It's been over a month since my return to Madagascar, and I've been at my new site, Ambanja, for three weeks now. Going from the highlands to the Northwest coast has been a big change. The most prevelant difference is the heat. I hardly ever left the house without a jacket in Anjozorobe, but in Ambanja, turning over in bed is enough to trigger a new sweat down pour. Other differences include increased insect size (particularly roaches), increased insects with ablity to fly (particularly roaches), exellent proximity to the beach, flora and fauna are more tropical, less catholics and more muslims, my site is a big city instead of a village, etc. It might as well be another country.
This time I am teaching 10th grade English instead of first year English to 10 year olds. This is a huge positive for me. My students can ask questions and speak good french. It's amazing how much more you can accomplish when you can understand each other. Also, in my opinion, it's much more meaningful to have a native speaking teacher at this level. The principal speaks almost fluent English, and he is hilarious. This eliminates a lot of the stress that I had in Anjozorobe. Overall, Ambanja is wildly superior to Anjozorobe... at least to me, every site has its pros and cons.
After less than three weeks at site, I've taught two weeks, given and graded 375 tests, and gone to the beach twice. It's a 20 minute drive in a taxi. It's a tropical paradise with white sand, crystal clear blue water in the middle of the moutainous rain forest. (Google image search: Ankify Madagascar) Last weekend, Amy and Chris-heijn (the married couple who transfered here after their evacuation from Guinea this fall) came to Ambanja (it's their banking town). They are an amazing couple, and I feel lucky to live in their banking town! We went to Ankify for the day, ate fresh crab and shrimp on a balcony that overlooks the beach, and swam in the warm calm waters of the Mozambique channel. The possiblity of a day trip to this picturesque beach is a hughlight of my new site.
If you google Ambanja, you'll get a lot of entries about the pqnther chamelion. Theyre pretty rad... the other morning I spotted a big one outside my window on my fence. My house is next to the elementary school, and the school yard was full of kids, but I decided to stick my head out the window to take pictures anyway. I caught it using its long sticky tounge to eat a bug on video! All the kids noticed me and ran over to see me and then realized what I was doing. Malagasy people are terrified of chamelions, so the kids started freaking out. I inadvertantly drew attention to the creature, so I felt responsible for its well being (people tend to kill things that scare them). I stayed and watch it (they're so cool!) until class started and all the kids were safely inside. I moved it to a tree it could climb and be safely out of reach. While it was on my fence it was as brown as the sticks, but as soon as it was on the tree in the sun, it turned all kinds of greens and blues. (It should be noted, however, that according to Malagasy stories, I'm going to die as a result of touching it. I tried not to let anyone see me move it to avoid them thinking I'm insane).
Later, my friend Carlos came over. He's pretty good at English, and I've been helping him prepare for university study. We discuessed the chamelion issue. He says that Malagasy people are afraid of them because of their "form." I don't understand being so afraid of anything that's so slow. I explained to him that I thought roaches, spiders, and rats are scary, but I'm not afraid of chamelions -even saying "chamelions" to Carlos made him recoil and gasp- but he laughed at me when I made a face with the word "roaches"... oh cultural exchange. Speaking of cultural exchange... he wanted me to transcribe the lyrics to the Akon song "Beautiful"... look up the lyrics if you want to imagine how funny that was.
I spend a lot of time with a Malagasy family that lives down the street. It's a mom, and her daughters (17, 19 and 22 years old I think). They have been amazingly helpful and are good at speaking slow, clear Malagasy with me. I eat dinner with them a lot. They are so nice!
I got my first letter this week (thanks JEN!) It only took 2 weeks!
It's Christmas vacation time now! grades are done and turned it, and I'm waiting for a taxi brousse to Ankarana national park- we are determined to see some freaking lemurs. Then Amy, Chris-heijn and I are meeting up with two other volunteers in Diego. It will be amazing.
please excuse the rampant spelling errors... the computer only wants to spell check them to french...