Monday, September 27, 2010

Vacation, Training, and Fosa, oh my!

Please excuse my prolonged absence from blog posting... I've been so delightfully busy these last... uh... 2 months?

First, let me recount a brief tale of my vacation. At the beginning of August, I went South of Tana (the capital) for the first time in my 20 months here. Finally. We (me and some friends from my original stage who came back together) enjoyed brief stays in Antsirabe and Miandrivazo before embarking on an 3 day canoe trip floating West of the ________ river. We camped 3 nights on the river bank on the way. It's not very far, but there's a pathetically weak current, and the boatmen can't be troubled to paddle any more than absolutely necessary.
After finishing the butt-numbing but otherwise pleasant floatacular, we stayed in some more quiet villages inthemiddleofnowhere (really, I've never felt so inthemiddleofnowhere in my life) on the way to the legendary tsingy park, Bemahara. For those of you who don't know (and why would you), tsingy (or what I like to call “stupid pointy rocks”) are sharp limestone rocks which resemble stalagmites that aren't in a cave... if you are, for some reason, interested in the science behind this geological phenomenon, direct your search elsewhere... rocks... you know how I feel about them. We hiked in the “grand tsingy” first and then hit up the “petite tsingy” later, decidedly making the latter outing quiet undramatic. I'll grudgingly admit that the park is pretty cool when you're not gripping onto impossibly sharp chunks of pointy limestone for dear life. Please see photos on Facebook.
After the river and rock portion of our adventure we finally arrived to the Tree Portion, the much anticipated pilgrimage to the baobab trees outside of Morondava. The image that you picture when you imagine Madagascar (if you ever find yourself doing such) is probably from this area. Rocks, blah; but trees, yes please. It was everything that I thought it could be since getting my invitation to Peace Corps Madagascar in March 2008. We watched the sunset and the sky turn purple in the forest of >500 year old water hoarding trees. Magical.
Finally, we returned to city life in Morondava, which is my favorite city that I've been to in Madagascar. It's right on the beach, there's amazing and affordable food (read: shrimp), and it's small enough to be enjoyed by foot. I seriously loved Morondava. Though I wouldn't want to be anywhere near there during the hot season.
Then we ventured to a private nature reserve, Kirindy, outside Morondava. It's home to lemurs galore, and the infamous singular carnivore of Madagascar, the fosa. According to guide books, fosa are allegedly very allusive, and a few days stay are recommended to get a chance to see one. We wanted to camp at the park, but were cautioned against it due to the possibility of “miattack” by fosa. We took a nap before heading out on our hike, and Kinsey woke us up claiming to have seen a fosa as she was fetching water from the pump. No one believed her, and we told her such, but she persisted, so we got out of bed. It was not a sun/hike induced hallucination; the fosa was snacking out of the garbage can. That night we saw another one (or the same one?) on our night hike in a more authentic setting. We also saw all kinds of lemurs being all adorable all over the place. I loved Kirindy!
What a fantastic vacation, river, rocks, trees, beach, fosa, lemurs... pretty much the iconic Madagascar experience. If you want to come and do it to, I will be your guide if you pay my way... haha.
The best way to end a vacation? Micommanding a taxi brousse back to the capital, 14 hours of excitement!
For the 3 weeks following vacation, my colleagues and I helped train the newly arrived volunteers in a training village outside the capital. By day we watched them practice teaching and lead sessions on how to survive teaching here for two years. By night we played Cranium and read to each other from a trashy novel around the fire. Meeting the new people was great, and strengthening the bonds of our 2+ year friendships was ever better (sorry new people). One of the new people is replacing me in Ambanja which is exciting. It's good to have the number of volunteers in country back to where it was before we were evacuated a year and a half ago.
Since then, I've been back enjoying life working at the university in Diego. It's really a dream come true. I'm getting a good preview of what I'm planning to do with the rest of my life, and loving it. It sure is windy here, and there are a lot more critters in my house than I'd prefer (no more rats though). The wind is so strong that it whips the dirt around, smacking into your face/eyes/any exposed flesh. It hurts dude. But aside from that, I love being in Diego and seeing other Peace Corps Volunteers all the time, speaking English in class, and tackling interesting topics (we spent a good hour talking about health care reform and Sarah Palin in one of my classes... I know, I'm a little late...). I asked my students what they thought Americans should do about the cost of health care and insurance, and they suggested that we strike, how French of them. I have an amazing amount of freedom with my course content, and having resources like the internet and a small library leave me free to be creative. We've been covering elementary but intensive topics like the difference between analzying and summarizing, and citing sources. I actually teach about 30 hours a week; it's like being a real teacher! I love it.
This week I'm headed back to the capital for Close of Service Conference, and it's the first time I've ever been not happy about leaving site to go to Tana.
Tsara velona.

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