Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sary = Picture

A building in Tana, the capital.

This was taken during our Re-Instatement Workshop. The Education PCVs were finally able to do some fun cross-sectoral activities. Here we were learning how to double-dig a garden and then mix in manure.
* * * * * * *
I'm back in Tana for a day after visiting the new trainees at the training center in Mantasoa. The 36 trainees were transfered here from Niger, but all seem in good spirits despite all they've been through. They will be installed at their sites at the end of January, and one SED (Small Enterprise Development) volunteer will be my site partner:) One of the new trainees is also from Holland, MI, so we talked about Hope College, Russ' and the Tulip Festival!
Tomorrow I'm headed back towards my site and will spend New Year's Eve in Vatomandry at my friend Megan's site. I'll start teaching my classes again on the 5th of January.
For Christmas, I was in Ambatodrazaka with Megan, Chris and Katie. On Christmas day we had sandwiches on baguettes with La Vache (a spreadable cheese) and carrot/cucumber salad since everything was closed in the afternoon. Not exactly what you imagine for Christmas lunch but tastey anyway. Thankfully there was a Chinese restaurant open for dinner that evening.
We also had the chance to visit a dance club in Ambato where it was not unusual at all for people to dance in front of mirrors by themselves. In fact, that seemed to be why they were placed on the wall: so people could watch themselves dance. Awkward. I don't want to watch myself dance; I know it doesn't look that great!
Today Megan and I spent a lot of time getting lost and trying to find our way around Tana. It was funny at first and sort of annoying towards the end; however, we were able to use our Malagasy in order to ask people for directions. That was satisfying. Somewhere in the middle of our journey Megan ended up asking a drunk man who was on his way to get his brother's death certificate and the man's wife for directions. We think they were just coming from the funeral and that the man was most likely drunk. Oops. It says a lot that he stopped to help us anway. Most Malagasy people will stop to help you if you speak to them in their language.
The main problem towards the end of our journey was that the people we were asking how to find the American Cultural Center were often confusing it with the French Cultural Center. So, we would walk in one direction for several blocks and then ask another person for directions only to be told to go back in the direction we came from. Ha ha. This happened several times before we found a Malagasy man, who had a hard time speaking Malagasy to us instead of French, but who let us ride in a taxi with him and paid for us. When we finally got to our destination, it was closed. So of course we had to walk back to where we came from to go find lunch somewhere else.

That's all for now. Sorry I couldn't post a lot of pictures. The Internet is extremely slow today and I'm getting frustrated since I've only successfully posted two pictures in 1 hr 18 minutes 58 seconds. The last few I've tried to post came up with an error message. More next time. Miss you all!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tratra Ny Krismasy!

Sunday, December 20, 2009:

As I write this, I’m at my new site Mahanoro. It’s much bigger than my old town, but I’m slowly adjusting. It’s hard not to compare everything to Anosibe An’Ala. Most of the local people do not understand why I’m not thrilled to be here. I’ll admit, I love that I can hear the ocean waves from my house, that the ocean is probably not even a city block away, that there is an abundance of shrimp for me to eat. But I miss my friends in AAA. I miss knowing people and people recognizing me. I guess it comes down to the fact that I don’t exactly like change…oh well.

My house is located within the compound of the middle school (C.E.G.). When school is in session, I must walk through the middle of all of the classrooms and the crowds of students in their light blue uniform blouses. Yikes! I’m getting good at walking past the stares--shoulders straight, eyes focused ahead or hidden behind my sunglasses. It doesn’t seem to matter what I do. If they greet me in English and I respond in English, they giggle because I talked to them. If they speak to me in Malagasy and I respond in Malagasy, they laugh because I can speak their language. The American tax dollars are spent sending entertainment to developing countries in the form of Peace Corps Volunteers.

Maybe now is a good time to mention that all thoughts written here are solely mine and they do not represent the ideas of the United States government or Peace Corps. Most of the time I’m just trying to make sense of what’s going on around me, laugh off the awkward moments, make light of a difficult situation. I’m sorry if I offend anyone. I do like Mahanoro and being a PCV.

