As I’m typing this, a 2 inch cockroach and a 4 inch gecko are fighting on the wall of my hotel room. FYI.
The world map is done! I tried to get one of the teachers to take a picture of me with it to give an idea of size, but after 5 full minutes of making tiny adjustments to how he was holding the camera and calling me over several times to confirm the picture, he still managed to take the picture at a 25 degree angle. Anyway, my head’s the same height as the
Every time I mention a new project to people in my area, they assume I’ve abandoned all the others to focus on it, but no, it’s just the sane way to deal with
People have been asking me to raise the price of vanilla since I got here—vanilla prices have plummeted to 5-10% of their high price a decade ago, in part because that price was inflated because of projected cyclone damage, and in part because most large purchasers are switching over to fake vanilla flavoring. Last week, a former Peace Corps volunteer who still works in
The fish farm is another type of project entirely. I was approached by a smart 16 year old with an idea of students farming and selling fish to raise money for their school fees. I listened to the project, determined it wasn’t totally insane (like the helicopter landing pad or tourist information center projects), and told him to get back to me with a list of materials and how much they would cost. And here’s the crazy thing—he did. The next day. Along with a list of students, an adult president/consultant, potential market sellers, and a group mission statement. And then they invited me to come see the three dirt pools they had already set up, with space for a total of 7 cement pools that could house almost 5000 fish. To visit, I biked the 9k (4.5 miles) to the town, over the Hill from Hell (1/2 mile, UP), and wandered around with them through the rice fields to the already-started pools. I broke my flipflop in the process and ended up walking a kilometer barefoot in the backwoods—no complaints, since at least ½ the people in my area don’t have/use shoes at all. And they suffered though my labored explanations of cost/benefit analysis and project calendars in Malagasy, and were willing to change the project. And they spent a ½ hour pleasantly arguing over how long it would take for the project to turn a profit and recoup investment, after I told them NGOs might consider that important. I’ve been really impressed with them so far—they’re far more responsive than any other group I’ve dealt with—and hope I can help them. It might be difficult, since among other things, many NGOs nonsensically don’t pay for the transport and labor costs that make up over half the project budget, but—we shall see.
I sometimes feel like my projects are more business-related than environment or agriculture, but they have a lot of potential. The vanilla co-op could give a slight boost to the salaries of dozens of farmers and the co-op might help with other development projects; the fish farming project would supply more reliable protein an calcium in the area, help put the kids through school, and teach them a trade. That is, if the Murphy’s law of