Since the last blog, I’ve kept up the running. I only have four days left before the race and I’m feeling confident that I should be able to produce a decent time, but I’m also having some knee trouble. I’ve been trying hard to train regularly, but not over-train. The weekend before I was still having some knee trouble, but not too much pain, and so I wanted to go for a long run and see how the knee would hold up. After the two hours of running it was a little sore, but not too much pain and I thought I was fine until I tried to run on Monday. Hopefully, my good friend ibuprofen can help me through the next five days.

As a result of all the running, I’m forced to eat breakfast. Well, actually, now that I’m running I’m usually starving by the time I finish stretching and showering in the mornings. I think I chose my food out of convenience, but it’s kind of weird nonetheless. I’ve been eating two eggs and then toast with peanut butter and bananas. It seems to be enough for me to last until 9:30am, when I eat more snacks at work J What’s weird is that I had been skipping breakfast altogether for about 2 months until I started running and I knew that I needed more calories.

I went to Mahajanga over Easter break. I was happy to finally make it out there because it’s a place that I’ve wanted to see over the past 4 years, but never had the opportunity. I can safely say that it is as hot as everyone says it is. Before leaving Tana, I asked my co-workers if I should bring my computer and they all adamantly told me “NO.” I was thankful for the confirmation and motivation to really just leave my work behind for a bit.  It was nice to get outside of Tana for a few days. The more time that I spend just living in the city the more I think that Tana isn’t really the best fit for me (even though all of my friends in Tana are pretty awesome). I just feel like every time I leave the city I see what Madagascar really has to offer. Everyone is so nice, the country is so beautiful; something I often forget when living in Tana.

We took an over-night taxi brousse to Ankarafantsika National Park, which is 2 hours before Mahajanga. I didn’t really think about the time calculations when we were leaving Tana, but we arrived at the park just before 5am. It was kind of a weird situation and the people at the park office seemed a little surprised that visitors were showing up (however, I’m sure we weren’t the first to have done something like this). So, we got a room for 3 hours and then went walking around a little dazed and out of it, but excited nonetheless.

It was nice to see a dry forest for a change, even though I still like rainforests so much better. I just feel like there are so many rainforest destinations in Madagascar that it’s nice to change things up a bit. I’m sure when I’m back in California I will be longing for any type of rain-anything. I was surprised to find out that iguanas do exist in this country; I didn’t think there were any. We saw a nice little canyon, walked around a savannah for a bit, saw lemurs and then had a pretty awesome lunch before hitching a ride to Mahajanga with some nice people who had some space in their car.

We got into Mahajanga and I felt like I was away from work and my daily routine. We stayed with our transporters for a while until our roommate showed up with her family and took us in their bus back to their house/bungalows. The location was awesome and right on the beach (although it was about 30 min from the city center).

The following days just consisted of beach time, wandering around and eating. I also ran. It’s cool that I’ve been running in hills, in polluted elevation so that when I get clean sea level air I am flying. When I came back to Tana and went running it wasn’t as fun of a transition.

What was interesting about Mahajanga is that although they speak Sakalava they all knew that I was speaking Tsimihety, something that the people from Tana never know – they just know that I’m not speaking their dialect. It’s always nice to be understood. As a result, it opened up some very interesting conversations with my roommate’s uncle about witchcraft and forest people. But I don’t really know what a vacation would be without either of the two.

I took the overnight bus back to Tana and so I arrived at 6am. All of the people on the street and taxi drivers that were bothering were graced by my wonderful sleep deprived personality full of hospitality, sociability and overall friendliness. I made it home, slept for a bit and then zombie-d my way to work barely staying awake during our afternoon Monday meeting.  It was a tough for recovery.  

Work has really taken a large part of my life the past few weeks, but it doesn’t seem to be much of a problem. I’m drafting and finishing reports, re-doing reports, attending workshops, and helping with the project photobook. All things that can be tiring and make me happy for the weekend, but don’t make me dread going to work, which I’m constantly thankful for. I also gave a short presentation of some of my finished reports and got positive feedback so that’s always nice and reassuring to know that I didn’t just waste the last 10 months of my life. It was really stressful preparing for the presentation because my computer tried to kill itself. Some piece broke and so it can’t read my hard drive. It turns out that I can run the hard drive as an external drive, so I’m doing that now. However, it’s kind of annoying and I’ll probably just end up ordering the part anyway. Mostly, I was scrambling around the day before the presentation trying to see if I would ever be able to access all of my files and trying to figure out what was actually backed up. I got it running and then learned that my Microsoft Word had removed my product key and the key I had wouldn’t work. I then spent a good solid hour thoroughly hating Microsoft, now I just have contempt for them, but maybe not so much hate. Needless to say, I got it figured out…no thanks to Microsoft.

My beard is still growing and I can’t wait to shave it on Sunday! Ok, I don’t really have to keep it, but I’ve kept it this long that it seems stupid to stop early. I think it was a wise decision to grow out a beard rather than just the mustache, as I don’t think it will be a good look for me. If nothing else I hope the embarrassment will motivate me to run faster. Besides, Pre had a mustache so I can just say that I am going for that look.

I haven’t been drinking for my last preparations of the race and I think that my body has been thankful for the detox and exercise. It feels good to be healthy, but I need so much sugar now! I’m always craving sweets and I think it might be a result of no alcohol. What I’m really impressed of is that I was able to go out until 5am and 3:30am the past two weekends to celebrate friends’ birthdays. It takes a lot of willpower to keep up with drunk people. People dance for a really long time. And I save a lot of money.

I went running on Saturday for my last long run before my race this coming Saturday. I wanted to run for an hour and a half, with no real distance in mind. However, I realized that it took me around 25 minutes to get out of town to the rice fields so I decided to increase it to two hours. I went at a comfortable pace, but my calves really hurt at the beginning of the run. However, they loosened up and then when I got to the rice fields the air was clean and clear my entire body found the rhythm. I ran alone, then ran with another guy who was either trying to get me to sprint or was doing an interval workout. Passed a dog that started attacking me, but seemed surprised when I yelled (quite angrily) at him in Malagasy. And then just kept moving along on the canals through rice fields. It wasn’t as beautiful as two weeks ago, but still nice.  I got to a town at one hour (perfect turn around point) and then came back. I was a little tired coming back and I felt my knee getting a little tired, but I wasn’t exhausted. I got home at 2 hours and 1 minute, which I thought was cool because it means that I kept pretty much the same pace for the whole run. I mapped it out and it was 17 miles (27.48) km in two hours, which was much faster than I would have guessed I was doing. So, my legs and knees are a little fatigued, but I think I’m ready for the race…although I’m worried my knee might be a problem with the hills.

The more time I spend in Tana and the closer it gets to my departure date (still to be decided, though I know it will before June 19th) the more I’m ready to leave Madagascar. What’s funny is although I’ve come to terms with this, it seems like my friends in Madagascar are more shocked than I am. I guess nobody really thought that I would ever leave (granted there were points when I thought I would never leave either). However, I think that I’m ready and that it’s something I need to embrace rather than wonder if it’s not the best decision. If I think I need to be in Madagascar again, then I’ll find a way back. As far as my plans for the last month and a half, I just hope to finish the UTOP race with a good time, finish all of my deliverables for work, visit Pic Boby near Ambalavao, and say goodbye to as many people as I can before I leave.