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.