Cyclone hits, some travels & training

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

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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sunday, March 02, 2008.

Madagascar has been our home for over two years. In our past 8 years of marriage it's the longest we've resided in one place.
 About a week and a half ago Madagascar was hit hard by Cyclone Ivan packing wind speeds of about 190 km/h as it hit the East Coast.  The satellite image of the storm was frightening, covering the entire island resulting in extensive flooding and destruction.  There won't be an outcry from the people, they won't blame the government, instead they will simply rebuild and continue with their lives the best they can. One more obstacle for this island nation on their path toward development.
Two weeks ago we had our Close of Service conference. It's always a good time getting together with our friends that we arrived in country with, reflecting on our time in Madagascar and similar experiences. After the conference, I (Jenny) went on a 6-day girl's trip south of the capital. Our hope was to take the train from the highlands through the rainforest corridor to the East coast, but the storm altered those plans. Instead we spent time around Fianarantsoa visiting the Old City which was reminiscent of France with red tiled roofs, cobblestone streets and narrow alleys.  Our trip to Ranomafana NP was also changed as the metal & wood bridge at the entrance of the park was washed away by severe flooding. We visited a volunteer's site, hiking in the forest, seeing lemurs, rock climbing and enjoying the scenery. Our last day, before taking the 9 hour ride to the capital,  we visited a papermaking factory and a zebu market, where thousands of cattle descended on the town of Ambalavao for the Thursday sale.  The highland air was cool and fresh, farmer's were harvesting their rice fields and it was refreshing to wander around, taking in all the majesty of the Malagasy landscape.
During my trip, Aaron headed back to site. We received news that our town was completely flooded, our house on the hill was safe but our fence was blown down. Aaron also had to check on the status of some of the work projects we are facilitating. In March our town in throwing a huge party to celebrate the grand opening of the Community & Youth Center which we helped build with a grant received from the U.S. Embassy. The U.S. Ambassador, Peace Corps staff and possibly the government Minister of Education and Minister of Environment are planned to attend, along with other Peace Corps volunteers.
Tomorrow I leave to begin training the new volunteers, including our replacement (which is a strange thought).  We will travel to the east of the capital with the new Peace Corps director and his wife where we will meet the new volunteers and teach them methods of improved rice production.  Our feet will be coated in mud as we transplant the rice seedlings. I'll meet Aaron there, who I haven't seen in 10 days! The longest time spent apart in at least two years.  We will train the new volunteers on poultry raising (our claim to fame is we teach them how to butcher a chicken and then proceed to kill it), tree nursery establishment and operation and bestow advice on living and working in Madagascar, as well as encourage them to stick through all the tough times they are guaranteed to face!
We will sadly leave our site May 1st and then continue to work through June 6th assisting the Operation Smile project that will begin the end of May.  Once we depart Madagascar, our wandering feet will take us to the beautiful island of Mauritius and then we will return to the States in July to readjust and spend time with family and friends.
Hope all is well in your part of the world & enjoy the attached photos,
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