THIS BIRD HAS FLOWN


And Your Bird Can Sing
November 28, 2013, 3:25 PM
Filed under: PEACE CORPS MADAGASCAR

Herro.

Hi Arianna Pattek here: the last post in my mega update about my life. I hope things in whatever corner of the world you’re at are amazing! So I left off in my last post talking about my parents visit, which was incredible. You know, people here in Andapa still ask me questions like, “have your parents arrived back in America yet?” and I blow their minds when I say, yes, in fact, after only a day and a half, they were snuggled back at home breathing American air.

So I went back to Tana in August for two reasons – to take my parents to the airport and see them off, and to train the new PCVs. As I said before, I was selected to be a PCV Trainer, and I was training during “Practicum,” a period of three weeks when the new PCVs do actual teaching in a Malagasy school with Malagasy students. As trainers, we observe and offer feedback, and also conduct sessions on technical aspects of our job, like lesson planning, classroom management, etc. Practicum is a great time to be a trainer, because all seven trainers live at the PCTC for three and a half weeks with the new volunteers. And I love the PCTC. The food and snacks are amazing, there is a beautiful lake with canoes, I hang out with my friends, train the new volunteers, learn new things from observations, spend quality time with PC staff, etc. What’s not to love? Oh wait, except Mantasoa is the coldest place ever. My body has adjusted to living in such a hot place that as soon as it got a bit cold I didn’t know how to handle myself. And being in Mantasoa for the Gasy winter is not an easy feat. Molly, one of my best PCV friends and fellow trainer, invented “cocooning” in bed – pretty self-explanatory, burrowing into bed when the outside world is simply too cold to exist in. Being a trainer is great, having the opportunity to drop some knowledge on the new volunteers and act as a resource for them, but also it’s a bit bizarre. It’s like going through Pre-Service Training again but having none of the stress. Very strange déjà vu. Some highlights from Practicum to share – I gave my first haircut of my life to Molly, my very trusting friend. Turned out a little shorter than expected (I cut a few thumbs – our measuring stick – more of hair than she wanted), so she was left with a hip 1920s or 1960s bob. Oops. She returned the favor by giving me my first haircut in Madagascar, long overdue. The trainers also participated in the trainees’ talent show and repped “our stage” appropriately. And we failed miserably at a dodgeball tournament in which I think I broke a few of my own bones, or at least caused some serious internal damage. Overall, Practicum was loads of fun. Hanging out with the new volunteers was a nice change of pace, and their fresh energy and enthusiasm for their work was invigorating. It really got me motivated to be a better teacher this time around for my second year. When Practicum finished, I had a few days to kill in Tana before I headed back to SAVA for a little bit. Molly and Gabby, another one of my best PCV friends, were both hanging around Tana as well, so we decided to treat ourselves a bit (Treat Yo-self 2013, if you will) as a reward for surviving the Mantasoa winter. We dubbed ourselves the “Ladies Who Lunch,” LWL, because everything in PC needs an acronym. And we treated ourselves. And it was glorious.

After a brief goodbye to my LWL companions, I headed back to SAVA to check on the library before heading back yet again to the PCTC in Mantasoa for my Mid Service Conference (MSC). MSC takes place after our first year of service. PC brings in my entire training group to have technical, cultural, and language sessions for five days. Overall, it’s a great reunion to see how everyone’s doing – many of my stagemates I haven’t seen since our IST in December 2012. We all couldn’t believe how fast time has flown. Have I really been here for over a year?! What the hell? MSC was nuts. Just bananas. Lovely to see everyone again and, similar to Practicum, motivating for this upcoming school year. I can’t believe I just have one more official PC conference left before I am finished – my Close-of-Service (COS) Conference in May. Slow down, time, seriously. The end of MSC marked the end of my ridiculous whirlwind of a grandes vacances. I missed Andapa and was so anxious to get back home. Naturally, my house was a dirty mess and I had to reintroduce my face out and about around town to make sure people still knew who I was. But it felt so good to be back, and that’s always a comforting feeling.

