I’ve made it one year in my little village. I know, I wasn’t quite sure at first if I’d make it either. However, it’s here and I’m happy with all that has happened in the last year, even if some of it has made me a little bitter, frustrated, calloused or cynical. Altogether, I’m happy and looking forward to the rest of my time here in Madagascar.

As an experimental psychology major in college, I realized that I was one of those dorky people that liked stats. Then, if you can add in psychology and human behavior and all that stuff to get a little less mechanical, things are even more interesting (or so I think). So, in order to explain the year in review I decided to compile a bit of statistics for everyone (because really, so much has happened in the last year, it is kind of hard to summarize it all).

Number of days of documented rain: 201

• It turns out it rains a lot in a rain forest, but probably not as much as I made it sound. I’m sure someone from the Pacific Northwest of the United States would wonder what I was even commenting about. It should be noted that at least 2 months worth of days were not documented because of travel or because I forgot to document. Also, this year was extremely dry.

Month with the most rain: June2010 (all but 3 days had rainfall)

• This was pretty much right after I arrived in my village. Needless to say, it didn’t really improve my mood at the time. It did make me understand why it’s called a rainforest, and that pretty much anything grows – all the time.

Month with the least rain: December 2010

• Odd that one of the months that is considered the “rainy” season had the least amount of rainfall (by days). It definitely poured when it did rain in December, but it just didn’t happen to often. There were 15 days that didn’t have any rain. I wonder if the slash and burn that was taking over the hillside had anything to do with it…

Amount of powder milk consumed: 4.7 kilograms

• That sounds like a lot too me, and maybe it is. I pretty much mix powdered milk with a lot of things. Also, as embarrassing as it is to admit, I sometimes make cookie dough (minus the egg¬) and just eat that as desert. I’ll occasionally put peanuts in the mix. Needless to say, the people in Andapa/Matsobe know I like my powdered milk.

Number of times I considered myself sick: 5

• Three of these required outside medicine: worms, dysentery and giardia. I had a really bad flu/cold twice and didn’t take anything special to combat that. It’s amazing how often I got colds back home, but how they rarely affected my daily life.

The most parasites I’ve picked out of my foot in one sitting: 4

• Let’s just hope the doctor isn’t reading this. Sometimes, I just don’t feel them. To make matters worse, I’m constantly walking around rice fields that are full of them. I always get them before they get too big and have the potential to get infected.

Number of Books read: 11

• For all of those people who read, this probably seems like a ridiculously low amount. However, I don’t really consider myself a reader and so it is amazing that I read that much on my own will in a year. Granted some of them were pretty long (War and Peace, Anna Karenina and Gone with the Wind).

Estimated number of eggs consumed: 384

• It fluctuated a lot at the beginning and I have missed a few weeks here and there, but in total, from being at site, I eat 8 eggs a week. It is really the one source of protein the cooks the quickest.

Estimated kilos of meat consumed: 24

• I buy a quarter of a kilogram of meat twice a week. I wish I weighed how much meat I ate back home so that I could compare. It’s kind of amazing how much meat is consumed in the United States and how easily it has been for me to cut my consumption down drastically.

Number of times that I’ve eaten cheese at site: 1

• They don’t make it, and good stuff doesn’t exist anywhere else than Tana. It was going to be zero, but the volunteer in Andapa brought some of the cheap packaged stuff back with her and so I had a few slices for the first time in my village. Weird to think how little cheese I’ve eaten compared to my big block that I would buy back home.

The latest I’ve ever woken up without an alarm and got out of bed: 6:20am

• This was during June or July and in the middle of it being cold, rainy and me not really having anything to do.

The earliest I’ve ever woken up without an alarm and got out of bed: 4:55am

• Occasionally from October through December I would wake up really early and it would be sunny. I was really busy sometimes, so I would just get out of bed.

Estimated number of doxycycline pills taken on time (in the past year): 361

• I’ve missed about four days altogether. All of which, I took the medicine in the morning. However, I guess there could be a chance that I just forgot and never realized it. I don’t have malaria yet, and I’ve consumed a lot of doxy either way.

Minimum number of kilometers I bike each week: 25

• Andapa is about 5km away, so if I go there and come back that is already 10km. I’m one of those volunteers that would be very depressed if I didn’t have a bike (or just travel a lot less¬¬).

