Around this time last year I was chasing kids down the road wielding a machete. All because they were stealing fruit and well, I had a little free time on my hands (to be fair, I was cutting the grass, they didn’t see me, and when I caught them they started running. Naturally, I ran after them with machete in hand). This year, I still cut the grass and arrange the things that I’ve planted, but I no longer have to chase the tiny thieves because they come to our house and ask if they can take some guavas. It’s when little things like that happen that I get a good feeling about my interaction with the people in my village. But, it is short lived nonetheless. A week later I was just walking to my outhouse to go to the bathroom and I saw three people stealing guavas. They say me and then bolted. Didn’t even speak one word. I wonder what that’s all about?

The tree nursery work is really picking up. I’ve put together budgets of supplies and kept pushing on one village to get it together to meet and organize. I’ve started doing more work on seeds as well. I’ve been meeting people in the countryside to see if they can collect seeds of trees that we want to plant. I’ve been having trouble putting together a nursery in one village. I think it just comes down to the fact that they don’t really want to work or organize anything and so they’re just avoiding me. I have no problems with that. I’m happy that they are wasting my time now rather then starting a nursery and them wasting my time after we have already built a nursery.

Corn season is in full effect at the moment and I couldn’t be any happier. Either my appetite got a little healthier, I’ve been working harder, or I have worms; because I’ve been hungry all the time! However, now that everyone is cooking corn (and selling it on the side of the road) I can easily buy some corn to hold me over until another meal. I’ve also been eating a lot of voazato (custard apple?). So between the voazato and the corn my diet has been pretty consistent these past few weeks. I’ve also been eating a lot of the guavas (of course I don’t steal mine¬).

I’m trying to get some Dista rice to plant in the Andapa basin. It is a pink kind of rice that only exists in Madagascar. It supposedly has a really nice flavor and does well if it is grown with SRI. It will just take some phone calls and moving all of the pieces together so that I can get the seeds transported up to SAVA. I really wish more conservationists understood the importance of agriculture and how it related to protecting the forest. A lot of people just think it is unrelated and don’t really want anything to do with it. They just think about plant and animal diversity. No food means no money and vice versa. You give people food and money and they have no reason to cut down the forest.

I’m plowing my way through Les Miserables. I’m almost half way through and I still enjoy the story for the most part. However, I am about 500 pages in and I’m kind lacking the interest. I remember when I read War and Peace that it was basically just one long story. With Les Miserables I feel like it is a bunch of little stories that are all combined together. I know that all of the stories relate, but it seems like each new character/sections has a rather lengthy background that I don’t really care for.

After all of my searching for people to make mats to sell as souvenirs, I finally got something done. I biked out to their village a few weeks ago and met them in there house. I’ve had a lot of things go wrong over the past 6 months with people just not getting it together to get their work done or organize. I was really hoping that this time things would be different. I went into there house, do the normal say hello for 20 minutes and then asked about the mats. The lady says that it’s not done. Then she asked me when I’d be around so they could bring them. Thankfully, I didn’t get mad, but explained that I can’t just keep biking out to their village all of the time if nothing is done. She then tells me that some of the work is done. I ask how much. She tells me four mats were finished. A little confused I say, all that I ordered were 4 mats. Her only response was a huge smile.

If I didn’t enjoy messing with people, I might take offense to all of these jokes. However, I just enjoy the practical jokes as long as they don’t last too long. The mats were beautiful and just what I wanted. I paid the lady and I really hope that tourists like them. If we sell them then I will definitely order more.

My house contract is finished and my new palace will be inhabited shortly. It was a lot of work to draw up a contract, translate it, make sure that everything was accounted for and that everyone agreed with everything. I think me and the lady are pretty use to business transactions and so we were a little caught of guard when both of us got so serious about the documentation. I should move into the new house on Saturday.

The teachers went on strike in Andapa. Nope, not all of Madagascar. No, not in all of the major cities. No, not even in just the SAVA region. We’re just talking about Andapa… and just the public schools. Ridiculous. I understand that across the board teachers are overwhelmingly underpaid and probably one of the most necessary if not most necessary civil service. But to go on strike now, and in such a disorganized fashion, is absolutely sickening to me. The students just finished their spring break and are ready to learn, but the teachers aren’t ready to teach. Exams are coming up and I wouldn’t be surprised if many students fail because of the lack of time they have to study. Clearly, many teachers in the Andapa basin don’t really care about their work or the well being of their students.

