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.