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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

9/21/10 CRAZY BUSY, BUT IM NOW A PCV





Here are some pics: 1) Jason with our freshly killed chicken in our olympic competition at the end of PST. 2) Me with Robert, the Training Manager in Mantasoa during our thank you community. Please note the beautiful tie. 3)Me with my host family during our thank you community. This picture is absolutely great, they look both painfully unhappy as well as tiny.
4) Jason and I enjoying Mofo during a language break.
So today was my swearing in ceremony. Yes I am now a Peace Corps Volunteer. Today is crazy busy with swearing in during the morning then the afternoon is filled with trying to get bank stuff set up and buy things in Tana for my house that I won’t be able to get in the sticks. I’ve added some pictures up here from the end of PST and thank you community. I promise to elaborate on what all happened today and my first week or two at site in the near future. I’ve added two other blogs about PST wrapping up so please enjoy.

9/20/10 End of PST

If it hadn’t been real before, it certainly is becoming real now. I am no longer a Peace Corps Trainee, but now I am a Peace Corps Volunteer. This blog entry is meant to sorta clarify what has been happening with the training stage and now my transition to volunteerness and saving the world. Ok, so, about 9 weeks ago I got to small town of Mantasoa with 41 other trainees, we all went to live with our Malagasy home stays, then 6 days a week we would have language/culture/technical training in small groups from 8am to 4:30pm , be home by 5:30pm help with dinner, speak Malagasy with the family, likely be asleep by 8:30pm, wake up to some form of pestering livestock around 5:30am and repeat the process. In the last few weeks the health trainees (as we never saw the education trainees anymore as we became specialized) have been giving weekly presentations in Malagasy on Friday mornings in the stead of language class. Each week you are given a few health topics that you can choose to talk about. 3 weeks ago it was a simple 5 minute presentation to the LCFs (language instructors) and other Health PCTs where I spoke about Malaria prevention. 2 weeks ago I had to give a 15 minute presentation in front of all the host families where I chose to discuss getting vaccines for newborns. 1 Week ago was the biggie. In groups of two, I had to give 2 one-hour long presentations to school classrooms. One presentation was to the oldest class- Terminal (the kids are about my age) about STI prevention and birth control/family planning. The second hour long presentation was to the 5eme class (maybe 12-14 year olds) where we discussed various aspects of hygiene. Then this week was more relaxed for the presentation, I had to give a 15 minute presentation to any group in the Mantasoa community about subject of my choice. I just had my host mom come alongside other women in the community (imagine a sewing club, but instead of sewing they all work the rice fields together, and instead of doing it for leisure, it’s a form of income). But you get my drift, a bunch of women from 40 to 50 who gossip and act like a Delta Delta Delta Sorority. So theyre a group of loudmouths, and I thought it would be a great audience to talk about AIDS towards, cause they would tell EVERYONE about it in their gossiping nature. Well, in typical Malagasy culture, they didn’t show up on time and missed my whole presentation. So that wasn’t a big hit and didn’t make any real strides in educating people that AIDS is real. (which a huge amount of the population doesn’t believe….).
So that’s been my presentation stuff. The presentation this week was pretty small, because the following day we all had our final language assessments. Wednesday morning I had a 20 minute recorded conversation with a Peace Corps tester in Malagasy about my life, their life, plans during/after Peace Corps, food/cooking, family, you name it. The interview concludes when you randomly pick a card that has a scenario which you must act out in Malagasy. Mine was (paraphrased): “you had purchased an item for your moms birthday last week, but you realized that your sister had bought the same thing. Explain to the seller the problem and return the item”. So I had my conversation and then all the staff has to evaluate your language skills as they all listen to your recorded conversation, making you wait for a day to figure out if you passed. To be able to pass and get to site/become a PCV I had to get language skills at “intermediate high” the requirements for health volunteers, where the education volunteers only need to get “intermediate mid” as they teach in English. So I finally heard the news that I tested at Intermediate high, which means that I passed and get to site, but I was a bit bummed as I was trying to get the next step above or “advanced low”, but it didn’t happen. Oh well, I passed. That’s not the case for all the pct’s who will have to stay at training a bit more.
The following day was my last with my host family in Andrefany Poste. Despite me not getting sufficient food and not having a lick in common with Marthe, Eugeune, Boda, Celestine, and What’s his name? (I really disliked the middle bro who was there once every two weeks, and by the time found out he was part of my family I had a week left with the fam). The mom was really the only glimpse of good in the family. She really kept that family running without getting any praise. When I helped do the dishes for the first time the bros were in disbelief. And the dad refused to wash clothes. Ladies beware: Madagascar isn’t too progressive, ie: it is law that wives are 9th in the list of a husband’s will behind their brothers, sons, cousins, golf buddies, bartender, and 2nd grade cubby buddy. Back to my host family, my mom did quite a bit for me and towards the end of my stay we started to talk quite a bit everyday. During my last night I had gotten them some gifts and unbeknownst to me, she also gave me a gift of a HUGE tablecloth she made for me. It was a great joke to them when I explained that I couldn’t fit a table that big in my room as it would be bigger than my house. I know that’s really not funny at all, but coming from a monster white guy speaking Malagasy in the sticks of Madagascar, it doesn’t take much to be a comic genius. I had gotten the family a decent flashlight as they were always in awe of mine, as well as toothbrushes for everyone in the family, giving me another great chance to make a psa to them about hygiene. However, that only reaffirmed to them that I am a doctor. I say that because it was a weekly dinner conversation that I was and whatever health ailments the family had, I knew the quick cure, and me CONSTANTLY explaining I don’t have an MD. So there you have it, considering I’m a recluse, I think my brothers were in a gang, and I didn’t have the slightest thing similar to these people, I think I may miss their company.

