The New Year has passed, the holiday season is gone (except for the Malagasy people who party for two weeks) and it is kind of weird for me to think that I will be spending the entire year of 2011 in Madagascar. Granted, 10 months have already passed, but psychologically it is kind of weird to think about the whole year in advance. I went to a party on January 10th to celebrate the new year with the Mayor. If they keep up this partying all year, the next thing I know it will be 2012. However, it really allows me to plan out my work here and try to make goals for the New Year knowing that I will be stationed in more or less the same spot for 12 months. So, like everyone else who gets optimistic about the future in January here are a few things that I hope to accomplish (not in any particular order):

Work with Antanetiambo more (reforestation, trails, land acquisition, find a guard, etc.)
Improve my Malagasy
Learn French
Know everyone’s name in Matsobe Sud
Farm Chickens (maybe ducks and goats too) – started buying materials last week to build a chicken coop.
Start a trash and compost program in Matsobe
Work with the WWF Office in Andapa
Learn to play soccer (at least somewhat decently)
Change from being extremely stingy with money to just moderately stingy with money

I guess my New Years Resolution is all of the above, so I’ll have to let all of you know how things are going come December 2011. At the moment, 2011 has already brought me one of the worst stomach sicknesses that I can remember. I took two complete days off while my insides were being ripped apart and I felt completely useless. I ended up having a rash on my arms, nausea, diarrhea, fever, and overall fatigue. The only plus side (if this is a plus) is that a lot of people in the area have had a similar sickness around this time and I probably just got it from them and it’s not like I got some weird illness that is unknown to everyone. It just sucks to be sick. Altogether it lasted five days and then switched to a sore throat. At least I can eat again. Even more so, at least it wasn’t cholera.

My trainings have finally come to an end and I couldn’t be happier to have them finished. It was kind of stressful to organize everything so that villagers would go, that volunteers could come and then that everything was ok with Peace Corps. I built posters for the rice training and also spoke with various authorities in neighboring villages. In the end, everything happened and although the turnout wasn’t spectacular, it was good enough. We were able to transplant rice at a new rice field and then went to the rice field from the first training and we weeded. The best thing about people passing the first rice field is that they were able to see that the rice was growing really well and it helped to spark an interest in some people to maybe try the new technique. It was nice to have some volunteers visit my site as well.

The training in Antalaha was great too. It was nice because it was around Christmas time so I was able to spend Christmas with some friends. I also got to see a different Private Reserve and I now have a lot of ideas for Antanetiambo. We also learned how to build a portable cook stove. I will by the material needed to make the molds and then I will try to build it at my house first. If I am successful, then I will try and teach people in my community. The new stove is practical in the cooking sense, but it requires a lot more work and materials for building, which might not be very practical for the everyday villager to build. After the trainings were all done with I had a sore throat. I think it was because I was speaking too much English.

In general, with it being the holiday season, the Malagasy people have been partying non-stop. I missed Christmas, but when I returned to site before New Years (and even now) people have just been celebrating. I hope to get some work done this week, but I don’t know if the people will be up for it. I went to the disco and hung out with everyone on one of the nights; that was enough for me.

The water project started by the previous volunteer still isn’t completely finished, but is moving along slowly. It actually has provided a lot of stress for me because I’m amazed at how little the people who would receive the water pumps care about the project. They don’t want to work for anything; they just want to receive the clean water. That means that I’m constantly bombarded with people saying that I need to fix everything, which is impossible. Every time I end up talking to someone it turns out those things aren’t finished because nobody works. I don’t know what they expect, but it is definitely frustrating. At the moment, the pump next to my house works. It now sounds like somebody is constantly peeing at my window. The sound of development I suppose.

My community map/plan is coming along. I still have a little bit to fix before I make it onto a larger piece of paper. I have all of the houses printed out and in the right spot with the correct amount of people who live in each house. Now, I’m getting the names of all of the people who live in each house. This way it can allow me to be a better volunteer (really know the names of people – embarrassingly, 10 months later I still don’t know a majority of the names) and to confirm the head count that was given to me the first time around. When they run out of names, I know there are no more people. I’m happy to really know the names of most of the people, even if I don’t use their names when we talk.

My English class is still going on, but I think I might cut it down a bit. There seems to be a dwindling interest, and I really would rather not spend every Sunday teaching. However, they did have a little bit of fun the Sunday before Christmas because they had a visit from Deloris. That’s right, Sister Mary-Clarence. I stumbled upon the Finale song from Sister Act on my iPod, and so I taught them the song. They got real excited when the pace picked up. However, for them understanding the lyrics, the slower section in the beginning was much better.

I spoke with one of my counterparts and we thoroughly discussed the future of Antanetiambo. I was very happy with our conversation and I think that I will need to push hard to get things rolling, but once they are set in motion I will not have to pressure him all of the time. I hope to do some reforestation this month, but I am still managing 3 rice fields, so free time isn’t something I have a lot of. I just filled out my calendar this week and I feel like the whole month of January consists of rice weeding and planting and taking care of in general. I’ll be happy when they ‘season’ is more or less over. In the mean time, I need to work on fixing the brochure that was made by the previous volunteer (phone numbers have changed) and then getting those re-printed and given to hotels in Andapa, Sambava, and Antalaha. In Antalaha, I hope to exchange brochures with the other Private Reserve to help boost business for the both of us.

In general, over 3 weeks have passed and I don’t know if I really have much else to say. That’s either a sign that I’ve been slacking a little or that all of my work has just become routine. I guess both are bad in a sense, but enjoyed for the moment.

* bought a new phone, here’s the number +2610328719559 (ask for nick…that’s a joke)

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