Well, I’ve made it back to Madagascar. The adjustment has been a little slow, but I wouldn’t say that it has been difficult. The time change always seems to knock me out. Especially because I’m so exhausted that I sleep great the first night and then slowly get worse until getting better. Two nights in a row I woke up at 2am. 2am! I don’t know what that’s all about.  However, I worked through the grogginess because there was a lot to get done!

The first thing that I adapted to was that I’m old. I’ve been a PCV for two and half years. It use to be that I was always seeing the same people when I transited through the Peace Corps house in Tana. However, most of my friends from before have gone and I’ll often find myself going in there and seeing a ton of new faces. Although it is a little daunting at first, it’s nice to meet new people – in general Peace Corps volunteers are pretty cool. I had a few days in Tana to organize my things before flying back North.

I flew into Sambava from Tana and got right back into the real Madagascar. I lugged all of my luggage around town while I did some errands. I bought 5,000 plastic pots for our tree nurseries because we should be planting soon. However, the transaction didn’t go as smoothly as one would have thought, but that’s how Madagascar is. They understood what I wanted, brought it out and had it ready, it was just the amount that seemed confusing. It took me five minutes of explaining before they realized they were going to give me about 20,000 plastic pots for free. Eventually I explained to them what I needed at what I was paying for and we worked it all out. I shouldn’t have to work this hard to not rip someone off!

I left the store and was on my way to the taxi station because I really just wanted to be back at my house after all of my travels. I have my backpack (pretty much an electronics store), my big bag of luggage (22 kilos of clothes, crap and gifts) and then a box of 5,000 plastic pots. I get out of the taxi at the station and the normal taxi crew accosts me – not missed at all. It’s just that this time I have more things than I can move around with easily. They take the stuff once they know that I’m going to Andapa and throw it onto a Taxi that is coming out of the station. I ask if it is leaving now and they say yes. I think to myself, nice, this was a pleasant surprise.

I climb up the beefy vehicle and my smile turns upside down when I see that the car isn’t full. We aren’t leaving any time soon. A car never leaves half full. In SAVA, a car never leaves until it has two to a seat.

We drive around and look for people and do as many things as possible that are inefficient and wasting everyone’s time. By the time we get back to the station to get more passengers, I realize that there were two other cars and they are full now and ready to go. But me, I’m just sitting in the hot bus, tired, thirsty, and hungry and wanting to go home. Yet, stationary I am inside the car. Did I mention I sat behind the driver? Yeah, the floor was raised and I swear I had my chin resting on my knees. 4 hours later, I arrive in Andapa and couldn’t be happier that I don’t have to travel for a long time!

It was weird to see how Madagascar had changed in my eyes but probably not changed at all. The road seemed smaller and more worn. The people and town of Andapa seemed dirtier. I know they didn’t change it was just that I had been in Madagascar for 2 years and 4 months, my idea of normal was skewed a bit. After being home, I got to see the Madagascar that most tourists see. I think I got over it quickly though.

 

My house was relatively clean and in good shape for being gone for so long; that was a nice surprise. I kind of expected coming home to a giant mess, but everything was more or less the same. Granted, there was a huge pile of sand in front of my house, but that’s because the owner of the house is building a staircase so that they can get into the top section of the house while I’m gone. I have mixed feelings about it, but it should be fine. It just means I need to lock all of the rooms in my house when I leave, rather than just the outside doors.

I had left an avocado seed in some water in a bowl before I left. It just looked like a seed sitting in some water before I went home. But, when I came back…it was already a foot tall! I was amazed that the seed could grow in some water without any soil, and without any light. One month of just sitting in the house and it managed to grow. I guess avocados are even easier than I thought!

I was kind of embarrassed to tell people that I’d been home. I felt like I was spoiled; that I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t want to tell them that I had a chance to go do all of these expensive and fun things for a month. Especially, since everyone told me that it pretty much just rained everyday and has been cold. I gave gifts to some people and passed out sweets to a lot of people in the area. It was good because I didn’t have enough candy for everyone but I got a lot of coverage out of it and so a lot of people got a little ‘voandalana’ from me.

My mom made a book filled with pictures of when she visited me back in June of 2011. I put it in our library so that everyone could look at it. They really enjoyed seeing all of the pictures, because it was all people and places that they knew. It was a great idea and an even better gift for people to look at.

I sat in on Nadege’s (our librarian) English class. He has really improved since he started in April of this year. He seems to have grown up and really takes his job seriously. In addition, he is getting better as a teacher. I really think all of the work that Kim (the other Environment PCV) puts in to monitor his teaching is paying off.  This is definitely sustainable because Nadege will be in Madagascar for much longer than Kim or I can promise. I hope that he keeps it up.

As I went around checking on everything, I realized that I wasn’t in the shape that I use to be. I hadn’t biked at all while I was home and my legs definitely felt it. I didn’t miss riding my bike in the mud while it was cold and raining either. Or when it’s almost dark and I just want to get home, but I have to go a little slower because the bugs are so bad that if I go fast there are just endless little bugs in my eyes. Yeah, life in America is easy. I put on a little weight in California, but nothing crazy. Still, I hope to start running in the next few weeks and get back into shape. Funny to think that I need to be in shape to be an effective Peace Corps volunteer.

The nursery plans didn’t come together as well as I had hoped in my absence. However, they came along exactly how I expected – a few things were done (a big thanks to Kim for moving things along) but not everything was done that they said would. Therefore, I got to have meetings with the nurseries and tell people they need to start doing what they said they would do and that I will do what I said I’d do.

I finished buying a majority of the tools and transporting equipment to the various sites. I also put together schedules so that we could start planting. I think I just need to get people to come out and get everyone in the swing of things. Then, in about two weeks we can actually start to do work efficiently. One nursery asked a little bit about getting paid and I squashed it immediately (nicely though). It did scare me for the future. It also reminded me how far I’ve come with the people that I’ve been working with for the past two years and how much we care and trust each other. These other groups are still in the beginning stages and I have to remember that.

I’ve been meeting with people who are or have the ability to collect seeds for us. It is moving along slowly, but I have full confidence in them. I’m happy to be working with them and doing it at a reasonable price (some of the seeds that we have were bought by other people for a pretty outrageous amount).

The nurseries still aren’t quite ready, so I’m not in a huge hurry to get seeds, but it would be nice to have a little more inventory that I have now. The other unexpected problem is that the amount of manure isn’t quite enough right now either – it’s been to wet. So, we’ll just have to wait for things to come around and then deal with them while we can.

I spent all day today in the forest planting Jack Fruit seeds. It was good to go back in there, barefoot, swinging a shovel and machete. My feet and body held up better than I thought they would. However, I was still pretty exhausted.

As for my free time, Game of Thrones (the book) has been taking up most of my free time. Pretty good books if I’m still interested after watching the series!

 

 

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