Tuesday, December 29, 2009

an adrenaline rush for Christmas!

Last Wednesday, Dec 23rd, 2009 turned into be an incredible day full of adrenaline! My experience of working with bloody wrestlers and football players in Kannapolis came in handy! But this was a lot more serious than a bloody nose: The head doctor had just left Antetezambaro a few hours before, for the holidays season. He gave me the keys "just in case I need to get into the clinic for an emergency" and it was a good thing because I really wouldnt have wanted this experience outside in the sand or in my hut. Sorry in advance for some gory details/: A distraught father brought to my hut a 12 year old boy had stepped on a shatter glass beer bottle (of course most villagers dont have shoes) and had a slice on the arch of his foot 2 inches long and deep enough to cause massive amounts of this flesh to pour out. Since it was only 2 days b4 Christmas, not only were the doctor,s already with their families here in Tamatave, but the guard to the CSB (clinic) and his family were also in the city for the day, enjoying the holiday festivities and the Emedie, another health worker and janitor was out farming rice trying to get some last minute cash for her family holiday feast. So that left Kanto to save the day!! The boy was clearly in shock and dehydratd, not able to respond when i asked him his name or how old he was. His father had some plants and an old cloth wrapped around to try to stop the gushing but the thick blood was still flowing like crazy! Luckily peace Corps supplied us with latex gloves cuz I couldnt find any in the CSB.I put the drippping foot in a metal bowl to try to keep the mess to a minumum as I slwly unwrapped the handmade band_aid. I tried to keep back the look of whore on my face since I knew the father was already very worried, as it,d been a 45 minute walk for them to the CSB. I didnt know where the doc keeps all the clean rags... and dont even know if there is such storage. I found sterlized water and Betadine to rinse it as best as possible. Applied pressure with some cotton that I found and wrapped elastic around his shin to prevent blood from flowing sooo fast. After about 15 mins I was relieved to see the pressure slow down and the boy was coming around and talking a wee bit, but it was very obvious the boy needed a doctor to sew it up, after I found a clean cloth, wrappd it , gave them a big bottle of water that I urged he must drink at least a wee bit of water, slowly, to rehydrate while they hitchd a ride to the city to get to the hospital ASAP. Cleaning up that whole mess was another obstacle with no obvious cleaning agent or mops around but when it was all said and done, although I really didnt do much to help besides clean it very well, subside the bleeding, give hydration, and stress the importance of heading to the hospital, I felt good about being the lone health worker that was there to help. I realized my first responder skills were a crucial element to staying calm and analyzing the situation with a clear head. I missed out on celebrting Chrismas with all the other Peace Corps Volunteers, which to tell you the truth, was a wee bit sad, but there was a reason why I chose to stay and be with my village. Walking home at 3AM in the dark with the brigh shining starts above me, after watching my kids sing, dance, and praise the Lord Christmas Eve - Day morning for 6 hours was worth it. Here I am in the city enjoying the upcoming New Year,s with some friends, so Im getting it all in. LIfe is soooooo s,goooood. Hope 2010 brings goodness to yall as well. Amy menaraka. Cheers*

Friday, December 18, 2009

tratra ny krismasy sy toana vaovao!! merry christmas and happy new year!

