Since a picture is worth a thousand words...

Trip Start Feb 12, 2006
Trip End May 12, 2008

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Since a picture is worth a thousand words...
Well, it has been over a year since we first arrived in Madagascar. We just finished training the new volunteers that arrived a few weeks ago. In many ways life has become commonplace and routine, but there are always things that continue to surprise and shock us and new experiences every month. Since a lot has happened that we were previously unable to write about, we thought we would write a little and add lots of photos.
On our blog we have photos going all the way back to Jen's parents visit in October. We all had an amazing 3 weeks and were so glad to share our experiences with them. We started the trip by flying to Ile St Marie where we relaxed in turquoise water and walked along the white sand beaches lined with coconut palms. They also visited our site where they fetched water, fed our ducks & geese, went for hikes, made peanut butter, roasted coffee, played with our neighbor kids and, of course, saw some lemurs.
In November we watched the land go up in flames from traditional slash and burn practices. We would shake the ashes off our bed at night and be disoriented with time since the noon day sun would be blocked by smoke, giving the sky the appearance of sunset. Needless to say it was rather frustrating riding our bikes 5k to get to our tree nursery while passing scorched land and trees. We also attended a traditional cow killing ceremony (certainly not something one sees everyday- thank goodness!)  We were invited by a farmer we work with. We rode our bikes way out in the country and then went even further to find this place. The only way to describe it would be to show photos, but then you wouldn't smell the hot freshly killed meat baking in the sun, the stench of the punctured stomach or the odor of local rum on the men's breath.
Thanksgiving was celebrated with some other volunteers and we helped prepare dinner for over 80 guests.
In December we took a "marathon" road trip to the South of Madagascar covering 3,000 km in 6 day. The scenery was amazing and it was incredible to see the landscape change from tropical forest to highlands, to wide open spaces and then to the dry arid South. Everything from dialect to food to clothing was new for us. We were really fortunate to see so much of Madagascar by road in a nice NGO vehicle. Christmas was  spent at a friend's house in our banking town, where we were able to do some traditional Christmas things- baked sugar cookies, shared a nice meal, enjoyed the lights of a Christmas tree and ate waffles with fresh peaches & cream and corn on the cob for breakfast (oh wait, that's not a traditional Christmas morning breakfast is it?!)
January we returned to the South to visit a friend's site and spent some time in the coastal town of Ft. Dauphin. Transportation left much to be desired- flat tires, waiting 9 hours for the taxi brousse to leave, waiting 4 hours to fix several flats, the crankshaft completely falling off and bouncing down the road (got out & walked), and then our next brousse also broke down. We came back to our site with new intestinal friends that are still gnawing at our insides a month later, but I guess seeing friends and having beach time made it all worth it!
February we started a new tree nursery with a farmers group closer to home. The rainy season is also here which means muddy roads and even slower transportation.  Oh, a new addition to the family today. "Miss Peep-peep" was purchased in the market today while shopping for produce. (Aaron is such a sucker- he he).  She rode on my bike and is now enjoying her new life at the Christman farm- this should increase the excitement and add more chaos to the hen house pecking order!  
March we trained the new volunteers on poultry raising and tree nurseries and will begin working with women's groups on vegetable gardens. This past week has been full of exciting and sad events, but I will save that for another time.
Take care,
Aaron & Jenny
Muddy in Madagascar
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