Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Few More Pictures...

Before I'm without Internet/phone access for a while.

I'm in Tana, saying goodbye to my 24, now official, Volunteer friends and awaiting my departure for my new home. Yesterday was our Swearing-In Ceremony, where we vowed to defend the U.S. against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Two members of the PC staff were Knighted by the Ministry of Education. Then, we met the U.S. Ambassador and ate dinner ate his house (where the ceremony was) with him and his wife. It was a nice little ceremony before we all start to head out to our sites in the next few days. It's 8 a.m. and I've already been up since 6:30, shedding a few tears as some of my new friends head off into the countryside of Madagascar. It's crazy how close you can get to a group of people so quickly.

I'm not even sure what to write at the moment. I know you all want some funny stories, and it's not that I haven't laughed over the last few days, because I have. But now some of the sobering moments come, when we 25 new volunteers are on our own for the first time in 10 weeks and most of us won't see each other until we have another training session around Christmas.

Thank you for the packages mom and dad, Dixie, and Gayle Ann. The goodies were amazing! And for the letters Aunt Jackie and Uncle Ron and everyone else who has written.

Just in case anyone is interested, my Christmas Vacation is from December 20-January 4. I will try to write more later on today before I leave for site tomorrow. I should have made a list of all the questions I've received so I could answer them. But, I should have plenty of time to write in the next month because I don't start teaching until September 22. Keep the letters coming (please); they mean the world to me. And enjoy the pictures. I love and miss you all. Let the next two years begin...

~Kinsey Jo
The sunset at our haven, Mantasoa.
Dorothy, Natalie, and Phil, sorting the peanuts before we roast them for our winning peanut butter. Part of the Mad Olympics we had in Mantasoa. We also had to fetch water from the lake with a "baby" on our backs (the reason Phil is wearing a lamba with a giant blanket in it), kill and clean a chicken, make a fire, boil water, make PB, and roast coffee beans.

Part of the Mad Olympics: that chicken is not fake FYI, and I was not brave enough to help with the action at all. Good job Natalie.
The days before Swearing-In in Mantasoa: Lauren and I, after the trainees lost to the training staff in both basketball and volleyball. I had a few minutes to cool down, but I was mad at first. To my former coaches...I played hard and pretty good. You'd have been proud:)

Jeff, almost an official PCV at this point, giving his Kabary (speech) in Malagasy.
During the ceremony. More pictures of me, dad. Just for you.
All dressed up for the ceremony. Note: Just like when I'm at home, only the dress and necklace are mine--I borrowed the rest:)
Our training staff: some of the most amazing characters (seriously) I have ever met.
Natalie, Ronda, Kinsey, Jessica: New Volunteers waiting for lunch at the U.S. Ambassador's house after Swearing-In.
The view of Tana from the Ambassador's house.
25 New Volunteers with the PC Madagascar Country Director, our Education Program Director, the Ministress (?) of Education, and the U.S. Ambassador.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Road Less Traveled?

So I just returned from site visit yesterday. What a trip. I can't remember if I wrote about my counterpart or not, I think I may have emailed that. Anyway, I met him on Monday in Mantasoa; we didn't really talk during lunch. I learned his name, Francois, and that he is a Physics teacher at the CEG (middle school). Dinner wasn't any better and by break time the next day, one of the other counterparts encouraged him to talk to me. Evidently, he was nervous because he doesn't speak English. I tried to speak in Malagasy to him, but his answers were short. Long story short, meeting him wasn't the greatest. So what should we do since we've hardly ever spoken and can barely communicate? How about get in a vehicle together and sit really close and ride several hours to get to our destination. So that's what we did.

Wednesday we were supposed to leave Tana at 8 a.m. We didn't get to the taxi brousse station until five after. We did leave by 8:20 p.m. though. That's good for Malagasy time. Have I mentioned that my concept of the date and time are quite blurry now? Yes, they are. The drive to Moramanga offerred some nice views. Very curvy, but paved. We arrived in Moramanga around 10:40 a.m. Let's just say my first impression of Moramanga was not a good one (nor was my second on the return trip, but it was slightly better). It's a filthy town and to top it off, it was raining, so there was mud all over the place. We bought our tickets for the taxi brousse to my town, and I left one of my bags on the top of the taxi brousse in the rain. Thankfully, nothing was stolen, but I didn't have anything highly valuable in it. Rice, anana soup (just boiled water with greens), and something that was supposed to be beef but didn't taste that great. Ranomapango of course (burnt rice water, but I actually love this stuff. Wait til I make it for you when I get home). We left for my site around 12:30 p.m. I don't know why I ever began counting how many people they were trying to cram in the taxi brousse before we even left, because the number just continued to increasing, although I was sure that it wasn't possible to fit another body in the vehicle. A Land Rover. Yes, that is what kind of vehicle took me to my site. Only kind of taxi brousse that will make it. The road is bad: ratsy lalana. Where was I? Oh yes, the number of bodies in the Land Rover: 23 to be exact--19 adults, 4 children (to defend the kids, they did better than any American child every would have done on a 4 1/2 hours car ride with little to occupy them but a broken balloon or the muddy road ahead).