Back to what I was saying. Living at the middle school is often annoying because there are always students trying to get a glance of what I’m doing, but my house is nice. Many volunteers would label it as Posh Corps. Yes, I have a toilet, but I must flush it with a bucket of water. The same bucket sits under my bathroom sink, which leaks even though the electrician/plumber has tried to fix it twice. And yes, I have a shower (our in my kitchen). Only cold water, but I’ve found no use for hot water except for cooking. It’s in the high 80s most days. And yes, I have electricity, most of the time. It worked all the time when I first arrived. Then they began shutting off the power to half the town one night, half the next to save money. At the beginning of this week it seemed to work only a few hours during the day, and now it’s still on at almost 8 p.m. Don’t ever try to gamble in Madagascar. Things that are consistent are bound to change soon. Even the water doesn’t work sometimes and then I must fetch it from across the main road. No problem. Fetching water is free exercise.

I’m teaching two sections of 2nde (10th grade) at the Lycee (high school) and two sections of 6eme (6th grade) at the C.E.G. (middle school). My 2nde classes have about 75 students in each section. They have English class twice a week for two hours each time. My 6eme classes have about 50 students in each section, and they also study twice a week but once for an hour and then for two. Since the school year began in October, I didn’t give exams at the end of this term. I did warn my high school students that we’d have an oral exam after Christmas vacation. They’re not too thrilled even though I told them what I’d ask them, questions like, “What is your name?” and “How many brothers and sister do you have?” Speaking is the hardest part for them. And it will be hard to get them to all practice speaking when I have so many students in one class. My middle school students are excited to do learn anything. They eagerly count as high as they can in English when I write numbers on the board. It’s refreshing.

I have more cock roaches here, but they seem to come out mainly at night when I’m safely tucked into my mosquito net. They don’t really bother me since they don’t bite; however, they are really dirty. They leave little dropping throughout the night, reminders the next morning that they’ve been looking for my fruit or crumbs I’ve dropped. I’d rather have cock roaches than spiders any day. Cock roaches are too loud for their own good, so you can always hear them coming. Spiders can hide anywhere. Yuck.

Yesterday (Saturday, Dec. 19), I finally found a basketball to buy and played at the court near my house. I love playing basketball in this country. Most of the time the boys are too afraid to get too close. Ha ha. And they never think I’m going to be any good at first. I love to prove them wrong. I haven’t seen any girls play here yet. Maybe I’ll encourage them. Some funny translations…when you swish the ball, they say, ‘Tsy taolana” which literally means “No bones”. And when the ball rolls around the rim before going in they say, “Manasa lovia” which means “to wash the plate”.

What else? I bought meat at the market for the first time this past week…well, I bought it meaning I handed the man the money and I made my PCV friend Megan carry it. It just grosses me out here. Flies everywhere. And the smell of meat is so strong with the cows tail draped over one end of the table, its intestines on the other end and its legs in the wheel barrow in next to the table. Doesn’t exactly make me hungry. I guess that doesn’t even bother me anymore. What does is that the man who puts your meat in the bag has meat and blood all over his hands, so it gets on the outside of the bag he hands to me. And the butcher I hand my money too gives me my change, which the woman before me paid him by laying on the hind quarter of meat. It just makes me want to Clorox everything and myself.

There is an amazing little yellow store in my town that sells baked goods and cold, homemade yogurt. I love going there on hot afternoons for a cool treat or getting what we think of as banana bread for breakfast. They call our banana bread cake banane. So every now and then I have cake for breakfast (Note: Malagasy banana bread is a peeled and fried banana, gooey on the inside). The fun part about this store is that the front and back wall are full of hardware parts and the right side and wall is a pharmacy. Evidently, they even make real cakes with frosting and everything. Most businesses in Madagascar are multi-faceted.

I went to a hotely (restaurant) in my town the other day to try out their “milk shakes”. Now, this place is special because it actually has menus and you can order whatever you want from the menu. Most hotelys here are like little sheds or hole-in-the-wall places with several side dish choices (everything is served with rice) written on a blackboard. And it’s not uncommon to ask for one of the listed items only to be told they don’t have it or “Misy fa lany” (There is but it’s gone). So I was shocked the first time I went there and was able to have anything I wanted and then shocked again when I read “Milk shakes”. So I returned for lunch and to try a milk shake justifying my outing by the fact that I needed some form of calcium for the day anyway. Unfortunately, it turned out to only be cold chocolate milk. But at least it was something cold on a hot day and at least it was chocolate.

