It’s happened. That 2012 projection was off. The world has ended. Apocalypse is now. We have failed ourselves.

The number of functioning people has diminished to a few stragglers. Blank faces containing blank stares attack me everywhere I go. All around me are zombies and machines. I’m struggling to think…why is nobody else thinking?

It sometimes amazes me at the amount of people that don’t really exist, mentally. There are many intelligent people, in the sense that they can learn new things and follow directions, but as far as being creative, having their own thoughts, thinking just for the sake of thinking – about something that needs to be done, should be done, could be done, that interest them! – The thought never crosses their mind.

I’ve started thinking about this and how it applies to my work. I have people who are very diligent workers IF I tell them what to do. If there are no commands, then nothing is to be done. If something needs/should be done, but I forget to mention it (or didn’t THINK of it myself!¬) then it will never be done. The capabilities start and end with regurgitation.

I’m being tough on the new guardian for Antanetiambo, but I think he can handle it. However, I need to start early, so that he doesn’t fall into the trap of many Malagasy people in the ecotourism industry. That is, to only do what one is told, or suggested by others involved – most often foreigners – and have no real concept of the direction of their work. I’ve asked the guard to document when and where he is seeing lemurs. That is straightforward, and except for a few minor issues, well done. However, the map that I’ve asked to be built…

He didn’t get exactly what I wanted, and of course, that’s my fault. I didn’t explain it as well as I should and didn’t follow up on his work as often as I could have. However, when looking in his notebook, I just saw the same crappy map reprinted over and over, with no sign of improvement or change. Despite my poor explanation, I know he understood some of it, and that part wasn’t given the slightest thought.

Finally, I had him look at a real map of the Northeast of Madagascar and the maps that he had made. I asked him which one was better. He immediately said the professional map. I asked him why. Silence. Nothing. Literally, not one thought to explain why that map is better. No thought as to what the map should have to be good, clear, ideal, or usefulo. No thought as to where anything is going other than what I directly explain.

We worked our way through all of this and I helped him think about why the professional map was better. It made me realize that, most likely, a lot of Malagasy people working with NGO’s or other foreigner organizations are the same way. They do what they’re told but have no idea of what they are really doing or what their work is trying to accomplish. Tasks are made and completed just so other tasks can be formed. Development in many senses just isn’t happening.

So, this is my new goal for the next few months. I will try to explain the reasons for as many things as possible and try to get this guy really thinking! Because, at some point, Madagascar will need to be able to support itself and not rely on foreign aid (however, because I am thinking about going into ‘Development’ work, it might be better that this happen after my lifetime – for job security reasons).

But let’s think about something else.

I finally built a different kind of cook stove. Last December, I learned how to build a different type of stove, but I just watched a guy build it; he wouldn’t give me the particulars to a lot of things. I built one of my other stoves with a guy in a neighboring village about a month ago and he said he would be willing to experiment with me to build the different kind of stove.

So, it actually happened.

We got all of the things together and built the damn thing. The mixture still needs some work (clay, rice hulls, bananas¬) but I think the stove will hold up and work out. This kind of stove is supposed to be much more fuel efficient and it is transportable, a big plus. Obviously, some people are capable of thinking outside of what is normal.

Then, when I came back a week later I was really impressed. The stove that we had built was not there. Instead, there was a different stove (same method), which was much better. He told me that he rebuilt it that evening because the mixture we had used was too soft and wet. He realized it wasn’t going to work and so he went through the steps again, on his own, and built it like it was supposed to be built. He didn’t ask permission; he saw what needed to be done and did it. He used his mind. He thought about his work. He’s a fine example of a Malagasy person that I work with who can already use his mind and apply it. I can breathe again.

My health had been really good for the last five months, but the last week I was slammed with some stomach issues. Once I started to get healthy and wanted to eat again, I started thinking about food and all of its glory. For whatever reason I started thinking more about produce that we have in the United States, especially fruit. I’m lucky to have access to A LOT of fruit and vegetables here, but there is a long list of stuff that either I can’t get here or is really hard to come by. Here it is: apples, pears, plums, apricots, cherries, grapes, peaches, watermelon, raspberries, blueberries, Asian pears, and pomegranates. I’m sure I left some things out and I’m sure some fruits might be easily accessible in different parts of the island. I’ll have to make an “American” fruit salad whenever I go home. But I’m not worried, once litchi and pineapple season hits, I don’t really need to think about any other kind of fruits.

