I completed my move to Andapa. I spent one morning doing a little bit of prep for the move. Then, the morning of the move it took about one and a half hours to get all of my stuff together. In one trip, I was able to move all of the things that I’ve accumulated over two years. Not bad.

It was sad though. I really feel a connection with Matsobe after two years. The people, the house, the area, the sounds; it was hard to say goodbye to it all even if I was only moving about 7km away.

The first week and a half has been weird to say the least. Life in the city is not the same as in the countryside. First of all, I think I’m the first one to wake up in my compound. It used to be that I’d hear people walking and biking around before I got out of bed. I also have a much bigger house and so it takes me longer to do the morning sweeping; which is guess, isn’t really something I can complain about too much. However, having a nicer house means that I’m even more of a “vazaha” for a lot of people.

Battling the vazaha stereotype will be hard, but not impossible. First, I can speak Malagasy. If I moved into this house two years ago things would have been really different. Now, I can explain things to people and help them realize that just because I have a nice house, it doesn’t mean that I necessarily have money (other vazahas do). Second, I’m the first person to wake up on the compound. I’m still working on a million things. I come home in the dark covered in mud. I think I can show people that just because I have the new house doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop working. If nothing else, it just means that I should work harder. And, now that I have electricity and water it really doesn’t matter what time I eat dinner or shower. Amazing the million little things that change once plumbing and electricity are introduced. However, the power does go out from time to time. I’m still in Madagascar.

I’ve tried to buy things to get me settled into the new house. It has been one headache after the other. I’m not quite sure why everything is so difficult to come by, but it is. Something that should take me 20 minutes ends up taking 2 hours. Even the little things get annoying because I have to lock my house every time I leave. It was nice when I could just run down the street to get something and didn’t have to worry about locking my house. Maybe that’s still true, but I don’t trust it yet.

I have a new environment surrounding my house. I’m surrounded by houses and families. There are already people that I like and those that I’d rather not spend any time with. The kids are in a constant state of either being extremely cute or annoying. I said jokingly to one little girl that we should go to the market as I was leaving my house. The next thing I know I have 5 little girls following me the entire time that I bought food and then walked back with me. They seemed to love it, and I just laughed with all of the other Malagasy people that saw us. I taught a little bit of English to some kids and explained to everyone that I wasn’t French and that I’m not even close to competent in the French language. I did some back flips of course as that’s an easy way to get respect of a seven year old. I still need to meet some of the neighbors, and I know that some of them have been avoiding me a little too. I’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out. More than anything I want two things to happen: First that I actually like the people that live close to me, and second, that my house is relatively safe when I’m not there.

I’m getting a real workout with all of the biking that is tacked on because I live a little farther away. I tried to go running the other day but it was just so cold! I mentally couldn’t get prepared for it. I’ll try again later this week. Part of me thinks my decision isn’t influenced entirely by it being cold, but because I know washing the clothes will be a hassle. The one day that I did end up running it rained during my run and then my clothes, of course, didn’t dry. However, running in the rain on pavement isn’t bad compared to mud.

My camera died. Upsetting. I didn’t drop it, it didn’t get wet, and it wasn’t crushed. I have absolutely no idea why it gave up on me. I looked at it with a friend who knows a little about cameras and he told me that the pieces that are likely to be broken are so expensive that it would just make more sense to buy a new camera than to try to fix it. So that’s where I’m at. All these people ready to harvest rice, new house, changing weather, etc. and I can’t even take one picture. Sucks.

As far as rice goes we’ve had a lot of rain so the harvesting has been put on hold. I’ve had one SRI farmer harvest. Their rice was ok, but not great, so we’ll see what happens when they really count how much seeds they got for that section. The others should harvest in the next few weeks and then one person in the middle of June. I’ll be happy to have some closure with that as everything seems kind of up in the air at the moment. I should have my pink rice bought by next month. Then it just depends on transportation from Tana.

I’ve scrambled to organize more student visits to Antanetiambo. The teacher strike is still going and many CEG students don’t get to visit the Reserve. Instead, I’ve been taking private school kids, English clubs, and then private program students as well. The last day for the program to be possible will be this Friday. We’ll see how many people we can organize before then. I know that I can plant the extra trees. The notebooks can be used for other programs, but the work books were kind of a specific book for a specific occasion. I’m not really sure what we’ll do with the extra copies. If nobody wants them then I’ll give them to the people working at MNP, WWF, PLAE, and CSA offices in Andapa. They could probably benefit from the English/Malagasy translations and they might be interested in the information as well.

The fish pond is near completion. As always I’ve been checking up on everything and managing everything even though it isn’t really my project. The workers are still in high spirits, the sections are being dug at the correct angles and levels and it should be a very nice/large fish pond when it is finished. We just found a professional rock breaker and he will have about two weeks of work breaking rocks both in and out of the pond. We need to build a canal straight through a giant rock. Then we’ll just have to figure out where we will get the young fish and who will be living out there to guard everything. I had one blow up session with them because I wasn’t sure they were working very hard. I think I might have been paying them too often. Regardless, I wasn’t sure that people were showing up at the right time and that they were working hard. It really sucks that I have to be mean here in order for people to work. Maybe Machiavelli was on to something…or at least came from a similar social structure when he wrote “The Prince”. If I’m just nice all of the time then they think they can slack off.

I’ve met the new volunteers for the region. I was excited to meet my replacement as well as the replacement for the volunteer in Anjangoveratra (probably not spelled correctly). It is so crazy to think that this time two years ago I was just getting into Sambava and everything was so new. Now, it is just normal. Even crazier, I’ve been on this island for more than 26 straight months. Despite the nice house, America will be weird…if Peace Corps ever gets it together to buy my flight.

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