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amber's in madagascar for 27 months

Tag Archives: peace corps

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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Things happen now that I don’t find strange.  When I sit and think about it though I realize that I should find them strange.  Sitting around with my friends I say oh that is just like how it is in America, I am worried that it is not at all like America and I will be really freaked out in about 6 months. Because I should be home in about 6 months.

I have been on a few trips since I last posted so I will tell you about them.

1) Antsirabe (halfway between me and Tana)

Paco Taco!

I went to Antsirabe to the local volunteer meeting (VAC) there. I went to represent as PCVL as well as present a few items I needed to talk about with the PCVs in that area.  Nothing too terribly exciting happened, I mean Brianna and Shayla did buy a puppy outside of the grocery store for 2,000 Ariary (~$1) and we snuck it into our hotel.  We happened to have been staying on the top floor with a giant communal balcony and the maids almost immediately figured it all out.  But no worries, we made a collar/leash deal out of rope and bought flea shampoo and medicine and he was snuggle ready in no time.  We fed him bottled water and meatballs.  Brianna’s site mate is now his daddy

2) Farafangana (the south east)

Again I went to a VAC meeting but this time south of me to another part of the region. While I wanted to stay just two days, I ended up there much longer.  Why you ask?  Oh a cyclone that was all the way at the top of the country decided to bounce of the Mozambique Channel and come back for more.  So the house I was staying at had the entire yard flood to the top of the back steps (higher than my knees).  For a few days in a row I waded through town to get to the brousse station to figure out if any cars were making it through the road and each time I was told that no, the road is flooded/washed away, but tomorrow we should be able to go.  Finally, on a Tuesday the brousse guy came and pounded on the door at 6 am and said “hey let’s go, hurry up” (but in Malagasy) and I shook everyone awake and we all packed and hoofed it to the station. So we waited there for about two hours but at least we got to eat breakfast.  We filled up a brousse and then about 15k from the town we attempted to drive through the river.  The engine stalled so everyone pushed it back to land, we meandered for a bit then everyone around got it together and we all pushed the brousse through the river.  It was very close to tipping and washing away at one point but we made it across and everyone’s things were okay and no one drowned.

getting ready to ford

Then I had to wait in Manakara to make it the rest of the way home because there were massive landslides on that road.  I spent the night in Manakara and then found a brousse the next day, and there were indeed landslides, and we all had to get out of the car at one point so the brousse could drive behind a bulldozer to get across.  Between this things happening combined with the things that are part of our lives here (malaria, kabones, dysentery, etc etc etc) I am glad I played Oregon Trail as a 4th grader.

the road we needed to cross, days after it was "cleared"

3)  Anja Park, Ambalavao

Went on a day trip with Tea and Talk (the English club) to Anja Park (the one by my old house with all the ring tailed lemurs).  It was about the 9th time I had been there and the hike and experience was fun as usual.  Then on the way back about 24k from Fianarantsoa, our brousse ran out of gas.  So I had the pleasure of spending 3.5 hours in a random cluster of houses and epiceries while our driver hitched a ride into town with an empty oil container to get gas and come back.

4) Vatovavy Fito Vinany (the south east)

The most recent trip that I just returned from was a trip to Mananjary and Nosy Varika.  This was a trip in a nice Peace Corps 4×4 and I went to do site development, safety and security evaluations and help find houses for the incoming volunteers.  The pictures are online.   On the way there we got stuck waiting on that same road with landslides for the construction crews to go to lunch, so we befriended a random pineapple seller in the middle of no where and hung out with him for a while.  He claimed that pineapple juice can help heal stings from bees and what have you… But the best part was going to Nosy Varika (literally translates to Lemur Island but I didn’t see any lemurs there).   There is already a business volunteer there so we went to help develop the site for an environment volunteer. We got to rent out and take a speed boat up the Pangalanes Canal from Mananjary to Nosy Varika.  (a good map can be found here  It was awesome to be on the boat and see all the villages, fishermen, fruits, trees and just general ambiance.  I went to a lot of other places too on the trip and did a lot of work but it probably is not that interesting.


The best part of going to the coast was the seafood and sun, for sure.  I got to eat fish, shrimp, crab and lobster.  Actually I haven’t eaten the lobster yet, those babies are in the freezer right now obtained for the bargain price of 8,000 Ariary a kilo.  (That is really cheap, it is about the same price as beef here). I also got baskets of passion fruit (there is a completely different kind that grows on the coast than here), breadfruit (similar to potatoes or cassava), jackfruit (apparently tastes like green tropical starbursts but I haven’t eaten it yet), custard fruit (tastes like yogurt, so good), oranges, bananas, coconuts and some other fruits that I don’t know what they are in English…

cows crossing the canal

Pictures are online on my picasa site.  I have been lucky enough to get cameras to borrow from other PCVs so I am surviving without one for the time being.

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