Friday, February 19, 2010

Birthday Excitement

13 February 2010

I’m writing to you now from the wonderful city of Diego. We made Gatorade, and mine is chilling in the freezer (yes!). I arrived to Diego Thursday night and proceeded to make delicious processed soup and watch trashy tv on dvd at the Peace Corps house. Yesterday was a lot of shopping and eating. Life is good.

Speaking of life being good… My 25th birthday was AmAzInG. My Malagasy friends had a party for me. They are so good to me and help me with everything and are always there if I need anything. They made me pizza and mashed potatoes for dinner. I was hesitant about the pizza when they said they were going to make it. Usually when Malagasy people make “vazaha” food it always ends up being a weird version that only makes you crave the real thing more. (But they make Malagasy food great, so you’d just rather have that!) The pizza actually was amazing. They are always friends with the volunteers and somewhere along the way someone taught them how to make a darn good pizza. The mashed potatoes were my influence though, haha.
The next day, the day of my birthday (insert fanfare here), a few fellow vazaha and I made the short trip to Ankify, the beach 20k away from Ambanja. It is from Ankify that you can travel to Nosy Be, one of the top tourist destinations in Madagascar (look up Nosy Be on google images if you want to know why). I think that Ankify is more than sufficient, though… I mean, how much more beautiful can Nosy Be be? Ankify’s beach is a white sand, palm tree wonderland. I know I’ve written about it before, but its tropical paradisiness (spell check says that’s not a word- add to dictionary- it is now) can’t be overstated. We saw a fisherman dock his canoe on the beach in front of the hotel/restaurant and sell them a huge grouper fish. They asked us if was wanted fish for lunch, and we said yes, and we ate it. That’s as fresh as it gets. We spent hours in the water and lounging on the beach, feasting from a 42oz bag of m&ms (thanks Amy’s mom!!) and listening to Bob Marley (it’s his birthday too). This was the first year I spent any time on my birthday outside doing anything besides shivering in the chill of the wind or making my way through snow and ice. For everyone who was at consolidation last year for my birthday, while that was… fun… this was a much more ideal “Madagascar” birthday. I couldn’t have lucked out more on the weather, and we even got to watch the sunset over the Mozambique Channel as a rainbow arched across the sky in the distance.

Things are going well at site. This week is “School Days” (a celebration for all the schools and students that usually involves yard work, soccer games, dance performances, parties, and apparently parades.) I was told to be at the elementary school on Wednesday morning, but with no more specific instructions as to where exactly to go and why my attendance was requested. Sure I could have inquired more deeply, but you learn to go with the flow here; everything always works out, and sometimes knowing what’s going on before hand makes it worse. I got to the Elementary school and saw that all of the students from all of the schools in Ambanja were there (there are about 20 schools). I had no idea where to go and knew that my wandering around would be very conspicuous (being the only vazaha around). Luckily I spotted one of my students and found our group with him. There were lots of banners around with different school and club names, and I was beginning to have the sneaking suspicion that I was about to be in a parade. When I got to my school’s group, the students clapped with excitement that I was to lead there section of the parade (news to me). We (all of the students and most of the teachers from every school in the city) paraded around town, drumming and chanting. After the parade there were some musical performances (my school has a choir and they are excellent, the best, actually, if I may say so). It was a strange morning, and I was not expecting any of it (to demonstrate an oft used Peace Corp Volunteer phrase: “I never have any idea what’s going on!”).

I’m loving Ambanja, but excited to head back to the highlands for “In Service Training” in March and be “cold” for a week. (Grammar check is insisting that “I’m loving” be changed from present progressive tense to present tense. How interesting. A particularly intelligent and motivated student asked about this rule -how you can’t use “to like” “to dream” “to hope” etc in the present progressive because they aren’t temporary emotions. Oops, I just lost most of my readers. I however, think that’s rubbish… I’m loving Ambanja, right now! That’s doesn’t mean I will be loving it next week with the emotional roller coaster of Peace Corps life). (Come of to think of it - wow, I’m really going off on a tangent - the McDonalds catch phrase “I’m loving it” is present progressive, and if McDonalds uses it, it’s can’t be wrong, take that, grammar check!) The people in Ambanja have been very nice and welcoming. I have some good friends that I can socialize with. My best friend there is a 23 year old woman who is single and doesn’t have kids- that doesn’t happen often here. It’s so nice to spend time with someone my age and gender. There are some really nice teachers who are interested in practicing English with me. I have a lot of great students who are advanced enough to have a decent conversation and love asking me hilarious questions (i.e. “what is ‘country’?” -I translated it to French- “hmmm… what does it mean ‘she’s gone country’?” ha hahaha). I could write pages and pages just on questions from this one girl… and probably will at some point.

Next week I’m giving an oral exam… the resulting blog should be interesting!

Thanks for all the birthday wishes! Quarter Century! I’m loving it!

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