"Hello...Will You Feed Me?"

Trip Start Feb 24, 2005
Trip End Jul 23, 2005

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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Today is my last day in Andasibe after two weeks here--and Lacy's last day after two years. She's extending her Peace Corps service but moving to another town, so it's been a week of goodbyes for her. For me, its been a nice oopportunity to adjust to Madagascar in a low-stress situation, and to get to know a place reasonably well before moving on.

The park association, ANGAP, has allowed me free entrance to the local reserves in exchange for a few English and Spanish classes for the park guides. That has been really fun--the guides are really motivated and have a good time with the classes. One of the students, Nasoavina, it particularly quick, and now whenever I see him he greets me with "Buenos Dias!" Coincidentally, that same student, for reasons I can't discern, has a big bag full of over-the-counter medications from Spain at his house. So I translated the indications and usage on the bottles, and he gave me some bananas out of his yard for my efforts.

On Thursday, Lacy and I hopped in the back of the ANGAP pick-up and rode an hour through the rainforest to Mantadia National Park. The scenery here is so lush and beautiful. At the park we came across five-inch-tall snails, a rare species of frog, tons of butterflies and skinks, a few Indri, and the Sifaka Lemur. The Sifaka has rust-colored limbs and a blackish-gray body--Very pretty. The forest is not as dense as I'd expected, but is full of prehistoric-looking ferns and plants that look like oversized Aloe Vera (called Vakona).

I'm picking up a little Malagasi here and there, but I'm mostly at a loss with the language. Yesterday I was craving my favorite bean, so I decided to have lunch in town. The conversation went something like this:
Me: "Misy voanjobury?" (Is there voanjobury?)
Her: "Voanjo?" (Peanut?)
Me: "What?"
She shows me a jar of candy--perhaps trying to placate me?
Me: "What is the laoka today?"
She gets her English-speaking husband.
Him: "How can I help you?"
Me: "What is the laoka today?"
Him: "We have zebu meat, and...I don't know the word in English...It's like a bean..."
Me: "Do you mean voanjobury?"
Him: "Yes! That's it!"

So I had my voanjobury, but lost a little confidence in my ability to communicate!

Other food items have not been quite as tasty. We had lunch with a local family, and at my request they made Ravitoto, made from crushed Manioc leaves. It's so uniquely Malagasi that I wanted to try it, but unfortunately, it looks like horse manure and tastes like Alfalfa. Thank goodness no one finds it strange to eat a big plate of rice with just a spoonful of the laoka!

Tomorrow morning Lacy and I travel to Tana together. Then she flies to her new site, and I...Well, I find out of my hand gestures and pidgin Malagasi can convince people to feed me and give me a room for the next few weeks!
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