It didn’t rain enough in November; people didn’t plant rice. It didn’t rain enough in December; only a few people could plant rice. So, when the torrential downpours came they were a blessing at first. However, when the river started to rise, then flooded rice fields, surrounded my house with a six inch deep pond and flooded every section of a rice field that had a wall to keep water in, everyone thought it was a bit much. I thought I might have to relocate.


A while back my facebook status said that I was considering a rain dance. For the record, the dance never happened (at least not officially, I have danced, but it was not to my knowledge as to whether it would bring rain, let alone ask for it). We got about four days of heavy rain and everyone was talking about if another day of rain came, we would be moving to higher ground. Thankfully, the rain slowed down.


In its aftermath, the rice programs were certainly affected. I had to put off one person’s planting for at least two weeks, because their rice field was non-existent; there was just a river flowing in the place where their rice field once was. Another person and I scrambled around at five in the morning to find a place that we could sow some seeds because all of the other sections were flooded with too much water.


But, as always, things move along just not at the rate that I expect them to. I was able to plant with my first farmer of the season. It was the easiest time I’ve ever had because she has money and was just paying people to plant the rice. I showed up, worked with all of the people learning and then was done by 2pm because she had other things to do in Andapa. A bit of a change from my first test plot.


After that followed my second group. They were super nice and caught on quickly. The first day we planted I got stuck in a downpour of rain and was soggy for a few days. The third farmer had rice that wasn’t that great and thought that I was going to magically produce some miracle rice. However, after shifting his plans repeatedly, we got it done.


The fourth group was my favorite. They were already friends of mine and just really good people. They had roughly two hectares of rice field that they were going to plant (only a small portion with SRI farming methods). The lady had never known any other kind of rice planting other than the simplest form – wait until the rice is tall and just grab clumps and plant at random. I taught her (just the two of us because the paid planters didn’t show up) in one day how to do SRI. She was exhausted from the work, but not discouraged at all. She put it together in her head that if the rice produces a lot more that she doesn’t need to plant 2 hectares, but only needs to plant 2 rice sections, maybe ½ hectare at the most and still get as much rice. That’s the kind of stuff I usually have to explain. It is so nice when they people just get it on their own. Two days later I went back to her rice field and saw that all of her other rice sections were planted in straight lines (not SRI, but still straight and easier to weed). She told me that she had already learned how to plant in the straight lines with me so it didn’t make sense to go back to the simple planting. Yes.


The fifth group was with my counterparts. We had a bit of trouble setting up the rice field. Chickens ate all of the originally seeds we sowed as well. However, like all of the other problems this year, we worked around them. They had other rice that was still less than 2 weeks old and we were able to plant. It is nice to work in the rice field with them because I do live in their house and we do so much other work together that is was kind of weird they weren’t a part of my rice farming.


The 6th farmer should have planted before everyone. However, the flood happened. Then there wasn’t enough water in another section. Then funerals happened. We will plant tomorrow if all goes well. If not tomorrow, maybe next year for them. In addition, to the 6 people I will be helping this year at least 8 of the previous 12 farmers are planting again (on their own) and so that feels rewarding. Also, at least three other people are trying SRI on their own and just asking advice from me form time to time. It shows that it is catching on and that I may not be crazy. With rice already at 450 Ariary per cup and likely to increase in the next few months, many people don’t have a choice.


So roughly three weeks down and I have spent the vast majority in a rice field. I’m covered in mud, walking barefoot and, at times, looking utterly exhausted. I think it shows the people in the area that I really do work and that I’m not on vacation.


Now for something not related to rice.


Sadly, the PCVs in the SAVA region had to say goodbye to two volunteers. One was leaving to go back to the US because her contract ended and the other was going to extend in Mananara. I feel like the SAVA family is so close that it really is kind of weird to not have the two volunteers in my little area. We are so hard to get to that we don’t really get a lot of volunteers just passing through.


The Guardian of Antanetiambo is living in the forest. This is good. However, his work has been minimal and I think the independence has proven to make him a little lazy. Obviously, this did not make me happy. I’ve started checking up on him once a week and talking about his work. He still has a long way to go before I don’t need to watch him ALL the time. He just seems to be one of those people that just don’t think about anything. Apparently, I’m not the only one that thinks he isn’t doing a particularly good job, so if he doesn’t improve soon, we will be forced to look for somebody new.


I have almost all of the CEG student visits scheduled. There are only two days left to schedule and they will be in April/May so it isn’t that big of a deal. The books are starting to be printed so that’s a relief as well. All that is left is for RABARY and I to organize our lesson plans.


The tree nursery is more or less on hold for the moment. The local group has planted some of the trees, but I haven’t had time to go with them. We maxed out at around 3,100 trees in the nursery and I think that in March we might be able to plant a last wave (1000 max). Altogether, I’ve been so busy with the rice that I haven’t had time to stress about the nursery.


The construction of the library is an ongoing headache that I will be SO happy to have finished in the next few weeks. We are in the process of putting together shelves, making sure the tables/chairs are finished and of course, trying to fix all of the structural issues of the building because the people who built it were lazy, greedy and didn’t really know what they were doing. However, we will be open and people will be reading (or at least staring at pictures) by February.


As for my new year’s resolution – I am sitting up straighter, but not all of the time. I hope to be conscious of how I’m sitting by the end of this month. By the end of February I hope to always be sitting up straight when I eat. And then, by then end of March, sitting up straight all the time. Obviously, I might make a mistake from time to time, but I think I’m already moving in the rice direction (no pun intended).