Friday, October 22, 2010

Efa Ela Be

Hi All! Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything. After a while, I didn’t know where to start because so much has happened since I’ve written. Here’s a short summary:

July 13: left Mahanoro to go to Tana
July 14-16: went to PC training center for Training of Trainers in order to help train the new volunteers.
July 20-August 8: taught English at the University of Diego
August 9-21: vacation on Tsirabiana River to Tsingy de Bemaraha to Morondava
August 23-September 10: trained the new volunteers near PC training center
September 12-20: helped translate for Operation Smile in Tana
September 21-27: back to my site for a few days
September 29-October 1: COS (Close of Service) Conference
October 3-5: taxi broussed from Tana to Diego
October 6-present: teach English at the university

I know—do I ever stay put? But it’s normal for Education PCVs to do other things during the Grandes Vacances (like our summer vacation) because we aren’t teaching and there are so few students at our sites. Anyway, for now I’ll just share some interesting things that have happened while I’ve been teaching English at the University of Diego (located at the very northern part of the island).

Between my two stints at the university, I had my students read two articles to find new vocabulary words and practice summarizing. One student read an article called “Child Brain Development” and asked this question after reading: “What kind of food should a woman eat during pregnancy to get a very clever baby?”

During a discussion about advertising, media restrictions, and Photoshopping images, one of my students asked me if Arnold Schwarzenegger has had plastic surgery. That same day, another student asked me if Chuck Norris is still alive. And then he said, “I think he supported John McCain during the election.” When I described what billboards are, someone asked if it was true that we have billboards that are like large televisions with continually changing images. How do they know these things? In another class, students asked me about Big Foot and if Michael Jackson was really dead. (He refused to believe that he has died because evidently no one saw the body in the casket at the funeral.)

Their curiosity and knowledge about American culture, and what they know, often catches me off guard and makes me laugh. When we were talking about cultural differences, one student said they do not have honeymoons here in Madagascar like we do in America. Also, when young boys are circumcised here, there is a large celebration with many family members and friends. This was true even for the Comorian student in my class. And the age of the boy is much older than I ever expected: in Madagascar, sometimes a boy is four or maybe even seven; in the Comoros, he may be twelve years old.

All the students agreed that it was impolite and unacceptable for them to walk up to a person and begin talking without first greeting them and asking how they were. (I love this part of Malagasy culture.) They were very annoyed when I explained that I could walk up to someone in the U.S. and say, “Excuse me. Can you please tell me how to get to Main Street?” without first greeting the person. Here it’s just automatic, and more importantly, it’s a sign of respect. America also received poor marks for public display of affection and what we show and say on TV. I guess we can all learn a little from each other.

I want to take all of my students home with me and witness their reactions to things in the U.S. I mentioned having children in the future and several of them were surprised: “You want to have children?” They probably think I’m too old already. Good grief. Then they asked if I wanted ten and were even more shocked when I said five. They think this is still a lot. (I really have no idea; it’s seems like forever away for me.) So I told them that maybe I’ll have three children and then adopt two from Madagascar. Immediately two girls raised their hands and said, “Me!” I wish. I’d take them all if I could. This university has a great program, and I’m so thankful I got to come be a part of it for a while.

Recently I told them about several superstitions we have in America and asked if they had any in Madagascar. I heard many interesting stories. Several times after a student shared his superstition, the other students rolled their eyes and said he was crazy. Therefore, the following may depend on the Malagasy person, just as our superstitions depend on the person in the U.S.

If you take a baby outside at night, you must bring along some sort of light or knife to keep the devil from harming the child.

If you have bees living in your house, it brings good luck. (Guess you can’t be allergic to bees then…)

A black cat is not necessarily bad luck, just seen as unusual. Three-colored cats, however, are good luck.

If you whistle after dark, the ghosts will come to your house.

If you dream that your friend died, your friend will have a long life.

If a rich man’s chair falls over when he tries to sit down, he will become poor.

And dad, I saved the best for last:

If you dream of fishing, you will get a lot of money in the future.

Apparently we share the following superstitions, so maybe they are really true…crazy things happen when there’s a full moon; if you make a wish on a shooting star, it will come true; and opening an umbrella inside is bad luck.

In order to get my first year students to speak, I gave them all a pair of confusing words to define and explain to the class. One boy, who received whine and wine, said that whine is a complaint that something is not fair or too difficult, especially for a baby or a girl. Let’s just say the girls did not agree with him!

I only have one week left at the university; next Saturday I will head back to my site and teach English at the middle and high schools for one more year. Let’s hope the trip back to Tana is better than the one I made from Tana to Diego at the beginning of the month: seven cars in three days because due to PC rules, I can’t take a taxi brousse that travels overnight. C’est la vie. Hopefully, I’ll post another entry next week before I cram myself into a taxi brousse with five adults and two children per row, chickens occasionally squawking below our feet. I miss you all.


