Friday, December 19, 2008

December... ist, vacations, it's good.

Well… it’s been an interesting month… (a month without watching Lost or Friends or any dvds, but still interesting, ha ha).
School, you don’t want to hear about school… it’s boring… the kids are ok… I like teaching… it’s rather uneventful, actually.
The most interesting thing that happened in Anjozorobe was the arrival of the new Dodwell Trust volunteers (They come for 1-3 months to teach English around mcar). There was a Chinese girl and a Belgian girl, Alex. Alex and I ended up spending good time together. It was so refreshing to be around other young English speakers from different sides of the world. It’s not that I don’t enjoy Malagasy people, but sometimes it’s nice to get a different perspective of things. Also the Dodwell volunteers don’t speak any Malagasy and are therefore very impressed by my gasy skills.
I did group tests to finish up the term. It worked out really well. I don’t think that I will ever give individual tests again. It’s too much work to try and keep them from cheating (and you know that do anyway) and it’s much easier to grade all the tests in one day-long grading frenzy.
In the first week of December, I traveled to Anosibe Ana’la, my friend Kinsey’s site. It was what I pictured Peace Corps Madagascar to be. I would pay money for her site (real American dollars, not fake ariary). She has a site partner who is an environment volunteer. He organized a programme… let’s say an environment fair, if you will. We planted trees in the school yard at the EPP and used a booth to demonstrate making Cookstoves (an alternative to wood fire cooking) and how to start and plant Moringa trees. There were a lot of environment volunteers, plus me, Kinsey, and Megan, another girl from our stage. We played a volleyball game (the longest ever) against the Malagasys, ha ha. We made a huge Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie (which I tried for the first time… nothing against Megan’s baking but I’m not a fan). We also performed at a ‘spectacular’ (some Sublime, Johnny Cash, etc, good times). But most importantly, I finally met a lemur. It licked my tattoos. That was very sanitary, I’m sure, but a lot of things here aren’t sanitary and we’re establishing immunity. I had a great time with Kinsey and Megan, of course.
I returned to site for less than a week to finish up the first trimester of school. I was done with grading and recording, so I just sang Christmas carols with my students, which was awful. They were terrible. They knew the songs in Malagasy and I couldn’t get them to sing in English! They really motivated me to want to pack for vacation.
Now I’m in Tana. We just finished IST (In Service Training). My whole training group (minus Mike and Derek :*( ) reunited for the first time since August. It was really good to see everyone and talk and complain and drink and laugh and complain and repeat…
We went out on the town the first night we were in Tana. We went to a fancy restaurant and then out for salsa dancing. It was like we were in a different country and we all really enjoyed the momentary escape.
IST was basically useless, but that’s exactly what I was expecting. The times when we weren’t in sessions were great! We had some bonfires by Lake Mantasoa and drank lots. I found wine coolers, which were hilariously awful. Me, Megan, Sarah, Lauren, Brian, and Jeff had a good time in the big room. A lot of people were mampmararykibo by the food, but I’m used to marary kibo, so it didn’t bother me J. I feel like I have a lot to say about IST, but I’m using the computer instead of hanging out with my friends right now so I’m trying to wrap up my potentially long tales.
Last night we went to our favorite karaoke hotetly. Evan and I rocked out on “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “It’s Not Unusual.”
Tomorrow I’m leaving with an awesome group of people (Lauren, Megan, Kinsey, Brian, Sarah, and Lucy) to go on what is known as “the trail of tears”… it’s going to be an adventure, so I’ll leave you in suspense for stories of our travails in the North. We’re going to have so much fun, even if we have to get out of our taxi brousse and walk up muddy hills on our way to Antalaha. Brian and I have our fingers crossed for a cyclone party, but the others have different hopes :). If we’re lucky, we’ll be in Antalaha on Tuesday. Cheers!
Happy Holiday things…

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

vacation > teaching :)

Though I do enjoy teaching, don't get me wrong...