WWWWAAAHOOOOOOOOO!!!!What another christmas season for me in Madagasikara!!! Again, its soooooo amazing to be back in my Homeland; just in time to celebrate the holidays with my lovely family of Antetezambaro!! i sense everyone is very happy to have me back and it feels soooo good to actually be working after my 8 months of stressful; nondirectional lounge time. This past week was Tazo Moka (malaria) week and USAID donated tons of mosquito nets to pass out to all homes for free! So i!ve been very busy being in charge of distributing them to the happy recievers since it being the hot, rainy season, malaria is rampant right now. I saw the worst cast of it my second day back at site, a 7 year old boy who was unconscious, eyes rolling to the back of his head, unable to talk, eat, drink, and only yelp out when he received the shot of prophylaxix that;s needed to clean out his blood. After 2 days he started coming back around but if his family didnt make the 10Kilometer trek to our med clinic; he most likely would have died. I take a weekly prophylaxis to prevent getting it, but the side effects include hair loss and crazy vivid dreams. so im thinking of just shaving my head since clumps can fall out at a time. And the vivid dreams i dont mind too much but it does take me a while to wake up and realize its just a dream. Small price to pay to get to live and work in a luscious, green;, tropical atmosphere full of smiling faces no matter how much stuff or money they have. Its been a breath of fresh air to be back and live the exciting yet simple life of picking litches; rice farming; relaxing under a mango trees and watching the taxis go by; playing cards or frisbee or dancing with my kids; and trying to get in every health message about how to clean the water, get all the needed nutrients to develop properly; have a safe pregnancy or resources to prevent it. Our clinic is all out of depo provera birth control shots which most women use in my village, since much of the international funding has been cut because of the ongoing unresolved political crisis. I actually just picked up a big order of shots to take back to my village since sooo many women asked me if i could. YES!! i defintey wil help them prevent zaza maro misesy (a lot of kids in a row; which is fairly common here) so families can be planned out and nourished with enough food and basic needs; its back to site here so until next time...Amy menaraka! wishing u all the bestes christmas and new years and try to think about the less fortunate and be grateful for all u DO have, most importantly ur family and special people around you. Im blessed to be filled to the brim with all these things for (hopefully) the next year and half, no matter how many miles from america i may be;;;cheers!!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Life Post- Evac..it's blustery beautiful out there!!

So, here I am, where I've been for the past 5 months on this sabbatical to the U.S., from my post in Madagascar. I'm enjoying a day wandering around my old alma mater, Ohio University, where I come to relive the dreams I conceived in the past and creating new ones to come in the near future. This place gives me that inspiration and sparks something funky inside my soul!!!! It really is magical (like Jacob's Field!! :)) Although I do admit to feeling a wee bit older than the average spring chicken walkin' around these parts, I know I deserve to be enjoying this foliage- filled farm of both country and city living commodities- which Athens County and the surrounding areas offer. The beauty of the bright n. beauuutiful, bountiful changing leaves- which shower me with the Crayola colors of Creation, as I enjoy the crisp leaves under my feet on a nice brisk n. breezy walk with my dog, Tung, in this balance of smoky smells and fab foliage, this Autumn has been a wonderlust!!! And I have to say , that despite this craaaaaazy concoction of feelings that I've had since being evacuated in May, I'm grateful to God for giving me this time to spend with my closest friends and family. Amazing things have happened in these past few months, and it would not have been right for me not to experience them. I knew the whole time, and was encouraged by sooo many other people- that everything would work out!!! And that's all I had to hang on to- during the evacuation from such a perfect site in Mada; to almost transfering to Guinea- western Africa, before that frightful visit to the dentist in S. Africa; to coming home to America after just 8 months, after thinking I'd be in Africa for 2 1/2 years & not having a clue what to do, while bumming around here in the States. I knew I couldn't look for a "real"job because I didn't want to commit to anything, "just in case" I could get reinstated to Radagascar. But then again, how long can I just sit around and wait for something to happen? Well, I remember going to visit my dear friend and mentor , Jann McComb's, this past June down in Kannapolis, and her telling me that all the waiting is part of the Plan. Thanks for the good advice, Jann, I really think it was. I was supposed to be enjoying all this time to focus and friends/ fam, until it works out for me to get reinstated- which Lord willing, I will Nov. 15th!!! :) This really is my dream come true, but I know I can't hold my breath. Peace Corps notified a small group of us in August, that things have been ok in Mada and we could return the end of September. Well....many of you know that supposed negotion talks/ rallies between the divided political parties (TGV v. Ravolamanana) could have gotten nasty....well...not surprising these talks never happened and things have not gotten violent- as they did back in February. But PC couldn't take a chance with sending us there with that rumor, which I def. don't blame, so delayed our reinstatement 45 days. That brings me to around today, Lord willin', just 34 days from a group of 14 of us to return to our daily duties as Peace Corps Volunteers in Madagascar; We are resilient, active, passionate, understanding &empathetic Americans, excited to work and collaborate with our fellow Malagasy villagers, to make their lives sustainably better- and helping them to empower themselves- for their access to clean water, healthcare, education, and opportunity. Soo....let's cross our fingers that reinstatement REALLY happens this time...and I will be able to continue my adventures , which I love to share with y'all through my writings. Cheers**** Go Bobcats/ Browns/ Buckeyes/ Bluestreaks/ Wonders!!!!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

On the road again..just CAN"T WAIT to get on the road AGAIN!.....

