I came to the realization that I may be the worst blogger ever. The big thing I think is missing from my blog is a description of my day-to-day life. There’s a lot, so maybe I should break it into topics.
Firstly, travel to my village. Villages around Tulear used to be considered “fly sites”, which meant that when I traveled to the capital city of Tana, the PC would pay for me to fly from Tulear and back. Then I would have to take a taxibrouse to my site. That is no longer the case, since there is a decent road from Tana to Tulear. So now I take a taxibrouse all the way to Tana. There are different kinds of taxibrouses. In the south, there are mainly camions, or big, open busses. There are also covered pick-ups with benches, which almost always have to be push-started. They can typically fit about 20 adults into the back of a truck, along with chickens, children, and whatever else you can stuff under the bench, as well as 4-5 men hanging off the back. The kind of brouse that you take to Tana, however, is a 15-passenger van. It is a 20-hour ride from Tulear to Tana, and there are always several people puking most of the way, so I always bring plastic bags to give out. The brouse stops once at a hotely (Gasy restaurant) for dinner, but there is plenty of food along the way in the form of people who run up to your car with plates of chicken, hardboiled eggs, fried-dough, etc. anytime the brouse has to stop for a police check. Close to Tana, these police checks are quick and simple. As you go further south, the police start carrying large guns and asking the drivers for money. But don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I’m not a fly site anymore. As an environment volunteer, especially, it would be irresponsible for me to fly when I can take a brouse. And hey, it makes me more Gasy.
Secondly, life in my village. Although there are no hotelys or resaurants in my village, it isn’t exactly the ambanivohitra (backwoods). It’s pretty simple to get here, several shop owners in town have generators, and they play music videos all night. We even have a solar panel for the school. Everyone lives in grass huts and cooks on small metal stands with charcoal. Rice doesn’t grow here, and it is expensive to buy, so people don’t eat as much rice here as they do on the plateau. On the plateau (the center of Mada) people make balls of rice dough called mofogasy. Here they make a modified version called mokare (moo-ka-ray) that has regular flour in addition to rice flour, that they eat for breakfast. I think lunch for most people is a little cassava, and dinner is rice with fried fish or beans. I am fortunate that I eat with the Reef Doctor people, who have someone to cook for them during the week. This really saves me a ton of time, because food takes a while to prepare. In the morning, the men head out fishing, while the women spend most of the day cooking.
My typical day…
My wake-up time depends on the sun. Not so much because the sun wakes me up, although that has something to do with it. The sun wakes everyone else up, and in turn they wake me up. First it’s the taxibrouses. There is a woman who lives behind me named Madame Vettely. She has a large camion-style brouse, and her son has a pick-up style brouse. They usually pull up next to my house and rev the engines for a while, sending a cloud of gas into my house around 5am. During the next hour other brouses come through, honking their horns the whole way. At around 6am the children start playing in front of my house (I live across from the school) and occasionally try to see how many times in a row they can call my name. Cute. That is about the time I typically wander through the village to buy eggs and bread, or perhaps mokare for breakfast.
After breakfast I wander down the beach to the Reef Doctor office. As usual, I am involved in several different projects, so my activities at the office vary. Since I have access to electricity and internet, I do a lot of research and reading materials for environmental education. Often I am preparing clothes for the women’s association or activities for Kid’s Club. Sometimes I go diving, or study my fish for performing underwater surveys. Lunch is at noon, and after that nothing happens again until 3pm. The excuse is that it’s too hot to do anything, but they take the same amount of time in the winter. This is my favorite part of the day because I usually read a book and nap in a hammock. It’s a tough life, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
After all that napping I really need a snack, so I walk to through the village to buy bonbonkapiky, which is basically peanut brittle. Lately, though, there have been tons of mangoes. They are delicious and practically free, so they have become my new sugar-rush of choice. I can eat 4 mangoes for the price of 1 bonbon kapiky (100 Ariary, or approx $0.06) Also, my afternoons just got really fun. I started practicing with the Ifaty women’s rugby team, who just so happen to be the best team in the country. It’s so great to be playing rugby again, and the women are awesome. They want me to go to Tana and play with them. Technically the rules allow it, but I’m not sure how Peace Corps would feel about that.
Saturdays I usually invite the kids to my house to color, and sit on my porch playing the guitar for them. I also like to make bread or granola in my solar oven. The best is when someone comes wandering by my house selling fresh goat’s milk. Then I’ll make myself a cup of milk & honey, and use the rest to make cheese. Sundays are a lot of fun because I have Kids Club, and then teach an English class in the afternoon to the local fisherman and store owners. Sunday nights are also fun because I have crazy dreams thanks to my anti-malarial medication.
So that’s pretty much my life. I’m asleep by 9pm, awake by 5am. I eat lots of rice, beans and fish, and now mangoes. I watch the sun set over the Mozambique channel every day. I miss my friends and family often.