Saturday, February 27, 2010

Being at post!

I had this nice long blog typed up and then of course when i get here my flash drive is blank! So much for posting pictures.

My house:
I have a two room house that is big by PC standards. The door faces the back and I have two windows with plenty of light. My yard is big and has my latrine, shower area, a mandarin orange tree and room for several garden beds. I'm near the market that happens on Saturdays and I like the environment.

Lightning bugs!
Who knew about these magical creatures? I sure didn't. Having never seen lightning bugs before Melissa had to correct me the first time i saw one in the hotel room on the way down. I thought there was a kid playing with a laser pointer outside. I love these little guys! Every evening at dusk they light up the neighborhood like stars everywhere. I usually cant see the real stars because of clouds so these are an excellent replacement.

Food:
Food here is rather limited in selection so every week or two I try to go into town to pick up vegetables. The market in village basically only has tomatoes, onions and garlic. When we go into town tho there is a ton of food and so Melissa and I have been able to experiment, thus far successfully creating sopas/burritos, fries, guacamole, pastas, and banana pancakes. Its delicious!

New Names:
My name here is not tektonik, instead it is Vazaha. Even though I explain on a regular basis that my name is not Vazaha it doesnt matter and they refer to me as such at almost all times. The few times they do not they generally call me madame or madamemoiselle. I now have an improvement and have a few people who call me Alison. The other day I was translating shirts that were written in English for the kids. One kid had a shirt that said "I'm not only CUTE, I'm Irish too!". When I told the kids that this meant he had a nice face and was a vazaha. The kids could not stop laughing at him after that.

Soccer:
Soccer for me has been a huge life saver here. I play several times a week and am making a few friends by doing so. Its exciting to finally be able to talk to people and they are impressed because most girls dont play soccer. I can keep up when we have a juggling circle and they taught me a game "Pass-pass" which is liek a normal game but sideways and half court and they use a stick instead of a goal. If you hit the stick with the ball you get a point and this makes it where you dont have to have as many people on each team.

Work:
Its slow going when there is nothing here to work with. I was under the impression that there was a group i was supposed to be working with but there are no farmer groups here and no NGOs. I'm trying to start working with individuals and have been working with MBG a bit but mostly focusing on language. Its a headache having to always speak a foreign language, especially when people get impatient. I'm hoping to soon be able to go with the men out to the fields to get a better idea of farming practices here but its still weird to be a foreign woman trying to work with men.

I hope you all are doing well. I'm missing everybody like crazy and am trying to ignore that fact because its hard enough as it is.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Address Change

New Addresses:
For packages and letters:
Alisn Thieme (MBG)
Direction Regional De L'environnement et des Forets Atsimo-Atsinanana
B.P. 27 Fenoarivo
Farafangana 309
Madagascar
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or for letters only:
Sister Alison Thieme
B.P. 70
Vangaindrano 320
Madagascar

Monday, February 1, 2010

The slow move to post

Swearing-In:

I have finally sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer! After a busy evening of acquiring seeds for a garden and some herb seedlings I had a fitful nights sleep then got ready for the ceremony. We swore in as volunteers at a big televised ceremony. On our trip random people have recognized us and mentioned the ceremony. We were then fed delicious snacks and pizza and allowed to use the pool. After we went shopping in the capital city we went out for dinner (burger and fries!) and toured the city a little bit. The next morning we were packed and ready to go early in the morning and headed out of town. The main roads are good but very windy. It took 4 hours to go 90 km because of the windy nature of the roads.

Indian Ocean:

Last night I took my first steps into the Indian Ocean. On the East coast of Madagascar the ocean is rather powerful. The waves crash directly on the shore and a rip current attempts to pull you in and under. Playing in the waves is rather difficult and quickly loses the appeal that it has in the US. Sand also magically penetrates any swimsuit. The coastline for the most part is gorgeous and in the next few days I will be going down to other coastal cities and will see a lot more of it.

Coelacanth:

Apparently in some of the islands off the coast of Madagascar exist the coelacanth. This is also an area where subsistence fishermen capture and eat both leatherback turtles and coelacanth if caught. Since there are few options for the fisherman to acquire food for their families as well as nobody to educate them on the importance of these animals, it continues largely unchecked. Volunteers have witnessed a huge coelacanth being killed and consumed (think about 6 feet long) and been able to do nothing even with the language skills to explain that not only is it taboo to eat them but that they are also very important/protected/special creatures. Turtle remains scatter the beaches and poachers attempt to steal their eggs during breeding season. All I could do when I heard this is hold my head in my hands and worry about what was going on in the Mozambique Channel.

Running:

While I’m not a big fan of running for no reason anyways, I think that in most of Madagascar running for exercise is largely misunderstood. Since people do not run for exercise as their daily activities provide ample exercise, if other people see you running they will generally start running also because they assume you are running away from something. In a country that believes in the existence of spirits and witches, running is a way to flee something scary, not to get your heart rate up and burn calories.

Tektonik:

Here in the South East I may have adopted a new nickname. Everywhere I go with my hair styled children follow me and talk about “tektonik” (spelled the Malagasy way). Apparently a Mohawk in the south is indicative of a person who listens to tektonik music and dances a lot. I may modify this to tekto and use it as a name when I’m dealing with children because they find it hilarious. In 5 towns or so yesterday people called me tektonik and it’s a running joke amongst my group.

Vazaha:

Vazaha is the term for white people in Madagascar. It is not said with malice simply as a way to describe a person as being non-native or different looking. As we drove through a market the other day a group of white women in their 50s walked by and pointed into the van saying, “Vazaha! Vazaha!”. We all had a good laugh. There is much camaraderie amongst non-Malagasy as there is currently very little tourism and it is rare to see a foreigner, either on vacation or working in Madagascar.