Wow...sorry y'all that's it's been soooo long that I've updated my writings...but hasn't really been much to say on my part. I've lived my past 6 weeks, since getting evaucated from my Homeland of Madagascar, in Johannesburg and Pretoria (the administrative capital), S. AFrica. I mean...it definitely hasn't been a horrible time, getting put up in a super fancy bed n' breakfast, behind walled gates, in a city that has malls comparable to America, but I have to say....it's surely been the worst part of my Peace Corps service. I came to Africa, in the hopes of living with the bare minimum and amonst the villagers that are focused on how to survive on what they have until the sun rises the next day...and I've been placed in this super rich city against my will. I know many of you reading this could use the relaxing atmosphere that I've been forced into, but it's been stressful for me, not having any sort of job or routine, because (since my evacuation) I was really hoping to get placed in Guinea, which was quickly rejected with my visit to the dentist (which turned into getting a root canal and my wisdom teeth extracted..YUCK!!!) Sure..I have to say that Peace Corps has been gracious enough to take care of my pearly whites but the fact is that I know my glory days in my Malagasy village and my bamboo hut in the sand, may never return to me again (at least never in the same form as before), I'm still not willing to throw in the towel. I'm just not done with Africa, and I need to experience this land and its people before I can go back to the States and say I'm satisfied with my service. So...Tuesday, I'm heading on to Vilanculos, Mozambique, to check out an orphanage that really needs my help. I've gotten to know the family that runs this mercy home, that currently houses 24 children, and they are needing another person willing to give their heart to their home. Coming from my beautiful hut in Madagascar, which was only 1 kilometer away from the Indian Ocean...I feel as if God was answering my prayers on this one. Since I grew up on Lake Erie, I know I need water...and Vilanculos is right on the water of the Mozambique Channel/ Indian Ocean. The owners of the orphanage want me to make a trial run and see if I'm up for it, so I'm heading there for a couple weeks, then will be returning to good ol' Merica mid- May. If all goes well during my visit in Mozambique, I'll be coming back to Africa to work there for a year, in mid July. So....after all this waiting..I just can't wait to get ...."on the road again, just can't WAIT to get on the road again" as Willie Nelson says...who I CAN"T WAIT to see. A suuper fantastic thing I have to look forward to coming back to the States is, May 14, a couple days after I arrive in Columbus, OH, I'll be jamming out to Willie Nelson's music at a festival in beauuutiful foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, in Nelsonville, OH with my man...what could be better than that???! I love y'all...and please keep on spreadin' the love, I still need lots of it! CHEERS*

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Malahelo Madagasakara!!

Akoryaby!!! I'm in denial that I'm not in Madagascar still....and don't want to lose my language skills because I'm quite confident that I'm going back, so I still speak in Malagasy quite often. Not sure if it's going to be soon or a wee bit later, but I know for sure that I need to get back to my hut in the sand. I'm now in the capital of S. Africa- Pretoria, just bummin' around. It's been another mind- twisting week. I had a great interview with the country director of Guinea, got accepted to go, and started to get soooo excited about the idea of a brand new adventure to add on to my journey....until I went to the dentist for a checkup. I haven't had any problems with my teeth since I've been about 12, but with the bad teeth genes in the family (my dad told me he pretty much has all dead teeth by now), I was a wee bit nervous. And rightly so...I had to get a root canal yesterday and still have to get me 3 remaining wisdom teeth extracted. All of this mess disqualifies me to direct transfer to Guinea, because in the Peace Corps "rules" states that to direct transfer after an evacuation, you will only be approved for simple tooth fillings. Peace Corps first tried to tell me I just have to go home to get it taken care of but I was really mad about that, since they started jacking up my teeth, I insisted they finish it here so I don't have to worry about it. Sooo...my life is sooooo up in the air right now. Although this has made me very upset and feeling alone (because my good friends from my stage are all moving on to Mali and Namibia), I need to look at this in a positive light and be thankful for the free will that's ahead. It's all happening for a reason, which I'm pretty sure is the fact that I will be getting back to Radagasakara SOONER rather than later. All this might mean I may have to come back to America until Peace Corps re- opens the program in Madagascar (July at the earliest), although I'm tempted to get back to my hut immediately after my teeth are better, on my own because I know my village is safe -they were sooo confused why I had to leave in the first place because they had noooo idea of all the political craziness going on in the bigger cities since no access to media. My co- workers, fellow villagers, and friends would be soooo happy to take care of me. I've been dreaming about it and need to follow my dreams, like I always have...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

it'll all work out!!

