The fish farm is finished. The house, fence, canals and pipes have all been built. I didn’t really agree with how it all went or the purpose of certain parts, but it is finished and ready to go…we just need the fish! We also need to find a guardian to live out there as well. More than anything, I’m extremely curious to see how this project plays out. I’ve never done any fish farming before, so I really have no expertise in the matter. I don’t know who will take responsibility for the project either, or in other words, make sure that everything goes as planned and doesn’t fail in the next few months. I suppose if we have a guard and a fence, and they both do their job, then really there shouldn’t be much more too it until the fish are full grown. Did I mention we decided to raise ducks near this pond too?

I’m getting more things together for the tree nurseries. I met with the people in Ambodivohitra Marovato and got them on board for our plans. I also met with people in Andapa and I seem to have found a place to build a nursery there as well. That means I should have the three different nurseries that I wanted to make. They will all work because they appreciate the environment, they want to plant trees and they know if they wait any longer that it might be too late. I met a great contact in Andapa who I think will be able to collect a lot of the seeds for our nurseries. He knows a lot about trees and has been planting trees (on a small scale) for a long time and he really cares about the forest so it should be a good partnership. However, I’m skeptical and paranoid as always. I’ll wait until the end of August rolls around; I’ll either have a bunch of seeds to plant or be scrambling to just find something to plant in the nursery.

I’ve pretty much finished my small reforestation project of Antanetiambo. I planted about 130 seeds for students to plant. Those students never came to visit the Reserve, but I still planted their trees anyway. It feels good to get out there and plant trees. I even took some trees back to Andapa and planted them around my house. Thankfully, the neighbors that I haven’t really connected with too much over the past two months really were interested in my tree planting (granted they were drunk at the time). Regardless, the trees seem to be in good shape, so at least they are respected. I think they realize that it would be pointless to destroy fruit trees that will produce fruit for them.

More than anything, it got me thinking about drunk people (one could say in general, but it is probably more accurate for my thoughts to be directed specifically toward the demographic of drunk Malagasy people). A lot of drunks (or people who are drinking) are unsafe, I suppose. More so, I’d just say they are unpredictable and that alone can make someone dangerous. But, I think that for the most part I’ve interacted with a lot of drunk people over the past two years (most of the time not being intoxicated myself) and haven’t had any problems. Maybe I’m just a professional at talking to local drunks. I think the majority of them aren’t really trying to scare anyone or do any harm. They’re just coming from a shy culture and finally have some liquid courage in their system to make them more outgoing. It’s hard to say that I would tell anyone to seek out the drunks. However, a lot of people might be drunk on occasion, but aren’t drunk all of the time. And when you get to know them when they’re sober they’re actually pretty cool; and when they’re drunk, you know that a cool person still exists the majority of the time. I haven’t had any major offenses, so I’ve managed to let the little drunken slip-ups just slide on by.

The Independence Day celebrations of June 26th came and went. I have to say that I prefer life in the countryside during this time of year rather than in the city. The partying starts WAY to early and my sleep definitely suffered from other people’s apparently free schedules. At one point I was trying to sleep and I was listening to three different house parties play three different songs. Then there was the hotel down the street that had karaoke going until 4am on the Saturday night before. I’m sure there was a time that I would have been partying with the best of them for the full two weeks (the week before and the week after, of course), but I must be getting too old for all of that.

But just because I’m old and boring doesn’t mean that I don’t like to party at all! I’m not that boring yet. So when I got the invitation from the District Office to sit and listen to all of the Independence Day speeches I was devastated. It’s a big honor to get an invitation and to be able to sit up on stage and hear all of the ‘important’ people talk. However, I really would have rather just hung out with friends and celebrated the holiday. I had to accept the invitation, switch out my mesh shorts and flip flops for slacks and dress shoes, and do the respectable thing: Being a grown up sucks. I’ve said it since I was young and there have been very few things in this life so far that have proven otherwise. Thankfully, the Malagasy people continue to celebrate for the week after Independence Day. That way, I could be a grown up when it counted for the local community and still have fun when it counted for me.

I finished reading Les Miserables. As a whole I didn’t really like the book although certain sections were very entertaining or moving. The time that it took to finish the novel made me realize that often when one reads literature it shapes their thinking, at least for the time being. While reading Les Miserables I noticed that I tried to be more compassionate in many situations. Always a Runner and Born to Run made me think about my health and love for running. Invisible Man made me think about being a minority here in Madagascar as well as all of the other racial/cultural conflict that I come in contact with each day. 100 Years of Solitude brought out the magic realism that surrounds my daily life in Madagascar and made me notice the beauty of where I’m living (it’s sad that I can sometimes forget). Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance taught me to be a little more patient and to search for quality rather than quantity. To think about what I’m doing.

What am I doing?

As I thought about how some of the books I’ve read over the past two years have influenced my changing views on life, my reading of The Poisonwood Bible has made me think even more about my Peace Corps service. Each chapter contains an event that I feel that I can relate to, that I lived through. Similar emotions; and the Congo, at least how it appears in the book, is nothing like the Madagascar that I’m living in. They were in the Congo as Missionaries. I’m most definitely not spreading the word of God. Reading The Poisonwood Bible and having a rough week where the main Malagasy man that I’m supposed to be working with is MIA and apparently having no desire to come back or tell anyone of his whereabouts, has made me contemplate yet again; What am I still doing in Madagascar (it’s been 28 months if you’re keeping count)?

The Peace Corps goals are pretty straightforward. Goal 1 (all of these in paraphrase as I’m too lazy to look them up in the handbook): To increase the livelihoods/skills of the local people in host country. Goal 2: To increase the knowledge of local people about American Culture. Goal 3: To increase the knowledge of Americans about a foreign culture. It’s only Goal 1 that can be a little difficult at times 

So, as I’ve entered into this third year extension it makes me think a little more about the three goals and about why I’m still here in Madagascar. To be honest, I’m not really sure. I know that I enjoy it here, but I’m not sure what about life in Madagascar really keeps me in. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just prolonging the future. However, I often think about a career in development and so that wouldn’t be entirely true that I’m prolonging growing up. Other times, I think that maybe I’ve just been here too long and I’m scared to go back or that I don’t know what I’m missing. To go home is exciting and terrifying, similar to how I felt before I came to Madagascar. I’ll go on my one month home leave in two weeks. I guess I’ll figure out a lot more when I’m home (or at least eat as much processed food, enjoy washing machines/dryers, functional transportation, etc. ).

That’s when I realized that the purpose of Peace Corps, or at least my Peace Corps experience, is about happiness. I left the United States because I couldn’t stand sitting in an office all day. I’ve changed that and I enjoy my work much more than I ever did doing office work. This happiness transfers over to the people I work with; me being quite lucky that so many Malagasy people have agreed to work with me or take a chance on me on various projects. I don’t really know where I’m going in the future, I could really end up anywhere and be doing anything. As long as it makes me and those I work with (or those who are affected by my work) happy then it’s where I want to be.

So as the days become weeks, weeks to months, and months to years, I think I’ll just have to figure out where I’m going when I see a fork in the road. If I don’t see any forks, then it only makes sense to keep going straight ahead. As of right now, I have a straight shot in Madagascar for another year. That’s what I’m thinking about; and that makes me happy.

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