Well, it’s that time of year again, and while I would never be so patronizing as to tell family and friends what they should be thankful for, here are a few things that fill me with gratitude…
Things I’m grateful for in the
I guess people in the
- Public Libraries—Have you hugged a librarian today? Books are a luxury here, and having a place where EVERYONE has access to infinite information, free books and newspapers, free internet and entertainment—it’s an amazing resource. There is no place I’d rather have my tax dollars going.
- Potable Water—so basic, and such a dangerous pain in the butt when you don’t have it. Bad water (often contaminated with human waste because people rarely use designated bathrooms here, they just wander out into the woods) is responsible for several deaths in my commune every year. (I use a PC-issued filter and bleach to clean my drinking water.)
- Disease-Free Mosquitoes—I remember getting back from traveling in a country with malaria and getting insanely bitten up while hiking in a swamp back in the States. I felt almost euphoric because I KNEW I wouldn’t be getting malaria from the bites. Or dengue. Or yellow fever. Or…
- Garbage Collection—there is none here. People drop it in their backyard to let animals go through it or put in a pile and set it on fire. Plastics are especially annoying. The sad thing is, of course, that garbage disposal in the
isn’t necessarily better, it just gets it away from our houses and puts it in bigger piles to burn or puts it in another country’s backyard. But at least it’s not in my yard, right? U.S.
- Good Beds—Foam mattresses suck. Bad foam mattresses suck even more. I actually miss my dorm bed in college.
- Diversity in Culture and Consumerism—the variety of products in American supermarkets and drugstores is ridiculous, but having some choice and reliability is nice—the choice of foods with Vitamin A year-round, the reliability of flour without weevils, the knowledge that if someone is sick you can get medicine. And the cultural variety is amazing, too—one of the things I stress the most when people ask me about the States is how many cultures there are, how much cultures mix and share. Malagasy culture is (if I may oversimplify for a moment) rice, kids, and cows, and cultural differences are treated with baffled incredulity—you just had pasta for lunch? That’s not food…what do you mean, you like dogs better than cows? Having so many different cultures in the
is one of our strengths, I think, and has the potential to give Americans a better perspective on things. U.S.
Things I’m grateful for here in
- Government healthcare—it’s ironic, but I have better health care here in
Madagascarthan I did in the . Courtesy of Peace Corps, I have a doctor on call 24/7 (in the event that I have cell service, anyway), free medication, and the promise of out-of-country Medevac if I get something that the health infrastructure in Mad can’t handle. Plus, any needed over-the-counter medication not found in United States (including sunscreen and dental floss) is mailed to me for free. Madagascar
- My education—If my education had involved rote memorization with over 60 other pupils in a leaky barn made of bamboo and leaves—well, I’d have a much different life path and I doubt it would have involved college. I’ve heard people complain (most notably, a columnist in the New York Times) that Peace Corps isn’t an effective organization because volunteers don’t have specialized training. Well honey, I’m not digging the wells by myself! The fact that I can translate between English, French, and Malagasy, can send emails and find funding, am willing to listen to, evaluate, and probably reject local project proposals, and have the audacity to do cold visits to NGOs with good project proposals—that’s the kind of thing that a lot of developing communities need, and I’m perfectly capable of doing all of that on the strength of an American undergrad education (with some PC training, as well).
- Adventure—whatever the irritations of life here, I have lots of stories!
is an amazing and beautiful country and I’m thankful I was placed here. Madagascar
- The dream environmentally-friendly lifestyle—pollution-free star viewing, fresh local food grown by hand with no pesticides, carpooling taken to the max, no electricity or running water. Incidentally, I use less than 25 liters of water (6 gallons or so) per day for everything—drinking, cooking, showering, cleaning, washing clothes. Discounting air travel, my carbon footprint is almost zero.
- Family and friends—having good people to rely on makes the bad times bearable and the good times awesome, even those of you who are far away!