These past two weeks have been somewhat strange, and, the more I think about it, I think that I’ve been saying that my life here has been rather strange of late. I think it might have to do with the fact that I’m leaving and it gives me a new perspective on everything. I’m starting to pay attention to things like I did when I first arrived in Madagascar, but this time around, I’m viewing it with the knowledge of three years experience. I’d like to think that I’m viewing it all with a sense of understanding (as if anything could make sense), but maybe I’m just viewing it more comfortably.

But there are some things I’ll never understand and Malagasy people still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding the ways of the road. I know I’ve mentioned this in a few previous blogs, and I’m saying once again: people who walk the streets will rarely keep to the right, or outside of the middle of the road, they don’t listen or watch when walking or crossing the road and they seem to wander about clueless for the most part. That’s not the biggest issue though. If people are just walking there are rarely too many head-on collisions. The real problem happens when people on bicycles and motorcycles have that same sense of awareness and they get thrown in the mix.

Almost two weeks ago, I was coming back to Andapa from Matsobe. I wasn’t too tired and so I was going a pretty good speed on my bicycle. I noticed that a motorcycle got close behind me, but for whatever reason he didn’t seem in much of a hurry and for a while didn’t pass. After about a mile, he did pass and I realized that the guy was just soaking in the scenery and not really paying too much attention to the road. That would soon become a problem.

As we got closer to town, I was still trailing him and I saw some people shout to the road. Whether they were shouting to the guy on the motorcycle or not, I have no idea. Regardless of who was calling, the guy looked over at them and did not keep his eyes on the road. At the same time, another motorcycle was going faster than the driver was probably comfortable and he was heading right in the direction of the other motorbike.  Of course, it was inevitable that the two crashed into each other. Thankfully, neither was going that fast and so nobody was injured; mostly because the guy coming from Andapa laid down the bike and jumped off and the other guy just ran into his bike.

Moral of the story, keep your eyes on the road and try to be a little considerate to the positions of others around you. The population of Madagascar is growing quickly and people are going to need to get used to having a lot of people on the road…or they can keep doing what they’re doing and potentially play their own role in population control…

In the last blog I said that I thought I had worms. I spoke to the doctor and made a case for me taking the medication, so they approved. I think I had something, or it was a placebo, because my stomach did some strange things the day I took the pill and then following that I’ve been feeling hungry a lot less after my meals. I probably had something small, but it was intensified by the fact that I’m doing a lot of physical labor.  Needless to say, I feel like I’m eating a normal amount and might have even put on a tiny bit of weight.

Planting is still continuing and I’m pretty much making sure everything keeps moving, regardless of trees and stuff that we have. I’ve become very efficient with planting and it is almost second nature to go out and plant 150 seedlings in a day. We recently got some Raffia seedlings that are in really big plastic pots and were a real pain to transport and plant. Of course, I had to go out by myself one day and see how much I could plant in a morning and then figure out from their how much people should get paid to plant the trees. We use to pay per 50 plastic pots, but with the bigger pots we decided to scale it down to 35. The work is just as intense, maybe even more so for me as I’m not use to carrying things on my shoulder. I’m making progress though.  We hired three people to help plant one day and I took the day off and just monitored them. It was quite relaxing and now I know what most people think of me when I say that I’m going to plant trees.

However, this work has really worn down my uniform. I’ve been wearing mesh shorts almost everyday for the past 3 years. I didn’t really where mesh shorts outside of the house or gym back in California, but here, it is the most practical clothing. They are easy to wash, they don’t get dirty with all of the mud on the bike (I can wash my legs off when I shower), they dry quickly, and they are light in the hot weather. Two pairs have been with me for the long haul, and they are both torn to shreds. The past few weeks almost disintegrated one pair and made me realize that I can probably let them go to short heaven. They’ve done their job. I still have enough shorts in store so that I can keep planting with what’s left. We just have a few hundred more trees from Sambava and then maybe another 500 trees left in the Matsobe nursery as well. I’ve already started talking to people about collecting more seeds, even though I might not be planting them with the nurseries in the future. As for where I will be after May 24th of this year, that is still undecided, but I hope to have a better clue in the next few weeks.

I spoke to a friend of mine from the Madagascar National Parks Office in Andapa and he mentioned he wanted to start a local group and then maybe an NGO in the future. I’m going to try and meet with him and see what he has planned and organized and how feasible it could be to create something like what he wants. If it seems reasonable and I’m still living in Madagascar, I think I will give it a go (regardless of whether I live in or near Andapa). However, if I’m back in the United States I will not be able to check up on anything at all and I already know that would be a failure on my part.

We had the last volunteer meeting that I will attend as a Peace Corps Volunteer. It was always nice to see everyone, hear what they are doing and get some information from the office in Tana. For the most part, it was just a social occasion, and I know when I was serving my first few months here, it was really great for my sanity. It’s also made me realize that my Peace Corps meetings and visits will be coming to a close soon. I think I’ll be okay, seeing as I haven’t left the region in the past 7 months.

I wanted to get my haircut the other day and my normal dude wasn’t around/ the power was out in his district of town. So, I went to this guy who lives close to my house in Andapa. When I lived in Matsobe, I always went to the same guy in Andapa because nobody in Matsobe had electricity and so it was easiest to just go to the same guy. Also, he speaks good English, became a really good friend of mine and is just a really nice guy overall. However, because I couldn’t go to his shop, I went to the new dude. Epic fail.

Well, not really. You can’t really mess up shaving a head. As long as you get all of the hair then you’ve pretty much done your job. I don’t know if I caught this guy on a stressful day or if he just really wanted to do a good job, but he came after my head with a real intensity. I winced a few times as he pressed the clippers against my head and then that night I saw there were a few red spots and cuts. I think next time I won’t need to tough it out, but I’ll just explain that he doesn’t need to kill my hair. My body is already removing the hair on my head on it’s own. He just needs to trim what’s left.

We have a Petsay (Bok Choy?) garden at the fish farm that I’ve been helping to oversee. It’s a good thing that I’m here to monitor things because they weren’t measuring the beds or really thinking about the project in general. Sadly, I wasn’t there the whole time so they didn’t make any walkways in between the beds, just giving themselves more work when they have to water everything. It’s a really cool terrace though, behind the house of the fish farm guardian, nice picture too. It’s one of those things that would be really easy if you could just set up a drip system. Instead someone will be carrying watering cans up and down the terrace everyday. I don’t think they used enough manure, but people don’t want to listen to me about everything and we planted some seeds and then sowed others so that we can transplant. I’m not a Bok Choy specialist so I’ll just wait to see what happens. Just another thing that I’m learning as I go.

And for the most part, all of this went on with a stuffed nose and burning eyes. I think that because my work slowed down just a little bit, my body decided that it could give up. I had an annoying, but not awful cold that just lingered around for two weeks. I’m almost healthy now and that feels a lot better.  But health comes in waves so it seems at times and with my cold gone I acquired some lower back pain. I’m hoping that it isn’t kidney related, but I’m keeping that in mind. No symptoms at the moment are clear-cut to point me in any direction. I guess I’ll just deal with the pain, drink lots of water and be optimistic; it almost sounds like a Kelly Clarkson song.