Sunday, April 24, 2011


*Cue Sonic the Hedgehog theme*
Every night at 10, like clockwork, there starts a strange noise in my house. The first time I heard it, I related it to the sound of somebody running their fingernails down my wall. Thankfully, that was not the case, but after grabbing my headlamp and rape whistle, I climbed out of bed and my mosquito net. As I walked over toward my sword (kid you not, I own a sword now) and scanned the room. Nothing in the bedroom, on to the other room. Scanning the door, firmly locked, now the window, also secure. Stalking around, headlamp on full brightness, rape whistle between my teeth, sword drawn, I realized that the noise was coming from within the house! As weird as it sounds, this is a really reassuring thing, because obviously nobody was in my house which leaves wildlife.

Again scanning the room, this time looking 360 degrees, I finally spotted the source of the noise. A tenrec the size of a nerf ball was up in my rafters. Tenrecs are animals that look like hedgehogs but I think are unrelated and just happen to look alike through convergent evolution. This nocturnal guy was stalking around my house and the source of his noise were the claws and quills brushing along the wood in my rafters and walls. When I shined the light on him/her it stopped and since it couldn’t curl up without falling, it simply closed its eyes and pretended to be invisible. After poking it with my broom handle and it looking sad and defenseless, I let it go about its business, making creepy noises. It comes back every night and to some degree keeps the rats away, so for now we are on good terms.

After showing some people pictures I learned that I actually have 2 types of tenrecs living in my house. The one above is a Setifer and the other are mole tenrecs. One walks around above my bed and the other comes in through the floorboards and lives under my bed. I must say, both of them have distinct, strong odors but are generally mild roommates. Every once in a while I have to ignore them fighting or mating…pretty standard for roommates…

We are the world?
Finishing up the first of 2 maps, one World Aids Distribution map at the middle school, the next will be the same but Madagascar and at the elementary school. I had done about a third of the countries when I started writing the names on them and had about 60 students staring at the map. One kid had on flipflops that said “ANGOLA” and he was shouting excitedly when he found it on the map. Similar reactions happened with Ghana and Thailand. When some of them asked where I was from, I pointed to the South West section of the US and they at first nodded it off, then about thirty seconds later realized how far it is from South Eastern Madagascar. I ended up spending a lot of time explaining different parts of the world and what languages are spoken instead of painting more countries on the map. Its amazing to me that by 18 most people haven’t had time to stare at a map and learn where some major countries yet. Thus far nobody knew where the US was, nor any other country other than Madagascar really. After all the questions of where Canada is in the United States and where was England since the US should be next to it (since we both speak English), I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, but needless to say, I’m quite happy with the results of making this map.

Movin’ on Up
Up North that is. Just a couple months till I move and I’m already trying to figure out all the logistics. My first load to go up and I just got to see my new living space. Running water is going to be amazing. The view is scenic to say the least and the environment is entirely different from the South East. It’s a lot colder and that transition is going to be a little weird. The past few days has been going around to talk to people in and around Madiorano. I’m getting introduced to future coworkers and to the projects that are already in progress.

Friends of Madagascar
Friends of Madagascar is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that is working in Madagascar practicing what they like to call “conservation through education”. Their more structural projects involve building or refurbishing schools and occasionally churches. This is to provide a learning space for students to continue their education (often allowing them to go to middle or high school rather than just elementary) and through this the youth learn more of the sciences and about respecting the environment. Communities involved have expressed interest and are motivated enough to contribute some of the supplies and labor while donations provide the rest.

Another project is a fruit tree project (this one I will be working on personally). The goal is going to be continuing the effort to make fruit trees available to smaller communities around Ranomafana National Park that don’t receive benefits by their proximity to the park. The goal of this is to increase variety and quality of fruit trees in the area to relieve economic and food security pressure on villagers and to help restore degraded land around the park. This is done by bringing in new varieties and also teaching villagers how to raise and graft their own trees from this new stock.

Ways to help
I know that a few of you have asked how you can personally help and now I will be working with Friends of Madagascar. I don’t handle the financial aspects of the NGO so any donations don’t go directly to me, but if you want to donate to the NGO and possibly specify particular project that you want to support, it will help the Madagascar. If you don’t want to donate money, but rather supplies, Friends of Madagascar has a list of items that they pay to have shipped from Florida to Madagascar. These range from school supplies to soccer balls to occasional building supplies. Most of this is distributed in towns that Peace Corps Volunteers live in by the volunteers that find a need for it in their village.

Another way to support Peace Corps Volunteers in Madagagascar and elsewhere is to donate to Peace Corps Partnership Projects. These are projects that PCVs are currently trying to find funding for and are highly varied. If there is a topic that interests you, health, education, business, environment, agriculture, female empowerment, and etcetera there is a related project hoping to get off the ground.

Lastly, Kiva is an unrelated group that gives loans in third world countries to individuals and small groups. You can loan somebody money (in $25 increments) which then funds their business proposal. When they pay the loan back, you get paid back and can either take your money out or reinvest in another project. Basically you can invest in other peoples dreams risk free and while you don’t make anything, you don’t lose anything either. So if you don’t mind not making the single cent you might make in interest in a bank, you can help a person in the country of your choice. How awesome is that? [You can also join a lending team on Kiva, such as Stuff You Should Know or an organization that you like, and support two things at once]