I Want To Tell You
January 31, 2014, 10:36 AM

Hey friends!


Tratry ny taona vaovao, aka happy new year! I am pinching myself that it’s already 2014…this is the year that my Peace Corps service technically ends! Very weird thought. I hope your holidays were magnificent! I have so many updates to catch y’all up on, so let’s get started…


I last left off blogging right before Thanksgiving 2013 (wow, has it been that long?!). For the holiday, I traveled to Sambava to cook with a bunch of friends there. We had a ridiculously ambitious menu planned: vegetable spring rolls, garlic mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, bean salad, fish, meat, deviled eggs, pineapple/tamarind juice, stir fry… I can’t even remember everything anymore because it was SO much to cook. We started out going to the market at 6am and weren’t finished cooking until around 9pm that night. Whoops. Cooking a meal of this scale was quite difficult to do at a PCV house with 4 gas burners and limited running water. I’ll never take an American kitchen for granted again, that’s for sure. But overall it was a lot of fun and beyond delicious! A real multicultural feast with friends from far-reaching corners of the globe: Lithuania, Madagascar, Peru, Argentina, America, France…awesome.


I felt full from Thanksgiving for days. By the time I rolled myself back to site, I was greeted by the onset of one of those fun tropical diseases I read about before coming to Madagascar: dengue fever. I woke up in the middle of the night with an absurdly high fever and it didn’t go away for a week. My body was wrecked. Another PCV was in town visiting, and she and Thorien (Malagasy friend/librarian extraordinaire) took me to the local Adventist hospital so I could be tested for malaria and a bunch of other things. Thankfully, no tazo moka (malaria), just, you know…dengue. I stayed at home bored and fevery that whole week, doing a lot of sleeping and staring at my walls. Not very fun.


Dengue zapped me of a lot of my strength, but once I felt like I had my sea legs back, I decided to go on a trek into the Andapa countryside with a teacher friend of mine named Francois. He teaches English alongside me at Lycee Mixte Andapa, my local public high school. Francois grows a variety of crops on his land, but the main reason of our visit to his land was to teach me how to pollinate vanilla (SAVA is famous for vanilla, remember?). His land is nestled deep within the hills that surround the Andapa valley. There’s no real trail, which is always astonishing to me – how do my friends just instinctively know where their land starts and ends? But they know. It’s pretty cool. After hiking for an hour, Francois came upon a clump of banana trees that apparently marked the boundary for his land. We did some poking around and found his vanilla flowers ready for pollination. Vanilla is such a fascinating plant – it needs to be pollinated by hand within a specific window or the whole thing is wasted. Francois plucked a thorn from a local orange tree and used that as his pollination tool. Basically, he lifted up a part of the vanilla flower, tucked another part of the flower underneath it with the thorn, and voila! Pollinated. I pollinated a few of the flowers, naturally a bit worried I would ruin such a valuable crop. I’ve since been informed that they’re growing quite nicely! That’s a relief. After pollinating, we indulged in some fresh bananas, sugarcane, and jackfruit straight from the trees. Francois also keeps bees, but I effing hate bees, so I steered clear. On the hike back home, he kept plucking various fruits off the trees for me to try. Some furry, some tart, some sweet, some weirdly tingly? A delicious and informative day.


At this point in December 2013, the end of my last first trimester of the school year was rapidly approaching. I wrapped up my exams for my 6eme and 1ere classes without any problems, and then I headed to Tana for a quick jaunt. I had some business I had to take of before meeting up with a group of PCV friends to head off on our Christmas vacation. A bunch of us hopped a brousse from Tana north to Nosy Be, a beautiful island off of the NW coast of Madagascar. To get there, we traveled by an overnight bus from Tana to Ambanja, then took a taxi to a port town called Ankify, then rode a speedboat for an hour to Nosy Be itself. The island is gorgeous. We spent our days exploring Nosy Be. We also did excursions to some of the outlying islands – Nosy Komba, Nosy Tanikely, and Nosy Iranja. Nosy Komba is fairly big and hosts a nature reserve with lemurs that’ll climb all over you, while Nosy Tanikely is home to beautiful snorkeling. We visited Komba for the morning, then boated over to Tanikely for an amazing lunch and snorkel time. A few days later, we took a boat to Nosy Iranja, which is honestly one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. The sand was pure white and the ocean a clear turquoise. Completely isolated and breathtaking. We spent most of the day there lounging around, soaking up the beauty and working on spectacular sunburns. On the way back to Nosy Be, we stopped at a tiny little island filled with lemurs that crawled all over us again. Their hands are so creepy – like human hands! – but they’re so cute. I also spent some quality time lounging poolside at an amazing fancy hotel. I don’t know what it is with me and pools in this country, but I have become quite obsessed. It’s a problem.