Frustration and ramblings

Madagascar. Here we are. I’ve been here for right around 2 months. When I type that it’s hard to believe. It feels like its been a year. 60 Days of foreignness and rice overload. I could have won survivor by now. Actually, I could have won survivor 2 times over. That means I could have won 2 million dollars. Nope, instead I’m banking 4 dollars a day. God. All of these blogs sound really bitter. I’m happier than I let on. I think so at least. I’m really curious as to what my real emotions and thoughts about all of this are opposed to thinking what I should be thinking. You keep telling yourself that “its worth it”, and “this is a great opportunity to grow” and “be selfless for 2 years”. You tell yourself for all of the days you are harsh or cynical on these people and culture and you just want to shrivel up in your limited American bubble that you have days where I am taken back in its beauty and uniqueness. But not today. Just lots of frustration. Frustration at my language skills, frustration at Malagasy and their innerving culture. These 2 years I’m embarking on are the longest time I have been removed from the States by a long-shot. I’m far from a world traveler, but prior to this I spent 5 months in Europe away from the greatness that is America, and being away from home changes you. Before studying in Europe I had never considered myself particularly American. But then you leave and realize the extensive amount of freedoms and abilities you have Stateside and you become patriotic. Yes there are more than ample problems with the States like American Idol, an unhealthy fixation towards Hollywood, rednecks, Wal-Mart, overconsumption with….well….. everything, and still present gender/race inequality, but wow I love America. Wow I miss America. I don’t say it simply because of the conveniences stateside of public bathrooms, free refills and chipotle, all of which are great things. I say it because in America there’s education for everyone, Water Treatment facilities, trash disposal, roads that allow you to be anywhere you want in an instant, and oh yea… food. None of those seemingly simple things are guaranteed in Madagascar. An advanced septic system here is a hole dug in the ground that will act as your toilet for three years opposed to two. Trash disposal? Hahaha, oh you na├»ve American. Either throw your trash to the side of the dirt road or burn it. Lastly, food. Yea, don’t envision some tropical island oasis westernized with PF Chang’s and Cheesecake factory. Madagascar does have some incredible food resources. However, they don’t have packaging or refrigeration outside of big cities. That means in December (summer here) you can pick off the trees as many mangoes as you would like, but there are several other months that are part of the Hunger season. I really question how much of what I say in this blog can be understood or grasped when read from a computer screen in the states. But really, think about that when you go to the grocery store. There may be months at a time where the only thing to be found at the market is rice. The hunger season in the states for me had always been the two days before grocery day when I had polished off the Oreo’s. America, we’ve got it pretty cush.
I was talking to another PCT about this and about how great America is, and they we’re less positive about America than I was, and I was trying to understand why they don’t share the same pride. What we essentially came up with is that our Americas are very different. Lets face it, I’ve had it REAL easy. I’m from a decently well off white family in Apple Pie Ohio. What could I potentially complain about? Not too much. Eating all of those Oreos before grocery day was probably one of my 5 biggest issues in the States, behind: 1) cruise control not working in my car, resulting in me having to have my foot on the gas pedal at ALL times on the highway, 2) Ironing button-down shirts, 3) Missing the 30 Rock season premiere, and 4) mistakenly buying orange juice WITH pulp. I know not all lives in the States are hunky dory, and I’m slightly over the top in my description of my life in the States, but I still have a difficult time being optimistic about the state of Madagascar in comparison to America. But that American affinity is coming from a white male perspective. If you haven’t figured it out yet, that’s not the most common/and or most liked demographic in Madagascar. Why? Because when I am seen, Malagasy instantly assume I’m one of the countless Frenchies who abuse Madagascar and the Malagasy people as an entertainment park post-colonization. Time for me to attempt to break that assumption. I’ve left a country where I’m the privileged majority, and I’m now in a land where I am negatively perceived at first glance. Yea, it makes pretty good sense that I would miss America now and be bitter about Madagascar. Oh Yea, now it’s clear why I am frusterated. Well, I didn’t expect it to be easy. Lets do this Madagascar, we’ve got 2 years together.