I’ve continued to run. It’s funny, because I feel weaker now that I’m stronger. I can run faster, but I just feel more tired at the end of the run. Maybe I’ve maxed out and now any time gains are just straight willpower. I tried to run a short 5km run the other day and I did it in 18:42, which is on pace to get a pretty good time. However, the run wasn’t pleasant. It was definitely more “training” and not just running because I like to run. It makes me wonder, if I have the time, that it might be better to just increase the distance and amount of time running but not care about speed. A few days later I did a different run, felt like I was going really slow and that my legs were heavy, but ended up running it a minute faster than my usual pace. Also, I went running with someone else one morning and that was a big mistake. I’ve always liked running alone, no talking, just me and my breathing. However, this guy started out way to fast and then was inconsistent for the rest of the run. We ended up running really slow at times and of course he wanted to sprint at the end. Not really the type of run I like to do. I think I’ll go back to my solo runs and wait until he’s in good enough shape to hang. It will be kind of sad to see all of this stop once rice farming starts again…

I’ve been planning the CEG visits for next year. I finally had a chance to meet with the CEG in Andapa and get approval for the program. Soon we will start scheduling, which will make me feel much better if I have set dates with both CEG’s. I’m still working on the workbook. I think I will need to make four different versions in order for it to be very effective (each version will have the appropriate amount of English for the grade level¬). The work book will contain information about Madagascar, deforestation, conservation, tourism, Antanetiambo, flora/fauna, education, agriculture as well as important steps for the future and a glossary at the end to explain some words that might not be known. Hopefully, we can cover all of the information in the morning, and then in a one hour session in the afternoon. After that, we will lead the kids through various exercises (word search, crossword, true/false, fill in the blank, a maze and a picture activity where the students will have to draw a picture of something they saw in the Reserve and explain it¬). The last portion of the day will be designated as free time and the students can just wander around the library and read books for a few hours (the library SHOULD be done by then!¬). I still have a lot left to do to get this all together, but at least it is moving along.

One reason I need to get this together is that I will be SUPER busy come December and January with rice farming. A while back I started asking people about their plans just to confirm that I would have somebody to teach. That might have been a problem. As we’re getting closer to the planting season, I’m having more and more people approach me, eager to learn SRI. That’s great, but I’m only one person and I only have about 2 months to do it all. I’ve already had 9 farmers confirm that they will want to plant. That is a lot, and I will obviously not be able to work in every rice field as much as I have in the past and I’m worried that this might affect the quality of the work. Theoretically, I could probably help 15 people, but I wouldn’t be able to work with each farmer every week, through every step – that could be a problem. At this point, I just need to be mentally prepared and wait for it all to happen.

The tree nursery is moving along at its own pace. We are not on the ambitious schedule that I had hoped we would be, but we are meeting every week and things are being accomplished. Right now, I just need to figure out a way to get more plastic pots so that we can plant all of the trees. One of the organizations hasn’t been as reliable as I hoped with supplying plastic pots and so I’ll need to find some so our work won’t slow down. The best part about this year really is that the people working seem positive with the program, they aren’t burnt out, and they’re starting to plan ahead so that work can be accomplished in the coming months without a lot of hassles.

I ordered some merchandise to be made for Antanetiambo a long time ago. We set the date of October 24th for all of the stuff to arrive. Of course, since I haven’t written about the meeting, it never happened. I finally, three weeks later, went to the village and asked what the deal was. They told me they weren’t ready and they were ashamed so nobody thought it reasonable to pass by my house or call me about the program. So, I shifted into serious mode, because if I’m just nice, nothing happens. I gave them one week to get all of the merchandise to my house. If it doesn’t arrive (everything that I ordered¬) then we won’t buy anything (not one item¬) and I will look for other people to make things to sell to tourists. I should know by Thursday what they’ve decided.

Pictures are being printed at alarming rates and I’m rethinking my approach to the whole taking picture situation. It has started to catch on and everyone wants their picture taken. It’s a total mess. However, I’m being as compliant as possible. I’ve decided that I won’t take any picture unless the money is ready. If that still doesn’t calm things down, then I’ll have to designate picture days so that I’m not being asked all of the time to take a picture. The latest batch just made me laugh. If I took these pictures in the States I think I would get some serious looks. I have women on beds, kids with stuffed animals, guys straddling bikes, it’s all there! At least I know that I could never become a professional photographer. There’s no way I could take any of this seriously.

I finished reading “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. Overall, I really enjoyed the book, although at times I thought the author was a bit of a jerk. I also finished reading “The Man Who Folded Himself”, which was a sci-fi book that I liked. It was about a guy who gets a belt that allows him to travel through time. However, time doesn’t really function linearly and so really it is just bouncing through different universes/worlds. It was funny, because the day after I finished it I went running and I saw twins at two different times in the run. One twin was going one way and I saw him when I went back, and then farther on my way back, I saw his brother going the other direction and I couldn’t help but think if they are traveling through time, but in the same universe at the moment. I just started reading “My Antonia”, which I enjoy so far, but I’m not very far into.

The heavy rains still haven’t arrived. The plus side – not a whole lot of mosquitoes to attack me at night. The down side – my feet are being infiltrated by parasites at an alarming rate. Let the sweet cheese feet begin!

*I had a professor in college who was very thought provoking. However, he did not like it if anyone stated what they thought through the words think or thought for any written assignment. I guess one must be able to think to remove their own thought.

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