So let me tell you about vacation. It was amazing. And it all started with an omen serendipity. I arrived in Moramanga after enjoying the beautiful brousse ride from Tana at the exact same moment Kinsey arrived. I was anticipating some kind of annoying and confusing search, but I saw her pull up seconds after I stepped out of my brousse. We then traveled from Moramanga to Tamatave. We arrived to Tamatave at dusk at which point our initial luck had worn off as there were no more connecting brousses to Vavatenina, our next destination. We Pousse poussed (that's right my friends) to find a hotel and then enjoyed a nice big town dinner (I can already tell that this is going to be a long story, hang in there). I really enjoy Tamatave. It's a good size, not overwhelming, cheaper than Tana but with a beach. I knew it would be hotter on the coast but I didn't know how hot. It was a lot hot.
We took a detour in our walk to the brousse station in the morning so I could get my first look at the Indian Ocean. It was lovely, but we were very sweaty. We broussed to Vavatenina and arrived just in time for lunch where we met up with Fraser (it's his site and he was gracious enough to host our estrogen festival), Michelle, Jessica, and Megan (the liberal arts Shannon, ha ha). It was so great talking to people from my stage and hearing and laughing about their trails and tribulations from the first 2+ months at site. It was so fun to be in a group of people and knowing and understanding their issues and having them understand yours. There was a lot of laughter.
There was a music festival in the town, starring Malagasy pop icon Melky. It was awesome. There were backup dancers and costume changes. Look her up on YouTube, I'm sure she's there. We enjoyed some unchilled THB while distracting the concert goers from the true show, as packs of vazahas tend to do. I can't say that I have strong feelings in favor of Malagasy pop music, but one simply cannot deny the magnetism of Melky. She put on one hell of a show. After her, however, was Mamy Be (translation- very delicious). It was not a show for children, or most Peace Corps volunteers, for that matter. The dancing was... erotic, hilariously and perhaps embarrassingly erotic... The coast certainly seems like a different culture than my site, in terms of climate, landscape, ethnicity of people, and culture, it's all around more like what you picture when you think of Africa. That dancing would not fly in the highlands!
After we retreated from the music fest early to avoid a drunken pushing crowd, we went to Fraser's house to continue our Halloween merriment. Some other PCVs who were in town for the festival came over and carved a jack'o-lantern papaya and ate m&ms someone’s mom was wonderful enough to send for the occasion.
The next day we continued to compare notes from the first few months of service and realize how similar our experiences have been, which seem to all include becoming comfortable with sitting and staring at walls, finding reasons to leave the house, finding reasons to not leave the house, and worries about adapting to the Malagasy work culture so much as to never be able to work in the states again.
Then our communal sitting was interrupted by another trip to the music festival. No one could really live up to Melky, so I didn't have high expectations.
Monday we attempted to head to Tamatave, but only after an ordeal with an unknown assailant that attacked Kinsey in the night. Good thing Fraser has super creature senses and was able to discover the source of the sting: a scorpion. Kinsey deserves mad props for holding her wits together while her hand was pulsing and swelling with a scorpion sting!
Without going on a 5 paragraph tirade/explanation of how the brousses work, let's just say that we did a lot of sitting and waiting around, which we all agreed we were prepared for.
We sat some more on the brousse and as soon as we got to Tamatave, we realized we had to quickly find another place to sit. By now we were down to me, Kinsey, Fraser, and Megan, who were all amazing travel partners.
A RPCV (returned peace corps volunteer- which is a strange title considering 'returned' implies the person has 'returned' to the U.S., but really only means they have completed their service) let us crash at his house so we didn't have to fork over more ariary for a hotel. In the morning we realized we were in no rush to make the taxi brousse since they never leave on time, and had the best varysasoa... even thinking about it makes me want to get on the next broussse to Tamatave.
We took another painless brousse ride to Megan's site, Vatomandry, for the beach portion of the vacation. I really liked Vavatenina and Vatomandry, so much, in fact, that it embittered me to my site. I thought my site was nice, but I had no idea how great other people's sites are, with lots of stuff, people, restaurants, etc. Oh well, I can always visit. The grass is always greener.
We were getting really pumped with anticipation for the election, and took up sitting positions on the beach to ease our minds. The water was a bit rough for swimming, but we played anyway.
I assume due to increased international cellular activity caused by the election, I wasn't getting text messages to stay updated on election results. Finally a call came through from my mom to say that McCain was making his concession speech. We weren't surprised that Obama won but we didn't expect to be sure who won so early and were not yet prepared to have a hearty round of THB cheers for the occasion, alas. We did get to see Obama's speech live on BBC news (it comes on at 8am which was perfect timing!). When he said the line about people listening from forgotten corners of the world we shared a good laugh. I can't speak for everyone there, but I know I was getting misty. Even now just thinking about it... It's easy to feel disconnected from the history from here, but occasionally I realize that it wasn't just a dream or hope, Obama has been elected president of the United States of America. I was an early Obama backer, not gonna lie, and have been an avid fan since his address at the DNC in '04... that's not many years of support in the political world, but I have been 100% Obama for President since before he was in the Senate.
We celebrated the great day for America on the beach of a forgotten corner of the world.
The rest of vacation was gloriously uneventful and characterized by continued sitting and laughing. We spent some good time on the beach.
I broussed back to Tana with a stagemate. It was dark as we drove through the countryside so we were able to see the slash and burn farming fires lighting up the hills. Slash and burn is a huge problem here, but it's difficult to convince someone to protect their environment when feeding their family is a more pressing issue.
Saturday I remained in Tana because my PCV BFF, Ronda, was flying in because she got bit by a dog and had to have more rabies shots. It was nice to get to see her since we hadn't seen each other since the end of August and weren't supposed to reunite until IST in mid December. Yey for non serious dog bites that get you a free flight to Tana!

This last week at site after vacation has... sucked... I've been sick (stomach sick... you don't want details, I assure you). I got a new teaching schedule and they reorganized the classes, so my grades are all FUBAR. The rainy season has begun and my ceiling leaks (especially right over where my bed was – notice the past tense there). It started raining on my while I was in bed reading. But also the worst thing possible happened (yes I know that's melodramatic, but it's better to laugh about it than cry about it) my DVD player no longer works. My house was hit by lightening. It worked before that but didn't after. I've made my peace with that, but I will have to buy a new CD player... Man that thing was great. But I've convinced myself that it's a good thing because I'm not being a good PCV when sitting in my room watching Finding Nemo and season 1 of Lost of the 80th time.
I'll have lemur stories soon and IST (in service training) is ever rapidly approaching. I have 2 trips to look forward to in the next month and a half. Time is starting to really fly.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

1 term down, 5 to go

Living in Anjozorobe can be a bit like working in a kiosk at the mall. My house is the kiosk, the streets are the halls of the mall, the market is the food court, the people of the neighborhood are the other mall employees. When I leave my house and walk to get something to eat from the market, it's like I'm locking up my kiosk to make a run for the food court (only i will not be getting a double decker taco or a chi tea latte from Starbucks). I pass the same people of the neighborhood (or mall employees) and I'm forced to make awkward pleasantries (though different from the mall as it's in Malagasy or French, and not about how dead the mall is today and how it's a shame that anyone would be in the mall on such a nice day anyway). The people from whom I purchase food items know exactly what I'm going to get, and I have exact change ready (though now that's not just because I'm paying in dimes). When passing someone I vaguely know, I have to chat with them for a moment, even though neither of us actually want to chat (my friends who have worked at the mall know what I'm talking about). There are even security guards that feel the need to mention the frequency or infrequency of my abandonment of my kiosk, oops, I mean house. If I'm gone for a few days in a row, everyone notices and asks where I've been. Too bad there aren't janitors ;)

