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!

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