A long time ago, a bunch of stuff happened. I guess that could sum up a lot of history books as well, but it’s kind of how the past month has been. I think I’ve gotten a little lazy with the blog thing/ didn’t really feel like writing for a bit. That meant there wasn’t a blog to be written and now I have all these things that I can tell you about, but I wonder how significant they are now that time has lapsed. So here we go!

I was completely stressed about my rice that I’ve planted. It seems to be going slowly and I was worried that it won’t produce like it should. The only thing that I have going for me is that the weather hasn’t been too good and so everybody’s rice is hurting. It has been cold, but not raining and in general, the rice that I’ve planted is growing very slowly. These bad conditions make it easier for my pride, but I wish I had ideal conditions so I could know whether or not using SRI during the winter is feasible in my area. However, it was just the first field that I planted with that has had the most problems. The other fields seem to be doing alright and I think they should produce. In addition, the weather is starting to get a little warmer so that should improve. The only worry is water. The winter rains were pretty much non-existent and I am worried what the river will look like come October. The only positive from lack of rain is that people start to believe me that we need to stop cutting down the entire forest. Also, rice planted with SRI needs less water than traditional methods…but it still needs water.

It has been concert season here in Madagascar. I missed a few people and I’ve gone to some. Malagasy concerts are pretty much just a normal concert. A lot of food, drinks and people dancing. The only thing that I really enjoy is that I don’t have to wait in any long security check lines. And, so far, nobody has been involved in any gun or knife fights so I’m pretty sure there isn’t a safety issue. It’s just good to take a break from my work for a while and see some people in a different setting as well. I’m sure they like to see me in a different setting too. Especially for the people in Andapa – it’s the vazaha without his bike, helmet and backpack. Maybe he is a normal person.

We had a few days of rain (a while back¬¬) and so I planted about 25 trees around my house. They were left over from the tree nursery. They were finally a good size, but they’ve been in the same place for so long that the roots were too deep for a lot of them. I hope they will grow, but I don’t think I’m going to get a perfect growth percentage from the recent planting. I planted 20 more at the Reserve, but it was dry immediately following so I’m not too optimistic.

I have plans to continue a community tree nursery in Matsobe-Nord as well as start one with my counterparts, which will be solely for the Reserve. Hopefully, they get underway soon, as the warm weather is approaching. I had a wonderful meeting with the people who run the tree nursery in Matsobe-Nord. They all arrived, on time, at 6am, to discuss the future of the tree nursery. We were able to talk about what trees they wanted to plant, the future of the older trees that were still in the nursery and make a tentative program for the future. Hopefully, the next few months go as smoothly as the meeting. I’m already on the lookout for new seeds and trying to get people moving in the right direction so we can start early and be really productive.

I had an awesome opportunity to participate in a Greater Bamboo Lemur survey in the Antohaka Lava forest. It was the organized by three institutions – SIMPONA, Mitsinjo, and Aspenall. There were feeding traces of the Greater Bamboo lemur found in an area near the Makira Forest Complex in 2010 and they had already gone once to the area last May. If the Greater Bamboo lemur is in the area, it is very big news, because they are only known to exist near Tana and more in the southern part of Madagascar.

I was gone for 11 days in total. Three days to hike 35 km in and then three days to hike out. On the way there, I had two porters, but downscaled to only one on the way back, because I’m still physically capable of carrying some stuff. It was actually really nice to walk for a while and to test out the backpack that I got before joining Peace Corps.

We were in the Antohaka Lava forest looking for the lemur for about 6 days. We found a few feeding traces, but didn’t see the lemur. We did see bamboo lemurs and white ruffed lemurs, but I’m worried that the hunting in the area might make their future existence a little difficult. However, the rest of the Team is there until October so hopefully they will see something. We really need to get a picture of the animal, but I think it would just be cool if someone could verify that they saw it. If nothing else, maybe they’ll see some Kalinoro.

We had a group of local guides who were working with us and they obviously get paid for this work. This makes me weary about a few things. One, they know they will get paid, so maybe the lemur doesn’t really exist in the area and they just made it up in order to draw in the research. Second, maybe they have seen the lemur…while they were hunting it. You have to wonder why some of these men are wondering around the forest at certain times, I don’t think it is to appreciate nature. When you’re living in a bamboo hut and there aren’t a lot of options for food I don’t think wandering the far edges of the forest for fun is a regular occurrence. Maybe I’m just being cynical.