Hey y'all!!! This is all happening soooo fast. I've lost about 1/2 of the 19 members of my stage, but there are still 7 of us going on for direct transfer. Some PCV's are making safari trips, some going to the beautiful city of Cape Town, some going back home to the States. I did make it past the "first cut" but still have lotsa interviewing and more paperwork to do this week. We;re all going our seperate ways and whatever my future Peace Corps experience is, won't be the same without all of our stage together. What is cool, is how many friends I will know around America and the world. I'm grateful to have gotten to meet sooo many great people, but it just won't be quite as bright without them, especially my super fantastic friend, Lindsay. We were together since day 1- she was the first girl I saw in the Philly airport back in September, both of us lugging our over sized baggage across the airport and pointing out right away that we were Peace Corps/ Madagascar volunteers. It worked out for us to be in the same language group during all of training, and then placed in the same region. It's been important to have someone to really get to know and trust , as we went through the krazy adventure on the Red Island, together. But now I'm shifting gears and getting very excited of the prospect of seeing a brand new culture and forming a new family. Western Africa is actually where my heart desired to be placed originally- Ghana to be exact, but both Togo and Guinea are not too far away. I know all don't believe this philosophy, but I sure have faith that everythin' happens for a reason!! We'll see....

Friday, March 20, 2009

where is this adventure going????

Hey y'all, Well I first want to let all of you know that I'm very safe and healthy. Happy, maybe not soo much, but today I woke up with the energy that I will need to continue in whatever direction God is taking me. Today, March 20th, 2009, is my 'COS' (Close of Service) date from Madagascar ;( .This has been a looog week of administrative and medical paperwork for all of us 115 Madagascar PCV's and the P.C. staff that are staying at what seems like a ridiculously nice hotel in Johannesburg, S. Africa. My first night here on Monday, I realized I am not ready to be in the developed world yet. On Dec. 10th, 2008, I made a commitment to serve in the developing world, for my country for 2 years and I am ready to honor that promise, despite my heartache of possibly not serving it in my beloved village of Antetezambaro. All week, I;ve woken up confused because of the waaay too fluffy beds, and thought about what I would be doing in my village- going for my morning jog with my running club, fetching water, taking my bucket bath under the morning sun, going fishin with my lil boys, gossiping with my good friend Nirina or the women at the medical clinic. Every day, I still have random spurts that the tears spill out. That place was sooooo perfect for me, I feel it in my bones!!! And although I wish I never had to leave, I know we had to, and I know that I will go back in the future and many of my good friends will still be there. Today I finally felt ready to write about all this, as I'm finally progressing to a more positive mental state, and I'm imagining my options of what could be next in this adventure. Currently, I'm in the running to transfer to either Guinea or Togo, both western African countries. I'd be excited about either, but the big problem is that both require french and I did not do so well on my test. Not surprising because I havent taken french since I was 16 and of course, I've been speaking Malagasy the past 6 months so that was all that was coming out!! There are about 10 other health PCV's trying to transfer as well so it is competetive but I'm still trying to be confident. And if it doesn't work out, then it wasn't meant to be for me. We'll see! I'll try to keep you updated on my next steps of this spiraling staircase. Cheers*

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mis ratsy vao_vao; maharatra fo (bad news; broken heart)

Today is friday the 13th, shouldve known it,d be a bad one. The word for Friday is Zoma, the first word that comes to mind is DOOMa because my life feels that way right now. As soon as I awoke in Hotel Marotia, which are the beautiful bungalows on the beach that Lindsay and I stay at while banking every month, I rapidly remembered why I was there_ not for my monthly breakaway but because Peace Corps/ Mad is being torn away from country for a while because of the ongoing political instability. I found out yesterday (Thursday) after a wonderful morning of teaching, discussing, weighing, and playing with babies, when a villager told me that I needed to call Peace corps NOW. My heart dropped even before I got the message confirming that I needed to get to Tamatave to meet up with all volunteers in my area, before we go back to Montasoa, fill out paperwork then head to S; Africa to figure out what we want to do with our lives. It looks like I have the choice to transfer to another country, which would mean starting over with a new host family, training group, culture, and language. The option that I think Im leaning towards is waiting out for madagascar to reopen so I can get back to my life that I have already fallen in love with. This is all happening soooo fast, a whirlwind of emotions and paperwork and I think I still may be in shock. My heart and head was prepared to be here for 2 years, which means I am not fulfilled with the 6 months of service Ive put in thus far. even though Id LOVE to see many of you, I just cant come back to America just yet, especially with how bad the economy is doing, just doesnt sound good. So Im keeping my mind open and seeing where life takes me. I need more positive thoughts than ever to keep my head up through all this. misaotra*

Friday, March 6, 2009

Happy 48th anniversary, Peace Corps!!