Well, that’s all for now. More stories to follow. I’m happy to be back in Madagascar and looking forward to having something to do after vacation. It’s hard to start any other English classes or projects right before a long vacation. I’ve been reading a lot and wandering aimlessly through town (and I only got lost once).

If you write me a letter, I’ll write back!! Or I have much better cell phone reception at site, so you can call. Thanks for all of the thoughts and support. Until next time…


“Each affects the other and the other affects the next, and the world is full of stories, but the stories are all one.” --Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Monday, December 7, 2009

Update from Madagascar

Talked to Kinsey Sun morning here. (It is an 8 hour difference with daylight savings time.)
She is doing good, looking forward to getting her cooking gas for her stove(10-15 days) in normal delivery time by Taxi brousse. Been eating alots of vegetable sandwiches!

Her home is much busier this time. Only 1 block from Indian Ocean, hears the waves even on calm days. This is cyclone season. Very Hot!! and Humid. Road noise, traffic, chickens & turkeys just outside of 1/2 fenced yard.(Someone may have took the other 1/2 for firewood) that's a BIG problem, they are burning everything in Madagascar for fuel,cooking & heat.

No fishing report yet. Only boats spotted are like dugout canoes, not motors. Ocean isn't good for swimming - Sharks...

Taught the 1st time Thurs. 75 high school students in each of the 2 classes. They were pretty impressed that she spoke in malgasy to them and not english. Tues. she will teach high school then middle school.(wasn't suppose to start middle school til after new year), but the middle school students want to start now, so she will teach them 4 times before break.

It is a much bigger town, more tourist so they are accustom to seeing white people. You know how the locals treat the "fudgies". It takes a little time in all cultures.

Phone reception is good. She would love to hear you!

That's all for now, look for new update in a week.

Becky (Kinsey's Mom)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Back in Madagascar

Kinsey arrived in Madagascar on November 17 and after a week of training, Thanksgiving lunch at the Country Director’s house and swearing-in (again) at the US Ambassador’s house, departed for her site on Wednesday, November 25.

Her new site is located on the Indian Ocean, and the town has population of almost 40,000 people with a large number of foreigners. The weather is hot now as they are entering their summer – around 90 degrees during the day and only down to 81 degrees by 9:00 at night!

Megan, another PCV and friend of Kinsey’s, frequently visited the former PCV that lived at Kinsey’s new site, and will stay for a few days to show Kinsey around and help her get acquainted in the new town.

Starting on December 1, she will be teaching at the high school for four hours every Tuesday and Thursday. After the first of the year, she will also be teaching at the middle school two days per week.

If you want to call Kinsey, her phone number is 011 261 32 58 637 26. (I would suggest using the international call card company, PINGO, (check out if you don't have an international calling plan for your phone.)

Kinsey sounds good and is happy to be back in Madagascar. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers as she learns her way around the new site and makes friends.

(Kinsey’s sister)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Second Time Around

Tomorrow I will embark on the second act of my Peace Corps Madagascar journey. I will depart home and the yellow dinosaur with dad, mom and Mal in the new (gently used) motorhome dad and mom will vacation in this winter.

I leave Traverse City at 8 am and have a layover in Detroit where I'll meet up with two PCV friends and fly to D.C. We'll meet up with the rest of the 11 returning volunteers and 4 Peace Corps Response Volunteers (they've already served in PC and will help out in Mcar for a shorter time). We fly out of D.C. after 5 pm and will arrive in South Africa 17 hours later...ugh. One night's stay there and then we'll fly to Tana on November 17th.

Although I am sad that I will not be returning to my original site, Anosibe An' Ala, I am looking forward to many new adventures in Mahanoro. The biggest difference between my old and new site will be the toilet and running water that I will have this time. While I am not excited to be classifed as "Posh Corps" because of these luxuries, I know I will be thankful every time I have stomach issues.

Mahanoro is on the East Coast just south of Vatomandry. I will be able to walk to the beach! And have fresh sea food whenever I want:) Feel free to come visit me.

