Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Where in the World is Alison Sandiego?

Went to Ambalavao and Ishalo/Ranohira on vacation these past few days. Ambalavao has some really interesting paper making with a process similar to papyrus. They pound the material obtained from a plant, then make it in a frame with water, dry it, and press flowers into it while its still wet. Its very pretty.
Ishalo is amazing. A large amount of it reminds me of California and Arizona and was making me rather homesick. I ended up going on a long hike in the park and got to see some very pretty natural pools. Two of them were known for their colors as they have varied depth and were black and blue. There were also sandstone formations and some really neat plants (One is like a mini baobab painted silver with yellow flowers). There was also a tree/bush that doesn’t have leaves, its stem is simply flattened. There is a place known as “La Fenetre” or “the window” in which the sun sets in the middle of a rock formation that looks like an upside-down triangle.
Its so dry here compared to the south-east that my skin got all dry and my lips chapped! I haven’t felt that since Niger. I still feel homesick for hiking around Southern California and dry heat. I’m heading back to my site much tanner than when I left.

Oh Paddy.
Did a small SRI training with my counterpart and his wife. After planting one field with me, he is teaching other people the techniques he has learned. The rice is now several weeks old so there should be rice in a couple months! Working in the fields is extremely difficult. Since we are lacking in the way of tractor or horse/cow power, all the tilling is done with a shovel and a lot of squishing mud globs with feet. There aren’t enough cows to go to all the fields and tractors would have a very difficult time with transportation since there aren’t roads going out to the fields. When the field is finally made smooth and flat, the transplanting begins and several days of leaning over later, a field is planted =D. I wish I actually liked non-sticky rice better.

I got to meet a guy in Ishalo who is French but born in Malagasy. He’s 83 and has more energy than almost anyone I’ve met. He also speaks all dialects of Malagasy so well that he acts as a translator for certain government business if the officials don’t understand that particular dialect. At 83 he keeps an orchard and garden that are better than most I’ve seen in country, with more types of trees and employing techniques other tree growers haven’t even heard of. Learned a ton in a small amount of time and the best part is that he does this all in a part of the country where its hot and dry with poor soil quality. Amazing!

Newbies: part 2!
In a very short amount of time there will be several new volunteers by me. Its super exciting to have more people around and since they’ve already visited their sites we got to meet some of them. I’m looking forward to their arrival and so pretty soon some new names might start appearing in my blog.

So most people in the states have seen squirrels or some other rodent that becomes rather obnoxious in its attempt to get your food. In parts of Ishalo (namely the picnic tables) the local version of a squirrel is a lemur. They had some sort of a brown lemur as well as the ring tailed lemur becoming very forward in their attempts to steal food. Rather interestingly the guides do very little to stop this and seem to almost promote it as a way of getting the tourists to get the opportunity to see lemurs. They successfully stole a banana peel from us before we started becoming VERY aggressive in our defense of PB&Js. I put myself between my sandwich and the lemur who wanted it. In response she put her front hands on my arm until I shook her off. All of this with a baby in tow on her belly! Obviously most tourists aren’t putting up much of a fight for their food, nor careful about the messes they make. While I hate seeing the lemurs acting this way it was the first ring-tailed lemurs I’ve seen and was interesting. I also saw a couple wild Sifka relaxing natural pool-side which were more impressive although a bit farther away (aka not touching me).

Recently at the taxi brousse station in Fianaratsoa there was a classic example of Malagasy style. A boy about 12 years old was wearing large, gold aviator glasses; a red though mis-matched track suit (with small wear holes in the butt); off-red shoes; a briefcase; a cane that can only be described as a pimp stick; and the weirdest pout/frown I have ever seen. Imagine: 12 year old, briefcase, pimp stick, pout.

My village has decided that my hair is long enough to braid. This might be true for the very top of my head which hasn’t been trimmed in 6 months or so. This however is definitely not true for the sides of my hair which at some points are only an inch long. My hair has thus become a cause of much laughter in my village. Cornrows are artfully done on the top of my head, accompanied by thirty or so tiny braids that stick out in any direction on the sides. Most of my neighbors tactfully ask, “Who did your hair?” while others say, “Oh! You have had your hair braided!” or “Nice braids (teeheehee)” or simply laugh. I feel like I am in a nightmare from middle school and can’t take out the braids for a couple days as the friends who braid it are great and its just my hair isn’t long enough to look good braided yet and I don’t want to offend them.

Posting pictures of everything as I am able on