As I monitor my work and everything around me on a daily basis it becomes clear to me that efficiency is something that I value. I think it fits with my minimalistic attitude or is the reason for me being so minimalistic. No wasted energy or time, pure function. It explains why I’m impatient at times, a bit particular with other things, thrifty in spending as well as hard working. I think that if one is efficient then they have found quality.

That’s why I like organizing and arranging things, so that when the time comes everything happens like it is supposed to, because I’ve made it that way. Granted there will always be factors that are unaccounted for, but if something is efficient it will still be able to do its job. With my reforestation work I feel like I’ve become efficient. And, through this efficiency, I feel that the project has really become something special and a whole lot less stressful.

Similarly, when things aren’t efficient, it makes me a little frustrated. For example, when a government official was two hours late for a ceremony I decided to go home and blow off the whole thing rather than waiting around and seeing when he would show up. Although I had wasted my morning, I wasn’t going to waste my afternoon. It really was a waste of my time and I’ll have to think twice about considering any invitations for future events. In addition, I’ve seen a few other projects happen in the past few weeks and I can see that it really is a mess. It’s unorganized and unplanned and so when the time comes for it to play out, it can be a waste of time, money and energy. Yes, sometimes things get done and the outcome is the same, but if you need more resources or if completing the task becomes a struggle then something isn’t right. As work continues (or life in general) I’m always learning about how things work and what is a good use of my time, as well as a bad use of my time. Hopefully, if I can do things right, I will be nothing but efficient in the future.

I suppose that this blog should talk about my life the past two weeks. Hopefully, I can be efficient and effective in explaining what has happened. It’s nothing too new, so I’m sorry if I’m boring all of you who read this with the same old stuff. I promise, there are a few new developments, but life has been pretty static as of late.

I need to talk to the Peace Corps doctor because I think I might have worms. I’ve been eating a ton of food lately and I haven’t been gaining any weight. It’s nice to eat, but sometimes I’m a little shocked at how much I was able to put away. Granted, I’m doing a lot of physical labor and putting in a lot of time riding a bike, but I don’t think that I’m burning that many calories. Also, I’m never going to stop eating if I’m not full. One day I decided to buy a bag of candy to help satisfy my constant eating and I made the poor decision (not in regards to taste) of buying a type of candy that has coffee extract, and I’m pretty sure, caffeine. I obviously ate a lot of these little candies in one sitting and I could really feel the effects later on. I don’t know why my body is so receptive to caffeine, but it just reminds me why I don’t drink coffee and try to stay away from caffeinated sodas. This was very strange to the Malagasy people who were helping to move seedlings in an ox cart at 4am because I didn’t drink coffee with them before hand. I like to think that my life is independent of substances, even caffeine. In a way, I think it makes me feel like I have a loss of control (yes, I’m a minor control freak). And, regardless of caffeine intake, I’m very happy to see that each time that we transport seedlings, it becomes more and more efficient.

About two months ago I got a game file from another Peace Corps Volunteer. It has hundreds of games for Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, and Sega Genesis. You would think that I would be spending all of my waking time playing the things (and there was a time in my life when I’m sure that would be true), but I haven’t. To make things even stranger, I’ve started playing computer chess instead. I have to say that I’m getting better, but I’m nowhere near becoming a Grand Wizard (or whatever the chess term is). I also have to say that the computer has cheated. Not cool. Despite it’s cheating it has won the majority of the time so I just like to think that I would win if it didn’t cheat; small victories.

I’m planting trees so often that I think people don’t know what to ask or they think that I’m starting to lie. The people in the market see me shop early in the morning and I think there starting to be like “dude, are you still going out there? Again? Crazy white kid…” We’ve planted over 4,000 seedlings so far and we should have around 5,000 by then end of this next week. It’s cool to kind of see it come along and think that we really are planting a forest of sorts. I’ll have to come back sometime in the future and see what it looks like once all of the trees are grown.

The nurseries are winding down for the most part. Because of late rains a lot of people are still working in the rice fields and there aren’t a lot of people going out in the forest to look for seeds. I hope to have the majority of the seedlings planted within a month or so. The Andapa nursery will hopefully have more trees as I’ve planted Corosol and Aramy. I’m not sure if the Aramy will grow, but we’ll see. What I really like about the nursery in Andapa is that it’s so close. I’ve gotten so accustomed to riding my bike to work this past year that I really forgot how nice it was to be able to work so close to home. It makes checking on things so much easier and if I have a little bit of free time I can just pass by the nursery and look over everything.

We had students visit the Fish Farm. I didn’t organize it, but I checked it out anyway. I think that it is overall a good idea, but that we should be choosing students from a different school and structure the program a little bit more. I’m not really sure what they had planned or what they thought it was suppose to accomplish, but I think that if it gets a little bit more direction then it will be moving in the right direction. I also think that just having visitors is good publicity for the fish farm and our projects in general. I’m sure that everything will straighten out in the future visits (if there are any).

March 8th is International Women’s day. We don’t celebrate it in the United States, maybe because we have supposed equality. I’m not really sure of the purpose here as well other than it gives people a reason to celebrate. This year, the regional ceremony was held in Vohemar (which is kind of far from Andapa) and so I didn’t go. I’ve been in Madagascar for 4 of these holidays. The first one I was still in training and didn’t even know it was a holiday. The second was when the regional ceremony was held in Andapa in 2011. The third was last year when I didn’t do any type of celebration at all. And then finally this year, when I just had drinks with a bunch of guy friends of mine. Yeah women!…or something like that.

I think that the holiday is good and could be positive, but it really doesn’t seem like it’s empowering anyone. I don’t really see any gender equality here nor do I think that people really try to make the most of the holiday. It’s just about taking a day off, which can be good and needed, but really just a party and drinking. I’d be curious to know what happened in Vohemar because all of the previous ceremonies just had a bunch of men talking as well, which never made any sense to me. Andapa is going to celebrate on the 15th (never want to miss out on a day off) and so maybe I’ll see if any women actually speak or say anything, or if it’s just the regular men who are high up and in power.

Also, if a bunch of women getting drunk is their way of replicating the men in this country, then it shows some greater issues as well. I would love for the holiday to have a really positive message because I do think that things are changing for the better in this country. I think that a lot of girls are going to school and becoming educated and they could respond to some real positive leaders. Sadly, we might have to wait until the girls who are still in high school become leaders farther down the road before anyone really takes charge and some real gender equality happens. Then again, I’m just a guy, I don’t know what women want and I’ve never made a claim otherwise.

Picture time is back. Although I love giving people pictures and seeing how happy they are when they get the photo, I still hate taking people’s pictures and then having to take the time to print them. However, I just don’t know how to say no. As long as they have the money to pay for the picture, I take it and then print it in Andapa. It always goes in waves, so I’m sure my picture taking will go down in the future. I’m thinking that it might be cool to make some kind of photo/art project using only the photos that people have asked me to print. In a way they would be the real pictures of Madagascar, the pictures that each generation will see, not the five million pictures I have of rice fields, forests and animals that everyone from back in the States might think looks cool. With such a strong sense of community and family in Malagasy culture, how could I say no to preserving an image of someone for generations to come?

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