It wouldn’t be the holidays if there wasn’t something to complain about. My camera broke a while back (actually, it was fixed enough to function back in March and then was slowly dying for the past 9 months) and was in the process of being fixed in Andapa. However, the date of it being repaired kept being pushed back (there’s a very fine line that seems to separate how much this repair man really knows and how much is just his being patient and trying to figure it out). So, when it wasn’t done before Christmas, I was a little upset. He had already had the camera for at least two weeks. Then, when the repair man told me that he couldn’t fix my camera (because I was upset that he constantly lied), he then told me that somebody had stolen my memory card – I was furious.

It was unbelievable. He knew that it was stolen when I passed by earlier in the day, but he neglected to tell me. Then, when I was already upset he was forced to tell the truth. I told him that he couldn’t just buy me a new one and that I wanted to find the thief, and I wanted MY card back. To be honest, it really didn’t matter to me; I had already saved all of the pictures on to my computer. I just don’t like how in Madagascar a lot of theft happens and is forgotten just because people are too lazy to deal with it. It also shows that you can’t just steal something that a Vazaha owns and then they just buy a new one.

From there we chose a time to talk to the accused thief (after a while it came out that they knew the guy who stole it) and go to the police if necessary. That’s where my counterpart, RABARY Desiré comes in. I’ve had some trouble working with Desire, even though for the most part the work has been effortless. However, I was impressed that when I asked him to go with me, he didn’t hesitate to say yes, and when we arrived there, he didn’t hesitate to take action and interrogate the thief. He ended up spending an entire morning talking with the thief and then going with me to the Chef Fokontany (someone in a village who deals with small, local disputes)to do all of the paperwork (something I probably wouldn’t have known to do or done correctly). The whole time, working through lunch. For me. The next time that I get frustrated I’ll have to remember this. He’s a good person to be working with.

The camera thing has worked out. The accused said that he didn’t steal it, but that he would buy a new memory card. So I’m cool with that. I just want my camera to be fixed soon so that I can document all of the upcoming rice. Besides, all this drama was a bit much for the day before Christmas.

I have always traveled a lot during Christmas time with my family. Not being in California for Christmas seems more normal than if I were to spend a Christmas at home. However, whenever I’m gone somewhere, I’m usually with other Americans (or at least my family). This year was the first Christmas that I was the only American.

It was great. Because of work and the transport in Madagascar being so unreliable, I decided to stay in Andapa for Christmas. There were other PCV get-togethers going on in the region, but I just didn’t want to mess with the travel hassles. I hung out with friends, spoke Gasy the entire day, and had a great time. I guess it shows that I feel pretty comfortable here if I don’t feel the need to spend time with other Americans. That being said, I still do enjoy spending time with my American Peace Corps friends! It’s just a totally different experience.

My New Years celebrations were mixed with Malagasy people and one other Peace Corps volunteer. On New Year ’s Eve we went to this big party/disco in Andapa. It was a real formal event and for a second I forgot I was in Madagascar. There were tons of people, tables all set up, crazy lights going on, and an actual program of events that weren’t formally written, but the owner of the hotel seemed to have in order. However, after about an hour I remembered that I don’t really care for formal dances and so some of us left and went to party with the hotely down the street.

The craziest thing for me is that 2011 was all Madagascar. Last year went by extremely quickly and I feel like last new years really wasn’t that long ago. I have much more friends, I’m much more comfortable with the language and this year’s celebration was all the more fun because of it. I think 2012 will be good. That is, of course, until the world ends in December.

With the New Year upon us, I have my resolutions. I did pretty good last year with my whole bucket of things to do. Of course, I never started working with WWF, I still don’t know French (the lessons stopped because I had no time, but I did plant SRI with my teacher) and I’m still not a soccer super star (there’s potential there though, or so I’m told). My resolutions for this year only consist of two things, and they kind of work together. I’ve decided that I need to improve my posture and I need to eat a little slower. So, of course, when I decided I needed to do these things in October, I decided to slouch more often and eat without taking the time to breathe just to get it all out of my system by New years. That means, pretty soon all of you will be seeing a much more civilized Nick. Well, maybe not more civilized, but a straighter spine and happier intestine.

Rice is on in full force. I had two people back out completely. I’m not sure if they lied or if things just changed. Regardless, it is probably for the best. I have five farmers for sure planting – this month! More than that is doable, but would be difficult. I have at least two more that should plant as well. Needless to say, SRI will fill my January.

It is a little stressful right now because everyone is in different stages of the process and they all need my help. I have a few days were I need to be working with two farmers on the same day. This Friday I will be dealing with three farmers on the same day (one is preparing seeds, one sowing seeds, one planting). However, I will not be planting on the same day in any two rice fields, so that should be fine, but it’s still a lot. And, as always, they seemed surprised that I am working with other people. I don’t know why it’s so hard. Everyone thinks that I’m just their own special helper/teacher/technician and that I need to be with them every second. That’s not gonna happen. However, it does show that they want to learn and that’s what is really important.

The heavy rains have arrived. It is good for planting, but not for me. Sometimes, it means I have only half days of work and then I’m confined to my closed house so that a small flood doesn’t fall through my windows. Then, my house is surrounded by a small river and various muddy embankments. I don’t think the house is going to float away any time soon, but I sure live in the rain forest. At least I should have some time to read…

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