Yet another birthday passed in Madagascar. Crazy to think that I’ve spend the last three birthdays in Madagascar, and there should be a fourth.  I got on the early flight April 1st back to Sambava and then dealt with little meetings all day so I went to bed pretty early on the 1st. The real fun started just as April 2nd rolled around…


It was just past midnight when I woke up to a giant rat in my bed; on top of me. I had made it almost two years without having rodents IN my bed. That streak ended. The thing ran on top of me before I jolted awake and threw it against my mosquito net. My heart racing and blinded by darkness I was more than ready to get that thing out of my bed. However,  it bounced on the net and came back at me only to get rolled up in the sheets. I did another rapid shake and it flew around through the sheets and left my bed while the wooden slats on the bottom of the bed fell out and made a loud crashing noise. At this point, I decided to find my flashlight and illuminate the situation.


I put on my headlamp and searched around the room. I found the rat. I think I scared it pretty bad (it should never go in my bed), but I was out for vengeance. I had a broom close by and so I started my attack. Chasing it everywhere I could until it slipped through the cracks and went downstairs. Then a new noise appeared.


Turns out the neighbors didn’t know that I’d come home and were worried someone broke into my house. So, they came up to my door and started scratching and pulling on things to make sure that nobody had gotten into my house (I know this because they apologized the next morning).


When it was all done I had to struggle to lift the mattress and slide the wooden slats back into place. It took a while before I fell back asleep because I wasn’t completely convinced that I wasn’t going to have another visitor.  When it was all done, it was 12:02am. Happy birthday.


I think this is a good sign for 26. As long as all of my nights aren’t like this.


However, despite this traumatic event and surviving the evil 6am flight from Tana back to Sambava, I seem to have kept my appearances together. All the women in my village said that I’m “botra-botra” now that I came back from Tana. In other words, I put on weight, but in a good way. I think more than anything, after the extremely busy months of January-March, my body was broken down and just needed a break. I finally, got it and maybe I’m refreshed.  I just like how the vocabulary has changed over the past two years. It used to be that I’d go away for a bit, not be super skinny, and then I’d be “geda” (big/fat). But now, I’m botra, which is fat in a cute way. You know, complements are hard to come by when you get to my old age, so I’ll take what I can get.


I’ve become even more Malagasy lately. I had to fire the guardian for Antanetiambo. He just made too many mistakes and so I was the chosen one to send him the news. However, I had a lot of help from fate, higher powers, or just luck. The guy said there as a witch dancing around his house and that was one reason he didn’t want to stay there. I also told him that his home town was getting a new school and he should return to teaching. When I got to the firing part, he seemed more relieved than mad or sad. It went down a lot easier than I would have ever imagined!


With the firing done, we got the new guys in there. They are twin brothers who will switch off every two weeks. One twin is there now and the other will go in next week. They seem like a good bunch of guys and I hope things work out with them. They are more local as well, so that makes things appear a little better too. I’ll have to keep talking with them every week to see what they’re doing, but I think they should work out. More than anything, I don’t want to try and find someone new.


The new librarian is in the library! We have him cataloging and we are setting library hours and getting everything organized. I think he’ll work out, but once again I don’t want to get my hopes up before any real work is done. The thing I like about the librarian is how independent he is and he seems to really want to be working in the library. I think he realizes that it is a pretty good situation to be in and really not the hardest work in the world.


Some fellow PCV’s are putting on a presentation for green charcoal. It is really cool. You can make charcoal out of grass, cardboard, rice hulls etc. and then use it to cook. They will give a presentation and try to sign people up so I went to the PLAE and CSA offices and talked people into checking it out. Crazy to think about how many people I know and connections I’ve made over the past two years. I know a lot of PCV’s are ready to leave after 2 years, but I think a lot of good could come if people did 3 years instead. It is a long time though.


Rice goes on as always. Of course, this is the best time of year for working in a rice field if you’re lazy because now it is just time to wait. This is good if there is water, but not so good when there isn’t any water. If we have lots of water we just let the water sit in the field and watch it produce grains. No water, we hope it rains enough. The latter is what we’re dealing with now. However, I have one farmer who already has over 100 tillers on some of their rice plants so I don’t think we’re in horrible shape. I also learned of another farmer in Matsobe who tried SRI. Once again, the people I don’t teach are the most exciting because it shows that they are catching on, on their own, and views of farming rice are changing. Altogether, the pause in rice is good for me because I can start to plan all of the other things that will be happening in the next few months.  However, with it cooling down a bit, it’s much harder to take a bucket shower at night when I’m not covered in mud. It’s only wehn I’m absolutely filthy that I know there is no other decision than taking that icy water right down the back.


My new house negotiations are underway. I had the NGO who is paying for my housing look over the house and meet with the people who are responsible for taking care of the house. It went well and everyone thought that it should be a good fit (I still think the house is too nice for me, but there really wasn’t any middle ground in the housing in Andapa). I should be able to move in by the end of April, and the house in Matsobe will be ready for the new PCV starting in May.


The tree nursery construction plans are in full force now. I’m scrambling to meet with everyone about possible workers, schedules, trees, seeds, equipment and everything else that needs to be there for a working nursery. It is only after I go on multiple bike rides to people’s houses, where they don’t have phones and are constantly going different places that I realize that a world with internet, cell phones and automobiles really does function at a quicker pace. At times I miss it.


Finally, I’ve survived another Easter Monday here in Madagascar. It’s funny how the Monday after Easter is the bigger celebration here. Sure, a lot of people do go to church on Easter (a lot of people go to church here anyway) and it is regarded as a religious holiday, but the real party is on the Monday. Everyone goes out to the “forest”, which is really just some area away from town, and they have a huge picnic. It was a lot of fun last year, and this year didn’t disappoint either.


It’s interesting how I experience the holidays now. First off, nothing surprises me. People are killing chickens and ducks left and right, getting water from places that can only be harboring bacteria and parasites, kids are playing with machetes, and people are drinking at 10am. Before, I think that would have been a lot to take in. Now, it has just become party of my life. Second, I realize how important the holidays are to people who don’t really have many days off. Of course, some people go to church or there are days that are taboo to work, but for the most part people work everyday around here. Sure they spend more money then they should on the Holidays, but it’s nice to watch people enjoy themselves. We all need a little time off from time to time.