Altogether, I had a blast on the trip. It was nice to get out of site for a bit and do something completely different than my normal work. It was great because we had a cook, so I got a vacation from the kitchen. It’s amazing how much more energy I seem to have when I don’t have to think about preparing my food. Maybe all of those Malagasy men are right; I need to find a wife so that she can cook for me. I don’t that will happen any time soon though. The trip consisted of pretty much beans and rice or rice and dried fish for every meal. Needless to say, I was happy to return to my diet with vegetables and fruits. Also, as crappy as my bed is, it’s always nice to return to a mattress after camping for a while.

When I came back to site I was thoroughly disoriented. It seemed like I’d been gone forever. However, it was refreshing to return to an area where people say hello to me rather than just staring.

I had to deal with some message issues for the team still in the forest and so that took up a day just traveling to the village where the Marojejy Park entrance is and then returning to Andapa in the same day. I don’t know why I ever think that an automobile situation will ever work out smoothly in this country.

I’m super excited for my Dad to come visit. So I’ve been putting together things for that and double checking. I’m also very happy because Abby is coming to visit too!!! It took a little bit of time to put together her plan just because the flight schedules can make getting around a little difficult. I’ll be happy to have the two vacations. They actually come at really good times. My dad will be here during tree nursery time – they already know what they’re doing and if I can get them set up, they should be fine without me for a while (let’s hope so, I will return to the United States eventually¬). Also, Abby will be here towards the beginning of the rice planting season and so I shouldn’t be too late to help more people do SRI. If I am, it would be an even better opportunity for other community members to get involved in teaching their own community. I still would like to pursue this, but I would like to be present as well. I already have 6 farmers who verbally expressed interest. We just need to see if they’ll follow through.

Puppy, the dog owned by the previous volunteer is great. However, he is starting to get a little old. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a great guard dog and super awesome with tourists and people who actually like animals, but it’s getting close to his retirement. He should just be able to lounge around and eat pretty soon.

To deal with this dilemma I got a puppy. I had to tie him up at first so he wouldn’t wander and I felt pretty bad when he cried. He was only 5 weeks old when I got him so I think he still missed his mom. Luckily, I’m able to give him pretty good food and so he would still eat and be healthy. His name is Mito (meetew). It comes from the Malagasy word mitomoany, which means to cry. This puppy sure does know how to cry/whine. Even if he is chewing on a flea he seems to cry about it. I think he also takes advantage of the fact that I feel bad when he cries and so he can get what he wants if he cries loud enough. I forget that the majority of Malagasy people don’t really care about odd noises at night and that a crying puppy is no big deal. If the neighbors had a puppy that cried all night, I would be a little less patient. The vet passed our house the day I got him and so we flagged him down and the puppy got two shots that were needed, so that was good too. Hopefully, he’ll see the example of Puppy and shape into a good dog too. The first night though, he got tied up in the rope outside, cried profusely, and I just set up a gunny sack bed for him in my house. Now that I know he won’t run away he sleeps outside.

I started reading Out of Africa. It’s kind of a weird book to be reading now. It is interesting from the comparisons that the author and I have with our experiences living in Africa. Her situation is very different from mine though. Also, she is writing from a different era and this can sometimes make some of her comments a little offensive. Some things that if I wrote in a blog might have people a little surprised.

I met with a group in Ambodigavo village. They are good at sewing and making grass mats. I will return in a few weeks to meet with the entire woman’s group and discuss possibilities of them making merchandise fro Antanetiambo so that we can sell them to tourists. It should work out and they definitely need the money. The village itself seems to be well off to certain extent, but they live across a river. Right now, in the dry season, it is about knee to mid thigh deep. Come rainy season, it will be much higher and the canoe they had to cross the river has already rotted. I don’t plan to swim to their village anytime soon so hopefully they can use some of the money to help buy a new canoe. From a conservation viewpoint, it is kind of sad that a large tree needs to be cut every two years just to make a canoe. Seems like there should be a better way.

Every once and a while I go through a little television phase. Back in December/January I watched a ton of 30 Rock episodes. The past few weeks I watched a bunch of The Office. I only have 8 episodes into season 7, but I had forgotten how good of a show it was. If working in an office was like that show I think I might be more inclined to get a desk job.