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...
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.
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...
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 :)
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!!