I didn't mind the ride so much. Thank goodness I don't get car sick. We never went that fast, but it was a bumpy ride and like I said, 23 people. About 40 minutes before we reached my site, my counterpart had the driver stop so I could see the WATERFALL! Yes, it was a great sight, but where was my camera? On top of the rover in my second bag that was thrown up there when they had to cram body number 21 into the vehicle. We followed a river all the way from Moramanga to my site. Great sights. I will be living pretty much in the rain forest for the next two years, so please, come visit.

We arrived around 5:45 p.m. I could see that the center of town was dry, cement and looked quite nice even as it was getting dark. My counterpart kindly carried my bags and disposed of me at the "hotel". Slap-board walls through which I could see the light in the next room. Community kabone and ladosy outside of course. I should have taken my po. My counterpart did kindly arrange for the lady that showed me to my room to bring me dinner. Rice of course, anana soup again, and meat that tasted like meat (it was actually really good). Oh, I was kindly visited by a young man who rode in the taxi brousse before my dinner arrived. He could speak enough English in order to ask if he could come to my room after I finished my dinner. I not-so-kindly told him goodbye and locked my door. He came knocking around 9:30 p.m. but I pretended to be sleeping. Unfortunately, I could hear him next door with his friends late into the night talking about the vazaha. Not a good nights sleep. Noisy, 1 inch foam matress, new town, not to mention that kabone was disgusting. I was happy when morning came.

My counterpart arrived at 8:30 a.m. Thursday to begin showing me around and introducing me to everyone (as if they don't already know who I am...I'm the vazaha, duh). When he said my friend was here, I thought he meant the creepy guy from the night before. I was pleasantly surprised. My site partner, an Environment volunteer came to welcome me. He told me that he had been waiting for me the night before but never found out that the taxi brousse arrived (I'm still not sure how he didn't hear from everyone else. It's a small town). Anyway, he and a friend had a place ready for me to stay at in the community center--a community center! So the next two nights I slept there. Felt much safer, but slept just as bad.

My counterpart introduced me to so many people and of course, I've forgotten almost all of their names: the Gendarme (mitovy tovy [kind of the same] as police), Chef CISCO (something to do with running the schools), the several teachers, the mayor, yada yada yada. I shall meet them all again in 3 weeks and still it will take me 3 months to remember all of their names. I hung out with my site partner during the afternoon. We started cooking dinner before 1:30 p.m. It takes a while when you cook everything from scratch. Good stuff though. Tomato, potato, onion, garlic, some green stuff from his garden (he told me all of the names, but there are about 7 types of trees and 32 other things he'g growing. I can only really remember carrots and tomatoes). Put it over rice and it's delicious. I ate lots of bananas in those few days too. A girl's got to survive somehow and I didn't exactly have a stove. We watched a movie (ha ha) after dinner. Crazy. I come to Madagascar and watch a movie after dinner. Hilarious.

Friday morning I went with my site partner (I'm not using his name because I didn't ask him if it was okay. O.K.?) to his counterpart's house. Nice walk past another waterfall, down a muddy road, and up a mountain practically. I helped them prepare the soil to plant trees. They had dug holes and we burnt brush in them in order to put more nutrients in the soil. Got dirty, sweat a little; it felt good to do something. And the view wasn't bad either. We could see the river up there. Gorgeous.

More rice and veggie soup for lunch AND mananasy = pineapple. Love it! I never really cared for it in the states, but this stuff is so juicy and it was picked from the yard a.k.a. mountain side right before we ate it.