Now that you’re all brought up to speed, I’ll give you a quick update about more recent life happenings. The school year started again in the middle of October and I have the same schedule as last year – 2 sections of 6eme at the middle school/CEG and 3 sections of 1ere at the high school/lycee. I am doing things in my classroom very differently this time around and I love how things are working out. My classes are still gigantic, but I have my sea legs and know how things work now. Being a second year PCV and second year teacher is revelation, I swear. Everything, and I mean everything, makes a 100 times more sense than last year. It’s unreal. I must sound mad, but I LOVE it. So yes, school is great. I still have my frustrations, though. For example, even though I think I am teaching my lessons way better and clearer than last year, I gave my first tests and the marks were still not very good. The study-at-home thing is not really popular here so that was a bit disheartening, something that my students will have to work on. My middle schoolers hit my objectives for each lesson, but when asked to produce their own content on exams without the aid of their notebooks, they are lost. And my high schoolers made the same mistakes of things they learned 6 years ago. Le sigh.

In addition to my primary teaching assignment, I have numerous secondary projects in the works. I have my weekly lycee English club with over 45 members attending regularly. Last week we just finished watching Beauty and the Beast. If you want a clue as to how my life is like here in Mada, watch that musical scene with Belle in her village at the beginning – “Bonjour! Good day! That girl is so strange!” – and it’ll give you a very good example. I also just restarted my adult class through the library again with another Malagasy teacher friend, Thorien. This time around, we split it into two sections: one advanced and one beginner. The adults are so motivated. There must be something in the water in Andapa that makes people want to learn English so badly. A PC staff member once told me on a visit here that Andapa is strange; it’s the only Malagasy town he’s every visited where Malagasy people speak English to each other on the street. And it’s true – I’ve seen it! Crazy. I still do occasional teaching demonstrations out in the countryside too. Hm, what else… I’m in the planning stages for a SAVA-wide teacher summit next year and also a girls empowerment camp (hosted with the other SAVA PCVs), which will both be great I hope. And! I just hosted the Andapa Public Library official inauguration on November 8th. We invited all the local important people to the library to officially open it, now that we have books and a beautiful laptop donated from America. I had to give the opening speech in both Malagasy and English, which was definitely a bit nerve-wracking, especially when Thorien tells me the night before that my speech will be recorded for national TV and radio distribution! Ok sure. No pressure. I’ve since seen myself on the local news and it’s a bizarre phenomenon. A tiny Malagasy kid stopped me in the street a few days ago to say, “Oh vazaha, I saw you on TV yesterday!” I just laughed. How weird! The party was a huge success and we’ve had such a great turnout at the library every day since. Loads of new members. Victory.

In other news, November marked my second NatVAC meeting in Tana as well. As always, it’s very cool for me to be able to represent the interests of my region at the meeting. And hanging out with the other reps isn’t so bad either! It was a nice change of pace from life at site. Just a quick weekend away and back to life here. Next week for Thanksgiving, I’ll be in Sambava with the SAVA PCVs and some Gasy friends (Agnes and Thorien included), cooking amazing food but missing my grandma’s sweet potatoes as usual. Someone please find a way to send me some?

My brain is mush from all this writing, so I’ll close with this. I know I’ve been MIA in the blogosphere, but life as a second year PCV is incredible. I love the people I work with, the people who I consider my family here in Andapa, my town, this country…I could gush all day. There are some days that are difficult still, but I am comforted by my overwhelming sense of ease most of the time. Plus, I can see real changes because of my presence, especially in my students. And that’s the whole reason I’m here after all – to help the teachers and students of Andapa. It’s comforting to be able to walk down the street and have people actually associate my presence here with education and the work of Peace Corps. I am “The English Teacher”. Also, the library, in my opinion, has created a change in the educational culture and community of Andapa. It’s given Andapa-ians a place to go to meet like-minded individuals, discuss pedagogy, and access resources. Perhaps most exciting is the sustainability of it all – there are now classes and meetings at the library that I no longer have to organize. People are taking the initiative to make the library into whatever Andapa needs, and it isn’t dependent on me. Students use the library to meet up with each other to practice. Park guides have taken the initiative to organize a class for themselves every day at the library with Thorien. I’ve observed teachers trying out new techniques that they’ve learned in the library in their classrooms and I’ve heard students using new, difficult vocabulary that we’ve practiced together. It’s great. And to top it all off, mango and lychee season just began. What more could a PCV ask for?

Keep the updates from America coming, please. I love hearing about your lives!
Missing you all betsaka.

Amanaraka koa,
Arianna Pattek



Here, There, And Everywhere
November 28, 2013, 3:24 PM
Filed under: PEACE CORPS MADAGASCAR

Hey again It’s me Arianna Pattek.