P.S. Kudos to you if you were able to read and understand this blog in any form of cohesiveness. I don’t know if it’s a talent or a flaw that this reads as if it were written in stream of consciousness form, but let me give my most sincere apologies.

Friday, August 20, 2010

20 August 2010 SITE VISIT: some good, some bad, lots of Vazaha



Pics: 1 of the CSB where I will be working for the next 2 years. The other two pics are of the bike ride to Ambatomainty, on the west side of Lac Aloatra, with Hoby and lots of rice

Disclaimer: Reader(s) ((do I have plural?)), This is a marathon of a blog, be like the tortoise.
Remember last week that joke I had told about the trip to my site being 5-8 hours? No, you probably don’t. Don’t sweat it, if I was in America I would probably have better things to do than read a marginal blog. Anyways, to keep you informed, last week I was giving the deets about my week-long trip to Ambatomainty, the place I will live for 2 years after I finish training a month from now, and I had said that I was under the impression it would take 5-8 hours to get there. Well, that statement furthers the fact that I really know nothing about Madagascar, BUT I’M NOT ALONE!!! One of my language teachers, Eddy, A Malagasy man, had told me this guesstimate on the travel time. Although Eddy had never traveled to this region, he thought that travel was relatively fast because a new paved road had gone in a few years ago. Sounded great, I bought it, and I prepared myself for a 5-8 hour journey. Remember this fact, it comes back into play. Now let’s fast forward to August 14th, the day of my travel. I would be hopping on a Taxi-Brousse with a different language teacher who grew up in the region, Hoby, and another PCT. We begin our voyage, and the taxi-brousse is as contemptible as possible. It’s a Mazda “Ocean Dream” van loaded with 14 people, luggage, 200kg bags of rice, 4 bikes, and wait for it….1 rooster. So were cruising in the Mazda after leaving an hour late due to the Malagasy’s lax perception of time, and 45 minutes outside of Tana the “Ocean Dream” became a smoky nightmare. We pull off the road, let the engine cool down, and come to the realization that the engine has no coolant. So you do the obvious solution here, have one of the kids riding in the car go fetch some water from the rice paddy in the distance. So that worked, and 20 minutes later we were on our way. However, 45 minutes later, it happened again, and again, and again. In four hours we had gotten where we should of in two. So we took a detour to go to a bigger town where we could jump into a different Taxi-brousse. We get to this town, and there’s a Renault MEGAVAN half full waiting to go, so the 14 people in the Ocean Dream abandon ship for the Renault, putting it at about 5 people over capacity. Then the luggage, rice, bikes and rooster got on top of the Renault and we were ready to depart. In hindsight it was a decision like giving up listening to Rod Stewart for Michael Bolton, just varying degrees of bad. The MEGAVAN was doing well for a few hours, despite numb legs and pierced kneecaps from lack of seat leisure, no real problems. Then, the road stopped. Asphalt to barren dusty roads in an instant. As this continued for some time, I then leaned over to my language teacher Hoby and asked him how long we wouldn’t have a road. Hoby, being the nonchalant man he is, coolly replies:
“eh, I think about 4-5 hours”.
At this point in time I then respond “I thought this whole trip was supposed to take 5 hours?”.
Hoby in his infinite poise simply laughed at me and said in his British trained accent “Nope, it usually takes 8, but because of our breakdown its probably going to take 11.”
My next concern became the road, as I was told by Eddy that there was a new road there. Hoby once again laughs at me….
I’ll paraphrase Hoby’s reply (Imagine this all coming from a short Malagasy man in a sophisticated British accent as he stops reading The Economist magazine in a crazy bumpy van [is this possible to imagine?]) “Oh ignorant American, Eddy doesn’t know the severity of corrupt government as well as the complexities and intricacies found in this region like I do .” “Three years ago Madagascar was given money by the E.U. to pave their roads, but the government did not regulate it, and instead told each region to pave the roads by themselves with the divided money.” “But the politicians in this region fancied the idea of personal helicopters more than roads for everyone, so never made the road.” “However, there is no federal regulation in Madagascar, so the politicians just told both national government as well as the E.U. that the money was put to use for new roads, meaning all maps say there is a beautiful new road here, but in reality it’s just dust and sand”
Yep. He’s right, I pulled out my map of Madagascar and it shows a road, but there’s no road there for 5 hours, just dust. Apparently that’s why infrastructure isn’t a selling point in Madagascar; Corruption.