Days I’ve gone running: 0

• It’s weird only because it was such a big part of my life before joining Peace Corps. However, now, I’m constantly moving and doing things throughout the day. I still do push ups and sit ups at night to clear my head, but running is gone. The biking is good exercise, but different, and definitely in no way a substitute. It’s funny though, because I remember in my first interview with Peace Corps the interviewer asked how I would relieve stress. I responded that I would run. Then she asked what I would do if I couldn’t run. At the moment I thought the question almost silly, unfathomable. However, one year later, it’s my lifestyle. Thankfully, there are other exercises that one can do that don’t require a bad road.

Movies seen in a movie theatre: 1

• This is only strange because I’ve seen a lot of movies while in Madagascar. The only time I really went to a “theatre” was the local video club that I mentioned in the last blog. It was hardly a theatre by American standards, but it’s about as close as it will get.

Different kinds of beers that I’ve consumed: 4

• Three Horses Beer, Skol, and Gold. Those are pretty much your choices if you come to Madagascar. I got a different beer on tap at a bar once- it was very expensive.

Number of times I’ve watched TV: about 5

• While traveling around and being in restaurants I’ve been exposed to some television. It wasn’t long and it wasn’t that exciting. However, there’s something rather magical about a television; it’s like a drug that immediately steals your attention and mesmerizes you until you realize that nothing important has happened in the last 20 minutes.

Number of Discos/Dances/Concerts I’ve attended: 7

• It has been fun to get out and do social things with my community members. The best part is seeing how difficult it is for people to break out of their concept of how to party. I know how Americans party, they know how Malagasy party and neither of us really wants to change the way we do it. No harm, no foul I suppose.

Number of times that I’ve spoken to my parents: 52

• I speak to my parents every week. That has been a huge change since life in California. We would maybe speak once a month, if that. It’s been nice to have the weekly conversations, especially when I wasn’t too positive.

Stats I wish I knew/kept track of:
• How much sunscreen I’ve used
• How much insect repellent I’ve used
• How many loose stools I’ve head (easier number might be solid stools¬)
• How many times someone has asked me for money
• The number of times that I’ve yelled at people
• The number of times I’ve yelled at people and my speech was competent
• Number of bananas that I’ve consumed
• Amount of rice that I’ve consumed/how many days in the past year that I’ve had rice for at least one meal
• Number of rats that I’ve killed/have been killed as a result of poison
• Number of accumulative hours spent on facebook
• Number of accumulative hours that I’ve used electricity
• Number of gallons/liters of water that I’ve used to bathe

It’s interesting to look at all of these things and see how things have changed. I am the most surprised that I’ve gone an entire year without going for a run; kind of scary.

Keeping with the updates, I’ve decided to give people an update on my new years resolutions:

• My Malagasy is a lot better than it was in January. However, I still don’t speak standard Malagasy well, but I can speak and understand Tsimihety pretty well.
• My French has started. Whether it will continue to improve or not, I’m not really sure, but I think it is moving in the right direction and I’m still positive about it.
• I’ve been working a lot more with Antanetiambo. The trails are much better. We’ve been buying land to expand the size of protected forest. The guard house is beginning to be built and small reforestation is constantly ongoing.
• The chicken coop is already finished and stocked with ducks and chickens. A few were quite tasty on Easter.
• I know a lot of people’s names in Matsobe, but not all. However, I know the names of the people who interact with me and are interested in various projects. I’m pretty much hopeless when it comes to the legion of children.
• The compost program still needs to be done; it just isn’t a priority among other things. I still have 8 months.
• There have been so many contract related issues with the WWF office that I don’t know when I’ll start to work there. However, I have so many things going on, it no longer matters to me if I work with the office or not. It’s up to them to get it together now if they want the help.
• I still don’t know how to play soccer very well, but people haven’t been playing as much lately. However, I’ve expressed an interest to become the goalie for the Matsobe team, so we’ll see if that develops into something.
• I’m still stingy with my cash, but I’m improving…

I’ve been thinking about all the speeches that Peace Corps gives to new trainees and volunteers and how they say to wait until the first year has passed and then usually people feel a lot more comfortable. I couldn’t agree more with my own experience. A lot of bumps have balanced out in the past few months and going into this last stretch I feel really positive, happy and only saddened when I think about leaving.

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