So now that you’re all brought up to speed on the chaos of April, I should probably fill you in on the rest of my life here, little by little. So much has happened here in Madagascar since April! Let me start by saying that I am LOVING life at site. I love Andapa. For real. It’s been a journey filled with highs and lows for sure, and I can’t believe sometimes how comfortable I feel here. Just wanted to get that out.

Ok, so let’s start with grandes vacances, aka “big vacation” or winter break (USA’s summer break, but here it’s actually cold!). I kicked off vacation in June by taking 13 of my amazing English Club students to Marojejy National Park. Marojejy is a gorgeous national park around 50km from Andapa, and it’s one of the main reasons tourists come to SAVA. It is also the home of the Silky Sifaka lemur, which can only be found in Marojejy. ONLY here, out of the whole world. It is one of the top 25 most critically endangered primates in the world. Crazy, right? I worked together with the Duke Lemur Center to bring 13 high school students to the park for a 3-day, 2-night environmental education field trip. It was incredible. These students know how important Marojejy is to their region, but they rarely get the opportunity to go there because of prohibitive costs and other factors. For my trip, each student only had to contribute the equivalent of around $1 USD. We spent our time hiking (not an easy trek!), looking at the wildlife, learning about environmental conservation in English (!!!) from our guide, and practicing vocabulary and speaking. Fun anecdote – there are leeches everywhere in Marojejy and they really freaked me out. My students really enjoyed my reactions every time I discovered a leech creeping somewhere on my body. They enjoyed this so much that they would leave leeches on their feet (granted, my students did the trek in flip-flops) to feed, become giant, then gross me out and show me. Good fun all around. Anyway, I made each student a 30-page workbook that had information and activities in both Malagasy and English to facilitate the learning process. While it was exhausting looking after 13 teenagers for 3 days making sure they didn’t fall over a cliff or get a leech in their eye, it was such a rewarding program. The best part: since the trip was “English only,” I was able to notice a real change in my students’ comfort level with English. Great success.

The week after Marojejy, after I picked off all of the leeches, I spent a few days in the deep countryside – Maroambihy – visiting the extended family of my best Malagasy friend at site, Agnes. I’m not sure if I’ve talked about Agnes on my blog before, but I am so lucky to have a friend like her here. She rules. She’s 25 years old and her family has become like my second family. They’re so cute and motivated and generally awesome. Agnes’ dad is the president of the Lutheran Church here (so sometimes I’m suckered into going, but whatevs) and also of the market association, which is a really cool mechanism to make sure each seller has representation in what goes on at the market. She spent three years working in Lebanon (it’s pretty common for girls in my region to work abroad in the Middle East for a few years to make some money for their families), so she understands weird western cultural things more so than other Gasy friends of mine. Some days I’ll hang out with her at the market and help sell clothes, since they tend to make more money when I’m there (haha), or we’ll cook (she’s an amazing cook and can cook Lebanese food!!), or just lounge around, watching films, playing basketball, etc. I’m so lucky to have found her here. AND her mom just got some kind of oven situation at their house, so I plan on cooking up a storm in the upcoming weeks. Yes. Anyway, I wanted to meet some more of her family, so we took a trip to Maroambihy to stay with them for a few days. No water, no power, just lots and lots of kids and playtime. We hiked around the forest and ate avocadoes straight from the trees. We bathed in the river alongside women from the village. I got my hair braided and it really effing hurt. I love getting the opportunity to see more villages in my region, so it was an enriching experience.

June was busy, not just for Maroambihy and Marojejy, but it was also my 23rd birthday, which happens to coincide with Malagasy Independence Day! I’m telling you, it’s fate that I live in this country. People here always flip out when I tell them my birthday is the same day as Independence. I agree. Madagascar already had a party planned for me! In the morning, Andapa’s commune planned a giant parade of all the big associations here, mostly schools and students. I met up with the teachers of my CEG in the morning (wearing our matching blue polo shirts), indulged in some 8am birthday-morning beverages with them, then went to the parade with my students. All of the teachers and students practiced the goose-stepping parade walk for weeks, but of course I’m tsy mahay, so I just went with it. As we paraded by the mayor’s table, the announcer over the speaker said something along the lines of, “and here is our vazaha (foreigner) English teacher – look how happy and smiling she is! She is almost Malagasy!” I’ll take the “almost” comment, thank you very much. When the parade finished, I met up with Agnes and some other friends of mine at my friend Fostin’s house, where they cooked a giant meal for my birthday and threw me a great birthday party. All in all, a mellow but memorable 23rd birthday.