Now back to the Renault MEGAVAN, it was really dogging it on the nonexistent road, so the MEGAVAN broke down a few more times and all of a sudden my 5 hour journey (which really is an 8 hour journey) became a 13 hour journey. The MEGAVAN didn’t live up to its name, and routinely died. However, the frequent death allowed for chances to get out of the car and stretch the legs. Not kidding, me and about 5 other guys got out of the MEGAVAN multiple times to push-start it. But when you do this after dark in boonie Madagascar, its pretty amazing. Light pollution is a foreign concept here, never in my life have I seen so many stars as rural Madagascar. After one last push-start we made it to our destination, Ambatondrazaka, only 6 hours after we should have arrived. Well, not all of us made it. When unloading the roof of the van, the driver pulled down the wicker basket/cage, but the rooster was no longer to be found. Anyways, I was promised by Hoby that the trip has never lasted so long, so lets hope the horror story is now out of the way.
At Ambatondrazaka we did some small things like check out where my bank is, visit the Meva for Peace Corps Volunteers in the region (it’s a flop house where we can crash when we need to go to town for banking, Peace Corps stuff, or just escape Madagascar-ness and see some Americans.) The following day Me, Hoby, and Teena (the other PCT) went first to visit Teena’s site which is only 15 kilometers from mine, there Hoby introduced her to the people at the crude hospital as well as mayor, police, ect. Then it was my turn, as Hoby and I left Teena to fend for herself, then we jumped on our bikes and began our 15 km bicycle boonie excursion. It was a great ride, as it was great to be on a bike once again. However, the high carb diet of rice with a side of rice doesn’t make bike rides easy, as both Hoby and I were beat from the short trip. Once there we needed to get some energy, so we went to a Hotely (essentially the Malagasy restaurant), and went big with a meal of rice, chicken, pork, eggs, and a side of yogurt and a salad. And this cost us 2500 Ariary/person, or $1.14. Broke the bank on that one. We stayed at a hotel that was 12,000 Ariary/night, or $5.48. We were really racking up the national deficit over site visit.
So I visited my site with the man Hoby via bikes for a 15k ride each way, checked out my digs, met some midwives, realized that I really don’t know much Malagasy, walked around the market, things of that nature. My dwellings are part of the CSB complex, which is sorta a tiny clinic/hospital where they give immunizations, occasionally deliver babies, talk about condoms, washing hands, it’s really your one-stop shop for marginal healthcare. So the CSB will be my major outlet of singlehandedly saving Madagascar with health announcements and such, but if there are other things in the community that need attention, I’m there. I’ll be talking about my region quite a bit in the next few years, and I really don’t have a ton to say about it now. But I’m excited to be in the town and area as there seems to be a good peace corps network amidst the Lac Aloatra region. So for now, I’ll keep it mysterious…
Moving on, lets talk about the word Vazaha. Wow I hate that word. If you don’t know, it’s the derogatory term for a white rich person in Madagascar. Where we have training I would hear it pretty frequently, but typically by little kids whispering to their friends “Vazaha lavo be” or “super tall white guy”. There in Mantasoa it doesn’t bother me too much, as I am in fact a tall white guy. But those kids just do it to be funny and show their friends that they are bold enough to talk about the whities, there’s no real malicious intent in it. There they are used to whities all the time as Peace Corps does training, and we essentially are their source of American entertainment media, but as the whities spread themselves thinner throughout the country, they stop being in on the joke, and BECOME the joke. I think I tend to get it more than the average whitey as I am four feet taller than the typical Malagasy man, but it hardly justifies the intensity. Throughout the site visit trip I would guess I hear “Vazaha” at least 20 times a day. That can get exhausting. I guess it’s completely socially acceptable to call out the white guy, but let’s not hold grudges when doing so. Here’s the story: I did my bike ride to my site for 2 days because I couldn’t sleep there, one day with my language teacher Hoby, and one day without. But this ride is seriously boonie Madagascar, just rice paddies for miles. On the second day, sans teacher, I had passed some men working in the rice paddies about 100 feet from the road, and while the whole group stops to gawk at the vazaha, there was one shrewd and progressive scholar in the fields who was having nothing to do with me. With all the rage this man had towards me, I must have unknowingly murdered his family. My Bad, Azafady. “VAZAA! VAZAA! ALLEZ VAZAA!” he screamed as throwing down his rice paddy spade to get a closer look at the evil soul I am. Apparently my whiteness had ruined his otherwise great day working at a rice plantation. If that doesn’t get you excited to volunteer in a 3rd world country, I don’t know what would. I understand I am a pretty strange site here, but subtlety isn’t a strong point for Malagasy hicks. Another trainee was expressing their frustration at the title, and asked a language teacher if it would be fine just to respond “Mainty! Mainty!” or blackie after being called a whitie, but apparently its very offensive to call a Malagasy person black, while fully acceptable on the other hand to call an American as white. It shouldn’t get to me, and my main focus here is to bring health education, but educating ignorant farmers on class and respect sounds pretty tempting too.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Awaiting Site Visit!!!!