Oh, I saw my house and the CEG/lycee (high school) Thursday too. My house is one room, well kind of two. Maybe 12' x 12' in the main room and then there is a little walk way to the indoor ladosy (shower). Sweet. Less room for me to have to worry about insects and rodents and geckos. Yes, there are geckos, but they are quick little suckers. My yard is fenced in with a bamboo fence and there are vanilla trees/plants in the yard. I live on the grounds of the E.P.P. (elementary school). The Chef CISCO's office is connected to my house. I think it will be quite safe there:) The CEG/lycee where I will be teaching is a 1 K walk. Not too bad, until it rains a lot. My counterpart said if it rains three days in a row, school is cancelled for a few days because the road is impassable. I didn't get to go inside the buildings, but they look decent. 45-50 students in each class. Much better than the 70-90 students per class I've heard about.

What else? Did I already mention that there are 2-3 rivers (still need to varify this; I heard both numbers) that converge into one? Yes, water all around there. A beautiful sight. Dad, the fishing is best from September-December, also the best time for weather because it doesn't really rain then. I learned the hard way that one must always carry either an umbrella or rain coat at all times because of the impending rain. I think the weather is more drastic than Michigan. It rained several times in one day, never for the same length, never either sprinkle or pour. Crazy. But it wasn't ever cold there. Chilly at night, but not cold. It was sunny and hot on Friday. The bad news: no cell phone reception. I have reception in my banking town 4 1/2 hours away and the Internet, but I'll only be able to go there once a month (maybe twice). There is a post office. I'll let you know if I change my address.

So much but this entry is so long. Did you like the pictures? I hope so because remember, the Internet is quite slow here. I need to go; people are lining up for the Internet. I ate a hamburger last night and french fries last night and today. I like Tana for that reason. Keep the letters coming, please. They make me smile and I'll write back. We go back to Alarobia on Tuesday to for 10 more days with our host families. Then it's back to Mantasoa for a week before we swear in on August 22. I should have a few more chances to use the Internet before I go to my site on the 23rd.

Yes, so I'm ending this now. Even though my house is small, I'll find room for you if you want to come visit. Remember, rainforest which equals lemurs. And lots of good hiking nearby. Or we can go to Ile St. Marie (the island off the island) and stay in a fancy hotel. Your choice of course.

Love you all,


Pictures, Anyone?

Just in case you've forgotten what I look like: me this morning, in my mosquito net at the MEVA. (the PC transit house in Tana).

Remember the tree fort I always wanted but never had? This brought back memories. Derek and I went for a canoe adventure in Mantasoa (where the PC Training Center is located) and discovered this house about 20 feet from shore. No one was home. He even went up an knocked on the door. Note: It was more like Michigan there than Madagascar.

A nice shot from our trip to the zoo in Tana. Looking back, it kind of reminds me of my site. Sorry, no pictures from there because I was already attracting enough attention, being the new vazaha in town.

The rice paddies. They are everywhere, even in the capital. This was taken on our first hike, I think our second weekend of CBT (Community Based Training).

That's my kabone...that I only use to empty my po. That's the neighbors' house on the right. Oh yeah, and that's the amazing sunset.

The vazaha and the bride. I mean, the bride, groom, my three host sisters, and me. I've mentioned that my host family is rich, right? That's why they look so fancy. On a 'normal' day, they aren't this dressed up. Maybe jeans or wind pants, a shirt that most likely doesn't match.

The view of part of Alarobia from one of the trainee's host family's epicerie. It was June 26, Independence Day; that's why there are so many people. See the white vehicle on the right side? That's a PC vehicle and we train in the building to the right of it.

The view from the top of this awesome rock in Ambatomanga. It's only a short walk from where my host family lives.

And don't forget to look at Derek's blog (see 2 posts ago...he has a few more pictures).

Saturday, August 2, 2008

all for you


I'm not going to mention anyone else here. I just had time to look through all of the comments on my blog and found your sad response to one of my posts. To prove to you that you mean so much, like I said, I'm not going to mention anyone else.

I'm in Tana right now (just got back from visiting my site) and I ate a hamburger and fries tonight. AMAZING. It made me think of you, although the burger could have been a little less "well done". But hey, you can't be picky when you haven't had food like that in say, six weeks.

How many times have I been whistled or clicked at? Or had just had straight up offers? I don't have enough fingers and toes, at least for the whistles and clicks (my language skills aid in my not understanding the offers that I may be receiving). Though I don't think I've topped "And your middle name is beautiful?"...yet.

You looked fabulous at that wedding you were in, you know the one where we are both friends of the bride? (Not mentioning anyone else in this post.) Wish I could have been there for your beach incident the other day; I would have come to the rescue.