Sadly, Mito (my puppy) is no more. I went to build a cook stove one afternoon and when I came home, I got the news that he was killed by a tractor. I wasn’t around when it happened, but that’s probably for the better. I was told that a tractor stopped for a while and Mito went under the tractor while it was stopped to get some shade. When the tractor left, the driver didn’t see the dog and he was killed. I find it hard to believe that the story was as simple as that, but that’s the story I was told. It was pretty sad. Poor little guy. I guess the new dog thing isn’t going to happen any time soon. The first few nights/mornings after it happened I really did miss his presence. At least he had an awesome month, a better month than most Malagasy dogs get in their entire lifetime.

But life comes and goes. That same afternoon I’m pretty sure I saw two snakes going at it under my outhouse. I’d much rather have kept my puppy though.

On a much more positive note, I’ve started an unofficial gym. It use to be that every once and a while I would do some flips with some kids. However, I’ve been meeting them pretty regularly in the late afternoons/evenings and we do flips, handsprings, cartwheels, hand/head stands and all kinds of other gymnastic things. We also do different stretches, push ups, etc. It’s amazing what I take for granted from my childhood. There are a lot of things that I learned in my childhood that I took for granted. For that very reason, they can now make farting noises with their knees or armpits; Peace Corps mission complete.

I had the meeting of all meetings with the tree nursery. They still hadn’t planted all of the old trees – nearly a month and a half after they said they would. I told them that they had one week to plant all of the trees. If they didn’t, I would take my seeds, my contacts and my own working will to another community of group and I wouldn’t work with them. I really don’t know if it is a Malagasy thing or just humankind, but it really sucks to have to be mean in order to get people to do things. It makes me wonder if the organization will stop once I’m gone. Regardless, they listened to my threat, planted trees and we should be meeting again in the next few days after the area is cleared again and we can start planting some seeds!

There is a new English school in Andapa. I passed by a few weeks ago and spoke to the class about the United States and let them practice their English. The head teacher/owner is the family of my counterpart and he is really doing an amazing job. I think the students could really start to learn English. Maybe, some day, way down the line, when Malagasy people see a white person in Andapa they will use English before French. At least the Peace Corps volunteer will like it.

I’m on another cook stove kick. I’ve built five since the last blog. It seems like there is a wave of interest and then it dies down. Mostly, I think that people see someone else gets one and so they want to make one too. When all of the people finally make them and have their stove, the work usually slows down again. However, I have now made 25 cook stoves in my time here and I can honestly say they just get easier and easier. One guy really wants to make a transportable cook stove and offered to experiment with me. So I might be re-learning all over again in the next few months.

As far as looks go, I shaved my head again. The weather has begun to heat up so it was a good decision. I also had another shirt made. I didn’t realize how thin the fabric was when I bought it, but it will be good for the hot weather. It was a little long, but then I realized that pretty much every man who wears a collared shirt in my area will tuck it in. I think it’s a foreign concept that a respectable person would wear a nice collared shirt and not tuck it in. If you are an ‘important’ person, then you wear your collared shirt tucked into your pants. I think the fact that I’m wearing pants with my nice shirts and not the same basketball shorts shows improvement as it is in the professionalism attire.

I went to a concert last weekend – Tsiliva. It started late, even by Malagasy standards, and so that was kind of lame. However, I was sure to be a spectacle of my own, as I always am. About half way through the concert my sandal breaks. The little piece that I need so that I can stick it together gets lost among the dancing people and eventually I am forced to give up the search and continue the show with only one sandal; it didn’t stop me. I kept dancing/walking around, with my broken sandal in hand. Of course I wasn’t going to discard it. The funny thing was that I kept it around, but didn’t really know what my plan of action was. However, I found it on the ground – another sandal. Someone, who did not have my tenacity, abandoned a sandal, one that had the piece I needed. So, here I am, in all my vazaha-ness holding two sandals in my hand and wearing one on my foot. I’m sure I was quite the site walking the five kilometers home. The impressive thing is that my foot (the one without the sandal) wasn’t even fazed by the whole event. Maybe I’ll be able to get Malagasy feet after all. Oh, and I fixed my sandal the next morning, just as intended.

Antanetiambo has been thriving for September. We’ve had five groups visit – some for multiple days. Interestingly, no Americans in this batch of visits, but they’ve spoken some English so we were able to talk. In addition to the tourists, we had a woman who works for a Travel Agency in Sambava come to visit the Reserve. She seemed to like the place and plans to return some other time to take a look at some other parcels of land that we have. It could be really good news for the Reserve if we have work with another tourist agency.

The library, however, is still not finished and I couldn’t be more frustrated. The reason that it isn’t finished is just from a lack of common sense and that frustrates me more than anything. Especially from a team of people that continually say they are “professional”. Despite my frustrations, it’s moving along and we’ve begun to look for furniture and other items that will be needed when it is finished. It will be pretty exciting to have a running library across the street when the construction is finally done.

I just need to post a blog about the weather and then it miraculously changes. September has had an unusual amount of rain this year, some of it too late. Overall, it is still a good thing that it has been raining. I’m only worried that this might mean an epic rainy season; and even more so, possible flooding. But I don’t want to jinx anything.

Rice is moving along. With the winter season rice growing slower it means that we need to weed more often because the tool can still make it through. I really do love working in the rice field, but even I need a break from it. I am not a day laborer that can do everything rice every day. I’ll be happy to say goodbye to the weeding in the next few weeks and just wait until the rice needs to be harvested. However, the moment of truth (the amount they harvest) is always stressful.

I re-discovered the sweet potato. It’s funny, because when it’s the season, everyone in Andapa always tells me, “Oh, you live in Matsobe. There are a lot of sweet potatoes there.” I guess it’s true. I don’t really see people selling them in other places. A friend of mine offered to give me some. She lives on the way to the Reserve and I would see her almost everyday digging out the sweet potatoes. So, one day she offered to give me some. I cooked them and was like: wow, these things are good! A fresh sweet potato is really quite a good thing. One might think, being a potato, growing underground, covered in dirt that it probably wouldn’t change much over time. One picked today tastes the same as one picked last week. You know, that might be the case. However, with all of the rice I’ve been eating and my love for foods that are sweet; these sweet potatoes are really something. I’m going to go crazy when I get home and have so many foods options to choose from. We’ll see if I still hold these sweet potatoes in such high regards then.

I ended my French lessons. I realized that I wasn’t studying regularly, didn’t have the time to study regularly, and still didn’t know how to speak French well enough that I thought I would still improve at the rate that I was going. It made me think of my New Years resolutions. There are three things that I know will not happen by the end of this year – I will not be able to speak French well, I will not be working with WWF (regularly), and I will not become a professional soccer player. All the other ‘resolutions’ that I mentioned I think will be accomplished. The positive to this failure is that I’m failing because I don’t have any time. There is enough work for me as it is that I don’t need more tasks.

I finally saw the 20/20 segment on Peace Corps. I’ll only say one thing about it: I’m still happy to be a Peace Corps volunteer and I’ve felt safe and happy during my service this far. For that reason, I am extremely happy that I was granted a third year extension. That means I’ll be home for a month sometime next year and then continue to work here in Madagascar until around June 2013. I’ll be an old man by then…

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