished by the end of this month. The pumps have been built and it was great to see the community involvement for the project. They are doing finishing touches on the pumps in some other communities and then will finish the two that have been started in Matsobe-Sud. Then, we just need to get the pipes in the ground and covered and it will be finished. Too bad that the project is only being finished because I’m here, but at least it is being finished.

Last Saturday I had a real “weekend” day and went to visit the family of a friend of mine. We didn’t have any plans for me to teach or work with anyone, but just to hang out and visit; just what I needed. They had a pineapple farm and so we went and looked at that when we got there. There were so many pineapples that this whole hillside was just lined with them. Then, to make things better (or worse) the two of us split 3 pineapples…in about 15 minutes. My stomach was about to explode and my lips were burning, but they were some damn good pineapples. For lunch we had rice (of course), goose, and more pineapple. It was the first time that I’ve had goose and it was really good. However, from the pineapple overload, the excess meat consumption and the fact that we had soda with lunch, I was so full I thought I might explode into a billion pieces. My friend suggested that we siesta and so I thought it might be good. They gave me a bed and then I passed out for an hour. I know, living the good life. They even cooked pasta for me before I left and sent me home with more pineapples. It was exactly what I needed.

This last paragraph is a little sad/sensitive so if you’re in a good mood you might just skip this one and wait for the next entry. Last week my grandmother passed away and it has been pretty rough on me to be so far away from everything. The hardest part is that I wasn’t the best grandson and didn’t talk to her at all by phone while I was in Madagascar and then when I finally got it together to call her, it was too late. It’s one of those things that I will just need to get over or deal with, but it is something that I still think about constantly. I really wish I would have known that the last conversation I had with her was going to be the last conversation. There is nothing special that would have been said, but it’s nice to have that closure; the preparation for goodbye.

I think about you now more than ever, grandma. I love you and I’ll miss you.

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