Happy Peace Corps Week y,all!!!! Make Prez JFK proud and get out and do something for your country and our world!!;) I woke up motivated on Monday to start thinking about my gymnastics class I want to start_ the kids here are natural gymnasts. They,re constantly in the sand pits trying back flips by themself or mastering their balancing skills every time they cross the rivers and rice paddy creeks on the stick "bridge". Even with my gymnastics skills, ive already taken a spill in the creek while taking the 1K trek on the trail from my hut to the Ocean. That was an adventure!! Since its the wet season, until June, the trail is basically a swamp of water and muck up to my calves, but reaching the glorious ocean side is worth the challenging trek. My friend Nirina, was flying through it, looking back every minute, and laughing at how cautious I had to be, since the bottoms of my feet are milemelemy (weak) and knowing if I tried to speed through it, Id make another spill in the swamp. But I got 2 years to master the trek!!;) Anyways, about my sports club i want to start. I think itd be great for my kids to have an organized class that they can help each other and learn healthy stretching technques and have a coach that can spot them to try more challenging skills. So next week Im going to observe and do a wee bit of health lessons at the EPP, which is equivelent to our elementery schools and advertise a tumbling club as well. Ill let ya know how the turn out is once i get it on the ground. Im excited to get back into a school to do some teaching as well. I do have to say even though I love the flexibility of my workday, i also miss the comfort of having your own students and classroom. yesterday I made a new friend, a young lady, 23 who teaches pre-K kids and Im going to start doing some basic english lessons with them. Im looking forward to it because the school is in a village thats 1/2 way from my site, antetezambaro, to Tamatave (Toamasina on a map) which is my banking town, where i am now. So stopping off on my bike ride to tamatave, and giving my butt a break;), every friday to teach and have lunch with my new friend Noro, sounds like something Im going to love. But like I said, has been great to have the freedom to formulate my own work schedule, based on my observations of what my community and region needs. Im here for them, I constantly remind myself, and am always keeping my eyes and mind open to new projects and assignments that will benefit my neighbors. So far, my work weeks compose of taking a morning run at 6 AM with a group of pre-teens, preparing my morning porridge and washing dishes, then preparing for my health kabary that I give at the CSB at 9AM, which is the medical house where i work and live behind. My walk to work is a whole 30 seconds long, so Peace Corps new what they were doing when they posted me here, knowing that I like to procrastinate, sleep in, and enjoy a short commute to work;) After my kabary, Ill sit around and chat and weigh some babies. Around 12 I go home to prepare my rice and loca (fish and side dish), take my hour miala sasitra (happy nappy). Often times there are not a lot of patients in the afternoon after lunch, which Im realizing will be a great time to teach in the schools. Im finally feeling confident enough in my language skills to get out there and Im noticeably more fluent in thinking in Gasy, Im even dreaming in Malagasy often, which has been a huge sense of accomplishment for me. Not too long ago, I felt as if Id NEVER be able to understand it!!! Just a matter of time.... Mila miresaka, de mahay be zaho!! (Need to chat with people, then Ill be able to speak well). I got to sit with a mother and her new born for about an hour this week, just a few hours after she gave birth. She was happy for me to want to hold the lil guy and give her a lil break to lay down. She named him Elvis and laughed when I told how thats an American singing superstar, she had no idea, just saw the name on a frip shirt and loved it, which is all the good_ will clothing that gets sent over from the States. I cant believe its March already!!! 2009 is already flying by!!!! Again, thanks to all for keeping in touch, your messages on here, email, letters and packages!! Its great to still be connected, although on the complete opposite side of the world. ( If you look on a globe; Madigasikara pretty much is the polar opposite side) Keep em comin!! You can use my newer address now that Im back home:

Kanto Jessica Cummings, PCV c/o Daline Derival, PCV
c/o Hopitaly Kely
B.P. 374- Tamatave 501

