I ride my bike pretty much everyday here in Madagascar. However, I’ve been riding bikes all of my life. These past few years, I got into road bikes and thankfully I never had a crash. Even going mountain biking, I’ve always been able to bail at the last second so as to not really fall with the bike. Well, not this time.

I was riding my bike real early in the morning to get to a village for transplanting rice and the road was still pretty slick. I went over a log bridge and my back tire slid off the side of the bridge (it wasn’t high) and I just went down with the bike. I only scratched my forearm and wrist, but I banged my ankle pretty bad. It instantly swelled and made the rest of my bike ride a little unpleasant.

On the plus side, nobody was around and so my pride wasn’t damaged too bad. Also, although it hurt, I was still able to go work in the rice field and it was only sore if I touched it but I could walk just fine. The other good thing is that I didn’t hit my head. I have a helmet, but that thing does not look the least bit reliable. It was taped before I got it, fell apart, and then I re-taped it. Thankfully, I just wear it because I have to and not because I’m relying on it to save my life.

A few days later some punk stole the plastic piece from my helmet that keeps the straps in place. Needless to say, my helmet is useless now and I’ve requested a new one from Peace Corps. I’m not quite sure why anyone would do that. I’m pretty sure I am the only one who has a bike helmet…

Rice planting season is now in full throttle and I couldn’t be more stressed. I felt like this time around things should go much smoother than before, but that was a big mistake on my part. Nothing has been a total disaster, but things just haven’t been ready on time and are always changing. I think it’s hard for a lot of people to understand the concept of having more than one thing to do in a day and so they are unaware of the stress that they are causing me. But all of the complaining aside, I have a potential of another 5 farmers who will try the SRI technique this month or next month. So I just need to keep pushing that and let it happen whenever it happens. I’ve already had two people plant and the next three should start next week.

I led a training on SRI in a neighboring village. It was kind of weird to do a whole training in Malagasy, alone, and to seem like a qualified individual. Kind of crazy to think that I am kind of a SRI rice farming expert now; since I never planted rice once in the United States. I made a bunch of posters the night before so I had visuals and things written down so if I wasn’t speaking clearly they could follow along on the paper as well. The funny thing was that it took place in the school because the teacher never showed up. The ad joint president told all of the kids to stay and made them copy all of posters into their notebook. So, in addition to having 12 adults, I had about a class of 30 kids sit in and maybe learn something about SRI. I was supposed to have two additional farmers try the technique from this training but they cancelled for whatever reason.

This next session was pretty negative at one point. I have had an extremely frustrating last month. Because of those frustrations, I wrote about a page long rant about everything that is wrong here. After reading it over, I’ve decided it was a bit harsh and possibly unfair. However, so as not to make you think that everything is all smiles here, I’ll give you two sentences.

Some people lie, do bad things, don’t listen, are lazy, and complain too much. This frustrates me.

These sentences were caused by various farmers, cattle owners and the employees at the Orange Botik in Andapa. At the moment, I believe that all of these problems have been solved/dealt with.

On a more positive note, we have begun constructing the community library. It is suppose to be completed at the end of this month. I think it will be finished around the middle of August. Regardless of when it is done, we have already accumulated a large amount of books and I think the library will be a great success once it is built. I have been telling everyone in the area about it, so hopefully it gets some foot traffic. When it is finally completed I will try and do some serious searching on how to receive books.

We had two visitors at Antanetiambo Reserve. It was really good that I went, because we had a new guide that wasn’t too good. They were Dutch, but spoke English, and so I was able to really explain things to them. It makes me a little worried about when I will leave Madagascar and if everything will fall apart or if some of my work is sustainable. They were happy during their visit, so I’ll just need to really push the owner of the Reserve to teach other guides so that every tourist has a great experience. It was also interesting because the tourists were a father and son. I never really thought about it, but a lot of the people in the area have never seen a white child. Tons of people in the street kept yelling “wuah, vazaha hely!” and seemed shocked. It just made me laugh.

I had a shirt made, mostly because I could. I chose the fabric and then had a friend of mine sew a shirt. It is crazy to think that I can get a shirt made for about two dollars. It isn’t the best of work, but I’m not complaining.

Also, among all of my woes and frustrations, I had a great session of playing with kids in my village. I was feeling frustrated and tired of my work and so I just went for a walk in the village. A bunch of kids invited me to play a game were they just jump over an elastic string. You can even do a cartwheel or round off as long as your feet make it over the string. Needless to say, with me being much bigger then they are and knowing a little gymnastics I was able to blow their mind in how high I could go. It was nice to clear my head as well.

My stomach and eating issues are as confusing as ever. I haven’t been sick, but I’ve realized that I no longer know what sick is. My weight hasn’t been fluctuating (although I haven’t been stepping on a scale at all), but I feel like my eating patterns seem to change a lot. There will be times when I’m eating a ton and times when I’m really not that hungry. So, I don’t know if I’m sick when I eat a lot or if I’m sick when I’m barely eating. I figure as long as it isn’t causing me any trouble, I probably shouldn’t worry about it.

The drop zone of frogs from last year isn’t quite the same. I think they improved their grip. However, they love to hide in my house. I’ll find them pretty much anywhere. The scariest one was that one was sleeping in a pot. If I hadn’t noticed, I might have boiled it to death. I’ve only stepped on two so far.

I need to fix my bed. I originally thought the mattress was the issues, but it is definitely the boards below. I’m not quite sure how I’m gonna go about fixing it, but I need to do it quick. At the moment I just put the two mattresses next to each other and sleep in the cocoon that is formed. Other than the rooster that feels it’s necessary to share his presence every hour, I tend to sleep pretty well.

I’m also in the process of learning 3 languages. I’m learning Malagasy, French and now English. When my mom visited me, she brought me some GRE study guides. My vocabulary is pretty bad, so I’ve been making flash cards for GRE words. At times I feel like it’s a lot to take in, but what else am I going to do at night when it’s just me and the candles…and the occasional falling frog.

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