Do i know you?

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

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Flag of Madagascar  ,
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

this has been a long, weird week. the other blind puppy died and the mother dog was determined to starve to death (she refused to eat anything and died the day after the pup), so i took the last puppy, the healthy one, whom i named lulu (both a cute american name and the malagasy word for butterfly.) so now i have a month=old dog, 2 to 4 weeks before one would normally take a puppy home, and since she is unwilling or unable to sleep more than 90 consecutive minutes, neither have i, in a week. my sleep in the hotel in my banking town last night was glorious.... but callie*s now taking care of both dogs, for which i owe her majorly.

i*m back so soon because caitlin and sara sent a cb radio message from the gendarmes at sara*s site to those at my site, saying that they*d come to the banking town yesterday. the chief gendarme hunted me down to deliver the message personally and was so glowingly proud to be dispensing his gendarmely duty that i had to work hard to keep from laughing. anyway, i met them in the banking town yesterday and it was wonderful to catch up. the cyclone that prevented them from coming last week was the worst in mcar in 20 years (which, on a side note, we ironically learned not from sources here but from watching CNN in the hotel last night) and while my site just had a light drizzle, sara was scared she*d lose her house and the roof blew off caitlin*s latrine. we all had lots of non=weather related stories too (particularly that caitlin*s boyfriend, another volunteer from our training group, terminated his service and went home), and it was wonderful to see them and vent, laugh, and commiserate.

today we went to the home of a french guy i met when i was here by myself last week; he lives on a huge, stunning property with his parents, brother, wife, and 2 kids. he*s an engineer but the rest of the family runs a business shuttling tourists all over the country and catering to them in my banking town. they couldn*t have been warmer or more generous to us; the guy, jeremy, and his brother took us on a wonderful hike to a waterfall, they fed us lunch and cocktails (which the dad called *magic potion*), we played with their pet lemur (which adorably stole an apple out of my bag), the kids couldn*t get enough of us, and the father gave me advice about my family*s upcoming visit. jeremy and his wife and kids lived in scotland before coming here, so they all speak excellent english and translated for us with the father and brother, since when i try to speak french, malagasy comes out. i had been interested in jeremy when i met him and was disappointed to learn about the wife, but otherwise it was a fabulous day, and we*re hoping to go back.

the subject of this entry refers to a few emails/communications i*ve gotten in the past 2 days. my mom told me that my favorite teacher/mentor from governor*s school (a life=changing program for kids interested in teaching that i did the summer after 10th grade), who has the unforgettable name of dayton tweedy and is a special=ed teacher in rural pennsylvania, got in touch with her to ask if i*d pen=pal with his class the way i do with eli kramer*s in the bronx. (of course, mr. tweedy!!!) i got an email from a woman who had grown up in madagascar and wanted me to find and put her back in touch with a friend here (not sure how i*ll do this, but willing to try.) i also received emails from 2 former pcvs in madagascar, one of whom had a site near mine and one of whom was the first volunteer at my site back in 2000, saying that they had somehow found this website and figured out what site i have, and saying hi and reminiscing about their time here. getting all of these communications was really great (if startling), other than something that the first volunteer at my site, shelli, said. she wrote that she could totally relate to my boredom and frustration at not having work to do at my site, since she had experienced the same thing here. now i had taken peace corps* error of placing a health volunteer at my site as an an honest mistake, assuming that before now there had been real work to do but that it had been finished by the 3 prior health volunteers. i had assumed that my telling peace corps not to put another volunteer at my site after me would be effective. but maybe shelli and the 2 other health volunteers before me each told peace corps the same thing, and they*re still putting volunteers there.

this would not be unprecedented bad judgement and flakiness; putting callie at our site was a huge mistake that peace corps is refusing to remedy. i can*t remember if i*ve written about this before, but callie*s talents and dedication are being completely wasted in my town because there are just so many english teachers. when i arrived, people actually told me that they hoped i *wasn*t* an english teacher because my town has so many already! at first callie was teaching about a normal 20 hours a week; then yet another english teacher arrived and the school cut her hours to 8. on top of that, several volunteers from her training group have quit, so there are plenty of sites peace corps has already set up that need teachers. peace corps fully knows how bad the situation is for callie but won*t move her to a site where she*d be useful. given that, there*s no way i*m going to lobby for peace corps to move me (despite caitlin*s adorable insistance that i should come help her at her site), but i do expect them, now that i*m stuck in this place that doesn*t need me, to help me get some work done. i*ve requested several books on various health topics and information on past projects related to homelessness and school lunch programs, but they haven*t delivered. (in fact, they still haven*t delivered the furniture that my host dad made for me that they were supposed to bring 2 months ago, meaning that i *still* eat dinner on my lap every night. the lack of furniture doesn*t bother me nearly as much as the fact that they still haven*t delivered it, if you know what i mean.)

in my last entry, i included a list of the stuff i do here. looking back over it, it sounds like a lot, and i do in fact do some work at the hospital or the nutrition non=profit or with an aids club about every day. but i really don*t think that i*ve accomplished anything yet: i haven*t really told anyone anything they didn*t already know. i give presentations on malaria, for instance, and ask, *what are the symptoms of malaria?* and they know the answer. i ask, *how do you prevent malaria?* and *how do you treat it?* and they know the answers. i suppose that talking about it brings it back into their consciousness and is somehow helpful, but i*m really not doing very much. that*s extremely frustrating to me, particularly coming from such a productivity=driven background as harvard.

i still think that peace corps is a wonderful experience and i*m still not planning to come home before my 2 years are up (much, i suspect, to my parents* disappointment.) caitlin*s boyfriend terminated his service because of extreme versions of what i*m feeling, boredom and frustration at not accomplishing anything, but i*m definitely not at that point. on the other hand, i*m starting to realize exactly how true what i wrote last week is, that peace corps doesn*t create any work for volunteers and volunteers have to find/create it themselves. the problem is that living in my town and not receiving help from peace corps (and based on their track record, i don*t expect any anytime soon), i*m stuck.

please, send me suggestions.

love, jess

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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