We spent around a week or so in Nosy Be, then took a brousse north to spend Christmas in Diego Suarez, the northernmost point of Madagascar. Diego is a cool city with a really calm, comfortable vibe. In Diego, we spent our time poolside (win) at another amazing hotel, wandering around the streets, meeting up with other PCV friends (so many PCVs in one city at one time!), and going on excursions. One day, a big group of us took a boat to the Emerald Sea – basically just the most beautiful, secluded, and peaceful expanse of ocean ever. We swam around while our boat friends prepared a delicious lunch. We even indulged in some local Malagasy sunscreen, which is like a beautiful facepaint made from some local trees. My eyes hurt during this vacation from looking at so many pretty things. Besides the Emerald Sea (which I still miss, take me back pleaseeee), our friends and I hung out with a really cool family that we met while traveling. They are half Malagasy/half French, and they live in La Reunion. The family basically adopted my friends and me during our vacation, so we spent as much time hanging out with them as possible. They’re an absolute riot. We rang in the New Year with them eating amazing food then went clubbing in Diego. The first day of the New Year, I said goodbye to my friends and returned to site.


Ever since arriving back to Andapa, time is FLYING. I can’t believe January is almost finished. What the hell? September, the time of my COS, is approaching at a scary fast pace. Not cool. Anyway, since being back home, I’ve been keeping busy. Malagasy people love, and I mean love, New Years parties. Last year, I had New Years parties through March, and I’m expecting this year to be similar. The CISCO where I live had our NYE party recently, and it was a riot. We set up tents in the compound, cooked a crazy amount of food, and partied all afternoon/night. The CISCO hired the local DJ I’ve seen at parties before to play music, and naturally, everyone at the CISCO wanted to dance with the vazaha: me. I made a fool of myself, but everyone liked watching, so I can’t complain. Integration win. Another party I went to recently was at my friend Pero’s house, but I can’t really call it a party. He wanted to slaughter a pig for the New Year and have me watch/learn, so overall, it was pretty traumatizing. The part after the slaughter, just sitting around and talking with friends, was fun, but watching the horror of the thing beforehand kind of tainted it for me (never been more sure of my choice to be a vegetarian haha). Most recently, my best friend at site Agnes and I hosted a New Years party of our own at Thorien’s house: we invited a bunch of friends in Andapa and Sambava to come cook and relax with us for the day. It was a very chill/delicious day and a good way to reconnect after the long vacation.


The only other real update I have to share is that I finally got to participate in one of the most “Malagasy” parts of life here: planting rice! I biked out to my sitemate’s site last week to finally learn how to plant. It’s long overdue, seeing how I live in a country run by rice. It’s incredibly labor intensive yet fun. I, along with five other Malagasy women, waded around barefoot in the rice paddy, planting bunches of rice. People passing on the road kept stopping to watch, finding it incredible to see this random American planting rice. It led to some interesting cross-cultural conversations! I left the day beyond dirty but thrilled that I finally got to experience this part of my host country’s culture.


Currently, I’m in the thick of my second to last trimester of teaching and loving it. Things in the classroom are going so well, but I find myself looking forward to teaching my little kids more and more every day. They just warm my heart. The cool thing about teaching 6eme is that I get to watch them go from saying zero words of English to actually speaking some sentences, and it’s an amazing transformation to be a part of. Beyond that, life at the library is going well; we still have classes of all kinds going on during the week. And up in the near future, I’ll be doing another 3-day pedagogy training with the CISCO Andapa and all of the CEG English teachers, which should be exciting and informative. The other thing I have to look forward to in the distant future…Agnes and I will be taking the brousse together to Tana from Andapa in April, which is both crazy and exciting. It’ll take anywhere from three days to one week, and everyone I’ve told thinks I’m a nutcase for wanting to do it. But I want to see more of the countryside in my region, plus I want to experience what people in my region go through to get the hell out of here, since we’re so isolated because of terrible roads. I’ll be sure to write about that absurd journey come April.


There. Now y’all should be brought up to speed, I hope! Sorry for the word vomit, yet again. I’ll updated again when I can, but please keep your emails/letters/packages(!!) coming. I love getting news from home. Much love!


Amanaraka koa,