Monday, February 1, 2010

The slow move to post


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.


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.


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.


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 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.

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