P.S.—This is something funny a former PCV thought up: “Some people see the glass half empty; some people see the glass half full. A Peace Corps Volunteer sees the glass and says, ‘I can take a bath in that.’”

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Update on Kinsey

It has been a while since I posted an update on Kinsey. She finished up teaching this school year at her town (Mahanoro). After she finished correcting around 300 exams, she headed to Tana the capital.

After a week of training with the other education volunteers, she and Dorothy head to the northern town of Diego to teach at the university. She is teaching the first and second year students and said the second year students are more talkative and not at shy as the first year. She was there til Aug.8th when her and Dorothy flew back to Tana where they met up with 5 of their friends to go on vacation. Yes I said vacation. She seems to have a lot of them. The group traveled to Morondava, which is on the west side of Madagascar, where they went on a 2.5 day float down the river in guided canoes, and camped along the river. Didn't see and crocodiles. Not sure if that is good or bad....

They camped in Tsingy forest/rock forest (limestone), saw caves with jagged rocks, crossed a rope bridge, saw lots of birds, lemurs and the famous Baobab trees (no leaves on the tree, round balls of fruit that are not edible). What an adventure!!!

On Saturday they headed back to Tana. Monday they will go to Mantasoa to help train the new volunteers for 2 1/2 to 3 weeks and then back to Diego to teach more at the university for about a month. The end of Oct. she will return to Tana for a conference then head back to her site in Mahanoro where she will teach another school year. She has decided to extend another 6 months to teach another school year. So instead of coming home in January, she'll return in July. She is doing good! till the next update......Becky (Mom)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Letter from Kinsey

Received a letter from Kinsey the other day that I wanted to share. Tried to scan it so it would be in her writing, but won't scan so you could read. So here it is.
Dad & Mom Thurs. may 27,2010
I'm praying you have a great Memorial Weekend. I don't have any plans of today, but I.m sure something will come along. I won't have Monday off, but I'm not complaining. We've had enough days off lately. I'm sure when I'm back home, I'll be wishing for a Malagasy "Bridge Holiday". The grass is always greener...
On Monday the twin high school girls who are fairly good at English came over and we made lunch. It turned into an all-day affair. We all took naps after lunch.(I love this Malagasy custom, Do you think I can bring back nap time in my future HS Classroom? Then we made papaya salad-so good! You saute onions, with curry,salt & pepper then add shredded papaya. Cook til soft. After you remove form heat you add a few tablespoons of vinegar. Sounds kind of weird, but trust me Delicious. Then we changed (the dress I was wearing evidently too closely resembled the kind pregnant women wear so I was forced to put on shorts) and we walked to the beach.
There was a small stage, some decorations and women with stands of fried food. Looked just like a carnival at home. I even smelled hot dogs, which I obviously imagined.(I'm not even overly fond of hot dogs but the atmosphere was right & I haven't had one in a long time) There was karaoke & then a presidential candidate showed up. They had a raffle & gave away prizes(all more practical than we're used to: big bars of soap they use to wash laundry,shovels, hugh bundles of second-hand clothes.) There was supposed to be a dance contest but if it happened, it was after I left. And this is what happens the day after Pentecost. One friend asked what we traditionally do in America for Pentecost Monday. Um, work? Most people probably don't even realize it's Pentecost. I know I complain about how many random days we have off but honestly, Malagasy people so know how to enjoy life. They're happy with so little, often singing and dancing. Ready to have a party for the smallest reason. It's a gift. Somehow we forgot about that in America.
"No Yelling!" I should make this my new motto, too. I know it's hard for you to imagine daddy, but I speak quite loud in my classes and lately have taken to raising my voice when they're impolite and don't do their exercises.
Thurs. June 3
Where does the time go? On June 12th it will be 2 yrs. since I first arrived in Madagascar. And Grandpa's 80th birthday :)
In my CARE class(the adult workers of an American NGO), we were talking about a famous Malagasy singer who will perform in our town this weekend. One of the women said, "Kinsey you are famous in Mahanoro" Ha! I don't know about famous, but certainly known by all people in town, and they expect me to know/ remember everyone's names. Yeah, right. I am one and they are many. I like to give my students nicknames, mainly the boys since they're so outspoken. I have Mr. Tsiky(Mr. Smiley because he talks all the time and smiles so big everytime I look at him to be quiet) I have Mr. Yes and a Mr. No. No matter what question I ask, those are their responses respectively, (me, " Do you have any questions? "Mr. Yes: "Yes".
Me: "What is your question?" "Mr. Yes: No question.") I alternate who I call Mr. Crazy because they think it's hilarious when I use that word. The gasy word for crazy isn't as flexible as ours, which is probably why they think it's so funny. Today my students in my first class started calling a boy Mr, Papaya. I didn't get it for a long time but finally figured our the "paza maska"(ripe papaya) is slangfor "cocky". I had told the same boy a few weeks ago not to be cocky because he often shows off. At least they listen to me and remember what I say sometimes.
Fri. June 4th
I reas a book recently that said,"Everything you're sure is right can be wrong in another place."
You definitely learn that in PC. In Malagasy the word "very" means lost but in English it's a lot or really. Sometimes it's not a problem of saying the wrong word but pronouncing a word incorrectly - put the stress on the wrong part of a word and the person will look at you like you're crazy. 'Lanana' is road but lal'ana is a law. The book I reas was called "Poisonwood Bible" One of my favorite word examples in the book was how in the Congo, the words for "Father in Heaven" could mean,"Father of fish bait" depending on a tiny change in the way you say it. It was a good book -thought provoking. Mainly about a pastor who takes his family to Africa as a missionary. His first mistake is that he arrives and wants to baptize all the village children in the river. Even though everyone repeatedly tells him "no" he is set on it. Only later, after he's turned most of the people off from him and consequently God, does he find out that a child was eaten by a crocodile recently. They were simply afraid and grew to think he wanted to feed them to the crocodiles. And his second mistake was not slowing down enough to really learn the culture and the language. His favorite saying was "Jesus is bangala!" Unfortunately, bangala can mean 'most precious', 'most insufferable' and 'poisonwood'. I can't help but wonder if sometimes we get in the way of God. We try to tell people about him with words but sometimes there are no words or we use the wrong ones. Perhaps if the man would have lived alongside the people, talked with them but not at them, learned about their ways, they would have felt Jesus love for them. Actions speak louder than words.
Deep stuff, I know. I have lots of time on my hands! I love you all! Thank you for all the support :) I think of you often and pray for you too. I hope you can feel the love even across the oceans! Love Kinsey Jo Happy 4th of July!!!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pictures from Kinsey