14 August 2010

Well I updated this a week ago, but here we go. I’m back in the capital city of Tana because I’ll be going on a site visit this upcoming week. For those outside the Peace Corps loop, what that means is I will go to the site where I’ll be living for the next two years to scope out the situation. My site is Ambatomainty, it’s a city of about 20,000 people, approximately 250 kilometers NNE of Tana. To get there one travels by road, but as I have said, infrastructure isn’t Madagascar’s forte. To get to my city of Ambatomainty one takes a Taxi-Brousse from Tana to a bigger city about 15 km away from my site. Here’s a great interlude to explain the Taxi-Brousse: the unofficial mascot of Madagascar Travel. Envision your Mom’s ‘94 Astrovan. Now snag out the six suede bucket seats that you have pictured and replace them with about 20 school bus seats. Typically a sun-faded honey amber pleather seat with questionable rips and stains. Your Astrovan was intended to seat 6-8, but the ingenious Malagasy have now equipped it with 15 bleacher seats, meaning they will sell 20 seats. This is another appropriate time to mention that the average height of a Malagasy man is 4 foot 3, and I am 150% taller than said man. Therefore transportation is a pretty crude practice for me. Legroom is a delicacy in a vehicle designed by midgets. So that’s your taxi-Brousse. The same marginal soccer-mom van produced 15 years ago, now modified with bus seats and luggage rack on the roof. But don’t fret, it’s not like they just Frankenstein these vans together, It still has the same tires as when it rolled out of the factory in ’94. Now back to the roads, let’s make an analogy. Picture your gravel driveway. PERFECT! You now have imagined the national highway! To get to my site, the 235 km excursion from Tana to the big city near Ambatomainty takes anywhere from 5-8 hours. And this is regarded as one of the nicest roads in Madagascar. Let’s think about this, A praised road’s length of travel shouldn’t vary nearly that much. Stateside, would anyone get on any mode of transportation if the driver tells you “Yea, we will get there in five hours, but if it takes nearly twice that, no biggie”? So this greatly variable trip gets me 15km away from my site. But that doesn’t get me all the way there. To endure the last 15km epicness takes place. The peace corps initially had planned for me to take a taxi to my city. But the taxis in this region are rickshaws and bicycles, and I wasn’t fancying that. I proposed to get to my site for a few times this upcoming week that Peace Corps gives me my bike early, and THEY ACTUALLY THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA. MY ROCKING TREK MOUNTAIN BIKE WILL BE JOINING ME ON THE TAXI-BROUSSE. I was cleaning my bike the other day with some Malagasy employees of Peace Corps, adjusting the saddle, throwing a new chain and tube. GOOD STUFF. GOOD STUFF INDEED. So that’s where I’m at now. Nothing crazy new exciting, just anticipating my site visit. Check back next week, I should have some good stuff to tell back from site visit.
The Pictures I added are of my 18 year old host brother Celeste, who is about 5 foot 1, A view of the Malagasy Highlands, and a candlelit pic from the edge of my bed.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Update from Madagascar