The day after my birthday, I headed to Tana to participate in my first National VAC (Volunteer Advisory Committee) meeting because I am the VAC Representative for the SAVA Region. Peace Corps splits PCVs into groups by region, leaving eight regions of volunteers. Each region elects a representative to serve as the VAC Rep for a term of one year. As VAC Reps, we organize regional meetings every three months and participate in a national meeting in Tana every four months with PC staff and the other VAC Reps. I love it – it’s a really cool way to get more involved in PC and give PC direct feedback on how things are going in our region, plus the other NatVAC Reps (sorry, so many acronyms, I know) are awesome. It’s great to meet a cross-section of PCVs I’d never normally interact with otherwise since SAVA is so isolated! Our first meeting was long, but informative and delicious (PC gives us some great snacks haha).

In addition to NatVAC in July, I participated in – wait for it, here comes another acronym – ToT, aka Training of Trainers, at the Peace Corps Training Center (PCTC). I was selected to be a PCV Trainer for the new stage of Education Volunteers coming to Madagascar in July, which was very exciting for me! So I, along with the nine or so other PCV Trainers, went to the PCTC for around a week to discuss programming and training. I was training with some of my best friends in Peace Corps, so it was loads of fun. AND it coincided with July 4th – you guys know how I feel about America’s birthday – so it was wonderful to be around other Americans on my favorite holiday. ToT made me realize just how far I’d come in my journey as a PCV. I was expected to answer new PCV questions and actually know what I’m talking about regarding teaching. It was daunting. But that’s when it hit me – I think I actually DO know what I’m talking about. I worked my ass off last year learning the ropes of teaching in this challenging educational climate and culture, and I know how to manage incredibly large, multilevel classes. And I couldn’t wait to share my knowledge with the newbies. I wanted to help make their transition to this country as smooth as possible. It was nice to actually feel mahay (the Gasy word for knowledgeable) for once! And it made me acknowledge this long and winding road that is Peace Corps service. Time is going way too fast. After NatVAC and ToT, I headed back to site for a few weeks to do some library work. I’ve posted before about our awesome book deliveries so I spent some serious time getting the cataloguing system up and running and labeling books. The shelves are almost feno (full), and it looks like a place that could actually BE a library. Finally!

Also, drumroll please…my parents came to visit at the end of July! I was so proud of them for actually making the long trek to this beautiful country. Mada isn’t necessarily the easiest place to visit, but they were such good sports about it and I was so excited to share my life here with them. Again, look on Facebook, I put up a giant album filled with photos from our trip! It was an adventure. First, I met them in South Africa to head to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe together. It was such a weird feeling leaving the island. As soon as the plane took off, I was so sad and missed Madagascar already – how does that even happen? I’d only be gone for four days! When I got to South Africa, it was just major culture shock everywhere. Lights, fast internet, hot water, no rice, ENGLISH …the airport is like a bazillion times bigger than the one I’m used to in Sambava (aka just a room with a desk and a fan and a departure door, no joke). It was overwhelming. But Zimbabwe was incredible – we got to see amazing wildlife, I fulfilled my lifelong dream of riding an elephant, I flew in a helicopter above Victoria Falls, and I saw my first 100 trillion dollar bill. Zimbabwe is fascinating and definitely a place I want to visit again.

After my parents and I returned to Madagascar, we traveled everywhere. Seriously. We first went north to see Diego and Ankarana National Park, which was beautiful. Lots of lemurs and my first sighting of the tsingy – an amazing and unique razor-sharp limestone rock formation. You’ve gotta google it or look at my photos. After Ankarana, we spent a few days in Nosy Be, an island off the northwest coast of Madagascar. From Nosy Be, we could travel to the smaller islands around it by speedboat for snorkeling and amazing beaches. Some of the most beautiful beaches ever and amazing seafood! We passed back through Tana to head to the west coast of Madagascar to see the baobabs and the western tsingy. I’ve wanted to see the Tsingy de Bemaraha since before coming to Madagascar. It’s only accessible part of the year when it’s not raining, because there is literally NO road to get there, and the rains flood the actual tsingy. We had to travel for 12 hours in a 4×4 to get to the tsingy itself, leaving from Morondava (the town where the amazingly beautiful baobabs live). The drive is no joke. I thought my parents were going to lose it because at some points, we had to cross rivers on these crazy makeshift ferries, so our driver just drove the car right on there and it floated away. Terrifying but amazing. The tsingy was the coolest thing I’ve done in this country so far. We spent two days climbing around on the rocks, hooked up with harnesses and safety wires. Breathtaking views. On the way back to Morondava, we stopped at the Avenue of the Baobabs to see the famous Madagascar baobabs at sunset. It’s literally impossible to take a bad picture there, though some tourists are super serious about it. I met one guy who was camped there all day with like twelve different tripods. Really dude? Relax. Those trees are over 900 years old and are effing gigantic. They’ve also started a baobab nursery at the end of the Avenue and it’s adorable. Baby baobab trees are just like little sticks – apparently they grow tall before they grow fat, so I guess those trees will resemble a baobab in maybe 200 years. See ya then.

