Saturday, February 21, 2009


So... I suppose I ought to write a blog explaining the political situation and the Peace Corps 'consolidation' experience.

Firstly, the people here have a serious problem with the president (Marc -last name a long unnecessary detail, has been president since the disputed election of 2002). He is the 'richest person in Madagascar' and it often seems that his policy making is geared more towards increasing his wealth than improving the country. So there is already general discontent with the president. Enter Andry, the mayor of Tana. He declared himself president and fanned the fires of anti-Marc sentiment. At the end of January, there were angry mobs in Tana and in other cities around the country who looted and burned the stores and distribution centers of the president's company, Magro. The death toll in these events are disputed (20-80? I've read lots of conflicting reports). Andry doesn't seem to have a whole lot of support, and most people outside of Tana have never heard of him. He's relying on people disliking Marc. Events have continued, but the most notable one was a few Saturdays ago when Andry's supporters marched to the presidential palace for a takeover and 20ish people were shot and killed by the soldiers/guards/mercenaries (no one really knows who). This insighted a lot of anger among the people. Things haven't “gotten better” but it's not been very violent. Ok, so that's a very watered down simplistic version.

So, where was I for all of this?

The Peace Corps called me to have me 'consolidated' on the 30th of January after all of the looting and burning and expressions of violence. Banks were short on money and it was impossible to buy phone credit thus making me unable to contact them in an emergency. I went to Tana on the 31st where 30 other people were already consolidated. There were too many people to stay at the Peace Corps house in Tana, so were all moved to the training center at Lake Mantasoa (equipped for about 100 people). Other groups from different regions met us there. At first there were 46 PCVs there but by the end there were 80 something. It was intense.

Think about what would happen if you took that many Americans who live out in isolated villages and rarely speak English and rarely socialize with one (let alone 80) other Americans. Mantasoa has room with 2-6 beds. We are served 3 meals a day in a dining room. There are volleyball and basketball courts, canoing, and board games. It could have been really fun, but we were all going insane wondering if and when we'd be evacuated or go back to site. The tension of uncertainty was palpable. I could really go on and on about the atmosphere, events, nonevents, and parties of those 17 excruciating days, but I won't.

Except to say that my birthday was a weird day... it was consolidation day 7 and everyone was getting pretty stir crazy and social tension was high. We had my Birthday Dance Party for Peace (whoever dances the longest cares about peace the most... I think I won). I watched a lot of Lost season 4. They made me a birthday cake. It was probably the weirdest birthday of my life.

So, instead of rambling on trying to explain something that doesn't make sense in the first place, I'll leave you with my favorite quote from consolidation. (I'm keeping a book of quotes that people say that make everyone laugh so we can read them later and laugh again)

"Live everyday like you'll be evacuated tomorrow!" -Beth

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