Anyway, school is going well. I've administered and graded my first test. It was horrible. The kids were some cheatin' fools. I mean, they are practically sitting on top of each other, so i understand that it's kind of hard not to see your neighbor's test, but come on. I caught several kids with cheat sheets they suddenly sought to stash as I came by. Nothing will catch your attention like a sudden move to hide something when you're giving a test. If they just let it sit there, I might have not noticed. The best way to tell if a kid is cheating, though, is if they look at the teacher (every student should know that). They look at the teacher to see if the teacher is looking at them, and when they see that the teacher is looking at them, they quickly look away, only to check back in a few moments to see if the teacher is still looking at them which is a confirmation of the teacher's suspicion. If I saw a student cheating, I walked over to his or her (usually his! either boys cheat more or girls are better at it) table and drew a star on the test. That really freaked them out.
One of the days I gave the test was the first day of the cyclone (I'm a good deal inland, so did not get the full force of it by any means. I believe it was weak at any rate. But anyone in Ohio knows that a hurricane can send enough wind inland to disrupt a few things, ha ha). The wind kept blowing the students pens and pencils and sometimes tests off their desks. And my test was written on large paper and taped to the board. It took a lot tape to keep it up! That wind was ruthless. (If you're wondering why I didn't just close the windows or door, they were closed. They don't have glass.)
Aside from the nuisance of testing, I'm enjoying teaching. The class size is a constant challenge, but I actually enjoy the challenge of have little to no resources. It gives me a chance to get creative. I used some Beatles songs in class; that was fun. Almost a hundred poor malagasy children singing The Beatles with a Peace Corps volunteer... I felt like I making a Peace Corps recruitment video.

I'm also enjoying the Girls Club. There are five girls that are the 'teachers'. They come over to my house to plan the 'program' for the big meetings. They are all between 11-13 and very smart. They are good to talk to because we use a mix of Malagasy, French, and English and they don't get frustrated when we struggle to communicate. They are adorable too. We had to first big girls club meeting this weekend and they decorated the chalk board and ran the meeting like tiny little teachers. It was awesome. Everyone couldn't wait to get to the 'recreation' portion of the meeting where we played basketball in the school yard. I'm actually pretty good at basketball, at least against little kids.

I'm in Tana now for the 15th anniversary of Peace Corps Madagascar. I worked the education sector booth today. It was awkward. People came and I was supposed to tell them about my work with Peace Corps and volunteerism. Hooray!

Now I'm heading off to vacation, oops, I mean business. I'm meeting some friends from my stage. I've been hanging out with other PCVs here in Tana, and they're great, but nothing beats the camaraderie of the people from training. Stay tuned for a vacation, oops, I mean business blog.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

mail shout outs

I've been writing a lot of letters, so i don't want to post a blog that says what they all say and ruin the letters, the postage for which is a large portion of my expenditure. So I'll take this opportunity to send out some mad props for mail that I've been receiving:

Mad Props to:
Fran and Verl for the letters, awesome book, and pop tarts which arrived almost completely in tact, good to know, right everyone? ha ha. Chocolate, good call. I can't even eat them here in Tana in front of other PCVs lest I cause a toaster pastry riot. Thanks a lot! Really!
Julie for the 'feet mittens'... a new valuable aspect of my wardrobe.
Mom for the hot chocolate which I've successfully rationed; I'm very proud of myself. And for the package that was sent today, hooray!
Shannon for all the packages during training and letters and magazines and grad info.
Jacklyn for knowing exactly what to get me from Foys!
Jen for using the University mail and sending me stuff from the Lost arg, ha ha!
Robin and Jane for the huge package of amazing things that I have no idea how they knew I needed!! Good calls, guys!
Matt for all the letters and candy... still winning the race for quantity :)

Don't see your name here? Send me mail!!

I'll be back online at the end of the month when i'm back in Tana for the 15th anniversary of Peace Corps Madagascar! and then off to beach vacation!


Sunday, September 14, 2008

First few weeks "at site"

It's been 3 weeks since I moved to my site. That went by pretty fast. Much faster than training. That's reassuring.

I'm in Tana (hence the ability to update my blog). I got here last sunday (that's right, one of my three weeks that i've lived in my site i spent away from my site...). The first two weeks at site were fine, but... incredibly boring. It's very strange to find yourself alone in a country where you don't really speak the language and have absolutely nothing to do. I slept a lot. I read a lot of books. I enjoyed cooking myself meals. I went to the post office a few times. When I woke up in the morning, i thought to myself, "ok... another day to fill... what to do?" With the exception of my rain forest bike adventure, I didn't really do all that much (that's a good story, but i won't ruin it... it might appear in your mailbox). When we moved to our sites, we had 4 weeks before school started. Now it's only one week away, so maybe i won't end up going crazy before then... maybe not...

When the Peace Corps called and invited me to a workshop at Lake Mantasoa (It's about 2 hours from the capital, think summer camp), I obviously accepted. I didn't care what it was for or who would be there. That meant that i got to go to the capital (use the internet, eat vazah food) and then spend 4 days at mantasoa (what's so great about that? the food. they cook 3 meals a day and it is amazing), and then head back to the capital for a day or two. This meant almost a week of socialization with other PCVs. I was the only one from my group there, and it was fun meeting different people. At the workshop there were 4 people from each sector (Health, environment, small enterprise development and education). It was nice getting to meet people from other sectors and hear what they do. The workshop was all about reporting our work to washington. It was horrible; it's painfully clear that i am working for an agency of the federal government. They want our 'results' reported in a numerical value (for example, i have to fill out an excel spreadsheet counting how many students 'enhanced their english skills through interaction using the communicative approach'... how exactly do we count that?). It's all a load of BS if you ask me (and my boss spent most of the workshop complaining about how stupid it was. He's awesome). If washington wants us to fill out BS forms with BS questions, I hope they know that we're going to give them BS right back. We also spent a good amount of time editing the 'action plan' for the education sector (rewording goals, objects, indicators of success and tools to count those indicators of success... woo hoo!). It was not fun, but the food and socialization was absolutely worth it. (Also i was able to charge all of my electronics because i still don't have electricity). The last night we drank lots of THB.

