I was thinking about how much traveling I did while I lived in the United States. I was very lucky to grow up with a family that appreciated the value of going away on vacation. Since I was young, I always enjoyed traveling, seeing new things, being somewhere different. While I grew up we were always going places and I never seemed to stay in California for very long even though I lived and went to school there. However, now that I’ve been in Madagascar, I haven’t been doing a lot of moving. The second longest gap of me not leaving the United States was January 2009 to when I left for Madagascar – 14 months. The longest gap before that must have been when I was three or four years old. I’ve been in Madagascar for 16 months now. As far as I can remember, it’s the longest that I’ve stayed in one country since I was a very small child.

I’ve acquired a new pet. His name is Waldo. I noticed him about two months ago in my outhouse. I named him Waldo because he was always showing up in new places. However, it turns out; he likes the bucket where my toilet paper goes. So, when it was time to burn the toilet paper and he popped out, I made sure to pick him up and put him back in his home. I’m just happy to not have any pesky flies or mosquitoes. Thanks Waldo.

I went to a church party. It was pretty straightforward. Food, more food, and a lot of talking. I of course, hate to sit still, so I ended up playing with the kids. That morphed into a back flip/ gymnastics session. After begging the kids to trust me, I finally got some of the kids to do a back flip by using my arm to help with lift and spin. I am kind of surprised they did trust me – I was speaking poor Malagasy and telling them that they didn’t need to know what they were doing, but that I would just make them flip. And, I was able to do seven back handsprings in a row. Looks like I still got the touch! Looks like the wide vazaha is still pretty nimble!

There was an auction during the party and I bought some vanilla vines. There isn’t a lot of vanilla farming going on in the Andapa basin in comparison to the rest of my region. However, a lot of people do plant vanilla. I bought the vine and planted it with some friends. I even got the correct tree (valavelona) to place the vanilla on. I’m sure I was quite the site walking from the forest with 22 branches ready to be planted. It really wasn’t too difficult, but there is a system and I’m happy to know how to do it now only because vanilla is such a big export for Madagascar. However, when people ask me when will the price will go up, I just try to politely say, “Probably not any time soon.”

I had a mad study session the other day. I was making flash cards like a fiend. I have a ton done and I think that my vocabulary might actually be improving (at least for test taking purposes). Every time I study new words in English, I just wonder what the purpose is. There is so much miscommunication going on that I don’t think it is necessary to make things less simple. However, Grad schools disagree so I’ll keep trucking on.

I’ve got a mini winter beard going on right now. I’m not quite sure how long it will last. However, the nights have started to get a little cold so it might be helpful. All it really does is confuse people about my age. I like to keep some people guessing. I did get a haircut recently so I’m not all wild and unkept.

I had an old woman joke around that I didn’t have any male friends here in Madagascar. I immediately named off about ten people and she laughed and said I was right. However, it made me think about the majority of the people I talk too and how most of them are women. I thought about it and I think it is because the women aren’t intimidated by me. They don’t feel that they have to compete with me in any way and in that regard they are much friendlier and open with me.

I went to my first Malagasy wedding. It wasn’t the real deal, so I hope to go to another one at some point. It was in Andapa and it was mostly just a preliminary to get it all on paper. They will do the big wedding in Tana in the next few months. However, it was still cool to see it all go down at city hall and then have lunch with people and listen to their speeches and what not. And, of course, I was the only white person that was there so a few guests really got a kick out of that.

The library and guard house are still being built. It looks like contractors all over the world lie about when building will be finished. However, both buildings are coming along and I anticipate their completion soon. However, some of the people that are building the house have some real questionable work skills and I will be happy to have the library finished so that I don’t have to wake up at 4am to the half drunk guy sing at the top of his lungs while he moves the stones or shovels dirt for the foundation.

Rice is continuing like it does. With the cold weather, the rice has been growing a lot slower. I don’t think it will be a problem, but I am a little worried to see how it ends up. The worst part is that because the rice can take longer to grow to the proper height, I can’t just rely on it being ready in one week. It is a bit of an organizational nightmare, but I seem to be pushing through. I finished planting this past week and I’m kind of relieved to get a break from planting. Do to changing schedules and other variables, I will be weeding with all five farmers in the same week. That means that I will have a week of rice work and then a week off., which might not be too bad, but I think I might get a little sick of it all. It is kind of nice to know that I have helped 12 farmers do SRI farming and I know that in the next few months I will begin to stress about these last 5 and how their rice will turn out…