Misaotra betsaka!!! (thanks a lot) Cheers*

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

hello again!! well i still havent figured out how to post a photo but did finally discover all the comments people have left!!! thanks soooo much, especially the encouragement is soooo greatly appreciated!! and thanks to all that have sent letters and cards, it means sooo much to me to know that people havent forgotten all about me, being sooo far away. but also have peace im safe

ecstatic to be back on the east coast!!

hey yall... well all prayers and positive thoughts have so far helped get me back to my region. Tomorrow i get to check out how much damage my rats have done to my home thats been vacated for 3 weeks now. Im foreseeing lotsa fallen ravinala (banana leaves that my roof are made of) all over, along with sprinkled rat kaka everywhere. But i cant wait!!! Never been sooo excited to clean before!! I just hope that things stay safe and calm. Supposedly theres a rally scheduled here in Tamatave tomorrow AM so my friend Lindsay and I gotta get outta here early. Im ready more than ever to continue riding this rollor coaster of physical, mental, and emotional obstacles. I love roller coasters... no hands, no hands!!! I give them up and place my ride God. Im going to try to upload a picuture now but most know i am really not mahay at technology. Cheers for now!!! And happy belated valentine,s day!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

betsaka vaovao! (big news)

wow! it feels like its been soooo long since ive wrote. i have so much of
my soul to bare to y,all but barely know where to begin. maybe with the bebe kely,s (bugs) that have been bubbling in my body One of the biggest bumps in the road, that i knew would be a challenge on this magical journey is getting sick and i am proud to say that i,ve come out alive and stronger, after the parasy in my feet; which are flea eggs that get burrowed in your cuticals of your feet and must be plucked out with a needle; the viki anaty kibo (worms in my belly) that made me go krazy for 2 weeks as all i could think about were creepy crawlers invading my intestines and making my whole body want to squirm, but being too exhausted since the parasites were sucking all my energy; and finally the amoebas that have been doing acrobats in my guts while beating up my mind, body, and spirit harder than the double back tuck that i could never get back in my prime gymnastics days. but with how painful and daunting all this may sound, ive never felt so strong and determined to live out these battles with my body. Right now im back to my super fantastic self and health and am now praying for the strength and solitude of my new home country of madigasikara. Im sure its not making headline news back home but the government is having some major hiccups right now as there is supposedly 2 presidents and ministeries trying to take power at the moment. Sadly, this disagreement of power has led to some rioting, looting, and innocent deaths in the capital city of Antananarivo. It has spread out to the provinces a wee bit, but for the most part, most Gasy are going on with their lives and frankly not really giving a shit who is president; they are still just trying to bring in their rice harvest and sell their crafts to buy enough food for their hungry children; but nonetheless, peace corps must be proactive and make sure all of us PCV;s are safe. So for the past 2 weeks we,ve been bubbled up at the PC training center in Lake Montasoa which is basically like a summer camp. I have been able to work on my ping pong skills but all i can dream about is getting back to working on my language skills. The sad thought of leaving my kids and colleagues in Antetezambaro what feels like ages ago left such a sad and incomplete image in my mind, i know it can;t be the last. But i know this is all in God;s hands and it will all work out. Everything always works out for me and im grateful to have inherited that attitude because all pcv,s are handling this situation differently. It has been qhite psychologicaly perplexing. Each day the sentiment goes back and forth from "were getting back to site in a few days" to "were getting evacuated soon". But today im happy to say that i really feel in my bones that if the country is peaceful throughout this upcoming weekend, well start heading back to site. i really miss the east coast_ its soooo cold here in the highlands!! hahah i just thought about what i said because "cold" is about mid 60s and im sure in cleveland its maybe in the 30s?? anyways i hope yall know that im happy and healthy and the country, people, and fellow PCVs are in need of some serious prayers, meditations, positive thoughts (whatever power you can throw this way across the world, into the tropics of Capricorn, to this beautiful island will be greatly appreciated.) Cheers to yall and lord willin, the next time i blog, Ill be in my banking town on Tamatave on the east coast of the indian ocean! Amy menaraka! ( til next time)

Friday, January 16, 2009

viki anaty kiboko fa tsy manino!!