The next day the education volunteers (and our bosses) went to a ceremony to celebrate the education reform plan at the presidential palace. No one informed me of this before I left my site, and I did not bring appropriate clothes for attending an event at a presidential palace. But as a PCV, you get used to being inappropriately dressed a lot of the time (sometimes over or under). The ministry of education is starting a new curriculum in 20 schools this year; they are also altering the school calendar, and the structure of the grades. Right now primary school is five years and they are expanding it to seven. Primary school is all that's required by law, so this would (hopefully) keep kids in school for longer. In attendance at the ceremony were Malagasy teachers, students of the teacher college, aid groups (like USAID and PC), government officials, students, and Mark (The PrEsIdEnT, i can't even think about trying to spell his name). (wow, sorry about the strange passive construction of that sentence). We were in the second row. We were so close to the stage that I could have thrown something at the president during his speech. He's tiny. The best part of the ceremony was the dancers and choirs that preformed. The dancers were amazing. They did a mix of modern and traditional Malagasy dances. After the hundreds of kabarys (speeches) were done, there was a buffet style lunch. This was interesting mostly because the malagasy culture does not recognize lines. There were about 2000 people there trying to get food from buffets without lines. I'm not a huge fan of lines, don't get me wrong, but they do work a lot better than clumps where everyone is pushing to get to the front at the same time. But if you try to get in "line" and wait your turn, you will never get anything, so you have to get right up there and push too. I wish i could accurately convey what happens with that many people trying to get food with no line. But it was nothing compared to what happened when they brought out the boxes of ice cream cones (people were chasing the guys carrying the boxes). It was an interesting experience, and that's the closest i've ever been to a president! (he's so tiny!)

Then I decided to stick around in Tana for another day so that I could go to a taping of Teen Talk. Teen Talk is a talk show for teenagers (... hence the name) that's all in English. It's broadcast all over Madagascar and seems to be pretty popular. I've never seen it since I still have not seen Malagasy TV at all. It is directed by the PCV who I replaced. She extended for a 3rd year and moved to Tana to work at the ministry of education and work for Teen Talk. They taped two shows, one about peer pressure and one about chinese culture. The kids in the cast had amazing English and they obviously enjoyed doing the show. There's quite a bit of audience participation, and the kids in the audience spoke great English, too. For the show about Chinese culture they had 4 athletes from Madagascar who went to the olympics. Two played table tennis, one did judo, and the other was a 'thrower'. They talked about their trip to China. I will be going to Teen Talk on a regular basis since I live so close to Tana. I enjoyed it.
On the way back to the Peace Corps house I was sitting next to a man on the 'bus' who kept asking me about my religion. (they always ask "are you protestant or catholic?" it's funny). I should have just said I was catholic, but said neither, which started an awkward conversation that ended with him demanding me to go to protestant church. When you tell people you don't go to church they always say "why?"... what a loaded question.
Then we spent the evening watching The Office. It's fun to watch American things with people who have been out of the country for a year or more.

I got up at 5am to use the internet before there was a line (does that explain the poor quality of writing in this post?). I'm going to charge my dvd player and my phone before heading back to site this afternoon. There is a teacher meeting tomorrow, for which I am both excited and nervous. School starts on the 22nd. I'm excited to have a schedule and something specific to do!

Ok... thanks for reading... please send me mail. Speaking of mail, a big thank you to Robin and Jane for the AMAZING package!!!

here are some fun links:
this is the website for the only beer in madagascar... it's in french, but still fun
this is the 'group blog' for my stage (education '08, holla!)
This is a youtube video from one of the biggest pop stars in Madagascar. Pop music here is painful. Watch at your own risk.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dorothy Sent Home her Memory....Card.

this sign is better than her only pic of an actual lemur. Wait for the lemurs. She'll be near enough to take good pics.

It's good stuff. Somewhere, some fine DPS teacher taught her a little bit of photography.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Spice Girls (and my new address)

Aug 19

cheers to the end of training... its been creeping up on us slowly. We've moved out of our homestay families and out of the horrible boring village of alarobia from which we've been eager to escape. This friday we had a 'community goodbye lunch' before leaving for a relaxing day at mantasoa. It was incredibly awkward, especially when they announced that the families were free to take any leftovers... it was like a stampede of people stuffing cookies and chunks of meat into napkins. My family took more meat than they'd eaten in the entire time i lived with them (though that's not saying much). To summarize, we wanted to get the shit out of there. We were swept off to Lake Mantasoa, which was much more fun this time as i did not spend the entire time on the toilet (to put it mildly). (Speaking of which, my amoeba has vacated the premises.) Our night at Mantasoa was wonderful. There was a lunar eclipse and we were in perfect viewing conditions. We had a bonfire and enjoyed rounds of THB while taking in the views of the eclipse reflecting on the waters of the lake (actually, many of us were a bit too intoxicated to really appreciate the full splendor...). Sunday we were pleased (but slightly startled) to find ourselves with no schedule for the entire day. Of course my drinking buddy and i seized the day! This morning we woke up 'bright' and early to come to Tana (yay!) They carted us around for while on awkward visits to places like the American Cultural Center and the teachers college. We got to talk to some students. It was really great to interact with young Malagasy people in English. They are very eager to practice English and make American friends so it was very encouraging.

