I started learning French. My first class went well and I hope to learn quickly. There is a lot that I never learned or forgot, but a lot is coming back to me, without losing my Malagasy (yet). The private tutor that I have who works with the Alliance Francais is really great. The best part is that I understand enough Malagasy that he can teach me using English and Malagasy and so the sessions seem to be very productive. Hopefully, after a few months I will at least seem competent for common conversation – and then the person will realize I don’t speak French. The second class didn’t go as smoothly as the first, but I’m still positive. I think my motivation will determine if I really bother to retain anything this time around.

Easter came to Matsobe and Andapa and it brought quite the celebration. I went to church and endured all of its glory. It was nice, but pretty long. I wasn’t planning on spending 4 hours in the church, but that’s what it took. There were some good songs though, so it wasn’t too bad. My language skills are always improving as well, so it kind of made sense to me (literally not spiritually). The thing that kept me going was I knew that I was going to eat with friends in Andapa and the thought of an awesome meal in my near future was great. But Easter Monday is where the party’s at.

I knew from my experience last year that the Malagasy people like to part on Easter Monday. They do what they call a “picnic” and it involves eating somewhere other than their own house and, of course, alcohol. I was really excited to get to spend the picnic with my counterparts as well as community members. We went out to a little house near the river and cooked some chicken, anana mafana and rice. It was really good and nice to hang out. After, I ventured to my friends in Matsobe. Where I had another meal (really, food was constantly being given to me for about a 6 hour span) and partied a little. It is nice to hang out with people, because usually, all of my interactions are work related. So, keeping in that spirit, and in my intoxicated state, I created these dance moves that corresponded with different steps in harvesting rice. It was pretty ridiculous, but everyone in the community absolutely loved it. The only negative of the day was the people fed their children alcohol as well. I think a lot of the kids were drinking earlier than they should have.

We had a group of four tourists visit Antanetiambo Reserve. They were Americans so it was nice to talk with them. Two of them work here in Madagascar and do really cool development work where they asses the ecological sustainability of a program/village and then decide if the program set forth is really sustainable and going to last. It sounded like a development project that doing some real good. They were also a lot of fun, so that made my trip a lot easier. I was planting some trees so I met with them a little later. Sadly, I saw a bamboo lemur while catching up with them, but they weren’t able to see any.

My health seems to be in better shape. I took Giardia medicine and the stomach cramps went away after a few days. I sometimes feel a little off, but I don’t think it is anything to worry about. I figure I will see the doctor in a few weeks anyway, so if problems persist there isn’t anything to worry about. My rash went away too, but as soon as I returned to my garden…

I finished Gone with the Wind. I really liked it after it was all done. There was a lull in the middle, but it started to pick up again in the end. I don’t know if I would have read it, or made it through, in any other circumstances, but I’m happy that I read it. I also read Tunnel Visions which was really interesting. It was about a guy who had traveled a bunch and then wanted to get a job and see what happens when nothing is really happening: so he got a job with the London Underground for 20 hours a week. He had some real insightful and funny ideas. It seemed so weird getting through a book so quickly after my string of epics. I also read The Kite Runner, which is not only another nice change of pace (it’s contemporary¬¬¬), but I really enjoyed it. I know it got a lot of praise, but I don’t know why I waited so long to finish it.

I finally made it to the local video club last week. It started late and I was exhausted by the end of it. It was in English so I decided to show up. It was Tekken 2, and boy was it bad. Tekken was a great video game and I spent many hours playing it on Playstation as a child. However, the movie was awful (as expected¬) and the fact that everyone was talking the whole time didn’t make it any better. There was some dialogue, but I didn’t get all of it because of the constant chatter. I then explained the whole movie to all the people who had just sat next to me for the past 2 hours.

I had a really fun session teaching park guides body parts. We got to do the hokey pokey and I was pleasantly surprised at how much they enjoyed it. They actually participated, chose different body parts and it went how I had envisioned for once. I also was given about 40 avocados from a friend who lives in the area of the class. I gave away a ton of them because there was no way I could eat 40 avocados before they spoiled. However, I didn’t realize how much I had been eating until I went to plant the avocado seeds that I’ve been placing outside my door and there were 8 of them. I’m constantly thankful that malnutrition will never be a problem for me in my village. And, with all of the avocado seeds I’ve been planting, the Peace Corps volunteer who arrives in about 6 years will be a very happy (unless they don’t like avocados). I feel like the students really improved, but at the same time I just wonder how productive the class was as a whole. It’s funny because I’m learning French on the same schedule that they were learning English. We’ll see what happens to me after seven weeks.

The past few weeks have been rice planning time. I’ve been speaking with people and setting up times for rice farming. There is one man who lives in a village that is 30 km from me and wanted me to teach English. I said I couldn’t visit him to teach English, but if he wanted to start a program related to the environment I would have no problem to visit him. He didn’t really understand, until about 30 minutes later he realized that I would be willing to help him out with rice farming. I told him he needed to get a lot of people and he said he will present the possibility to his church. He told me there could be 200 people. That would be awesome if that was the case, but I’m skeptical. I hope it works out and doesn’t fizzle like a lot of people who have interest one day and never follow up. For the most part June and July should be rice farming filled months. One group of people was so enthusiastic that I had to be the voice of reason and be a bit of a downer. They wanted to do a whole hectare of SRI before having ever done the work. I convinced them to do half, and then if the work isn’t too much and the rice is good, they can do the full hectare the next time around. It’s bad enough if a small section fails, but if their entire crop fails, that would be too hard on me.

The weather is starting to change around here as well. It is starting to rain more often, but less quantity. It is also cooling off in the night and morning, which I enjoy. The frogs are coming back and resuming their residence within my house. So far, cross my fingers, the mice haven’t invaded too much lately, and although I’ve gotten away with washing clothes a few days ago, it’s clear that I’m going to need to wait a few months before all of my clothes can dry in one day. I’m ready for a little bit of winter, but I’m sure after a few weeks I’ll want the warm weather back; I’m such a Californian.

My community fitness program is officially in the planning stages. I’m going to try and figure out a time that would work for all of the women and what would be a good first work out. I don’t want to do anything that is a waste of time, but I don’t want to have it be so strenuous that nobody shows up for a second outing.

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