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!