Saturday, January 9, 2010

2010 - the year of awesome

Happy 2010!

My holiday adventures were fairly low key after the trip to Ankarana National Park. Ankarana was amazing- we saw lemurs, all manners of reptiles and birds, tsingy rocks, all of the things that you are tempted with when you open a Madagascar tour book but never see in “regular life” here. The lemurs were obviously used to interacting with humans (aka humans feeding them) so they came right over to us expectantly, posing for photos in exchange for an expected treat… but good Peace Corps Volunteers don’t feed the wildlife! One of these days I’ll get some pictures uploaded. Ankarana = awesome.
After that, we headed up to Diego and stayed the Peace Corps house. It was a very relaxed holiday. We played a lot of scrabble and monopoly and watched a lot of dvds whilst lounging on couches and drinking cold water from the refrigerator… The simple pleasures… We spent a couple of days at the pool with the swim-up bar, which is always a confusing pleasure (confusing because it’s so nice and luxurious- you’re like, is this Peace Corps? Is this Madagascar? But you go with it and order another cocktail.) We enjoyed the culinary offering of Diego (shrimp, and shrimp, with shrimp please), but didn’t do too much in the ways of adventuring. No one really had much money because of the way our pay dates fell. Oh well.
On Christmas day we took a walk to the rocky coast (there isn’t really a beach in Diego, you have to take a boat across the bay to get to sand) and enjoyed the fine breeze and huge chameleon sightings and played an epic game of monopoly and enjoyed pineapple dipped in melted chocolate. The next day we went to the market to get food to prepare a meal and found a big grouper fish (it was big and awesome). Chris-heijn filleted it and we had beer battered fish tacos with black beans and rice- amazing.
The next leg of my holiday adventure took me to Brittany’s site, Anketrakabe. She’s an environment volunteers, and it’s a long running “joke” that environment volunteers are “real” peace corps volunteers, whereas education volunteers are “posh” corps volunteers. When comparing our sites, it’s easy to see where this idea came from. She lives in a small village that doesn’t have electricity where she has to carry water from a pump to her bamboo hut, all the things that I pictured doing when I daydreamed about life in Peace Corps from the window in the back drive-thru at McDonalds. Don’t get me wrong, I love that I have running water, electricity, a toilet, etc, but it’s definitely not what I was expecting when I “signed up.” I spent New Years at Brittany’s site, spending most of the days playing with the little kids in the village and teaching them funny things in English (there are videos). We actually managed to stay up until midnight on New Years Eve, and spend New Years Day at a family’s party where they set up a TV outside playing Malagasy music videos powered from a generator. They cooked an insane amount of food and we ate and danced. There was a makeshift “discothèque” with a live band that they set up in the market. It was hot, crowded, and full of drunken men and staring children, in other words, my personal hell. I think we stayed there exactly 4 minutes before escaping to Brittany’s house (which is about 20 yards from the “discotheque”). It was so loud, and the band played from 3pm-6pm and 8pm-5am… that band had some stamina. All and all it was a very strange but very fun welcome to 2010.
I voyaged back to site on Sunday in the front seat of a brousse that had a dvd player in the sun visor that played American music videos and a Leonardo Dicapro movie- yes!
As soon as I got back to site, however, my health dive bombed into a perilous state. I was so sick Sunday-Tuesday- I leave the house, much less teach. I read and gripped my stomach in pain and shivered with fever. Being sick is never fun, but I’d say it’s worse here. When you’re sick, you just want to be as comfortable as possible in whatever way you can. I lay across my horridly uncomfortable bed for hours at a time, feeling my body made an ever deeper indentation in the mattress, making it increasingly uncomfortable. I will spare you the exact details of my peril, but know that it was not pretty. I am doing much better, though.
I am now in Diego, even though I was just here two weeks ago. The other two PCVs in my region are heading to Tana to train the Niger transfer group, and it’s my last chance to get out of site and socialize with fellow PCVs for a while. I’m loving site and everything, don’t get me wrong, but it’s important to soak up as much time like this with them as possible. I barely taught this week, so I’m actually looking forward to going back to site and teaching a full week next week.
Mail shout-outs to Nina, Derek, Jen and Mom! Thanks for sending me mail! (and to everyone who has sent stuff that I haven't gotten, whoever you are)

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