I’m getting old. I said goodbye to yet another group of volunteers in my area. I have to say; this past round was by far the hardest. They came to Madagascar only a few months after I did and we all went through the same Peace Corps feelings and moments together. For Hilary, the PCV in Andapa, she had been as much a part of my Peace Corps/Madagascar experience as anyone or anything else in this country. I’m happy for Hilary and Felicia to be moving on, but they will be missed!

Work has been going consistently inconsistent. The weather is ever so unpredictable and it has everyone complaining – at least this time around there is enough water! The rain just keeps coming, not in heavy downpours, but just enough to keep the weather cold, gloomy and damp. People farming rice don’t seem to mind to much, but it is a big problem for vanilla (hard to dry vanilla when it’s raining, therefore reducing the quality) as well as our tree nurseries because we can’t get dry cow manure.

At this point in my work I’m not surprised that cow manure is holding me back. If you told me two years ago that we wouldn’t be where we wanted to be with the planting because of cow manure, I would have said you’re crazy; right? Well, with the weather being wet and cold, it’s hard to get enough (or any) manure for planting. We just started having some dry weather so that we could dry out a little. The worst thing was that the people that did have the manure wanted to sell it for a ridiculous amount of money (5,000 Ariary) per gunnysack. I’m not going to pay the equivalent of a nice meal for some cow shit. I know some people spend money on some crazy things, even me from time to time, but cow shit is not one of them. We are just forced to wait. In fact, these past few days provided some hot, dry weather and we were able to collect enough for a few weeks of work.

However, the extra time has been good. It’s given people time to organize things and really get into the swing of working in the nursery. It’s given me more time to collect more seeds and teach the new group how to plant properly. It also gave both groups time to complete the tree nursery beds and get everything situated. Surprisingly, with all of the bad weather and unexpected changes, we still have planted around 1,500 potential trees. Should we have ideal weather, I envision planting 1,500 potential trees each week for at least a month.

The fish farm had it’s first official guests. People from the PLAE Andapa, Ambanja and Marovoay offices came to check out our fishpond. It was nice to have a chance to share the pond and help out other people who are working in similar fields in Madagascar. Hopefully, more people will start to farm fish (though at a more realistic scale, ours is kind of large).

We had someone from the Ministry of Tourism and a Frenchman who works in the Oil Industry come out to visit Antanetiambo. They asked questions about the Reserve and how it functions and how to develop it for the future. Hopefully, the meeting was received well by them and they will help Antanetiambo Nature Reserve get more recognition, which will lead to more tourists.

Although they weren’t tourists, we had visitors from Antalaha visit Antanetiambo. It was Matt, a Peace Corps Volunteer, with the people he works with and two students. It was nice to have them visit the Reserve and compare it to where they work in Antalaha. It was a great chance to get some ideas on how we could improve Antanetiambo as well. If nothing else, there visit allowed the students be able to see Andapa (it was there first time to Andapa); amazing how much of Madagascar many Malagasy people never have a chance to see.

The Mobile Cultural Center from the US Embassy will soon be in Andapa. Thankfully, I’m not signed up to volunteer to work there everyday because I’ve been more involved in the planning than I thought I was going to be. I’ve been helping to put together invitation lists and the work before the thing arrives in Andapa. A lot of biking to the Mayor’s house, but I think it will pay off once the Center gets here and people have access to a lot of wonderful educational materials. My biggest fear is that people won’t use it. I think it my be more useful for me to promote it while it’s here in Andapa rather than volunteer at the actual center every morning (or everyday).

Being as cheap as I can be (pretty much all the time) I was quite impressed with my sending some tree crates back to Sambava. I managed to be taken advantage of slightly (according to other Malagasy people) and I still paid about ¼ of the price that we expected it to be. I guess my connections and know how of being here so long do pay off from time to time. It was more work than usual though, so I could see how someone else wouldn’t want to take the time.

As for hygiene, I bought some enamel strengthening toothpaste while I was home. I feel like my teeth have been holding up well this past month that I’ve been back. The only down side is that I sometimes need to use my teeth to open the tube. I wonder if I should contact them and tell them they have a design issue. Maybe it’s all part of their plan. I buy their toothpaste and need to keep buying it because I destroy my teeth every time I open it.

Game of Thrones is continuing in a truly epic fashion. I’m enjoying the second book better than the first only because the second season of the TV show left out a lot more from the second book so there is more new material. I’ve been reading it all on kindle so I’m a little worried of what will happen when I finish the 4th book because I won’t have a way of downloading the 5th. I guess I could switch back to hard copy…

I’ve been eating a lot lately. I think I got over the richness of American food and back into the simple, and sometimes bland, diet of rice and other things. I’m putting away a lot of rice again and I’m wondering if it is starting to be too much. There were a few days last week that I just kept eating and eating! It is possible that I have worms, but I need to wait and see how things develop. I’ve been riding my bike a lot too. There’s a possibility that my body is just re-adjusting to my old diet and daily life.

Finally, with Hilary gone, her replacement, Ari, has arrived. She has only been here 3 days, but I think that she seems like she will be able to adapt to Andapa pretty well and enjoy her time here. When I think back to my first three days at site it seems like a lifetime ago. In retrospect, it wasn’t the three best days of my life so I’m happy to help any volunteer with their adjustment.

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