Pictures of madagascar

Update from Mom

Talked to Kinsey today. She is doing good and staying busy. Couple of weeks ago her friend Megan came to her site. Megan, Kinsey and a new french girl who teachs french at the school went on a bike ride to check out a small village on the main road that is between Kinsey and Megan's site. It was 15 km (9miles one way). After riding 3 miles the french girl asked how much further? When the arrived at village Kinsey and Megan walked around to check it out, the other girl laid down and took a nap.
Kinsey plays basketball quite a bit with her students. She doen't give them and breaks. She is still as competitive as she was in high school.
This afternoon she and a friend were going to karaoke, then this evening they were going to a big concert. Was suppose to have barbeque with some friends because they asked her things she does on Memorial Day and she said barbeque. So they want to have one now, had to change to next week due to a conflict.
Kinsey wanted to let everyone to know not to send her anything (letters,packages) to her address after mid June. School is out July 17th. Then she goes for some training of trainers(so they can train in coming educational voluteers.) Then the end of July she packs up all her stuff to move. She will then go to training center in Tana(capital) to train the new arrivials. Thne on for a vacation(which she seems to do quite often) :). Then the first of September she will go to Diego(most northern town) to teach English at the Univeresity, for the last four months of her service.
Her address there will be: Kinsey Wethers,PVC
6 Rue Commandant Marchand
Place Kabary,
Antsiranana 201,
So she will be busy the next few months. Another new adventure. WOW!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Update from Mom

Talked to Kinsey last week. She is going good. She went to do some training a few weeks ago. She meet up with the other Educational Volunteers and Peace Corp staff. She also went on a vacation to a National Park with some of her friends.
The taxi brusse ride is always adventure, she said they decide which one to take by how many bags, chickens, bicycles etc. they have on the roof of it. If they don't have anything up there then they don't go with them not a good one. They always have extra 5 gal jug of gasoline in front, doesn't make her feel to comfortable since she is always towards the front.
Got her from her vacation, her roof had leaked. While she was gone one of her friends was watching the house and there was 1-2" of waster on ground in house, they got that out of there, but she has mold on her desk and her clean clothes on her shelves that she had to rewash.
She is back at her site now. Busy teaching til 6PM, but it starts getting dark there around 5:30pm so it is hard to teach on the blackboard, that is hard to see. She tries to do oral lessons then. Some of the students complained they could see and she said you don't need to see to speak. She will be teaching until June 21st then exams. 1st week of July for grades and review. July 16th "Grand Vacation" field trip to National Park Andasible close to Moranga(old banking town).
Some of her malagasy friends invited her for dinner the other night. They had eel. Said it tasted like fish. Texture was different. She wasn't going to go but she heard her dad tell her "Kinsey you should try it".
A week ago we tried for 5 days to call her and the operator kept saying it was invalid #. Finally we got through. I try and text her and she never gets my texts only her sisters. She can text us fine. Guess that international calling for you.
She has done load pictures on her facebook, I will try to put some on here for the ones with out facebook. For some resaon when she tries to down load pictures to her blog it won't work.
It is great to talk to her and hear her laugh!!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Two Weeks Notice

