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aiza ny kabone?

amber's in madagascar for 27 months

Traveling in this country is slow and painful. I went on Christmas vacation to Diego-Suarez, or Antsiranana is the Malagasy name. From my new house in Fianarantsoa, Diego is 1500 kilometers north. To get to Diego took roughly 34 hours total, one way. So the math – our average speed was about 44 kilometers an hour. One kilometer is about .62 miles. So, in American speak we went about 27 miles an hour. Also because I was sitting on the right side of the taxi brousse for one big chunk of the trip I managed to get sunburned. We stopped at Anakarana National Park which has tsingy, limestone rock formations (see the pictures online for comprehension) that are really awesome and expansive. In Diego they speak a different dialect of course, so we studied the major changes in basic conversation so we could be the vazahas that spoke the local Malagasy and not the dialect from the south. Volunteers who live around there advised us strongly to not speak the official dialect as it may anger some local folks.

Overall I think I like Mahajanga (where I went with Brianna last vacation) much better than Diego because it has most of the things that I like about Diego but it is more geared towards Malagasy tourists and people than to the rich foreigners. But Diego did have more than its fair share of fish, coconuts, plates of fragrant rice WITHOUT rocks, coconut fish/chicken, crabs, pools and beaches.

My new job. This explanation is mostly up for Jane so feel free to skip but here it is so you can understand what I am doing with the rest of my time here. I find it difficult to explain to non Peace Corps people so bear with me. I used to live in Ambalavao, 56 kilometers south of Fianarantsoa. I went to Fianar from time to time to use the bank, go to the PC house to use internet and shower and so on. I worked at the high school in Ambalavao. The job I have now is the Peace Corps Volunteer Leader (PCVL). I now live in that PC house in Fianar (which means hot showers almost whenever I want that come from a hose and not a bucket). A part of my time is now spent still doing TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) activities. For example I work with a conversational English club with university students and I also have workshops with local high school English teachers. The other part of my time is spent doing peer support for volunteers. So volunteers can come to me for help on projects or with issues at site or I go to volunteers’ sites to see how life is going. For example, I just finished my official training for my new job on Wednesday but now I am hanging around Tana to go on site visits with a senior staff member. This means that we will travel for about a week to all of the volunteers that live between Tana and Fianar (about a 450 kilometer stretch of national road and about 27 volunteers spread across it) to see how they are doing at site and give the volunteer a chance to talk about stuff with us and to show off what they are doing at site as well. Later on I may be doing additional site visits in the south east of the country when some of the PC programmers go on site development trips (where they find and prepare new sites for incoming volunteers). The last part of my job is admin and financial. Here I am responsible for money things related to the PC house, the Meva, and with keeping it up as a volunteer transit house. The previous PCVL had the nickname Kim Jong Il, and now I have been bestowed with the name Kim Jong Umber (if this doesn’t make sense to you, then don’t worry about it or google it).

On the whole life is good at the new house. The only problems so far are: when I moved in there was a turkey, and a goose, living in the courtyard that scared me to death because I was convinced they were going to bite me and across the street there is a bar that is open every night where people flock to perform karaoke very loudly and very badly. When I am finished with my site visits I will post pictures of the new house.

I added a map to this one to help with perspective on where things are.  Tana – the middle, Diego-  up at the top, Fianarantsoa – middle of the bottom half, Ambalavao – not on there but just a scootch south of Fianarantsoa, the limestone park we stopped at – not on there but 100 k south of Diego, Mahajanga – the north west coast.


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