Trip Start Nov 02, 2003
Trip End Feb 14, 2006

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Flag of Madagascar  ,
Saturday, February 7, 2004

I've added photos from the first 3 months to most of the entries so far. sorry to make you read back over them, but i can only add a few photos to each one, enjoy! also, the photos don't match up exactly with what's discussed in the letters - that would have taken a lot more time and it's already taken me all day to post what i did! - so sorry for any additional confusion that causes.

And if you're wondering why i have email again so soon, it's because my friends caitlin and sara surprised me by coming to my town. yes the cyclone's over (more on that later) and they made it to the banking town, then they came to get me, hurrah !

So now i'm back for another couple of days, really happy and not lonely this time, though again lacking periods on my keyboard, as well.

So yes, i lived through my first cyclone (a southern hemisphere hurricane, if you didn't know) and made it out basically unscathed. these cyclones are supposed to affect only the coast but apparently no one told the cyclone because it ravaged my site and most of central mcar. my shutters blew open and i had 2 inches of water in my house, and my site partner, callie, wasn't allowed to stay in her house for fear the roof would blow off. normally i see a few hundred people walking from my house on the top of the hill to callie's downtown, but that day i saw less than a dozen, all soaked and windblown and quite miserable. callie and i had fun though.

Our town lost power during the storm and didn't regain it for 4 days, but it really didn't matter. it's not like people have thousand-dollar frozen food investments to worry about - all most people use electricity for, if they have it, is light, and candles are readily available. the only noticeable effects for callie and me were 1) we couldn't recharge our rechargeable batteries, 2) her fridge defrosted but there wasn't anything valuable in it so it didn't matter, it just added to the water already on her floor from the storm, 3) the movie houses were closed, and 4) we couldn't buy yogurt at our favorite yogurt place. that was honestly it. it made me think about the hurricane the eastern us had in september where people were livid because the pennsylvania energy company was taking so long to deliver dry ice.

I also went to a training done by zob, the french organization that leases cows and pigs to malagasy people, especially women, and gets paid with a little interest when the animal or meat is sold. i had talked to the director, paul, for a long time and was really excited by his excellent english and liked the organization a lot but the training changed my mind. there are very few characteristics that are absolutely vital to working in a developing country. you could, for instance, probably be pretty stupid or racist or not really dedicated and still accomplish something here, but the most important quality i can think of is flexibility - it's ludicrous to even consider working in a developing country without being extremely flexible but zob turns out not to be flexible at all. they had told my counterpart, mme saholy, who's in charge of the women's development group that works with zob that they only wanted 30 women at this training for people interested in acquiring pigs from zob. 47 women showed up (which the zob folks certainly should have expected). rather than being flexible and accommodating all 47 however, zob insisted that 17 leave. the women left in small groups, first 8 then another 5 etc, finally there were 31 women and paul, the ZOB guy, still wouldn't start the training until someone else left. standing around for 5 minutes until another volunteer could be had. if you're wondering why i didn't just volunteer, i did, but they wouldn't allow the white person to leave. fortunately caitlin and sara arrived 2 hours into the training and rescued me, and perhaps another woman was allowed back in once i'd left.

a funny event, to follow that frustrating one:
picture an american pimp-mobile: sports car, black probably, low to the ground, cost around $80,000 or at least tries to look that way, and blasting rap out of its top-of-the-line-speaker system. yesterday caitlin, sara and i were having dinner outside and a malagasy pimp-mobile approached: pick-up truck, color unidentifiable, cost probably around $200 when the parts were sent from france and reassembled 15 years ago, has speakers TIED ON to the back with rope, and is blasting shania twain. i kid you not. they were definitely trying to pick us up, but lost their confidence as we laughed hysterically, and puttered on down the road.

I've gotten emails from a lot of you recently that say things like "i'm so proud of you for following your dreams," "it's great that you're doing what you've always wanted to do," "you're helping so many people," etc. i really appreciate the sentiments and i don't want to imply anything but gratitude for your kindness, but the statements have been ringing false to me. walking down the street or in a malagasy lesson or cooking dinner or hearing "vazaha" yelled at me 50 times a day, i ask myself, "is this what i've always wanted to do?" the answer is no, but i think that is pretty much the last barrier to actually doing what i want to do, ie, helping people here /making a lasting difference in my town, and i know that i said pretty much the same thing through 4 years of college, but memorizing vocab, though annoying, is much more obviously going to help me accomplish my goals than writing yet another paper about the green revolution or 9th century pageant plays.

and now i need to go have veggie lasagna prepared by our italian-greek pizza chef friend - yay!
love to all and more soon,


And now, some legalese:
The opinions expressed and experiences described in this travelogue are those of one individual Peace Corps Volunteer. Nothing written here should be interpreted as official or unofficial Peace Corps literature or as sanctioned by the Peace Corps. I have chosen to write about my experience online in order to update family and friends; I am earning no money whatsoever from this endeavor.
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