hi yall!!! Just in town with my friend Henriett for the day. I did a quick discussion about safe motherhood and family planning to about 15 women at teh CSB this morning but since there wasnt lotsa patients I headed into the city afterwards. I also need to get anti worming pills. Ive had these dang things invading my kibo (stomach) for 2 weeks now. They really like something in there. I totally freaked out when i first saw them but after talking about them to the malagasy and of course having them laugh ( again they are always full of laughter) because viki- intestinal worms are a fairly common thing here, Im over it and just want them to leave me alone. But seriously the first couple nights_ mampadala zaho!!!! (made me crazy) to think about the tiny things sucking out all my nutrients while they,re having a ball dancing inside of me. But tsy manino (no problem) once i take meds hopefully theyll dance away to my kabone and never come back! Life is good, shit happens and sometimes there is worms in it ;) Anyways yesterday we had a new years fety for 8 of us that work at the CSB; We had the most delicious fish that tasted like a juicy steak, boiled in tomato broth, with cucumber and carrot salad and of course vary (cant be full without rice!!)Even had soda!! ( of course not cold since no electricity in Antetezambaro) Then they all gave me a wee gift_ colorful place mats that they handcrafted themselves. Its malagasy fomba to give a speech so i did my best, speaking Malagasy to thank everyone for their warm welcoming and hospitality. Then, Dr. Alberte started talking. Shes the head doc and my counterpart, that picked me up for site visit and has already helped me sooo much. all of a sudden everyone started crying and i then realized what she was saying... she will not be working in antetezambaro anymore. I coundnt control my emotions either and had to let out tears as well. Even though Ive only known her a month, shes been my rock of stability and support. plus, she;s really good at speaking Kanto Gasy;) But it was great to share in such an emotional moment so soon with my fellow friends and co workers. dr alberte will be working in tamatave so ill be able to still see her occasionally.

I,ve been running every morning and its been a great refresher for my soul. Theres not a lot of people out and about yet at 6am but those who are give my spirit sunshine to light up the beginning of my day. I,m really starting to feel at home in my simple life thats full of emotion. God surely knows whats best for me:) Tomorrow Im getting my first lesson on rice farming from a sweet lady who knows my name is Jessica in the states and loves yelling it evertime i run by. She says she wants to name her next child after me!!! But it is funny because she,s the only person that calls me Jessica. I might have an identity crisis when I come back in 2 years, when no one knows to call me Kanto! hhaha mila handeha- gotta go- amy menaraka! ( til next time) o yah im still not sure how to respond on the blog pages but you can email me; cheers!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

some cultural differences

So Peace corps really is a roller coaster rides of ups and downs, just as many RPCV,s have described it. In the USA Im the type of person who is on top of the world 95% of the time so i couldnt imagine getting too far down in the dumps but now i understand. I,m stiull feeling on top of the world 80% of the time but i admit that frusteration and saddest overtakes me often as well. Partly becfause i cant run into the arms of my loved ones or even hear their voice whenever i want: part of it is the pôverty that is entrenched in this culture and the belief of most locals that there,s no way out (of course there is with education but most kids dont go to school past middle school age); Part of my challenges come from the psychological effects that happen when i know people are staring at me and judging, maybe even laughing at me or mocking me when i speak malagasy. Until the natives talk to me and know my name and what i,m doing, theyre a wee bit suspicious of the vazaha that is living among them. Am I here to exploit them or take any local jobs available they may think??? But after getting to know these people,they become genuinely warm and welco,ming. I cant blame them of their judgements because of the recent surge in foreign companies coming in and taking over for a more "efficient and effective" way of doing things. Anyways the snickers i hear when i try to speak the language makes me feel soooo small but i just take a deep breath and think about the many malagasy people surrounding me that really do want to help me and are very patient and caring. I think a part of my sensitivity comes from being American. We are sooo caugt up in the physchological state and how bullying can affect a person. Here there is no talk of that;;; if you do poorly on a test, the teacher says so in front of everyone, if you are not good at soccer "tsy mahay anao" (you are not good) is whjat everyone says. Yet these obvious statements of truth dont necessarily damage that person, they just laugh it off. Lotsa laughing in the malagasy culture. nyways i need to get back on my bike and head back to my village which im not looking forward to because my bike seat is soooo hard! pretty painful after an hour of riding. If youd like to send me a letter or anything; it wouyld make my mointh! snail mail is the best!!!!! my addy is;
"Kanto " Jessica Cummings, PCV
c/o Daline Derival, PCV
c/o Hopitaly Kely
B.P. 374 Tamatave 501
my phone nu,ber is 011261332013068 but you should get skype of instant messanger that my dad has before calling cuz its expensive! If you happened to send somùethintg to the last address ill get it within the next couple months

