Saturday, April 7, 2012

The End

I’m leaving Madagascar today. After two years on the Big Red Island, having only left to visit Egypt, I’m heading to the West—I’ll be in South Africa for ten days and then I’m back in Seattle, and starting the job search in DC.

(So if you have job leads or ideas of work in the DC area, please do let me know…:)

Bye Madland—it’s been interesting. Hello South Africa…

Friday, April 6, 2012

Malaria Month--BAMM!

If you follow multiple volunteer blogs, you may be experiencing a bit of deja vu this month--it’s BAMM! (Blog About Malaria Month). During April, Peace Corps Volunteers all over Africa are blogging and tweeting about their experiences with malaria during their service. Admittedly I'm on my way out, but that doesn't prevent me from sharing a little info as I leave.

Malaria is a blood-borne parasite that hitches a ride on the bite of a certain type of nocturnal mosquito. When it gets into your bloodstream, the parasites multiply in red blood cells and then burst out of them, which causes initial sign of illness like fevers, aches, and chills.

When I asked my community about major illness during my initial site surveys, malaria was always at the top of the list as a reason why people ended up in the hospital. This is especially dangerous in my area since we have a high rate of falciparum malaria, a.k.a. nasty deadly cerebral malaria.

A combination of prevention (like mosquito nets) and early treatment sharply reduces the incidence of malaria.

Malaria was eradicated in the U.S. in 1951. No kidding. It was one of the CDC's first major initiatives. With organization and education, complete eradication is a possibility.

Malaria is the number one killer in Africa. Over 90% of deaths from malaria occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. 60% of deaths are children under 5.

In Madagascar, malaria is the second leading cause of hospital mortality and the third leading cause of morbidity for children under five.

April 25th is World Malaria Day.

Want more info? Check out the official Stomp Out Malaria webpage, and get on Facebook and “like” the Stomp Out Malaria page.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Stealing Posts, Part 2

In which I continue to borrow other volunteers' hard and hilarious blog work...

Leslie, a volunteer in my region of SAVA, just wrote a great post called "The Weirdness of being in Peace Corps". " Food. Never has it been so precious to me, and I am thinking it never will be again. " Ohhh, so true.

Katie writes wonderfully thoughtful and interesting stuff on her blog so it was hard to choose one, but "Tany Andalampandrosoana: Development in Madagascar" deals with a lot of the difficult issues we have to deal with and think about as we do aid work. Actually, I'll link to the great video she did of her site as well, since I haven't been able to upload videos. Like me, she's dealt with staring children, hauling water, overstuffed taxi brousses, and world map mishaps (Eastern Europe is way outdated on my mural as well, since the source material was so old, and I accidentally turned the Caspian Sea into a large unnamed country. Oops).

Kristen uploaded a video of something that happened to me and my mom as well: a tire falling off the brousse we were on.

If you find yourself craving Mad news after I leave the country (not long now!), never fear: there are lots of Mad volunteers blogging. Peace Corps Journals has a list.

Stealing Posts, Part 1

Sometimes, I just can't say it better myself. This post and the next one are going to be stolen: reposted writings from other Peace Corps volunteers here in Madagascar.

This was written my buddy Vanessa:
Here is a list of some of the things you can expect out of me after my return from Madagascar.

I may prefer sitting on the floor to sitting in chairs, especially during meal times.

I may be unable to eat with a fork. Certain foods- actually, most- may require the use of a spoon.

I will take extremely long, hot showers, because indoor plumbing is the greatest invention in the universe.

I may stumble over seemingly easy English words or expressions, which might leave you feeling like you're playing a board game. For example: "What's it called... when you wanna sweep the floor... you need to use a... it's got a long handle..." A broom? Yes.

I may not be able to enter your house without taking my shoes off.

I will probably- with or without my knowledge- use Malagasy words as a regular part of my speech. It doesn't mean you're not mahay, it just means some Gasy words stick and have no good English translation.

I may want to dedicate long periods of the day to going on solitary walks or laying on the floor. Don't be alarmed- I don't have a social disorder- I just spent two years living alone in a shack and that's what I've been doing for most of it.

If I talk about being Gasy, or Gasy foods, I mean one s, not two.

Depending on when you see me, I may look like a homeless person. My clothes have been scrubbed by hand, beaten against rocks and dried in the sun for two years, and they're not in very good condition. If you would like to donate your old clothes to me, or buy me new ones, I promise I won't object.

I may use baffling acronyms such as PST, IST, MSC, COS, ET etc. This is a result of working for the US government.

I will have no idea what you're talking about if you bring up news, events, pop culture, TV shows, commercials or trends that occured after February 28, 2010. Please don't be alarmed. It's scary to me too.