Our last leg of the journey was visiting SAVA and Andapa. I could NOT wait, especially because I told everyone in Andapa that my family was coming and people were so excited. My parents got the royal treatment. Many of my friends had us over for meals, took us around Andapa, organized parties, kept us company, etc. The only downside is that Andapa could not keep it together weather-wise and it was cold/rainy/muddy the whole time. But at least my parents got a real taste of the Andapa lifestyle? I do live in the Seattle of Mada. It was the most bizarre thing ever having my parents meet my friends and seeing my house here, like the colliding of two very different worlds. But it’s awesome for them to understand the things that I’ve tried so hard to explain via blog or telephone. A bit of a relief actually. That’s why the rest of you should definitely come visit! Haha. But really, DO IT.

Even with all of that, my grandes vacanes was only half over, if you can believe it. I’ll finish the rest in my next post because my fingers are exhausted and I’ve got an appointment at the bazary selling some clothes with Agnes.

Amanaraka koa, friends!
Arianna Pattek

PS – thanks a million to those of you who sent me packages and letters during the vacation – they’ve been such a treat! You know who you are and I love you for it ☺



Because
November 28, 2013, 3:22 PM
Filed under: PEACE CORPS MADAGASCAR

Hey there, world.

So. It’s been a silly amount of time since I’ve posted in this blog. At first, I didn’t write because I couldn’t (get to that in a sec), and then, as time passed, I just got crazy busy over here in Madagascar and haven’t had a second or the internet to do so. I know many of you ask how life is going over here, so I owe you a big post or three about what’s been going on. I’m going to try to split these updates into a few organized posts so it’s not just a bunch of overwhelming Ari-style ramblings.

First things first, though, I need to address the elephant in the blog-room…that whole neo-Nazi incident. I should start by saying that I am okay. I was just rattled and disturbed, but bottom line is that I’m safe and sound. So here’s what happened. Back in April, I woke up one morning before biking out to teach in the countryside only to discover around 40 emails in my Georgetown account from unknown individuals, all following an anti-Semitic, hateful, and threatening theme. I had no idea where they were coming from or what prompted them, but as I was late, I had no time to investigate. When I returned home from teaching that afternoon, I checked my email again, only to discover that the number of emails had increased to something around 75ish without sign of slowing down, and the tone was becoming more disturbing and threatening (aka garbage like “I hope you die” and “I know where you live” blah blah blah). Naturally, I was freaked out, and I felt a bit helpless because I didn’t have the internet access at site to properly deal with it. I contacted some Georgetown professors and administrators that I still keep in touch with and they got the ball rolling on the administrative side to see where the emails were coming from. In the meantime, a good Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) friend suggested I contact the Country Director (CD) of Peace Corps directly, since I had no idea how I should handle the situation. The CD was very helpful and she suggested that I shut down my blog and Facebook for the time being (since I was getting comments/messages on both pages too) and see how Georgetown could help me. When I woke up the next day, the threatening emails continued to flow in. I noticed one from a moderator on Reddit, who was kind enough to tell me that I was all over a “Men’s Rights” (wtf?) Sub-Reddit dedicated to bashing and harassing me. After doing some investigating on my own, I discovered that I was the subject of numerous message board threads on various Men’s Rights and neo-Nazi websites (one, ironically enough, I used as a source for my thesis – ha), complete with my photos, personal information about my life here in Madagascar and back in America, and threats against my family and me. It was incredibly unsettling. Because of the nature of the threats, Georgetown began working with the FBI. With the new, alarming information (like the fact that my photos and death threats were posted all over the internet, along with my family’s home address and phone number), the CD decided to bring me to Tana so I help out the FBI and use the internet to deal with what was going on. It was a very stressful period, because the Regional Security Officer (RSO) at the US Embassy and Peace Corps had to reevaluate my security situation at site to determine if I would even be allowed to return. After around a week and a half of uncertainty about my future here, I was given the green light to go back to site. Cue the sigh of relief.