Now we've got some down time in Tana (yay!). Let me take a moment to get a little sappy... I know this sounds generic, but I've made some great friends in the last 10 weeks. Most of my friends at home have been my friends for years... in fact, upon reflecting on the matter, i realized that my 'newest' friend is probably Andrew, which seems crazy since we've been friends for... dare i say it... five years now. Anyway, my point is, it's been a really long time since I've made new friends (for whatever reason). Even though we've only known each other for 10 weeks, I feel like I've really connected with a lot of people and we've shared so much of ourselves in such a short time. We're already scrambling to make plans to meet up again as soon as possible. We've been so stuck together it's going to be weird to start my life in Madagascar without them. I'm used to experiencing this culture alongside these crazy Americans, it's going to be scary to start to do things alone. (scary but exciting...). I feel like I know myself better now just because how I understand myself to be perceived by new people. It's amazing how well they know me, even the things about me i thought i was doing a good job hiding. (One girl calls me Sunshine- because she knows how hard I try to be mean but always have a smile on my face while doing it). I love all the new friends I have, and love that they are so different from my friends at home. If it weren't for the Peace Corps and our happenstance of being placed in the same country at the same time, I would have never met these amazing people. They are truly wonderful people, and I hope their good qualities have and will continue to rub off on me. Ok, enough gooey talk...

Aug 22

So, today was swear in... it was actually very anticlimactic... It was at the American ambassadors house, which was very fancy. We had to drive 2 hours back to Tana from Lake Mantasoa on a really shitty road. We still aren't sure why they had us go all the way to mantasoa and back to Tana... especially since we had to get up around 5:30 to get there on time. We're going to be tired tonight. now we're sitting around waiting to go out. It's Ronda's birthday (birthday shout out... woo!!!) so we're going to have a good time. It's our last night together as a group before spreading out all over the island.

The last few days were... pointless... it's like they were just drawing training out longer than needed. We had a basketball game and volleyball game... obviously i wasn't too eager to participate and questioned how exactly it was relevant to teaching English. Then we had 'Olympics,' which I again questioned in bitch sessions with the other cynics while the competitive people battled it out for our amusement :)

Last night we had a party with the training staff. They did a performance where they did impressions of us. It was hilarious because they were so accurate. It was funny because we didn't know that's what they were doing, and we did a performance where we did impressions of them. There was much laughter.

Aug 23

I went to my counterparts wedding with the girl i'm replacing. It was my second wedding ever. It was an interesting experience, but the most interesting part was being able to ask lots of questions about my site from the girl who i'm replacing. It was insanely informative. I don't have much to say about the wedding, except that it was very normal. But Malagasy men can be very aggressive. Our cultural training emphasized that the Malagasy people are very indirect; i have found this to be very false. When a guy would ask Amy and I to dance I tried to say that i didn't know how to do the dance, or i was too tired, and they kept trying. Take a hint; isn't that supposed to be indirect communication? Instead it seems like you have to say something like “listen, i just don't want to...” which seems rude and not indirect to me... i don't understand.

I'm moving to my site tomorrow... speaking of my site... here's my new address:
Dorothy Mayne PCV
B.P. 3
Anjozorobe 107
Madagascar, Africa

I know it seems like a fake address, especially when you compare the length to the old one. You can send letters and padded envelope packages there, but if you send a box (not that i expect you to or that you should) send it to the old address.

I know it sounds really clique, but that last week has been a blur (which is probably accurately represented by the discombobulated style of this blog entry. i might add more elaborate descriptions of these events later, but right now i don't want to waste time typing on a computer when i could be having fun with my friends on our last night before I move to anjozorobe... sigh...) I feel like i've done so much i can't begin to explain everything (I'm actually physically sore and my dogs is barking fo sho). I haven't been writing any mail at all, but i will be writing a lot soon (A LOT) when the loneliness of living alone at site sets in...

oh, and this just in... my town doesn't have electricity anymore... it's “being fixed” but who knows what that means... so if i stop answering my phone or sending texts, it's because my phone is dead and i haven't yet found a way to charge it... but as life keeps reaffirming, where there's a will there's a way.

On a final note... tonight was one of the best in Madagascar... I went with a few people (obviously Ronda and Evan, Lauren, Sarah, Brian, Megan, and Michelle and Jordan for good measure) to this hotely a few k from where we stay here... they had beer, pizza, and karaoke... comeon, what more could you ask for? the song list was crazy... we got hype for If You Wanna be my Lover by the Spice Girls and some good Bob Marley and Queen... good times, really. Now i will go enjoy my last ice cream for who knows how long and the good company of my favorite vazahs for a few weeks/months (ill see some of them as soon as the first weekend of october, yay)

oh, and i gotta say mad props to Kinsey for helping me with my mattress :)

and super mad props to Sosous (sp?)

Keep sending mail!! i'm not sure how long it will be before I'm on the internet again... maybe 3-4 weeks?

Wish me luck at site... here goes life as a "real" volunteer (even though school doesn't start for another month...)
wow, can i stop adding stuff... time for ice cream...

oh, and here's a link to an NGO in my town I'll be working with...

ok... one LAST thing... if you go to my older posts (particularly the first) there are comments from other people in my group from which you can access their blogs... some of them have pictures and more detailed accounts of the events of this week... and they're my friends :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

a few pictures

me enjoying the first meal i cooked for myself at my house during site visit

This is my house in Anjozorobe... yay!

this is the view from my room at my host family's house in Alarobia, where, as of friday, i will never have to return!

a text blog is coming soon, but i wanted to try and throw some pictures up here...
i know these couple of photos are just a tease, but if you knew how long it took to upload them you'd be proud of my patience for posting these few...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Post Site Visit Report

greetings from Tana, again... I love Tana.

I'm freshly returned from site visit (well i've had some ice cream and a few beers since then, but you know...) and decided to leave a sweet party and be antisocial so i can use the internet. There are only 2 computers for 24 internet starved americans... the line can get a bit nasty, so i wanted to take advantage of the computer while everyone else is playing and having a good time.

I just got back from a party at Colby's, the PC Madagascar Administrative officer, house. It was amazing... I hadn't seen wine since I've been here! There was a buffet of wonderful American food (Tortia chips, yay) and a lot of interesting people. The party was for someone at the American Embassy (I didn't ask questions, it was a party with food and drinks) so there were a bunch of fancy Americans who had a lot of crazy interesting stories. There was also another education volunteer who lived in Dayton for 6 years and worked for the DDN. We had a nice chat about places in Dayton; it was fun to talk to someone who had context to understand jokes about Xenia ave. Colby's house is probably the nicest house I've ever been in anywhere ever... the Peace Corps is loaded or something...

