My very first blog post was on February 26, 2010, right before I started my staging for Peace Corps.  At that time I kind of thought that blogging was for IT nerds and narcissists. I guess I still think that, but I know that I don’t qualify as an IT nerd so I guess I’m forced into the latter. The title of my first blog was “Veloma,” which means goodbye in Malagasy and was fairly awkward and short. I faintly remember writing it and feeling embarrassed. I didn’t want to share anything with the public, let alone have it posted on the Internet. As we can all see, I got over that feeling and, looking back, I’m quite surprised at how much I’ve decided to share about my life (even though I’ve still omitted a lot). That all being said, I don’t really feel like my life warrants a blog, or ever, really. We’ll see where I end up in the next few months and if I decide to keep the blog going. I think if I stay in the United States I won’t do it, but if I continue to live overseas or travel then I might continue. Therefore, as this might be my last blog, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the blogs from the last four years:

Veloma – February 26, 2010

So, unless there is a military coup, natural disaster or some other disastrous event my service will last until the end of May 2012. Who knows what will happen after that…

Life in the Bucket – May 20, 2010

So i wrote this epic post and then the stupid french keyboard screwed up and all was lost… I was told by my environment tech trainer that life without problems is not life, so i will run with that.

I’m Gasy – November 12, 2010

I’m Gasy, I eat rice three times a day
I switch dialects more than I should
That’s right; I jump to the front of the line,
And that’s right; I’m never at your meetings on time
I’m Gasy!
I stroll extra slow in the sun
I watch people pass my house for fun
I ain’t scared cuz nobody owns a gun
I got no credit in the 261
Cuz I’m Gasy!

Starfish – February 8, 2011

So, a few weeks ago, when I was at a low point, I was working in the rice field with a friend of mine. I told her that I didn’t think I could help her as much the next time they planted because I would need to help other farmers. She responded without hesitation, “that’s okay. I understand that you need to help other people. I’m just happy that you’ve helped us and I’m always happy when I see you.” She’s one of my starfish.

STATS! You’re Damn Right – May 10, 2011

Number of days of documented rain: 201…Month with the most rain: June2010 (all but 3 days had rainfall)… Month with the least rain: December 2010…Amount of powder milk consumed: 4.7 kilograms…Number of times I considered myself sick: 5…The most parasites I’ve picked out of my foot in one sitting: 4…Number of Books read: 11…Estimated number of eggs consumed: 384…Estimated kilos of meat consumed: 24…Number of times that I’ve eaten cheese at site: 1…The latest I’ve ever woken up without an alarm and got out of bed: 6:20am…The earliest I’ve ever woken up without an alarm and got out of bed: 4:55am…Estimated number of doxycycline pills taken on time (in the past year): 361…Minimum number of kilometers I bike each week: 25…Days I’ve gone running: 0…Movies seen in a movie theatre: 1…Different kinds of beers that I’ve consumed: 4…Number of times I’ve watched TV: about 5…Number of Discos/Dances/Concerts I’ve attended: 7…Number of times that I’ve spoken to my parents: 52

The Slug and the Sock – July 26, 2011

I stepped on a slug a few nights ago. It stained my sock…That’s all for now. I’ll send another update in a few weeks (most likely unrelated to socks or slugs)!

Running – October 11, 2011

The rice farmers are kind of burnt out, so I’m letting them rest. We have already weeded four times, and so I told them to continue weeding when they would like (but still emphasized that they MUST continue to weed¬). One farmer in a community has kind of given up on taking care of the rice. It will be interesting to see what happens when it is time to harvest. It’s just annoying because I don’t want people to think that I don’t know what I’m doing, just because some people lie or are lazy when it comes to work. I think I enjoy working in the rice field because you really get what you put into it.

A January to Remember – January 3, 2012

That’s where my counterpart, RABARY Desiré comes in. I’ve had some trouble working with Desire, even though for the most part the work has been effortless. However, I was impressed that when I asked him to go with me, he didn’t hesitate to say yes, and when we arrived there, he didn’t hesitate to take action and interrogate the thief. He ended up spending an entire morning talking with the thief and then going with me to the Chef Fokontany (someone in a village who deals with small, local disputes) to do all of the paperwork (something I probably wouldn’t have known to do or done correctly). The whole time, working through lunch. For me. The next time that I get frustrated I’ll have to remember this. He’s a good person to be working with.

This Is My Life – March 29, 2012

RABARY walked up to me and simply said, “you might want to be a little farther away for this.” So I went farther away. He had a dried stick that spread into a broom like structure at the end (it was in fact their broom) and made sure he had a steady hold of the stick. He looked at the wasp nest, which was about waist height, and then swung. Yep, no prep, no way to calm the wasps, nothing magical, just a good ole swing. And that’s how it’s done. He finished the arc of his swing and ran (as one would find natural). The wasps swarmed around but didn’t chase him.