I suppose the reason I’m so pissed about it is because it really screwed up the student visits to Antanetiambo and I hate having to rearrange and figure out how different students can visit the Reserve so that time and resources aren’t wasted. Also, the students really liked visiting the Reserve and now they can’t because their teachers want more money. I don’t think they’re sending a message to the government, they’re just sending a very negative message to the students and their families.

We’ve begun construction on a fish pond. We’ll see how things really play out, but we’ve already cleared the area and digging will begin in the next few days. The spot is located in a really good location and there is already a large hole so we don’t have to dig too much. I’m a little worried about the project as we get farther down the line. I’m not sure who will be the guardian, how the fish will get their food and the overall maintenance of the project. I wish we would have planned it out a bit better, but it’s already rolling so I guess I’ll just go with it.

I went back in the rice field the other day and it really kicked my butt. I do light exercises every night so I’m in somewhat decent shape. I was running, but it is getting light so late now that I’m waiting until I’m in Andapa and can take advantage of pavement that I don’t really need to see in the dark. Anyway, I harvested rice for an old woman that I taught SRI back in January of 2011. She is such a trooper. She learned SRI through other family members that I taught and she says she’ll keep planting it each season. Each time adding a little bit more. So far, she hasn’t lied to me. I didn’t have any time to plant with her. I didn’t have anytime to weed either. However, I made sure I found the time to go out to her small SRI plot and spend a few hours harvesting her rice. I think it’s those little things that allow for people to respect the work.

Finally, I’ll end on a little thought that I had the other night at dinner (of course dinner by myself, as Puppy chomped on his rice outside). I wonder if any kindergarteners say they want to work in development/volunteer/be in Peace Corps when they grow up? I know that I always hated it when teachers asked us that question. How the hell am I supposed to know? I’m five years old. I’m still shooting nerf guns and playing with G.I. Joe’s and you honestly think that I know what career path I want to follow? If it has anything to do with my interests at the time I’d clearly become a professional ninja, but we all know that no kindergarten teacher would accept that response. I know Obama supposedly wanted to be president of the United States ever since he was really young. I think that’s just coincidence though…or a good campaign strategy.

But, to get a little bit closer to back on subject, I always said that I wanted to be an astronaut. And, to be honest, should NASA ever call me up and tell me that I’m needed to go into space I wouldn’t even hesitate to say yes. I think it would be awesome. However, an astronaut that never goes into space doesn’t interest me the slightest bit. In addition, as I learned more about what it would take to become an astronaut, I don’t think I love math enough for NASA to consider me a vital resource for any space missions. Nonetheless, when confronted with the question of what I’d like to be, I always said astronaut.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that my chances of becoming an astronaut and going into space are pretty slim. Until my recent brainstorm at dinner with Puppy outside licking his bowl now that his rice is finished. We all need to support space/moon colonies. If you love me, just care about me, or, even just know that I exist then you will support this endeavor (wasn’t that the name of a shuttle?). Why? Because we need to start a new world. We will create this new world and naturally we will have all of these different social and economic classes. They will evolve and some groups will become more advanced, while others will lag behind for various reasons. That’s where I come in.

I will have all of this development experience by then (maybe¬) and be an ideal choice to help out with various development projects. I will be the perfect choice to go and work on various problems with our Space World/Moon Colony. NASA will call me up and say, “Nick, you know that picture you drew in kindergarten. Well, that’s gonna be you. You’re an astronaut for development!”

That’s when I finished my beans and rice and snapped out of the day dream. Although, I don’t really think that it could be classified as a day dream because it wasn’t during the day. But, I wasn’t sleeping either so it couldn’t have been a regular dream. It had to have been somewhere in between. A half dream as you will. So, I snapped out of this half dream. My meal was finished, Puppy had ran off to go bark at something and, taking advantage of my half dream state, a mosquito had bit my forehead. Back to reality. I bet if NASA did call the phone reception would be out and I’d never get the voicemail. Oh well.

*The rat never returned. I think I scared him too much. That doesn’t mean all is quiet in my house come nightfall. I sometimes see things moving in the shadows and hear sounds in the middle of the night. The poison is spread along the sides of the floor so let’s just hope that the shadows die outside of my house rather than inside.