Anyway, you're probably interested in my site or something, right? It was a 2 hour taxi brousse ride from Tana, via a paved road the entire way. My house is in the school and had a lot of Peace Corps charm! It's much nicer than any dwelling I could have envisioned for myself when imaging my life in the Peace Corps. Three cheers for sinks and stoves! I was at my site for 4 nights... I had a lot of much needed alone time, and actually barely left my house (of my own accord). I read a few books and cooked myself food, which made me feel more human and independent than I've been for the last 2 months... My site is a large village up in the mountains on the threshold of the rainforest. The variety of flora there is amazing. I didn't see any interesting critters except the animals that live in the street (dogs, cats, chicken, turkeys, pigs, cows). The pig market is right down the hill from me, so on pig market day i was serenaded by constant pig slaughter fun... The children in my village were very welcoming and were eager to say the few English phrases they know to the new white lady. My qualms with Malagasy men were only further insighted by the men I met; I plan to spend my time here in the company of women and children. My counterpart (our 'go-to' person at our sites, usually another teacher) is wonderful and very welcoming. She's only 20 and has been teaching English for a year. Her mother is an English teacher too, and they welcomed me into their family with open arms. ("you have problem, you come here. I am your Malagasy mom.") I did have some issues with Malagasy though... people kept talking to me and I had no clue what they were saying... I hope it wasn't important. A woman knocked on my door and spoke to me for about 10 minutes before I could cut in to say that I had no idea what she was saying, but she continued for a long while... it was so awkward, but I'm getting used to being in a constant state of awkwardness. Today I broussed back to Tana by myself. I was the first one to the Taxi brousse so they put me up front next to the driver where 3 people can fit. As the brousse filled, no one moved up to sit with me. The row behind me literally had a pile of children and about 5 adults, everyone was completely jammed in, but still no one moved to the front with me. I said to the children "Afaka mipetraka eto ianao" (you can sit here), but they stared at my like I was a monster. I felt really awkward and bad that they were so uncomfortable and I had tons of room... Life of a vazah, I suppose. I feel awkward about the unearned privledges I get here. We are respected for being white. The racial divide is palpable.

What else? We're in Tana until Tuesday, and then we had back to Alarobia for 2 weeks. After that we float around for a while in Tana and other places finishing some business. We swear in on August 22nd. My counterpart is getting married on the 23rd, so I'll be going to her wedding in Tana, and then moving to site on the 24th. I'm excited to renew my independence, but will be sad to lose the company of the good friends I've made during training.

Today I went with some people to downtown Tana to seek out food and beverages. We went to an ice cream shop, outside of which there were several begging children. It's a strange feeling to pass starving children to spend more money than they'll have in a week or even month on ice cream while they sit outside. I feel guilty for partaking in luxury when there are so many around me with so little. It's humbling and sobering. I don't have an uplifting comment to add...

Oh, a fellow trainee posted a comment on my last post. From his comment you can click on his name and go to his blog where he's posted a few pictures. Other people have posted pictures on facebook, if you care to dig, you might be able to access some of their profiles. I'm sending a memory card with pictures home, so my pictures might be enjoyed by some soon :)

I still don't have a new address, but keep sending mail to the old one; i'll get it. Thanks to everyone who has sent me letters and packages, though I know I haven't gotten them all yet (they haven't given us our mail for almost 2 weeks!! another mail riot is on the horizon!). Sorry about the temporary lull in my correspondence due to being busy with practicum ('student teaching' during training... zzz) but there's lots of fun stuff on the way!!

Until next time!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Mom has access to Dorothy's blog

I (Mom/Kati)did some internet research about phoning Madagascar yesterday. If you're calling with a cell phone, go to your carrier's website to look for rates for overseas (uber expensive...but worth it.) There's a free download called skype at This program allows you to use your computer to call Dorothy for a tiny fraction of your cell phone rates (at least it was that way for mine.) Check it out. I'm going to radioshack today to buy a little headset thingy since my computer isn't equipped with the telephone stuff.

Madagascar is 7 hours later than here...Our 10 a.m. is her 5 p.m.

Meanwhile...keep sending her letters nonstop. It's easy. You write and/or draw. Put it in an envelope and attach 94 cents worth of postage. The post office has 94 cent stamps. Go buy ten of them. Write "Par Avion" and "Air Mail" on the envelopes for "express delivery" Also remember on the return address to write "U.S.A." Maybe the rest of the world knows as much about Ohio as we did about Madagascar...except Ohio hasn't had a Disney I doubt it.

i love tana

they released us from the grips of alarobia for the weekend and unleashed us upon the capital to wreck havoc... also known as go to internet cafes, buy cell phones, eat overpriced american food, and drink beer. it was much needed... i can't believe i've only been gone a few weeks... it feels a lot more like months... there's a lot to say, and im watching the counter go down on my internet time. This is not a proper post, and you can expect future posts to be more interesting and less rushed, but now i was more interested in assuring people i am alive and in madagascar.

training is pretty boring if youve ever taken one class on teaching, but it's a valuable cultural experience... living with a host family can be exhausting, but they are all so nice and understanding. Malagasy is an interesting language... i might get a hang of it one of these days...

i have a cell phone... the number is country code 261 - 0325859863... you may or may not need to dail the first 0... i don't know... sorry in advance for any confusion!

i feel ilke i have too many stories to tell and things to mention that i don't know where to start...

