The Director of the Lemur Conservation Foundation (LCF) came to Madagascar. I was lucky to have a chance to meet her and to help her travel around the country. She was looking into various ecotourism sites for Donors to visit as well as visit Tampolo Reserve and see how the Reserve is functioning. LCF funds a lot of projects in the Tampolo Reserve and her visit was to see the area and look into various development projects that could happen in the future. She didn’t speak French or Malagasy, so I got to help translate and guide her around. It’s amazing how much stuff I take for granted after 27 months here.

After a few days in Tana we went to Fort Dauphin in the south and saw Berenty Reserve. I had been to Berenty back in February with my Dad so I was curious to see how the Reserve would be a second time around. It was definitely cooler this time around, which made walking through the forest much easier. However, Berenty still seemed too much like a zoo to me. It was only during the night walk through the spiny forest (when we didn’t see that many animals) that I really appreciated the area. It was nice that the guy in the museum remembered me from my visit with my Dad; as well as my old guide and driver. It’s little things like that that really make one appreciate the Malagasy and their culture. I’m sure if I visited a place in the States, they wouldn’t have even noticed that I’d been there before. As always, the food in Berenty was phenomenal, but this time I got sick.

The day that we left Berenty I got sicker than I had ever been in my two years in Madagascar. It was amazing to think how sick I could still get in this country; somewhat humbling I suppose. Despite the severity of the illness, I was able to function enough the next day, get on a plane, and then get some rest. Sadly, during this sickness, I had bathroom issues with each place that we stayed.

The toilet just kept running in my room in Tana; at one point flooding a bit. In addition, it had no hot water. Here I am, in the freezing weather of Tana (not really that cold, but I’m spoiled in the Northeast) with a fever and everything else only to have a bathroom that didn’t really work. It was weird to have the feeling after I’ve been healthy for so long. I had no idea that as long as I felt sick I wouldn’t have a functioning bathroom.

The next day we flew to Maroantsetra and I had another room with a bad toilet, but Maroantsetra has so much to offer and is so nice that it wasn’t really the worst place to be. It was nice to see another town on the East coast, especially because Andapa is often compared to the area. The forest in Maroantsetra/Masoala area was very beautiful and definitely the picturesque rain forest that a lot of people might think of when they think of Madagascar. It had misty mountains and forest that stretched all the way to the beach. It wasn’t too difficult to see lemurs either, so that’s a pretty big tourist attraction as well. In Masoala I felt like I was really in the forest and not necessarily a tourist attraction or zoo.

So, as I regained my health and got to walk around and experience this wonderful area, my bathroom decided to rebel against me, yet again. I came back from our morning hike only to find that the bathroom was flooded because the toilet just kept running. Thankfully, the bathroom wasn’t inside the room, but connected to the outside and so therefore I didn’t have any flooding with my things or the things in the room. I was just surprised more than anything that this trend of a bad bathroom had followed me for so long.

After Maroantsetra, we went to Tamatave (another toilet that didn’t flush properly and the water ran) and then drove up to Tampolo Reserve near Fenoarivo. I really liked the Tampolo area and Fenoarivo. It seemed a lot like Andapa in the sense that it was on the edge of a tourist region; meaning that one could have a beautiful location but not too many tourists or problems.

We checked out Tampolo Reserve and spoke with all of the people working there because it is the sister reserve for Lemur Conservation Foundation. They’ve already put a lot of money into the Reserve, and I think after this visit they will put in more time and effort to improve things because there are still some issues with illegal logging.

On our way back to Tana we stopped in Andasibe. I’de been to Andasibe a few times before, but I had the best night walk that I’ve ever done in this country when we were in Andasibe. We lucked out and got a clear night and the starts and the forest were absolutely amazing.

Altogether, the traveling was pretty intensive. I wouldn’t suggest that people try to see as much as we saw in such a short amount of time if they can help it. We were traveling around on business and so it was important to see as many places and get as much information as we could. However, if one is just visiting Madagascar, I think it is better to hang out for a bit in each place and really get the experience. Also, the longer that I stay in Madagascar, the more I enjoy sharing Madagascar with other people. It’s great showing people the projects that are really happening in this country and how they can help and be productive with their own projects.

My journey back to Andapa is in normal Madagascar fashion. I arrived at the airport at 4:45am so that I could leave on my 6am flight. However, it turned out that the flight got moved to 7:40am and nobody from Air Madagascar thought that that might be of interest to me. Then, to add insult to injury, the plane was an hour late. Once I got into Sambava I ended up waiting for another 5 hours just before the taxi would leave for Andapa. Finally, I managed to get into Andapa just before 7pm. I suppose things like this shouldn’t surprise me anymore. They still surprise me, I think I’m just more tolerant.

My first day back in Andapa was busy and good. I was able to catch up on most things that I’d been away from and organize what I need to do in the next few weeks. Magically, a calendar that was mostly blank filled up rather quickly. I spoke to some of my SRI people who harvested while I was gone and they were very happy with their rice harvest. They didn’t give me numbers on the increase, but they said it was good and I’m sure that they will do SRI in the future. While I was in Tana I shipped the pink rice that I ordered to Andapa. Thankfully, another volunteer was able to pick it up while I was gone. Because I won’t have any time this winter to really plant, I’m going to distribute the rice for the next summer season.

As my extension is based mostly on a major reforestation project, I’ve been getting more and more things in order. I’m still meeting with people, figuring out where we will get seeds, and making sure that everything is perfect (or as close as it can be) for when the time to plant comes.

I finally found out when I’ll have my home leave. I will be in California from July 18 – August 18. I’m really excited to go home for a while. I would have never guessed when I left back in March of 2010 that I’d be here as long as I’ve been and have intentions of staying even longer. Regardless of how long I end up staying in Madagascar, I really do hope to see as many people as possible when I’m home.

Malagasy Independence Day is just around the corner (June 26). I do enjoy a good party, but I hope to get some work done in the next few weeks. We’ll see how long it takes for the money and alcohol to run dry…