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aiza ny kabone?

amber's in madagascar for 27 months

Monthly Archives: April 2012

I have mentioned this before, but, I do many things in this country that are really strange and sometimes I don’t even realize it.  I know you are thinking, well Amber, you were already pretty strange.  Well this is taking it to the next level (I think):

Conversation between myself and another volunteer who happened to be passing through. We went to get coffee.

Me: So what did you do this week?

Her: Oh man! I went to a fety (celebration or party) and got kind of drunk and killed a chicken all the way through.  I mean I sliced the neck, plucked it, gutted it, gave out the entrails to the kids, butchered it and then cooked it.

Me:  That is pretty awesome, I have a hard time with the neck cutting, actual slaughter part.  The gutting and cleaning is easy enough.

Savanna:  Yeah, but I think it will go better next time that I do it.

Me:  Why?  You will have a sharper knife? (Note to readers: knives in this country are not awesome)

Her:  No, I won’t be drunk next time.  My knife was plenty sharp, it was like a really jagged sharp butter knife.

Me: Oh yeah man no problem there.  (No sarcasm was used)

I don’t know if this conversation is PETA friendly or if it even makes sense.  However immediately after the story we both looked at each other and asked each other what had happened to us?!

Other strange things in my life this week:  my French tutor speaks English, French and Malagasy, all well.  She is Malagasy, has studied in France and lived somewhere in Europe for a year where the common language with her coworkers was English but it was not the UK.  We never use English in the classroom. I will admit we do sometimes use it.  The weird part I think is when I ask her questions, but in Malagasy.  I ask her how to translate from Malagasy instead of from English.  Savanna (the girl I study with) and I are not doing this on purpose, we are just confused by English now.

The last strange thing was today when the guy I work in the office with, Nirina, sang along in the car to the guitar only version of Jimi Hendrix playing Little Wing.  Legit.  (Also, he is already pretty into heavy metal but also Clapton, knows Layla, like the Stones, loves him some Jimi, but I am also getting him into all things Jack White, OCMS, The Black Keys, St Vincent, Bon Iver and other realllllly random songs and artists.  He also really likes Simon and Garfunkel.  We are a good match for coworkers)

For this post I will be pulling material from Peace Corps and that will be in quotations. Basically I am doing this because they explain it better than I can:

“On April 25th the entire planet will be marking World Malaria Day by giving donations and raising awareness about this disease, but for Peace Corps, one day just isn’t gonna cut it. So we hereby proclaim April to be Peace Corps’ Malaria Month.”

So far the few things I have been able to do are BAMM related things, or “Blog About Malaria Month.”  I have been blasting people with messages, making my banner a big obnoxious ad for Stomp and so forth.  Last Saturday with my Tea & Talk club I led my first malaria discussion.  I am an education volunteer so my knowledge of malaria was very limited to what I needed to know personally to prevent and identify malaria with myself.  In order to get ready for the meeting that day I drowned in an electronic pile of google documents that exists just for this purpose.  It is an amazing resource available to PCVs in my region (Africa…) on malaria.  For example, I learned that 98% of world wide cases of malaria come from Africa.  In addition, diarrhea and malaria are the two biggest killers of children under five here, and they are both preventable and treatable.  (I hope that I am remembering these statistics correctly, if they are wrong I am sorry).

I was not at all confident that my lesson would go over well.  I took a basic lesson plan from volunteers in Rwanda and I titled it “Malaria and Madagascar.” Deep.  The basic plan was that I typed up a list of facts and myths about malaria and cut them out and handed them out to the students.  They had to think about it and then write on the whiteboard if their piece of paper was fact or fiction.  For the most part they did well, we had problems when it came to mangoes (they do not cause malaria, and this is a common myth that even my university student friends believe) as well as the symptoms of malaria (the cyclical nature that can happen with them was unclear as well).

When we discussed preventative techniques (bed nets, removing still water, creative planting, etc) neem was brought up.  (Google neem now if you want).  They all knew that it was helpful in preventing malaria but were not completely sure how.  I happen to have a cork board in the Peace Corps house with tons of information on neem cream and malaria month up and we talked about making neem cream, which is a homemade mosquito repellent.  One student became especially excited because he thought 1) there are a ton of these trees where I live; 2)  let’s make it because that would be fun and do demonstrations in the communities in Fianarantsoa where the tree grows.  At the moment he is gathering and photocopying information I gave him, meeting with local community members and organizing demonstrations that we will lead.  I hope that we can get this organized so we can show people how to make the cream (really easy) and talk to people about other ways they can also help to prevent malaria.

I will keep you posted on the neem demonstrations, but in the meantime:

“In 2011, Peace Corps Madagascar joined together with all of the other Peace Corps Africa countries to commit to Stomp Out Malaria in Africa in our lifetime.  Malaria is still causing many unnecessary deaths in Madagascar.  There are over 3000 volunteers across the continent who, just like me, are working to bring this number to zero.  World Malaria Day, April 25, is quickly approaching. In my town we will be marking the day by teaching people how to make neem cream.  What will you do in 2012 to help end malaria?”

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