I may walk very, very slowly.

I may be overwhelmed and/or frightened by large groups of white people.

I will probably irritate you by greeting you with a statement of the obvious. For example, it's early morning, you're making coffee in the kitchen. Instead of "Good morning!" I might say, "Making coffee?" Or perhaps you're washing dishes... "Washing dishes?" Reading the paper? Drinking tea? It's annoying. I apologize ahead of time.

If you have good bread, olives, wine, cheese and/or apples, you may serve them to me. You do not need to ask if I want them, but you certainly may. The answer will be yes.

I will not want to eat white rice.

I may not have a good answer if you ask, "How was Madagascar?" How would you respond to, "How were the last two years of your life?"

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

You Know You’re (Still) A PCV in Madagascar When…

Even after two years, the neighbor kid still sometimes runs screaming at the sight of you.

You classify all your storage containers as either rat-proof or not rat-proof.

A Malagasy person’s evaluation of your Malagasy language ability can range from fluent, completely incompetent, and back to fluent again, all in the same conversation.

When someone gives you a time for something, there is one thing you are certain of: it will not happen at that time. Maybe two hours early, maybe four hours late, maybe never. This includes flights.

Depending on the time of year, it takes 35-110 hours to get to the capital from your site. Google Maps says it takes 13 hours.

Would-be suitors scream offers at your back, but turn and run if you walk towards them.

Telling a Gasy man “I’m married” is not considered an acceptable excuse for not getting involved with him. Telling him “You’re ugly and you have no teeth” is accepted.

You no longer have any standards for entertainment.

80 degrees is a cold snap. (SAVA!)

Riding in a taxi brousse with a functioning speedometer is so noteworthy that you text another volunteer about it.

You can sharpen a machete with a rock and use it for anything.

You listened to the BBC list Golden Globe winners and didn’t recognize a single movie.

After two years, you’re surprised you still have some functioning electronics.

People only want to know the time when you’re wearing a watch.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Lost in Translation

Random Dude: Bonjour, Madame—ou bien mademoiselle?

Me: Tsy francaise zah fa americaine. (I’m not French, I’m American.)

Random Dude: Ah! Vous etes americaine, c’est tres bien…

Me: Efa niteny zah, tsy francaise, tsy azoko teny francais. Mahay teny Gasy zah. (I just said, I’m not French, I don’t speak French. I speak Malagasy.) [This isn’t true, my French is decent, but who respects the French here…]

Random Dude: Fa manino? (Why?)

Me: Voluntaire Peace Corps zah ndreky miasa ambanivolo zeny mila mianatra teny Gasy satria tsisy olo maro mahay teny anglisy. (I’m a Peace Corps volunteer and I work in the coutryside, so I need to know Malagasy because not many people know English.)

Random Dude: [It’s all Malagasy from here on…] Ah, Peace Corps, so you are American!

Me: Yes.

Random Dude: Me, I do not speak American, it is too hard, I learn English.

Me: Americans speak English, too.

Random Dude: So you are English from Britain!

Me: No, but we speak the same language.

Random Dude: But if you speak English you must be from England.

Me: The English colonized America so that is why we speak English too.

Random Dude: They colonized you, so you ARE British.

Me: The French colonized Madagascar. Are you French?

Random Dude: No, no no, I am Malagasy.

Me: It is the same with America. We are no longer British but we still speak the same language.

Random Dude: You know what is good about the Malagasy people? We all speak the same language. Not like all you foreigners. You British, French, Americans, Italians, Australians, you can’t understand anything the other is saying.

Me: It’s very nice that you all speak the same language. But many people do speak the same language, like the British and Americans and Australians, but we speak with different accents so it sounds different. Like dialects of Malagasy. It’s like the Tsimihety dialect and the Antaimoro dialect.

Random Dude: Oh, I don’t understand Antaimoro people. They talk weird. But you are American, yes, so you are from Brazil.

Me: No, I’m from the United States.

Random Dude: But Brazil is in America.

Me: Brazil is in South America. The United States is in North America, near Canada.

Random Dude: Canada! They speak French there. Also in Montreal. Is Montreal also near Canada?

Me: Montreal is a city in Canada.

Random Dude: No, it’s a country.

Me: It’s a city like Tana is a city. I’ve visited, it’s very beautiful.

Random Dude: I have an uncle whose wife’s cousin is studying there. She says it is always cold.

Me: Much much colder than Madagascar, yes.

Random Dude: Do you not have sun in America?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Taxi Brousse

The pics from here on out (including the last post) are from other volunteers because my
camera is dead dead dead. But this is the inside of a taxi brousse as it's filling up, complete with fabulous and goofy PCVs in the foreground!