On March 8th we celebrated international women’s day here. It was really cool to see so many people come out for the festivities, but it was kind of weird too. On a day where women are suppose to celebrate their womanhood; speeches were given by men, introductions given for men, and a lot more men drinking than women. Although it is more acceptable for women to drink on the holiday, not that many did drink and for the most part, it was men who decided to have the holiday. To make matters worse, some women left the celebration early so they could cook for their husbands. I found out later that one woman stayed in the countryside and worked at the shop while her husband went to Andapa to celebrate the holiday; pretty sad. It is nice that Madagascar celebrates the holiday, but it becomes clear that if a country celebrates a day for one gender, then there probably exists a rather large gender inequality. In honor of this inequality I participated in the parade. With the help of my counterpart, I put a bunch of flowers on my bike and went with the other bikes and motorcycles. I was the only one with real flowers, which was a good thing, because my flowers were dead before the end of the parade (also the only white person on a bike). Everyone told me I should have dressed up like a girl, so, who knows, maybe next year I will celebrate in full force. With any luck, maybe a few women will actually have a holiday next year too.

I started building a tree nursery for Antanetiambo. That means that I cleared a portion of land for the nursery and I made sure that my counterpart thought it was a good idea. Hopefully, we can get some beds built soon and get all of the necessary tools too. It will be really nice to have a tree nursery for the Reserve and then I wouldn’t need to take trees from the community tree nursery. But, of course, I did all this work, only to realize that the weather is about to get cold and a tree nursery wouldn’t work at the moment. Maybe I’ll plant some eggplant and start a tree nursery after harvest…

We had three Swiss German tourists come visit the Reserve. They were a lot of fun and I was actually helpful because some of them didn’t know French very well, but knew English! Between the Malagasy guide and myself, we were able to keep them happy. I think the tourist flow is going to pick up in the next few months (in the next few years for Madagascar in general) so it will be good to get the Reserve in pretty good shape. I did a ton of trail work the day before the tourists arrived and it was clear that there still needed to be some work done. I should probably get into a French class, but I’m too lazy for that at the moment.

I broke my camera. I forgot it was in my pocket and when I washed off after working in the rice field it got wet and shorted out. Pretty devastating. To make matters worse we’ve had a string of beautiful sunsets, gorgeous clouds, pleasant rice fields, cute kids and much more. All of which went undocumented. . After circling Andapa forever, I came across a person who could fix the camera. It took him 2 days to fix the camera and it cost me about $6 – and I overpaid him. However, a few days later I realized that the zoom didn’t work. But, much to my relief, he was able to fix the zoom in an hour. One battery is in pretty bad shape and the camera is holding on for dear life until my service is over. I’m going to need a new memory card, because the photos are really piling up. I suppose it’s a good thing to have all of this documentation. With my camera fixed there has been nothing but rain and gloomy weather…figures.

With the rain coming non-stop, but not too hard, there is mud everywhere. Mud is pretty much the worst thing ever because of the frequency that I need to go in and out of my house. I built a little sand walkway/trail, but I don’t know how long it will last. Also, I started using a bucket at the door just to dip my feet in before I walk into the house. That way, I just walk around barefoot and then do a quick dunk in the bucket and I’m good to go. I know, I’ve been in Madagascar for a long time that this not only seems reasonable, but genius!

The tree nursery seems to be in good shape except that people refuse to count the types of trees they plant. They don’t separate them between people (all of the trees belong to the group) and they only counted the overall amount. However, I had a firm talking with them and hopefully things can change in the future so we can have a little better record keeping. However, what was hardest for me was not telling them that it really didn’t matter. Planting a tree is planting a tree and counting is inconsequential. Counting is for my work purposes and not as important as reforestation in itself. I don’t want them to know what they were doing is good enough because I fear if I let them think everything is just ‘fine’ then they will never improve. I have to get motivational from time to time. Maybe motivational is the wrong word; moderately sadistic, that’s a better fit. If I could get them to show up on time for anything then I would consider my work a success…but I need realistic goals (or watches).

Avocados and oranges are back in season. I couldn’t be happier making guacamole and when tangerines come back, I will definitely be changing my diet to consume as many as possible. Other than that, food is pretty much boring. I’m still eating rice, oatmeal from time to time, and all of my side dish options are pretty much the same. I just keep thinking how fat I will get when I come home because there will be so many flavors. I received a package from my friend, Abby, and the candy was so good. It was gone in about three days. After, I received a package from my Dad and it was jam-packed with good stuff. So, being the glutton that I am, all of this good food lasted about one week and did serious damage to my stomach, which wasn’t accustomed to all of the processed food. It was nice to have flavor back in my life. It hurt so good.

A s much as I don’t want to teach, I keep on doing it. I have a new English program with the Marojejy guides, porters and cooks. The program is partnered with the Education PCV in Andapa and will last until the end of April. It should help with my relationship with the park and improve the tourism in Marojejy. In addition, Antanetiambo Reserve gets a lot of tourists before/after their trip to Marojejy, so the more people who go to Marojejy, might mean more tourists for Antanetiambo.

My sincerest apologizes go out to Margaret Mitchell. I did a wrong in telling you that Gone with the Wind was awful. I’m not saying it’s great, but I am starting to get into the story a lot more. The funny thing is that I enjoy her war sections much more than the war sections in War and Peace, but I don’t think the social commentary and ‘non-war’ sections are as good. I think the American stereotypes in Gone with the Wind are a little too close for comfort as well. However, Scarlett and Rhet are letting me pass my time just fine at the moment, while Socrates is taking a brief rest from his longwinded speeches in Plato’s Republic. My dad sent me the Funny Times, which was pretty entertaining as well.

I’m on a planting kick for the moment. Maybe not a planting kick yet, but aspirations for a planting kick. I started clearing out the weeds for my garden, hoping to replant in the next few months. I will eventually plant in the place that I was going to put the tree nursery and then I’m in the process of clearing some more land by my house. I’m hoping to plant soy beans and eggplant in the two sections and then maybe carrots and lettuce in the garden. I haven’t really decided. The non-stop light rain has begun and so it makes clearing the weeds a little difficult. As if the planting weren’t enough, I really want to be in full farmer mode. I have finally finished coordinating the construction of the chicken coop (the previous builder is in jail at the moment-scandalous). I still need to build places for the chickens to roost on the inside, but when that’s finished, I hope to figure out a place to raise goats and possibly pigs. I’m not too worried about the food for the animals, but the houses are the biggest problem. There are so many thieves that I need to build a good house for the animals at night. I think a pig would be nice to eat, but goats would be easier. Also, the thought of possibly making goat cheese is very intriguing…

As for my next big idea for the development of Madagascar, I can only say that it is pretty much the most practical project ever (sarcasm). I went to watch Morengy (Malagasy fighting/boxing) last Sunday and left early because the weather was so awful that I was soaking wet, cold and not really enjoying it. What would really improve my community is if I built a fighting arena. If there was a real structure it would be more comfortable for all the spectators and better for the fighters as well (there could be in needed injuries from slipping). Because of the fevers that could be caused from all this action in the rain, I could even get money to make it an anti-malaria initiative. This project would be sensitive to the local culture too, because during the time that the fighters flaunt and skip around, I could promote environmental advertisements to make it coincide with my real work. I’m sure I could even get the UFC to donate some fighting equipment. So, if you’re reading this, talk to your friends, talk to your family, your neighbors and co-workers. Nick’s community needs a fighting arena, an arena so they can stop fevers, support the local culture, and ignore the fact that there is a high risk for broken orbital bones. I don’t think the funding would come, and I don’t plant to try, but it’s funny to think about