I wish I could say that since I’ve returned back to Andapa everything’s gone back to normal. Unfortunately, internet crimes like this have an incredible staying power. If you Google me at all right now, you’ll see what I mean. However, I will say that I am so thankful that everyone mobilized so quickly to help me out when I had no idea how to deal with what was happening. Peace Corps took me seriously and got me access to resources, while my friends at Georgetown and my family worked tirelessly on my behalf to stop the threats. And my PCV friends were so supportive. My deepest gratitude for all of your help during that time! Whether you were talking to the FBI for me or sending me an email to ask how I was doing, everything helped. Thank you times a million.

So what exactly happened? Why was I the target of some crazies? Well, here’s what I could gather. Somewhere in the interwebs, there was an anonymous blog that talked about alarming admissions practices at Georgetown (obviously untrue) that put white males at a disadvantage. This blog angered “Men’s Rights” and “White Rights” supporters, who then launched a campaign to find out the identity of the blogger. The blogger mentioned defending her dissertation in 2012, so these people assumed, without any evidence, that this woman went to Georgetown. After accessing the Georgetown library thesis database and cross-referencing it with the date of the blog’s dissertation post, they stumbled upon my thesis, which just happened to be published during the same month. A really unfortunate coincidence, and some seriously bad luck on my part. After reading my thesis (which, ironically enough, talks in detail about the neo-Nazi movement and is openly harsh and critical about their methodologies), these people were even angrier, and now were armed with an identity to attack: mine. And that’s where it all began.

For the record, I should state the following: I am not the author of the “Feminist Conservative” Blog. I have never worked for Admissions at Georgetown University. I have never written a dissertation at Georgetown – I graduated magna cum laude from the undergraduate School of Foreign Service after writing an undergraduate Justice and Peace Studies thesis. And that’s that.

I don’t like feeling as though I have to defend myself against people who did not use any actual evidence to draw their conclusions, but since this is the internet and the information is out there, I feel obligated. It still blows my mind that this kind of thing goes on AND that it could seriously affect my life all the way over here in Madagascar. But for now, I’m trying to focus on the present and enjoying every moment of being a PCV. I hope this write-up of what happened answers your lingering questions, but feel free to contact me if you are confused. It was surprisingly difficult for me to sum up that crazy two-week period into a single blog post, and I might have sacrificed clarity for concision. So, don’t be afraid to holler, I don’t mind talking about it.

Let’s change the subject, shall we?

Right before all that shit went down, I just finished an amazing Easter 2013 vacation. Some close PCV friends and I decided to travel to Ile Sainte Marie and Ile Aux Nattes, a small set of islands off of the east coast of Madagascar. Before reading any further, please either a) google these places or b) stalk my photos on Facebook that I posted a while back so you can have a mental image of how amazingly beautiful this place is. To get there, I met up with my friends in Tana, and then we took a bus to a boat (travel time: maybe 2 days total). We spent a little over a week on the main island of Sainte Marie. We spent our days lounging around on the beaches and exploring the island. One day we traveled north out of the main town to visit a waterfall and natural pool, which was beautiful. We also visited the oldest church in Madagascar and the famous “pirate cemetery,” which to me seemed a bit hoax-y but was still kind of cool. After exploring Sainte Marie, we took a dugout canoe to Ile Aux Nattes, the tiny island to the south of Sainte Marie. That place is pure paradise. There are no roads on Ile Aux Nattes, just footpaths and bungalows. It’s the most peaceful place I’ve been in…well, as long as I can remember. I loved how isolated and quiet it was. Apparently, during whale season, you can see whales breeding and playing around right from the doorway of your bungalow. We weren’t so lucky since it wasn’t season, but I could sit on the porch of my bungalow and watch the tide come in. What the what? How is that real life? We spent our time there enjoying each other’s company, eating amazing food, and playing around on the beach. The island is so small that you can actually walk around the whole circumference in around two hours. On that hike, we saw lemurs and some amazing views of the beach. Ugh, I miss it. I was back in Andapa for maybe around a week before the whole neo-Nazi craziness kicked in. At least I had vacation memories to comfort me in the wake of stress! Great people, great food, great place = great vacation.

That’s enough rambling for one post. I’ll write again soon with updates from my whirlwind of a grandes vacances (aka summer vacation, but here it’s winter!).

Much love to you all, and again…thanks for your support back in April. Means the world.

Amanaraka koa,
Arianna