Hi everyone, this is Annie. I'm posting this blog on taylor's behalf:


I’ve been in M-ascar for 2 weeks. Here’s the abridged version of the happenings:

I met 41 other PCV trainees in Washington D.C. and had a short orientation on July 19th-20th. Half of these people are with public health, and the other is teaching English. Anyways, on the 20th we sat on a plane for about 20hours, stopping in Dakar to refuel and landing in Johannesburg, South Africa for the night. Now this would have been a great opportunity to meet other volunteers in sitting beside them for 20 hours, but I decided to forego that situation. I had my seat moved away from all those hippies to get an exit row seat with GREAT LEG ROOM. However I still couldn’t get comfortable in this seat and for a few hours over the Atlantic decided to lay down on the floor with its massive leg room and take a nap. Apparently this is a big no-go in flights, and I was woken up and yelled at by a furious South African Flight Attendant . This was such a big faux pas that they came over the loud speaker on the flight to note to all passengers that sleeping under seats was NOT permitted. Now you have been warned. Back to abridged… The following day after the marathon flight we had another 3 hour flight to Antananariva (Tana for short), Madagascar and stayed a night there in the capital city. But we don’t go stay their often, as political coups in that city are as frequent as a 6 foot 4 white guy getting noticed in an African country where the average height is 5 foot 3. But don’t worry Mom, 1) We don’t go there during unrest, 2)I’m not the only tall white guy with the Peace Corps.

Anyways, all of our training is in a village called Mantasoa. This was a 2 hour, painfully bumpy, 10 person packed Toyota Land Cruiser trip. In that 2 hours we traveled a grand 30 Kilometers. Infastructure isn’t a selling point to M-ascar. As soon as we got to Mantasoa (just southeast of Tana) we met our host families and had out first night with them. Just a tad bit intimidating, as I knew about 3 words of Malagasy opposed to their zero of English and 4 of French, “Ne Pas Parle Francais”. So yea, that’s whats up with me, just settling in with this family, adapting to their affinity of white rice at every dining opportunity, and learning the language everday during class. Moral of the abridged version, I am alive and well, and I hope the friends and fam stateside are also. That was my best attempt at an abridged retelling of the past few weeks. But honestly, that’s like summarizing Moby Dick in a paragraph. If you are still interested, please read more! It’s the first time I’ve had internet yet so I apologize for the heavy load, but hey, you don’t have to read this all in one sitting. Take a break, I’ll give
you a reference point -> ((((((BREAK))))))





(((((RESUME))))))
Welcome back! So you probably have no idea what Mada is like after my abridged version. That’s intentional to keep you reading. But really, how do I explain this place to make any sense whatsoever? From a western perspective this place is completely nonsensical. Let’s give some highlights to emphasize my point. My neighbor in my quainter that quaint village is a band leader and EVERY NIGHT from about 7-9 play the same 8 minutes of music on loop for 2 hours straight. This isn’t your angstful teenage neighbor, rehearsing 90s grunge rock with his high school bros in the garage with thoughts of being the next Pearl Jam. Nope, think more along the line of Lion’s Club marching band. It’s a group of about 10 guys in their fifties and sixties playing wooden flutes and marching drums. And they couldn’t be happier rocking out while the village attempts to go to bed and ignore the Malagasy Association of Retired People Marine Band. I suppose a sense of community is lovely, but the 4/4 time of the bass drum is running a bit thin to me. I’m planning on introducing them to some Jay-Z next week for my sanity. I feel they would really embrace and appreciate the message of “99 Problems”. I asked my 18 year old host brother in
broken Malagasy “Tia Musikany Dadibe ve ianao?” or “Do you like the grandpa’s music?”. And he began to laugh hysterically and say “Tsia, Ratsy! Ratsy! Ratsy be!” or “No, it really bad!” I’m trying to stay optimistic and assume he understood me and was referring to the music and not my language skills, but either is possible.

