I was talking to my Dad the other week and he asked me if I was going to keep up the blog. I told him that I really didn’t know, I supposed that it depended on my proximity with the United States and all of the people back home who take the time to read what I have to say. If I’m living in the States I feel that it is a bit narcissistic to write a blog about my life – phone use/skype is cheap, if you want to know what’s going on make a phone call, send a text.

However, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I don’t like talking on the phone. I never have and I don’t think that I ever will. Sure, I can call people, make phone calls and even act like I’m enjoying the conversation, but really, what’s the fun in talking to a piece of metal? The other factor to think about was how interesting my life will be wherever I end up. A lot of life (especially my own) isn’t too noteworthy. It seems that a blog would only make sense if I’m doing something really exotic/adventurous or if it is something completely mundane that I could dissect every detail of it. I guess that’s just a textbook answer from me of either all or nothing. Really, life it the States just wouldn’t warrant a blog from me in my opinion.

Anyway, since I’m writing this it looks like I’m still in Madagascar and I’m no longer a Peace Corps volunteer (you’ll notice the change in the title – maybe not).  I can only say that the time between me ending Peace Corps and this moment right now was filled with a lot of stress, uncertainty, downtime, and some very unpleasant sick days.

It’s only proper that I thank (in blog form) Eric and Flav for letting me stay in their house for as long as I have. Granted, I’m pretty easy going and minimalistic, but just to have open doors and to help me out because I’m a friend and not even think to ask for anything in return is something quite uncommon in this world. Definitely true friends that I’ve found here in Madagascar.

Which brings me to the sick days.  I will admit that being sick did schedule out the downtime that I wasn’t sure how I was going to fill. However, chills, diarrhea, muscle and joint pain, nausea and overall feeling like shit (medical term) wasn’t really how I wanted to spend my time.  I really felt that for almost a week I was just struck by every ailment I’ve encountered over the past three years. Also, it made me realize that the Peace Corps doctors were no longer at my disposal and that I had to figure everything out on my own. However, it is just another reminder that the human body often can take care of itself and with enough patience and positivity one can heal. Once I did get some strength back, I reread Island, by Aldous Huxley, for the second time.

I first read Island on my way to Madagascar at the start of my Peace Corps service. I don’t know why I thought about the book recently or what possessed me to re-read it now. I often don’t do things a second time and enjoy the experience. As far as media goes only music gets multiple plays; I rarely re-read books or watch movies over and over again.  Movies are simple, I’ve seen the story and I know what happens. There’s no more twist at the end, no new punch line or scene that makes me jump. What I enjoy about the movie isn’t the actual story it’s the newness of the story. Once the story has been told I no longer have a desire to keep watching it. For books, well, I either got it or I didn’t in the first read. I’m reading for fun not for a dissertation. If I missed it then I missed it and I’m curious to read about someone else’s thoughts or stories.

Now that I’ve rambled on unnecessarily, let’s just agree that I was surprised that I had a desire to re-read Island. Having read it again though, I’ve realized there was a reason. The book can be applied to many aspects of my life in the past three years in Madagascar as well as to any future work or thoughts about development (in Madagascar or the United States). It’s a beautiful book about human nature, society, the dichotomy of good and bad, ideals from a cross-cultural point of view and a commentary on the possible future of humanity. But my entire personal fulfillment from the book aside, there was one quote that really struck me and made me think about development work. It is discussing Pala, the Utopic Island’s Government/Social state in comparison with the world:

“But the underdeveloped countries aren’t committed. They don’t have to follow your example. They’re still free to take the road we’ve taken – the road of applied biology, the road of fertility control and limited production and selective industrialization which fertility control makes possible, the road that leads towards happiness from the inside out, through health, through awareness, through a change in one’s attitude towards the world; not towards the mirage of happiness from the outside in, through toys and pills and nonstop distractions. They could still choose our way; but they don’t want to, they want to be exactly like you, God help them. And as they can’t possibly do what you’ve done – at any rate within the time they’ve set themselves – they’re foredoomed to frustration and disappointment, predestined to the misery of social breakdown and anarchy, and then to the misery of enslavement by tyrants. It’s a completely foreseeable tragedy, and they’re walking into it with their eyes open.”

Amazing to read this in a work of ‘fiction’ that was published in 1962. It made me think directly of Madagascar, who, received its independence in 1960 and might possibly have benefited from such an ideology and perspective. I guess the real question is can developing countries still make these changes or have they had so much ‘progress’ that there is no turning back? Everyday I seem to see personal efforts or development efforts that seem to try to do too much in the “time they’re set themselves” and it just means that none of the goals or lifestyles are ever achieved. 

Now, finally, I’ll bring you all up to speed on my so-called future (or at least how I might envision it for the next couple months if not longer).  I haven’t signed a contract yet, but it looks like I should be getting a job with Catholic Relief Services in Antananarivo. CRS has been working on a very large development project for the past four years and they were looking for some help to complete some projects for their fifth and final year. I would be paid on deliverables (like commission) and I should be going into the field for a few weeks every month to collect data (such as best practices, lessons learned, recommendations, etc.) and then come back to Tana and write a report about it. I think I will enjoy it because it lets me travel. I really wanted a job that would keep me out of the office on a daily basis and with this job I might not really need to go into an actual office more than a few times a month. I should be able to go out into the field and collect data and then write up the report from my house. Second, I liked the idea that the job would be a lot of data collection, research, people oriented and really studying the efficiency of the programs within the project.  It’s interesting to me to see how the project functions and to decide whether it is a waste of time or money and to see what worked well and how it could function better in the future. Lastly, it will give me more development experience (and much more concrete development experience at that) as well as let me live in Madagascar a little longer and see how I feel about it while I’m not being a Peace Corps volunteer.

Thankfully, I’ve been able to network (really friends of friends rather than direct friends of mine) and find a housing option. I managed to be lucky enough to be chosen to live in a house with a bunch of other expats in a house near downtown Tana. The rent isn’t too expensive, perfect space for what I need, and my roommates might even force me to finally learn French (not to mention the job). The only downside is that it isn’t open until June 27th, but I can figure something out in the meantime.  I sent my passport in to be renewed and that should be done by next week. I was told to get a work visa it should only take a week. That means in two weeks I should officially have a job and a work visa to stay in Madagascar.