Saturday, July 24, 2010

Wow, it's like really really windy man

Whoa, it's been a while, hasn't it? I've been all over the island and back in the past few weeks and haven't been without serious stimulation of some kind or another since the beginning of July. I will breifly chronical my passage.

I spent a few lovely days in Diego with some other PCVs who came up North for vacation. You may have seen photographic evidence of the ensuing fun on Facebook.

Then I hit the road out to Mahajunga to meet up with my long-lost stagemates, Beth and Brain, who showed me the town pcv style (that means we ate the best food in town).

After that, our Education 2008 trio left the toasty coastal excitement for the blustering cloudiness of the highlands, specifically the capital, Tana. A few days in Tana can do a body good (or bad... but either way, it's worth it). We hit up the best food spots and used the crap out of the internet.

Then on to everyone's favorite Winter Camp- Mantasoa, for a training of trainers (that's right, TOT) conference. It was fun to be really cold and shiver after moaning and moaning about the heat for the last 7 months. It was also great to reconnect with my stagemates. I haven't seen enough of them since returning here; I saw some of them more often when we were in America than I do now.

After a few more days enjoying the cuisine of Tana, Kinsey and I set sail (via airplane) to Diego to start teaching at the university.
Life in Diego... It's good.
We're living in the visiting teacher housing at the Univeristy of Antsiranana, which offers a breathtaking view of the Bay of Diego (the 2nd biggest bay in the world) and Sugar Loaf (see facebook). But in exchange for this, we have to endure constant high winds from the Indian Ocean that come across the bay. There will never be a good hair day in Diego. We each have our own bedroom and bathroom and a shared kitchen. Kinsey has been learning me up on Malagasy cooking. We also have little patios that have great views- but you can only sit there and read so long before your eyes are dried out from the constant wind.
I started teaching on Wednesday. I'm teaching 3rd and 4th year Academic Writing and 4th year Applied Linguistics and Teaching Methods. I'm teaching 28 hours/week not including movie club and conversation club hosted by the English department. It's nice to be busy and intellectually stimulated. I have a ton of resources (I can even make copies from time to time!). The students' English levels are great- they can understand controversial conversations and have extensive lexicons. At the end of my first class, I opened up discussion time for any questions they have. A student raised his hand without hesitation and asked "When can you use 'douchebag' and what is the difference between 'douchebag' and 'douche'?" They're fun.
Conversation club last night was... interesting. The topic was: Men in skirts. I don't know where they got this topic. A pair of students gave a presentation on the history of men wearing skirts/dresses, and then we discussed it. There's only so much that can be said, and two hours later, it definitely felt like we were beating a dead thing with a very big stick.
Our house also came with dogs. There must have been a long line of friendly foreigners who have fed these dogs. There are about 3 female dogs who keep close to the house and are very friendly and passive towards us. One of them runs over to us and lays down with her belly sticking up everytime she sees us.... I will feed and adore her, but I ain't touching that belly.

Thanks so much to everyone who has sent me a package! (Specifically: Mom, Matt, Shannon, Fran, Peggy, Jane, Nina, Abbie, Fraser, Ben and Ronda). They are so great to get and mean a lot to me! However, the tax on them here in Diego is super expensive (of course it's worth it, but it's still expensive), so if you still want to send a package, send it to Tana:
Dorothy Mayne
Corps de la Paix
B.P. 12091
Poste Zoom Ankorondrano
101 Antananarivo

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Veloma Ambanja (Pictures!)

Here is me and my Malagasy family. "Mohammad," Liza, Momma Peace Corps, and Tsiky (hiding behind me in an uncharacteristic moment of shyness)

