We’ve been busy in Antanetiambo lately. Planting, organizing, and getting ready for more planting. We finished planting about 1,000 Jackfruit seeds in the Reserve; hopefully they will grow. The seeds tend to grow very easily and so we decided to plant them directly in the soil rather than in plastic pots. It’s strange enough that someone decided it necessary to buy the seeds.

In addition to the Jackfruit, we’ve acquired (sorry, I only know the Malagasy names) Fahamelona, Arongana, Mandarorofo, Tsara Ravina, Acacia, Antohiravina and Rafia. By next week we should have Papaya, Palissandre, Aramy and Vongo. So 12 different species and it is only September, not bad. We still hope to get some precious woods along with a variety of other native/endemic trees to plant. All together, we are hoping to have 20-25 species of trees planted in this next year. But in order to plant, the nurseries have to get together…

To get things rolling I’ve been transporting things out to the countryside. It’s when I have to bring things that I realize I really do live 7-11 kilometers away from where I work. The other day I biked out there carrying to large packets of dried bamboo so that we could make the roof for the beds in the nursery. The last time I did that was back in December 2010. I think I’ve gotten a lot stronger and much better at riding a bike since then. Also, I’ve been taking out gunny sacks of cow manure because it’s been to wet and I had to get the manure from other people rather than just having the tree nursery members collect it. I’m sure there will be many more transports in the future.

The Ambodivohitra nursery is new and so we’ve been experiencing all of the setbacks that come with that. People being late/ not showing up, things not being done on time and all of the other uncertainties and issues that come up with new groups. However, they’re coming along and I think they’ll be a good group. I sometimes forget all of the work that I put into the Matsobe Nursery (the people especially) and how I need to remember that this new nursery isn’t used to working with me. We’re still building the fences and the beds, but we should be able to start planting next week. I think it helped that I did physical labor with them so they know that I’m serious about working and not just showing up every 5 days or so and watching people work. Besides, planting in the pots is the easy part, so once we get there people should be excited to work.

The Matsobe Nursery started when they said they would, but not in the fashion that I would have liked. Everyone was late except for one guy. So, I went around town, to their houses and asked if they were still working in the nursery or if they decided to leave. They all said they were still working and so I told all of them that they are late. After being angry and yelling a bit, everyone showed up and we got to work. This nursery already knows how to do everything, so if I can just get them going, then there isn’t much else I have to take care of. We worked the entire day in the nursery and planted 823 plastic pots or potential trees (Antohiravina, Famelona, and Acacia). I spoke to them about how happy I was with their work and then told them that if they are more than 30 minutes late, then they will not be considered present, and they won’t earn any trees for that day.

The United States Embassy has provided a traveling education source called “The Multicultural Center. I’ve been meeting with the mayor of Andapa and other authorities so that everything will be in place and ready to go for when the set up arrives. It should get into Andapa on October 1 and stay until October 30. I still don’t really know a whole lot about it, but I hope to learn more and maybe take some pictures of it while I’m in Sambava so that I can better explain it to the Mayor. Everyone seems very excited to have this opportunity for Andapa, so I’ll just try to help in whatever way that I can.

We finally got our supposed permanent guardian for the fish farm. Him and his family just moved in on the 1st of September. I’m hoping that they will all feel comfortable as he and his family are not from the area. However, I’ve met him before and he seems like an honest, hardworking guy, so that should be all that matters. Hopefully, I don’t have to check in on him too much. We got him a bicycle and some new pots. We also got chains and locks for the two gate entrances to the pond. I think his family is a little worried about safety because they aren’t from the Andapa area. If the locks and time don’t make them feel safe then I’m worried they might not be there very long. 

Santa came to Madagascar. I guess he was on “Gasy Time” because he came in September, but I guess it is better late than never. Churches from the United States sent gifts to people here in Madagascar. It was funny to see what they sent, and it was even more fun to have to explain to the people what some of the gifts were. Madagascar and the developed world are separated quite a bit; if nothing else, those people in the United States, although they may be very generous, have no real idea what people who have nothing really need. Sometimes, the Malagasy people got things that were pretty cool and useful, other times, I just laughed and tried to explain why someone would send it.  Some of the most useful: Dental Floss and The Bible. You can’t even buy floss in this country, at least to my knowledge. Actually, you can probably get it in Tana, but it doesn’t make it up to SAVA. Thankfully, Peace Corps supplies it. The Bible has potential to teach English to those who really know the passages. If it’s what they’re already into, then they should be encouraged to use it as a tool to help them practice their English. The least useful:  A plastic shovel and pitch fork, each maybe about 8 inched long. I don’t really see why. These kids play in the real world, not in a sand pit. And I think the machetes that they wield everyday are a little more exciting than the plastic set. The really cool: I got to teach people how to play Jacks, use a Yo-Yo and explain some of the books that people got.

As for my free-ish time, the past week has been kind of strange. There have been quite a few memorable moments or things that I thought were strange. There was also the pure entertaining:

I went to a church party for the Lutheran Church in Andapa. Some people were trying to go to Toliara so they put together this party with food, drinks and music. It was pretty fun, even if I didn’t know any of the songs and I’m not religious myself.  It was weird to be back in the social circle of the town. The next week a bunch of people told other friends of mine that they thought I had already gone home and they were surprised to see me there…I’m still here!

I had lunch with a family that I farmed rice with this past January. They never had a chance to thank me (I wouldn’t take any money or any of their rice) so we had lunch together. I got there on time, but obviously, I was there early so she was still cooking. They had me sit in their living room and watch music videos. Out of all of the things she chose, she thought that the Backstreet Boys would be a good fit. So I sat and watched an hour’s worth of Backstreet Boys music videos. I have to say, it wasn’t really that bad. It was interesting to see how their videos and their looks changed over time; how they tried to get an ‘edge’ to them maybe? I don’t think it really worked. Also, I was so young when they came out that I never really realized how young they looked when they started! Finally, I thought that making a Backstreet Boys video has to be one of the most difficult things ever. Usually the songs are kind of dopy love songs or don’t really have too much meaning. How do you put a concept together for that? It’s really just like making something totally up and putting it to a song. I mean, you can only put in so many hand waves and star grabs before you have to actually have something happen. Or, maybe the idea was that they were pretty and girls would just swoon watching the video. Looking back to middle school, I’m pretty sure that’s just what happened.

I’m still reading Games of Thrones. I finished the first book and I’m onto the second. It’s interesting the see how the show and the book are similar and different. Altogether they are pretty close. I’m hoping to get through a good section of the second book in order to clarify some of the discrepancies between the show and the book.

Now to go to a show where I would never read the books had they been from books, I’ve finally fallen into the television hole that is known as LOST. I’m still in season 1, but I keep watching. I randomly saw episodes from multiple seasons, but never really a whole string of them. From what I remember, not many people enjoyed how the show ended, so I don’t know why I’m putting myself through 6 seasons of this. If nothing else, I suppose it is because I have the time, and electricity.

I forced myself to start running again. Judging from how I felt the first two days I think it was good that I didn’t wait any longer. I ran a few times while I was home, but I also put on a few pounds while I was home. However, I wasn’t waking up early to go running when I was home. Now, I’m back to 4:45am, 4km run up and then 4km run down. I could barely walk right after the first two days, but I’m sure it will pass. It feels good to be moving in the morning, and the early morning wake up has always made me manage my time more wisely…so I have more time to watch LOST.

 * I posted two blogs today because I wasn’t able to post anything the past two weeks because of internet issues. I might be forced to send out an email in the future if this keeps up…