Dear Mr. Rat,

I hope you ate well last night, so well that you are well nourished and strong enough to find a new home.  This may come asa shock to you, but I am not enjoying your company in my kitchen.  I’ll admit, I may have given you the wrong message by leaving a whole pineapple uncovered so you could nibble a hole in the side of it.  And it wasn’t very smart of me to leave the fridge door propped open with a half eaten chocolate bar and a bag of uncooked rice inside.  My bad.  I can understand how you would have seen those as welcoming gifts.  Still, if you thought I was politely offering these things with you, there was no reason to jump out of the fridge or the shower at me.  I can deal with flying cockroaches; however, your kind scare me by simply scurrying near my feet let alone when airborne. 

Please consider this your two week notice.  Even if you did stop chewing away at my candles, stealing my dish washing sponges and leaving behind dropping, I would still not welcome you with open arms.  Especially if you’re bringing along company in the form of Plague carrying fleas.  In this case, more is not merrier.

Thank you ever so kindly,


P.S.- Could you please tell your cousin, Miss Mouse in My House, that I would appreciate if she stopped leaving droppings on my clean clothes and startling me by leaping out of my packages from the U.S.  She is welcome to stay as long as the only evidence of her presence is the occasional glimpse I catch of her dashing across my floor in the late evening.  Remind her that this is a fair request since I saved her from drowning in my water pail.  Also, I did not go after her with my broom and insect spray like I did to the giant spider who was hanging out on the window way too close to my bed.  I appreciate your cooperation.  

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


1. There is almost always a delay and it takes getting use to. Say a few sentences and then wait for them to be delivered to me. Ten wit a little more for me to respond and for my words to travel across the ocean to you.
2. Sometimes the connection is garbled and it sounds like we’re talking under water. First, try standing still with your left arm raised in the air. If that doesn’t work, try standing outside on the porch. And finally, you can try hanging up and calling back again. You might get a better connection.
3. More often than not we experience periods of silence, several seconds nearing half a minute (not to be confused with the ever-present delay). Be patient. Don’t hang up right away. The connection usually comes back (especially if both parties hold up their left arms).
4. It is the exact opposite of uncommon for the call to completely cut out after several minutes of conversation. Just call back. And don’t get frustrated if it happens three or four times. We may just have to try again tomorrow.
5. Do not be concerned if you dial my number and are told that the number is “invalid”. That person, whoever she is, is lying or at least momentarily confused. Hang up and try again, or again and again.
6. Remember there is a time difference. Madagascar is seven hours ahead of Michigan time (as of the Spring Forward). I go to bed around 9 or 9:30 almost every night (and not because I’m a grandma like one friend accused, but because I wake up between 5:15 and 6:30 every morning). You can also text me which is cheaper for you and makes me just as happy.
7. My family uses Pingo, one friend has a calling card and I’ve heard Skype works, too.
8. Remember, technology is flawed. Don’t get mad, just laugh. Even if the connection is fuzzy, the happiness in your laughter still comes through loud and clear (It’s hard not to laugh with your left arm up in the air).

Friday, February 12, 2010

quick update...

This was on Friday, Jan. 29, the day before the high school staff's New Year party. These teachers were washing the chickens after they had been plucked and cleaned of their insides (which were quickly thrown into a pan over the fire, cooked and eaten while the rest of the chickens were being cleaned-yum, I know).

Hi, all! Sorry it's been so long since I've posted anything. As some of you know, I have Internet access at my site, but it is VERY SLOW and quite expensive compared to Internet in the bigger cities. I've also been very busy the last few weeks with school, New Years' parties (I had two on January 30, only 29 days after the actual new year), and helping my new site partner, Vickie, get settled. She arrived at the end of January and is a Small Enterprise Development (SED) volunteer. She will be working with the local radio station as well as several womens' groups in the countryside near our town. Most of the women have several children and no husband (most because he left her for someone else or a better job). Vickie will be helping them learn some basic business and money-management ideas and hopefully encouraging them to come up with other supplementary income ideas. Right now, one of the main groups she is getting to know weave baskets and mats to sell at the local market.

Currently, I am in Moramanga, waiting to go to my old site Anosibe An'Ala. I'm so excited to see my old friends and town! The members of the community center there have planned a party for me and my friend Megan on Saturday afternoon/evening. I'm sure it will be quite an event and last a long time:)

I'll try to write more later, maybe Sunday when I'm passing back through here. Thank you for all of the letters, packages, messages, thoughts and prayers! If any of you have any idea how to get 75 high school students to speak English, I'm all ears! I'm running out of ideas to motivate my large high school classes. It's exhausting.

Love you all!