Quite an eventful week or so... how do I condense it into a readable, chronological, whimsical tale?
First of all, most of last week Momma Peace Corps was out of town, leaving her son, Tsiky, the dude whose name I have no idea how to spell (Mamoshad? Let's call him Mohammad), and me the run of the place. All of the neighbors were complaining about our loud rap music (Momma PC gots a nice sound system, and Tsiky and Mohammad like Snoop Dog and Dr Dre) and we sat around watching TV most of the time. Without a woman around (I don't count), we resorted to eating cold rice and papaya for dinner. On the eve before Independence day, we watched the celebration on TV instead of going to a celebration ourselves; we were being very American. First they showed a fireworks/laser light show in London, but Mohammad didn't realize that it wasn't Madagascar because he's never been to the capital. When they started the show in Madagascar, it was an obvious attempt to emulate the London version (and they showed that first to give you an idea of what it was supposed to be like?) But when they cut to the capital and started that show, Mohammad was like, “What?! This is Madagascar? Where was that before?” And I told him it was London. After thinking the London one was Madagascar, he was very disappointed in the actual show. I thought it was jolly good attempt, but the TV coverage of it was like a high school news project (the camera was set up behind a tree, so the fire works and laser light show were seen from behind the tree).
The next day, Independence Day, I was supposed to be in another freaking parade... I've already been in the School Days parade and the Women's Day parade, which make sense because I'm a teacher at the school and a woman, but why would I, as an installation of neocolonialism (that's right, I said it), be in the Independence Day parade? Plus I hate being in parades. Instead, I hung out at Momma Peace Corps house (she was back) and watched TV and cooked and ate like someone who is representing America should. When I arrived, Mohammad was just finishing killing the chicken, and Liza (my best friend in Ambanja) poured boiling water on its body ease the process of feather removal. She and I were pulling out feathers as I heard a distinct chicken chatter and jumped back from the lifeless, almost bald dead bird. Everyone laughed at me. There was another chicken under the table that was still alive that I didn’t realize was there.
Independence Day night was a drunken mess. Excuse me for generalizing, but when Malagasy people drink, they get DrUnK. Independence Day in Madagascar is renowned among volunteers as a day of avoiding drunken crowds and laying low after lunch. Not that Malagasy people are generally big drinkers, but if you drink one day of the year, it will be Independence Day. I spent the evening watching Malagasy music videos (look up “Chila” on youtube if you want to feel some of my suffering for yourself- Malagasy music is... uh... Thumper wouldn't say anything about it), dancing, and drinking. Everyone was getting good and hydrated, and I was thinking about heading home before it was “too late” but decided to stick around and gather some fodder for you fine people. Well, let me tell you, drunk dialing exists across cultures... Momma PC's boyfriend pulled me aside so that we could have a heart to heart, and he told me that he loves Momma PC but that she lies to him and it makes him sad. Then, in English, he says, “Ok, give me five,” and we continued our revelry. I did my part (goal 2) to teach them about American culture. When Momma PC's boyfriend passed out with his shoes on, I told them about how if someone passes out with their shoes on that gives everyone free license to mess with them. The next morning I taught them an English phrase: “the hair of the dog that bit me.” Cheers to 50 years Madagascar!

After having completed my grades, I was free to run about town and do as I please with no schedule or commitments. I spent all my evenings at Momma PC's house, where Tsiky pretended to cry whenever I walked into the room since I am finished working in Ambanja. I caught almost all of the World Cup games, even though I'm not happy with their outcomes in general. I had money (figuratively) on Brazil man.
It's sad to leave Ambanja, but how can I be sad to move to Diego? Everyone keeps telling me that they know I am not sad because I will live in Diego instead of Ambanja. They're right... here are a few things I won't miss about Ambanja:
Crossing the street. The big main road that goes from the capital to Diego runs through the middle of town, and crossing it can be perilous. I stand and wait for the rickshaws, bikes, cars, cabs, tractors, and taxi brousses to pass, so I can safely cross, but everyone slows down to stare at me or stops to try to pick me up.
Trying to get a room of 75 16-19 year olds to be quiet enough for me to talk.
Living in between the elementary school playground and the school board offices- loud adults and loud children. (Soon my backyard will be the bay of Diego... quite an improvement from a playground).

Things I will miss about Ambanja:
Momma Peace Corps and family, including Tsiky, Liza, Mohammad, Rosy, Momma PC's boyfriend, and all their neighbors. They are all wonderful people who have been largely responsible for my enjoyment of my time in Ambanja. She makes me pizza :)

(some of) My students. A bunch came by my house to pick up their tests and say goodbye. I got a French-English dictionary for one girl who comes by and constantly asks me to translate single words. I wrote in the inside cover “Study hard. Remember that nothing is impossible!” and she drew me a picture and wrote “Nothing that you desire in your heart is impossible” across the top. Weird. I've given them all of the magazines that y'all fine people have been kind enough to provide.
English club. I heart English club.

English Club... this turned in to quite the photo shoot. Everyone wanted to sit with me and make sure they looked good in every picture. Eventually I had to use the good old trusty "oh, look at that, the battery died" line. These kids are the future of this country, seriously.

On my last night in Ambanja, I had some unexpected guests at my going away party. A crew of PCVs (some of the coolest people on the island, possibly the world) I hadn’t seen since we were evacuated stayed in Ambanja on their way North to Diego. We all stayed at Momma Peace Corps house, and it was a fine time (even though was had to watch Brazil and Ghana lose!).
Now, in Diego, I just returned home from a Jerry Marcos concert. He’s my favorite Malagasy singer (which isn’t saying much, but whatever). It was intense. There was a huge crowd and a good time was had by all. I normally dread and despise Malagasy concerts (or any event with a crowd, to be honest), but this one was an awesome exception. We rolled 8 vazaha deep, and it was a blast.

Happy 4th of July stateside!