The Running Toilet – June 18, 2012

As my extension is based mostly on a major reforestation project, I’ve been getting more and more things in order. I’m still meeting with people, figuring out where we will get seeds, and making sure that everything is perfect (or as close as it can be) for when the time to plant comes.

The Oddity of Leisure – September 8, 2012

They had me sit in their living room and watch music videos. Out of all of the things she chose, she thought that the Backstreet Boys would be a good fit. So I sat and watched an hour’s worth of Backstreet Boys music videos. I have to say, it wasn’t really that bad. It was interesting to see how their videos and their looks changed over time; how they tried to get an ‘edge’ to them maybe? I don’t think it really worked. Also, I was so young when they came out that I never really realized how young they looked when they started! Finally, I thought that making a Backstreet Boys video has to be one of the most difficult things ever. Usually the songs are kind of dopy love songs or don’t really have too much meaning. How do you put a concept together for that? It’s really just like making something totally up and putting it to a song. I mean, you can only put in so many hand waves and star grabs before you have to actually have something happen. Or, maybe the idea was that they were pretty and girls would just swoon watching the video. Looking back to middle school, I’m pretty sure that’s just what happened.

War of the Keyboards – December 19, 2012

As we take a break for the holidays we’ve planted over 10,000 plastic pots worth of seeds between the three nurseries and should be able to exceed our original projection of 11,000 trees. Amazing that we have done everything so far on just about five hundred dollars and nobody seems to hate me or anything. I really hope that someone makes an effort to continue this project after I’m gone.

Dirt, Sweat and Food – January 27, 2013

After over two and a half years I finally had to replace the tires on my bicycle. The back tire was actually shredded from overuse and I had to have them place part of another tire inside while I was waiting for a replacement. I’ve been thinking about all of the biking that I’m doing lately and I think that TREK should put me in an add or a commercial. I’m always riding out in the country, sometimes with a machete sticking out of my backpack, rain or shine, visiting people, and working. I put together a rough estimate of the average number of kilometers that I bike each week and it comes to a minimum of 126 kilometers/week for the past month or so. If I were to average that for a year it put’s me over 6,000 km. That’s a lot of time on the bike.

One Year Older, But Not One Day Smarter (Maybe A Little Tougher) – April 7, 2013

My first thought was, ‘Shit. Now I’m going to have to fix the damn door.’ Then I looked at my knee and saw the white tendons staring back at me and realized, wow, that’s probably my first priority and fixing the door could be a close second. Thankfully, I had my friends around me and they helped cover the wounds and stop the blood flow. They also helped track down a taxi for me so we could go to the hospital.

The Walk – August 9, 2013

1 – The Air. No, it’s not fresh. It’s not clean. It’s not very pleasant about 85% of the time. I do notice that it is slightly better when it’s raining. For this reason, I’ve managed to slow my heart rate as much as possible. Sometimes, I wonder if I even breathe while I walk. I keep my mouth shut and just move my legs and I really don’t breathe at all, at least not hard. I like to think that it’s because my lungs are getting stronger. However, it could be that the pollution is slowly killing them.

What Color Would You Be? – November 28, 2013

However, I got to thinking about it a little more (I had lunch by myself that day) and I wondered what it would be like if humans could change their skin. Would we all look the same or would we still want to be different? Or would we all have the exact same idea of what it is to be attractive? It made me think about fashion because people still have their own fashion and not everyone decides to dress the same. However, dress is still something external. What if we could change our skin and eyes and hair? Would we all just become one race eventually over time? Then I thought about this with chameleons and thought if they have a general idea of what is ‘attractive’ to other chameleons. Is there something within their genes that they instinctually know what colors to choose in order to attract a mate? And what about the one in our garden that has lived almost two years in solitude? Does he still know what it is to be attractive, or has that changed in his chameleon mind? Or is it something that is never lost or confused, but forever changing depending on environment?

Office – February 6, 2014

Third, the people that work in my office are really cool. I spoke with people in the office beforehand, but having more time in Tana and seeing everyone each day has really improved my office relationships. All of the Malagasy people that work there are so nice, funny, and real. It’s actually quite amazing. Not only are they a smart group of people that seem to know what they are doing, but also they really are fun to work with. It’s nice to know that we can just talk to each other when staring at a computer screen gets to be too much.

45km – April 15, 2014

It was another year in Madagascar, and another birthday. It’s amazing to think that I’ve spent my last 5 birthdays in Madagascar. In 2010 I was outside of Moramanga coming back from our technical field trip during our Peace Corps training. In 2011, I was in Tana and had finished training the new group of volunteers on SRI. In 2012, I was in Tana again because of extension physicals and paperwork. In 2013, I was in Andapa, wondering if my knee was ever going to be functional again. And then finally, this year, I was in Tana yet again (but because I’m living here).

