Friday, April 23, 2010

Mampagetra

Mampagetra: to cause to fart, to make gasy. For a culture that is called Malagasy, and call themselves "Gasy" this seems an appropriate word to start out with this time. In the South East region of the country, most people eat bread fruit for lunch when it is in season. While nutritionally pointless other than some fiber, it does cause extreme gas. This means that all the kids who come visit me know that I dont eat a lot of bread fruit as I don't want to fart a lot. We have a general understanding that I also don't want people farting inside my house. Many hilarious conversations have followed one of the "bread fruit incidents".

Diet!
If you want to lose weight in a way that is fast, safe, and easy...quite simply it doesn't exist. If, however, you have 27 months to spare, are willing to work for free, and eat only what is seasonally available in your region, you'll probably drop a few extra lbs. Now that I've been out of country 6 months, I've lost a bit over 20 lbs, gained quite a bit of muscle, and am in decent shape. All I needed to do was work for hours in rice fields, gardens, haul manure, and bike or walk everywhere! The foods that are available right now are: potatoes (imported from other parts of the country), leeks, onions, tomatoes, garlic, green onions, avocados, limes, oranges, bread fruit, jack fruit, jaky, carrots, cucumbers, squash, rice, beans, peanuts, pasta, cabbage, chilies, and eggs. Comebine this with almost no fat intake other than a bit of oil for cooking and voila! I mean, I got anemic within a couple months, but who cares about that when you're thin?

Vazaha:
On that note, after being called vazaha (white, foreign person) for 5 months, I'm finally becoming white! Who knows why but I'm developing white spots (I call them anti-freckles) on my shoulders. The kids say they arent a big deal and other people in my village have them but I'm calling the doctor. I noticed them this week and the skin looks normal and healthy but unpigmented...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

New haircut:
Since all the women here are all about braiding here and want to braid my "slippery" hair, I've been working on growing it out a bit. The mohawk is officially trimmed and now I've got a boyish cut. The process of getting your hair cut in a foreign country (where most people have a very differently textured hair) and you dont know the right words to be specific about a haircut is HILARIOUS! Lots of gesturing and basic words (cut, shorter, not short, want to grow, yes, yes, no!) later, I had a generally correct version of what I wanted and then it came to taking off the drop cloth. I had hair clippings everywhere!! She then proceeded to lead me to the sink and wash out my hair, then wash of my face and neck since the hair was everywhere. Melissa witnessed the whole thing and asked what was going on when I was getting washed. The response: "She's washing my face...and my neck...and now she's drying them!!" By the end of it we were all laughing hysterically. I dont know if she had ever had to cut hair while laughing so much. She kept questioning whether or not I wanted to keep the grown out mohawk on top and wouldn't believe me when I did, eventually I gave in to her wishes and now its a bit shorter everywhere.

Post storm:
My village is slowly drying out. The water level in the rivers is dropped several meters and its slowly becoming possible to walk out to some of the fields. There has thus far been very limited relief services in my region as we were not as directly hit by the storm and while they arent needed now, it looks like it might be a starvation year in my area if aid is not recieved later in the year. This has already been taken into consideration and so I'm hoping to be able to make a difference when the time comes. In the mean while its back to working in the fields and seeing if we can recover any of the failed rice.

Biking:
I love to ride my bicycle! I dont know if my legs do, but I certainly do. While many of the roads in Madagascar would be amazing on a motorcycle, since I am working with Peace Corps I cannot ride a motorcycle. Instead I pedal everywhere and have been getting in pretty good shape doing so. The roads are curvy and hilly, I dont think they follow the same regulations as in the states. In the next couple weeks I plan to bike the twenty-something km to the nearest big town. I've gone 17km recently but don't want to go the whole way by myself. Nearest cold beer is 11km away meaning its also 11km to get back home...sigh.

Bush Taxis:
I thought that transportation would be a bit different in Madagascar than in Niger. Alas! I was wrong! It seems to be true for most of Africa that they have what in the states would be called a van (here its a bus) and pile as much as possible in and on the van and then still fit a bit more in. They generally have 15 to 19 seats (including these little ones that fold out into where there usually is an aisle) and a rack on the top. The record so far for any taxi I've been in is 26 people inside and several sitting on top. This does not include any livestock that may be traveling with us. I nearly crushed a chicken that I didn't notice was under my seat. Since goats are less common here than in Niger we dont see any tied on top anymore but I fully expect if any large animal needs transport that thats where it will go.

Rat count:
2 killed. 1 mother with 4 babies spotted and 1 large rat still remain. They now poop in my shower area and since my food is all locked up they have reverted to eating my books and soap (I kid you not there are claw and tooth marks all over my soap!). They are now getting crafty and taking the food out of the traps without setting them off. One also was trapped but not killed so I had to solve that issue...

Prize for anybody who can figure out what this is:
A fruit that here they refer to as jaky. It has the texture of custard, has large spikes on the outside and is about the size of a cantelope. Grows on a tree and has black seeds around the size of a dime. Its green/yellow on the outside with white fruit on the inside. Delicious but nobody seems to know the name of it in another language. Also there is another fruit called Angave which on the outside looks more like a pomegranate but the inside is totally different.