Just like last time, I will be teaching English in the middle school. This time I will also be teaching in the high school. Since I served nine months before we were evacuated, I have about 15 months left of my service.

I'll keep you all updated as much as possible and my sister and mom will update this blog when I call them. Thank you for your support so far. Watch out Madagascar. Here I come!

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Sorry it's been so long since I updated my blog. For those of you who are not aware, I AM HOME IN BEAR LAKE now. After I was Consolidated at the PC training center for a little over two weeks in February, I went back to site for about three weeks. Then, the political situation in Madagascar worsened and Peace Corps decided to suspend the program. So, all PCVs were Evacuated to South Africa where we stayed for a week for medical clearance. I then decided to go on vacation for a few weeks before coming home. Kruger National Park is a great place for a safari and Cape Town is a beautiful city. I recommend them both if you ever find yourself in South Africa.

I'm in the process of organizing my pictures now. With over 1,500 it will take a while, but I will share them soon with anyone who is interested. Thank you again for you thoughts and concerns. Happy Easter and see you all soon.

A view near the market in my town.

Saying goodbye to one of my classes.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Update from Kinsey's Sister

After a weekend with no violence in the country, Kinsey and the 120+ Peace Corps Volunteers in Madagascar were able to return to their sites early this week. Kinsey is safe and happy to be back at site with her friends and students.

For those of you who are unaware of the situation in Madagascar, there has been political unrest over the past three weeks. For more details, check out or Yahoo! News.

Please continue to keep the leaders of Madagascar, the Malagasy people, Peace Corps Volunteers and Kinsey in your prayers. Thank you,

Mallery Wethers

Kinsey’s Favorite Sister

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

more pictures from Christmas Vacation

Here are more pictures of vacation. Kinsey tried to upload them but won't work. Sometimes it does sometimes it doesn't. So she e-mail them to us to put on her blog. So here they are. (Becky/ Kinsey's Mom)

hotel in tana: This is a little hole-in-the-wall hotel in the capital. Still doesn't convey the feeling of the whole situation, but it's a start.

me on Emerald Isle.....

the hotel grand and the pool/swim-up bar. This is the fancy hotel we went to twice while staying in Diego. You can pay 10,000 Ariary($5.23 U.S.) to swim in the pool for the afternoon (which we did) it has a swim-up bar and everything. To stay in the hotel it costs around 150,00 Ar per night. ($78.43 U.S.). Not exactly a place I thought I'd find myself during Peace Corps, but it was nice to pretend for a few afternoons.

glass protection: This was in Diego, but can be seen all over the country in larger cities. People cement pieces of glass along the tops of the cement walls that surround their houses. Looks prettier than barbed wire, but probably doesn't feel much better.

lady of the north with face powder: This was one of the ladies on Emerald Isle who was giving masssages and/or braiding hair. The women in the northern parts of the country often wear this yellow powder on their faces to protect themselves from the sun.

diego fruit ladies: These ladies walk around selling fruit to everyone they see, especially foreigners.

floweres: more for Quinn and everyone else who asks what kind of flowers madagascar has.

view of hideout from boat: This is a picture of the abandonded building from the water. We passed by it on the boat we took to Emerald Isle. Funny enoug, you can buy postcards with this building on it as it is now. Why? Not sure. It was a fancy hotel or military building back in the day.

in hide-out: Lucy, me, Dorothy. It's a pretty sketchy building, so we were acting out the situation. It's safe during the day, but I don't recommend going there after dark.

view of bay from the hideout: This is an old abandoned building that sits right on the bay in Diego. The view is beautiful and it's quite peaceful up there since few people go up there.

corn on cob in brousse:We were passing through one of several larger towns on our way up to Diego. It must have been markey day because there were so many people in town, the vehicles were having a hard time going sown the road. But is did make it easier for the people on the streets to run up to our brousse and try to sell us random food and items: maybe bananas, dried fish, sunglasses. We opted for the corn on the cob; nice and hot, but lacking butter and salt. Hey, we'll take what we can get.

houses along the road.

trees along the road.

host family: Went back to visit my host family the friday after my In-Service traning. My host mom and host sisters love to give people bunny ears.