I am very happy with my site. i have an awesome house with a kitchen, bathroom with a toilet and shower. my house is in the school so its very safe... there are lemurs close by! i will only be a few hours from the capital, which in my opinion, is a huge bonus.

the training village is so beautiful, and so is all of madagascar that i've seen so far.

i will have pictutres up soon i hope... i won't be on the internet again until late july when i go on my site visit, and i hope to have time to post pictures of my site and the training village...

you know how i am with countdowns, so you know im excited that there are just 47 more days of training! yay!

send me mail!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

group photo attempt

that's us... pretty white, i know... we're all in our "meet ministry officials" clothes, so this might not be exactly what you're expecting a group of peace corps volunteers to look like.

joburg air port! last blog for a while!

I'm writing now from the air port in South Africa (that's right, south africa!)... Our 17 hour flight wasn't bad at all. There were on demand movies. I watched Juno and some cartoons. I was able to sleep much better than i thought i would (but i'm sure that utter and complete exhaustion helped with that.) When we arrived in SA there was some confusion as to what hotel we were staying in and how to get there (and some shady people wanting to “help” for tips.) (Even though I don't have a lot of travel experience, I do have common sense, so it was easy it tell what is legit and what isn't.)

Everyone in my group is really great. There are 26 of us from all over the country. I'm one of the least traveled, and I think I am one of two who haven't studied abroad. I can certainly see the difference in our economic levels... I can easily tell that I am of more humble means than others (that's an observation and not a complaint, by the way), but, hey, we're going to a 3rd world country and I'm already used to living without luxuries they've probably enjoyed all their lives (i.e air conditioning, fancy toiletry products, general fancy things that i don't even know about.) In terms of preparation for Peace Corps life style, I think I'm ahead, even if I don't have as much fancy equipment to help me along the way. We're supposed to be immersed in the Malagasy lifestyle, so I know I will be able to do that on a very genuine level. Who knew being from the East side of Dayton would leave me better prepared for Peace Corps service... I think I brought the least amount of 'stuff'... I don't know if other people have started to form 'cliques' yet... I know I'm not in one (for better or worse, right?)... I've had dinner with different people every night so far. I think I'm just going to go with the flow socially... well, that's what i always do (ha, for better or worse, right?)

We will arrive in Madagascar on Thursday and stay in the capitol for shots and information. i will be with my host family on Friday night (yay and yikes at the same time!). I wont have access to phone or internet until late August. I might find a chance to update this between then and now, but if i find myself able to use the internet, I will probably use my limited time to send a few emails instead!

(actually, i will be likely to use myspace messages over email because a lot of emails accounts dump emails from Africa into the spam box... I have a rich uncle who left me all his money, all i need is 3,000 american dollars and your bank informations...) I will find out about my site for the next 2 years, including where ill be living and electricity, etc) in about a month. I will most likely be sharing that information via snail mail, tough.

The hotel we're at is very fancy. It seems almost cruel to put us up here right before shipping us off to pit toilets and bucket showers. I will be sure to take a long shower in the morning. It's so fancy that I had an 'uh oh' moment when it came to which fork to use at dinner... ha ha...

I really don't know what to expect out of the next week, let alone next ten weeks of training, but I am eager and excited to figure it all out and share it with everyone!

My luggage has not been stolen or lost yet... yay... knock on some wood...

I will finish training and swear in as an official volunteer on August 22nd...

I can't think of any other relevant information I should pass along while I still have the chance.

I'm writing this in my hotel room on wednesday night, and will hopefully get to post it via wifi tomorrow at the airport while waiting to go to Mcar. (well, i suppose that if you're reading this, then i was successful.) I want to put up some group pictures, too, so you can see who i'm spending my time with... we'll see!

ha ha! got a connection in the air port!! let me try these pictures... if there's a picture, then it worked!

In South Africa

Greetings from South Africa!

We all made it here safely with all of our belongings... we are flying to Madagascar today at 3.

I just took my last hot awesome shower for the next ??? days/weeks/months... ha ha... and had my last glass of good wine...

If i have more time at the airport later I will upload the blog I wrote on my computer... but if not, check out the links to other blogs that's on the side... some of them are people from my group and some even have pictures...

I miss everyone, but I'm having a lot of fun.

As far as candy :)... I do enjoy most, so almost anything is a safe bet... but some ideas include: laffy taffy, sprees, skittles, starburst, reeses pieces, m&ms (peanut better is the best!)... but really anything will be great! Thanks!!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

a certain peter paul and mary song comes to mind...

Ok... I had plans to write a thoughtful and careful departure post... but... hey, i ran out of time... there's a lot to do... cut me some slack.

Here's the important part: my address

Dorothy Mayne, PCV
Bureau du Corps de la Paix
B.P. 12091
Post Zoom Ankorondrano
Antananarivo 101

This is my address until August. I will have a new one in a few weeks, but anything you send to that address will be forwarded.
Send me stuff. Please. I like stuff. Especially candy.

Also, if you want to just send me a letter (I hear it costs about 90 cents) and are too lazy to go to the post office, you can send it to my mom and she will forward it to me.

Dorothy Mayne
2430 Periwinkle Dr
Bellbrook, OH 45305

Please send me mail.


I'm heading out tomorrow morning. I should be able to make another one of these posts before I leave since I'll likely have WiFi in the hotel where we are staying for Staging in Philadelphia until Tuesday.

A note on sending mail:
Padded envelopes are the best. I sent myself a one pound package in one (1lbs was a lot more stuff than I thought. I sent myself a shirt and some candy and some plastic toys... just like you should do). It cost 10 bucks. You'll have to fill out a customes form. If you can describe anything as used that will be good. You have to give an estimated value. Estimate down :)

Thanks to everyone for all their support and help.

thanks to andrew for the dvds and being my awesome friend
thanks to jacklyn for not keeping my prisioner in her fairborn basement to prevent my departure
thanks to jen for wanting to watch lots of lost and hopefully finding a way to get me dvds
(wow, two of my thanks so far have regarded dvds...)
thanks to Katie for cleaning up the house and moving without me
thanks to everyone who came to my party and had fun with me before I left
thanks to Craig for being super awesome
thanks to shannon for the luggage logistics and ordering me my entire amazon wish list
thanks to matt for being matt
thanks to mom for throwing me the awesome party and cooking really good food for me before i left (and all the time, but whatever) and not conspiring with Jacklyn to kidnap me and the knife and the raincoat etc etc and giving birth to me and all that kind of stuff. and teaching me how to pack really well.
For cereal, thanks! I can't wait to share all my stories! Posting will be slow at first, but stick around, there's good stuff coming.