So that’s an intro to my Village: Andrefany Poste.
Approximate population of the big AP: 60. Exact number of last names found in the village: 1 (yep, everyone is related to everyone in AP) Number of PCTs staying in various houses in AP: 5. FUN FACT: It is estimated that the total amount of teeth in place for the five PCTs MAY OUTNUMBER the total amount of teeth of the 60 malagasy AP natives. Yea, this town isn’t full of routine flossers…. But they sure have heart. All the 42 volunteers are spread out a few kilometers around Mantasoa in small villages like AP. But from what we have seen, the AP seems to be the poorest of villages. No running water, No
electricity. But they sure have hearts… and candles. When I leave my village of Andrefany Poste on my walk to language
class it quickly becomes evident that Northeast Ohio is aways away. It’s a 20 minute walk to the classroom consisting of decrepit and uneven muddy red clay roads, astounding views of the Malagasy Highlands, multiple rainbows occurring at once, and countless livestock running and marching without direction. Cows assumed to be owned by someone feed on the grass aside the road as chickens and geese get in fights only to be broken up when a Malagasy man blows past them in his 1970s Peugeot Bike with a basketful of bananas and pineapple. However, these sights are not the best on the walk to
class. The best by MILES are all these GREAT TRUCKS that transport various agriculture on the dilapidated roads as they splash muddy puddles onto pedestrians. What is fascinating about these trucks? Well, they are all MERCEDES! Every single truck you see is a Mercedes benz, its remarkable that Mercedes has made themselves viable to this third world country! Turns out Mercedes doesn’t really do that. If you get close to one of these trucks you examine the Mercedes hood ornaments, and then it hits you. Nope, these certainly aren’t Mercedes’ in Rural Madagascar. You get close to them and see that these ornaments are all chinsey plastic junk superglued over a spraypainted Chinese Manufacturer logo. Its done so shoddily though, its rare to even see the Merc logo at the right angle/alignment. So turns out all these trucks were Fauxcedes. Oh Madagascar..
Moving on, now lets talk about my salary. I rake in 35k/WEEKLY! Not annually, but WEEKLY! Quite impressive being out of college for 2.5 months. Well…….. not quite. That’s Ariary, not USD. 35,000 ariary approximately equals 16 bucks per week. That’s what I get paid during training when I don’t have to pay for any food or living costs as I'm with a host family. But seriously, with 16 dollars of expendable cash in rural Madagascar, YOU ARE A GOD! Would I like that soccer ball?
Sure why not, its only a buck fifty. How about a cell phone, well that will set you back a big 9 buckaroos. This money they give us is essentially for snacks or drinks and sanity during training, but I’ve been pretty frugal with the walk around money. A snack of fried mofo runs 100 ariary- or 4.65 cents, or about twice that for a small bar of chocolate. But I’m holding back. Why you ask? For the countless bootleg DVD collections you can find at epicieries or teenage boys cruising through town on their mobile blockbuster bicycle. I haven’t checked prices yet, but there are some good collections that I’m eyeing- such as the Keanu Reeves collection (featuring SPEED 1-3, MATRIX 1-3, and THE LAKE HOUSE), or perchance ill snag the SCHWARTZENEGGER VS JACKIE CHAN ACTION COLLECTION. You can’t make this stuff up.

Lastly, if you ever feel like sending me a letter, I’d love that. However, in this blog I have told 2 different locations that it can be sent to, and I’m changing it again on you. The address to send to is the original one provided, the one with B.P. in it. Sorry, my inconsistency in this department is becoming comical, but I promise you it isn’t intentional. I give you warning though, It will likely change again in another 6 ish weeks.

Thanks for your strength in getting through this monster blog. I’ll work on getting pictures up here sometime in the future. Keep the States wonderful everyone.


* This is Annie again, I've gotten questions regarding how to contact Taylor. You can call or text him at +261 346056067 (be sure to dial the + sign). He doesn't have electricity so his phone might not be on all the time. If you text or call him I'm pretty sure it's free for him, but of course he will have to pay to text you back, so if you don't get a text back from him, you know how much he likes you.