The day before my dad was supposed to fly to Madagascar he had a stroke. As with all things family related it’s really hard being so far away from people when these things happen. However, I’m thrilled that he has recovered so quickly and that he seems to be doing alright. I hope to be able to plan another time for him to visit me while I’m in Madagascar. It’s also been really difficult to explain it to Malagasy people. Part of me thinks that they think my dad just had a stomach ache and didn’t come to Madagascar. Not all things translate well.

One of the Peace Corps volunteers in Andapa is training for a marathon. She had to do a 10km ‘race’ and asked if I’d like to run it. At first I declined, but then I thought that going for a run might clear my head and make things a little better. It’s amazing how nice it is to run. I know there are so many people out there who hate the thought of running. However, I really do enjoy it. It’s funny because I haven’t been running for the past year and a half and I didn’t think anything of it. When I had my Peace Corps interview they asked what I would do if I couldn’t run – something that I couldn’t even imagine – and now, I’m extremely happy that I’m in a location where it is acceptable and safe to be able to run. I’m not doing any crazy training, but it is good to get out there. Should the weather be nice and I get into a regular routine, I’ll probably run around 30-50km a week – nothing serious at all by my standards. I just want to be able to wash my running clothes in the morning and have them be dry by the next day. Besides, the running is good because the rice work has died down and I need to make sure I’m in shape for the next planting season. And, as always, it gives the people something else to talk about when I do something completely different. I haven’t ran for the past year and a half, why would I start now?

Sadly my running routine was disrupted by a string of bad weather. October is supposed to be a really dry month, but we got a few days of rain. Really unusual because it wasn’t afternoon showers, but just rainy days. Not what I wanted. I’m ready for the California month.

Last October, it was hot and dry. It reminded me a tiny bit of a California summer (as close as it gets here) and I was happy to have the heat. I’m not sure if it’s going to come, or if it will just come late this year. We might just jump straight into rain forest mode…

However, this rain was a nice change for the sugar cane and corn that I recently planted. It didn’t rain for over a week and so I had to give the corn water. I can honestly say that I missed using a hose. It isn’t that much fun to go to the river and back multiple times to give water. However, my sugar cane is looking good (even Malagasy people are commenting on it¬) so maybe I’ve found my niche. In general I’m very Malagasy if I plant sugar cane, corn and rice. Way to go, Nick, you’ve managed to plant foods with no nutritional value!

My tree nursery threats worked and other deadlines have been met as well. Originally, I had the goal of planting 2000 trees by New Year. However, after working just one day, I think we need to change our goals. With less than half of the group, we were able to plant 300 trees in a morning. The perfect amount of time needed once the rains come. That means, without needing everyone’s help every time we work, we can get 2,400 potential trees done in two months. My new goal and I hope it isn’t shot down miserably by failed work, is to have planted 5,000 trees by March or April of next year. We’ll see how things go, but I definitely think it’s possible. If the trees grow, we will plant some of them on the land of the people who are working, some will go to the Reserve, and some will be sold to make profits.

The rice farmers are kind of burnt out, so I’m letting them rest. We have already weeded four times, and so I told them to continue weeding when they would like (but still emphasized that they MUST continue to weed¬). One farmer in a community has kind of given up on taking care of the rice. It will be interesting to see what happens when it is time to harvest. It’s just annoying because I don’t want people to think that I don’t know what I’m doing, just because some people lie or are lazy when it comes to work. I think I enjoy working in the rice field because you really get what you put into it. There isn’t a lot of luck or unpredictable factors; you work hard and you get a good harvest, period. I’m happy that that ideology is clear to some of the farmers. Others still are learning.

I’ve started talking with people about the upcoming planting season; trying to plan everything out, so there are as little surprises as possible. I think people are a little shocked that I’m talking to them about rice in October, but it’s good for people to start thinking ahead. I just want to make sure that all of the people who told me they wanted to do SRI weren’t lying and I’m not going to waste my time. So far, I don’t think that’s the case.

Other work continues as always. I’m still building cook stoves (or playing with mud as a lot of people like to say¬). It’s really simple, improves their fuel efficiency, and although I’m kind of burnt out on them, they’re so easy I just make sure I push on through to get them built. Beside, I’m usually given some kind of food after building them, so I can’t complain. I’ve also done some more trail work at Antanetiambo, to make sure when it is wet, there won’t be any fallen tourists. Malagasy people seem to like trails that go straight up/down and to make it as slippery as possible and nothing to hold on to. I’ll have to work on that with them.

I went into the Reserve a few days ago and just walked around. I think the lemurs are getting comfortable again, because I spent only 20 minutes in there and came across a group of 3 bamboo lemurs. They were a little hesitant around me, but didn’t flee at first. I managed to take a few photos of them and then they leapt off into the bamboo. We got a new guy who might be able to live at the Reserve and be the ‘guardian’. He seems to want the job and works hard, so we’ll see how it goes. I am going to give him a few tasks and see how it works out. First, to make a map of the Reserve, including trails. Second, to monitors the lemurs. We need to know the time, date, kind of lemurs, how many etc. and where he sees them each day. Finally, after about 2 or 3 months, we should be able to combine the lemur locations with the map and work from there to improve trails and sightings for tourists. I have an idea of building some platforms in trees, but I think that’s a long way down the road.

I’ve started organizing a project that is going to make sure that my balding is complete by the time I return to the States. I want to organized student trips to the Reserve for this coming March or April. So far, I’ve only spoken to two schools. We would take the top ten students from each English class and let them visit the Reserve – about 400 students altogether. It will hopefully be from around March to May of next year. Ideally, we would have 20 students visit the Reserve for two days every week for ten weeks. If everything gets set, we will have them visit the Reserve in the morning, eat lunch at/around the house and library and then do environmental education in the afternoon. There’s still A LOT left to plan, but I think it will come together. It will be an exciting project if I can pull it together. The biggest unforeseen problem would be if there is a clash between tourists visiting and the school group visiting. However, tourists don’t give us advanced booking notice very often…

So that’s all that’s going on in my life. I feel like work has taken over and my life is monotonous and boring again. I still enjoy my work, but there really isn’t too much new or exciting to talk about. I finished reading “Ake” and now I’ve started to read “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, so my nights are filled with books. I’ve given the GRE studying a bit of a rest, but hope to come back to it before I forget everything again. As far as weird thoughts go, I’ve been all over the place the past few weeks and I don’t really remember everything that was bouncing around in my head. However, the other day I was thinking about how weird it is that I’ve been drinking out of the same water bottle for over 19 months. I don’t know how many times I’ve washed the bottle, but I’m sure it’s not enough.

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