bonjour vaza!

Hey everyone !

I can’t believe I’ve been out of training and at my site for 4 weeks already. Ifaty is beautiful, and everyone has been really welcoming. I’ve been greeted several times in the village with ‘Salama, Maureen’, as opposed to the usual greeting for a white person, which is ‘Bonjour, vaza!’ (don’t get me wrong, I still hear plenty of that J My Malagasy partner, Madame Jeanne, was so happy to see me when I arrived, and the people at Reef Doctor have really helped me settle in (i.e. they’ve been feeding me). I love my house, and I’m generally stoked on life.

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Shopping for everything in Tulear was absolutely crazy. And I thought I would have a simpler life here- ha! There are stands selling various items all along the streets, so I was running around all day trying to find everything I needed, and bargaining with the vendors. At first I hated bargaining, but by the end of the day I was totally into it. One guy even complimented me on my bargaining skills! Combine that with everyone exclaiming ‘Mahay teny gasy!’ (she speaks Malagasy), and I was feeling pretty good about myself.

It was tough to leave all the friends I made during training. We had a lot of fun the last few weeks visiting protected areas, and hanging out in Tana. We even had an awesome talent show, in which I performed the dance from Little Miss Sunshine (Superfreak). At a protected area in Andasibe we saw tons of chameleons, snakes, frogs, and of course lemurs. But the really exciting animal sighting occurred after I arrived in Ifaty. The first night in my house I heard a rustling of the reeds that make up the walls of my house. When I looked around I found my house was filled with—are you ready?—giant hissing cockroaches! I know, isn’t that so cool?! I’ve created a game called ‘How many giant hissing cockroaches are in my house right now’. It’s such an awesome game I created the at-home version called ‘How many GHCs are in this picture’. I hope you enjoy it. 

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I have already been working to expand the women’s association in this area. On Wednesday M. Jeanne and I went to the town just inland from Ifaty and taught a group of women there some embroidery techniques. My hope is that they will eventually start an association of their own. Also, the farmers in that town have offered to give me an experimental plot, and they are very excited to learn improved farming techniques. I’m stoked to become part of this community.

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