And then the blog today. Although I didn’t want to take the time (and still don’t) to read all of my blogs, it was nice to skim through them and recall this journey that I’ve had in Madagascar. I’m sure as the years go by I will be happy that I wrote them and that all of those wonderful moments aren’t lost. Besides, reading through most of the blogs it’s just me talking about rice, working in a rice field, telling people to work in a rice field, people happy about their rice field, other people talking about rice fields, changes in rice fields, how other work is similar to working in a rice field, how other work is different than working in a rice field, and so-on.

But back to the current blog! SOOOOOOO…It’s been about 6 weeks since I last posted a blog, and I feel obligated to talk a little bit about things that have happened in the last month and a half.   

I finished the UTOP race in early May. I had knee problems, and my knee is still bothering me now, but it’s not as bad. I think I’ll have to stop jumping rope, but I might stop once I’m in California and have more exercising opportunities.  The race was 31 km and had an elevation gain of over 900m. I knew that my knee was bothering me and probably would bother me during the race because it’s a trail run and filled with hills, so I decided on one of two options: 1) go slowly and see how the knee felt, if it got worse or hurt I could always keep going or stop; 2) go out fast and power through the pain as much as I could and when it really hurt I would at least be closer to the finish. I chose the latter option, mostly out of competitiveness and pride. After 25 minutes of running my knee began to bother me and after 1 hour it was difficult to even run down hill. However, I ran the first 13 km in 1 hour and 10 minutes and then the final portion in 1 hour and 55 minutes. I pretty much died at the end, but didn’t slow down too much. I remember walking up the last hill and having to take a break because I thought I might faint (I didn’t bring any food or water so I had to rely on the two checkpoints), but was able to keep moving. I should have practiced the last few miles of the course so that I knew where the finish line was because I really lacked motivation toward the end. But I finished just under 3 hours and 5 minutes and was 14th overall – so I was happy with that. Because of my knee and just wanting to relax and sleep in the mornings again, I haven’t really run since the UTOP, but still exercise, walk a lot and go to the hash runs.

I went to Andringitra National Park with friends for five days, which was gorgeous and freezing. It was nice to get out of Tana for a bit and I think I needed a vacation before making a last minute push for the rest of my work – it’s nice to get away from best practices for a while. Our guides, cooks, and porters were all great and they kept us smiling and engaged for most of the trip. There are some really quirky people in Madagascar and I never get tired of them (well, not never, but I do enjoy it). The park was really beautiful and reminded me a lot of home because of the dry grass, granite, and rolling hills landscapes. I think it was a nice place to go before I go back to California. It was also one of the last places on my list of places to visit in Madagascar. Although I might have made some errors I think I’ve visited or passed through 19 of the 22 regions of Madagascar. I think I can say that I’ve seen the country.

May was a busy month for work though – finalizing reports and trying to get everything finished. In addition, trying to figure out what I will do next. I had an interview with a Peace Corps Response position in South Africa, but I didn’t get it so now my plans are quite open for when I get home. I think I would have enjoyed the position, but I’m not heartbroken that I didn’t get it. Although I would consider coming back to Madagascar, it would have to be for a work experience that I really think I would enjoy and would help me in the future. Otherwise, I plan to go back to California and apply to graduate schools and find something to do for a year before going back to school in the Fall of 2015.

This month has just been preparing myself for the end of work and the beginning on whatever is next. Closing my bank account, starting to pack, saying goodbye to people, etc. Nothing that’s too much fun. However, seeing my workload get smaller and smaller has been exciting.

After four years you would think that I would have accumulated a lot more than I have.  Granted, I left a lot of things in Andapa and didn’t really have that much clothing until this past year when I needed an entirely different wardrobe to be seen in an office (and I still don’t have that many clothes). So, I’m mostly giving away shoes, pants, shirts, jackets, and hats to free space for the clothes I’d like to keep, electronics, books, journals, souvenirs, and everything else. The most amazing finding is that I almost perfectly rationed my shampoo over the past two years to last the entire time. Granted it helps that I have short hair, and it helped even more that for 7 months of field visits I only washed my hair with shampoo in Tana, but I was impressed when I thought about it in the shower.

Although I’m extremely happy to be going home and to see my family and friends, I have this overwhelming sadness for leaving Madagascar. In many ways I’ve felt that it was time and that I was ready, but in the last few weeks, when I’ve realized that I’m really leaving, it has become harder and harder.  My second to last day at work I only said goodbye to four people and I was already getting really sad. The next day was oddly a little easier, but still sad nonetheless. This past weekend I had some going away parties, lunches and dinners and packed. Although I gave a ton of stuff away I still think that I’m going to be over (our scale is broken so I don’t really know how much each bag weighs. Altogether it just feels very strange to be leaving Madagascar and I don’t think that it’s hit me yet.

There’s a Malagasy proverb that says, “Do not kick away the canoe which helped you to cross the river.” There couldn’t be a more appropriate saying for my life and family in the United States as well as Madagascar.

California – I’ll see you in a day and a half!