28 hours of awesome! After changing and eating lunch we headed out for the day making our way from the most iconic places to the most fun. The Eiffel tower was impressive and then we made our way from the Arch de Triomphe down the Champs Elysees eating Nutella crepes and French onion soup and drinking champagne. By the time Matt, Ryan, Vickie and I made it to the Ferris wheel it began to rain (and my camera battery died) so we ducked into a metro station and went to Notre Dame. It was glorious as well as cold and rainy so it was extra convenient that there is a strip of bars right there. After sharing a bottle of cider and eating a gyro we made it to the Latin Corner where we finished our night. Drinks included sparklers and at one point they lit a drink on fire while it was in my mouth. We hopped on the last train back to our hotel and slept until we had to leave for our flight to…Madagascar!
I disembarked the plane to a wave of humidity that I hadn’t felt in months. Climbing down the stairs of the plane there were palm trees as well as lush greenery. If the people weren’t speaking Malagasy, I would have sworn that we had landed in Hawaii by mistake. After acquiring our luggage we were shuttled to the transit house which by our new standards was better than a hotel. Multiple story buildings, hot water, bath tubs, and beds are in my new category of things I wouldn’t have appreciated as much without our stint in Niger.
The next morning we met the Ambassador and had a few interviews with staff then headed to our training site. At the lake front property equipped with canoes and bicycles, everybody is exercising with new found vigor. It’s colder and wetter than we were prepared for, seeing as how we had all packed for the hottest inhabited region of the world. We have been able to go to the market and pick up some warmer clothes. I thankfully brought a rain coat and umbrella since it rains every day. Along with this rain are lightning and thunder storms like I have never seen. One night Matt mentioned that the thunder doesn’t qualify as close by until the windows rattle. The windows of course began to rattle about twenty minutes later. It’s fun taking pictures of it, though if anybody has advice for camera settings when trying to take a picture of lightning (day or night), I’d love to hear it.
The food here has been wonderful with fresh fruits (plums, pineapple, litchis, mangoes, and papaya), meats (chicken, pork, beef), and an assortment of different cooking styles every day. We also can walk into a local town and buy chocolate, crackers, and beer. Lifestyles here are a lot more similar to that of Americans than in Niger and I have thus been able to do several things formerly considered risqué. This includes: showing my knees in public, leaving my Mohawk uncovered in public, whistling, talking to and even hugging guy friends, and wearing tank tops. All and all I think I’m taking the adjustment quite well, as difficult as it might be. Why just last night I endured eating chocolate, drinking a beer, dancing and watching a movie.
Oh and for those of you wondering, I finally watched Madagascar and Madagascar 2. Both were very cute. I haven’t seen any penguins yet but I’ll keep an eye out. We will be seeing the lemurs soon as we head out to a national park to see them on a field trip. This field trip includes camping in a rainforest, seeing the world’s largest lemur (found nowhere else other than in this park since it doesn’t survive in captivity) and maybe even a night hike. Deet me up and I’m ready.
It doesn’t feel anything like the holiday season since its not as commercialized here. There are a few Christmas lights up and a tree in a shop but otherwise it feels like we have just had a really long summer. We are doing a Secret Santa gift exchange to make things feel more normal and even learning a few Christmas carols in Malagasy.
Earlier this week we found out what our posts are going to be for the next two years. I will be stationed in the southeast part of the country a few kilometers from the coast. My community/commune (village and outlying areas) consists of 24,000. This means that the town is rather small since that population is spread out over a rather large area. I will likely be working with food security since this region has a famine almost every year. There is also a protected area nearby that the community is working to manage, botanical gardens, and other agricultural/environmental projects. It is a new site and they are currently working on finishing my house. My nearest PCV will be Melissa though she is several kilometers away. We are hoping to have some shared projects to improve nutrition and the ability to grow foods for a balanced diet. I am also thinking of starting a project with local domestic animals.
I’ve tried texting a few people (probably you) but it doesn’t seem to be working very well. Calling is preferred so if you want to I’ve heard Voip Cheap, Skype, or calling cards make it pretty cheap. If I can find a calling card to call the US I’ll try calling a few people but other wise it ends up being like 4000 Ariary/minute and I only make 5000/day. My number is 011261341890610. You can also write to me and I’ll write you back a nice long lette