Peace Out!


I'm at staging in Philadelphia now... There are a lot of cool people (generic, i know) and it's nice to be surrounded by people who are feeling some version of how I'm feeling. The staging director guy is from Dayton and that's cool. yay dayton! We just had a big group conversation about how we're going to miss our family dogs. I like peace corps people.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sorry to get political... but...

Dear Mr. President Bush,

First I'm inclined to thank you for your kind words in my Peace Corps invitation kit. I know you're really busy, so it means a lot. Especially since you planned so far ahead and wrote it while I was still a junior in high school...

I should also make a point to give my thanks for acknowledging the "difficult times" we're dealing with economically in your news conference today. And super-big thanks for signing that (too little too late) economic stimulus plan. (I'll be sure to invest it the Madagascan economy while it only produces misleading and very temporary results at home.)

I have to say, however, that I found your suggestions on improving our economy laughable. The solution to our gas prices woes is drilling ANWR? Even if I thought it was a good idea (I don't), it's not going to happen. Fight as hard as you want; there's too much opposition. But to suggest it on the pretense that you care about how hard gas prices are hitting middle America and not because drilling ANWR is the long-time goal of the people who got you where you are today is an affront. (Not to mention that this proposed drilling wouldn't benefit American gas prices for years, all the while the oil companies would be, excuse my cliche, laughing all the way to the bank.) We need both a short term and a long term solution. Drilling ANWR is neither. (Besides, those poor polar bears have enough troubles as it is!)

I understand and sympathize with (in a way) your assertions that congress won't work with you. Oh that pesky democracy thing you're spreading can be annoying, can't it. Checks and Balances... what a stupid idea.

But my biggest complaint about your news conference today was your tone. You talk like you're burdened by trying to explain something to a child for the third time. (My boss suggested that you talk like that because that's how it had to be explained to you... and he voted for you... both times...) As if one of the grandest aspects of democracy isn't transparency and accountability of the leaders to its people. You have the audacity to actually say "If there was a magic want to wave, I'd be waving it of course." (Insert your own Harry Potter joke here. I'll go with: oh, well then why didn't you get Dumbledore as a running mate?) Magic wand references? Seriously?

I know this doesn't have much to do with Madagascar. But it does. If I weren't leaving the country for 27 months, I would have all different worries about managing to pay back loans, to pay for health care (yeah, I had to go there), on top of rising gas and food costs while seeking a post-college 'real' job. Now I can put those inevitable troubles off for a while.
Don't get me wrong; I understand that there are far worse problems in Madagascar. Their problems make paying $3.59/gallon a trivial annoyance. (In many cases, they don't have roads to drive on even if they did have cars, anways). America is one of the greatest countries in the world (but it's no Norway). It's very American of me to complain about the state of things, after all. I know I am lucky to have the right to do so, and I try to not take that for granted.
But, Mr. President, I will feel a whole lot better about it on January 20th, 2009.

a little liberal PCV

Friday, March 14, 2008


I'm still recovering from the excitement of opening my invitation and reading "Madagascar."

So I've taken a break from doing my visa, passport, writing my aspiration statement, etc to start one of these fangled blogging things. I suppose it would be customary to describe my application process. I think I started it probably a year ago. The initial online application is a bit overwhelming, but if you can't handle it, you probably wouldn't make a good volunteer. I didn't actually submit my application for a while (I spent a few months not working on my essays, all the while having intentions to revise them to be THE GREATEST PEACE CORPS APPLICATION ESSAYS EVER). I finally decided to take the plunge and submit everything the way it was last October when I heard there would be a Peace Corps representative in my city, so I could easily do my interview. My interview was actually really fun. Shortly after (2 weeks??) my interview 'guy' (I forget his title) called me to let me know that he was nominating me to a Francophone African country for English Education leaving in June. (Pretty much a perfect fit; I 'speak' French, have a TESOL certificate, and wanted to leave in June. Good call.) Then began the legal/medical/dental clearance. I'll spare you a rant on the medical and instead do a list of all the fun things I got to do: 3 vaccinations, TB testing, girlie stuff, teeth cleaning, wisdom teeth removal, & lots of vials of blood drawn. I submitted everything in early January. After a brief (and boring) speed bump, I finally got my medical clearance (*med clearance dance*) at the end of February. Dental clearance was much faster. I still have a legal hold because of student loan excitement. I got the fateful update that my invitation on March 1st. After a week spent stalking the mail carrier and rushing home in between work and school, it arrived (along with the biggest snow storm of the year) on March 7th (but I had to let it thaw as it was frozen by the snow covering it on my front porch). (Getting snowed in the weekend you get your invite is a good excuse to spend 12 hours straight reading about your country!) I knew Madagascar was a Francophone country with an English program leaving in June, but I kept myself from getting my hopes up. I was so excited that I had to read the word Madagascar a few times before it sank in.
Overall the application process can seem pretty daunting, but it does serve as a good 'gate keeper.' It prevents people who aren't serious about becoming a Peace Corps volunteer from getting through.

A few things about my writing style (that you probably already realized):
I'm excessively long winded
I overuse parentheses
My spelling is artoshious

In three months I'll be arriving on the red island / eighth continent / Madagascar.

Until then I will be working as much as I can so that I might have funds with which to travel around and maybe have some sort of future upon my return.

(A now a legal message brought to you to cover the Peace Corps and consiquently the US government in case I say anything crazy: This Web site is maintained by Dorothy Mayne, a Peace Corps volunteer. Its content is the opinion of the volunteer and reflects the positions of neither the U.S. government nor the Peace Corps.)