first email incountry way back in september

bradm236@yahoo.com; adam@fredsappliance.com; amy@gaborenterprises.com; bencindy@roadrunner.com; betsyloveshormel@yahoo.com; tostito@mwweb.com; c1cummin@yahoo.com; chuckhere@gmail.com; chuckhere@hotmail.com; joncummings@hotmail.com; cummings.22@osu.edu; dbartlett001@roadrunner.com; erinhall23@yahoo.com; fred@fredsappliance.com; Gusto19@hotmail.com; holla_express@yahoo.com; jugz_69@yahoo.com; jb070982@yahoo.com; jcsteinheiser@mailaaa.com; jennifers_200@hotmail.com; jess_baird@hotmail.com; jmcummings8@yahoo.com; jrbrunner1@gmail.com; kiddercn@hotmail.com; jrbaker83@yahoo.com> >

Hey y'all!!! WWAAHHHOOOOOOOOO!!! All my anxieties whisked away as soon as flight landed in Antananarivo last night at 10 PM. The first step off the plane and the first whiff of the fresh Madagascar air caused my mouth to show what felt like all 31 pearly white horses, in a background that is amazingly not so full of light pollution. The moon, with it's 1/4 turned rotation from our northern hemisphere (not sure if it's waxing or waning at the moment), smiled down right back at me:) Steve Wisecarver, our country director was the first jolly man I noticed standing right in front, as Natasha (fellow group member) and I were the first to stroll in the airport doors. Something about the entire walk outta the plan (that FINALLY got us here after 4 1/2 days of travel), down the small plane's stairs', and into the future of our life was one of the most exhilerating feeilngs I've ever experienced!I knew immediately that this is, and was always supposed to be> my> home for the next 2 1/2 years. I'm soooo excited to live amongst supposedly some of the most caring and lovable Malagasy people.> Getting the baggage out of the airport in Tana, using rollers, was soooo much easier than my experience of lugging around my 2 oversized duffel bags and 2 carry-ons all around JFK airport. My initial plan was to stick to 50 lbs but it all added up quickly and ended up with about 80. But I do have to admit, at JFK I was regretting getting talked into the XXL duffel from Elizabeth, the extra pear lotion and sheets my mom gave me, and the what seemed like 10 lbs. of duct tape that Brad insisted I take (after all if you can't duct it....____ it!!:P) But now that it's all here, I probably will be grateful to have some of these useful comforts, so it's all good. > I'm soo happy with the very hectic and tiring adventure that got myself and 19 other group members here, which will always be the magical beginning of my new life for a while. The first slums within the first few miles of the ride home from the airport and the ride in the Peace Corps cramped van, the odd smells, and the several stray dogs running the street, begging for any scraps, was my bigh AH- HAH moment- I'm in a 3rd world country for the first time. Although saddening, it also felt right for me to be here. Some of you may know that the last month or so I really have not had an appetite, maybe anxiety or maybe my body subconsciously preparing for less food, but immediately the knot subsided. This will be my job. I will love it, sometimes maybe hate it, but I know already I will always cherish it. The few PCV's (peace corps volunteer's) who greeted us here have already been helpful, as our stay at teh P.C guest house feels natural. The warm> soup,> which was very similar to our oodles n. noodles, along with cold orange juice satisfied my soul after such a long travel journey. My first semi cold shower, with the lights off was easy to handle, thanks to my 8 LED flash light, which Bradley got for me, that I conveniently hung from the shower curtain. I have finished reorganizing the 1 bag we're allowed to take to our training sites, which is where we'll be for the next 10 weeks, staying with our host families. Probably won't have internet access there, but who knows? I haven't set up a blog yet but plan to in the future. Please respond when you can, I'm sure it'll be great to get back to!! I'm now officially a "Peace Corps Trainee" and LOVE IT.> I love y'all CHEERS*****> *Jessica:)> p.s. Feel free to share with anyone you think would be interested!!;)

Friday, January 9, 2009

mis mpangalatra ambuni rano mascine (thieves on the beach)

So the first saturday at sight i had a mother and child come to my hut because her child had fivalanana (diarrhea) for 3 days. I told her of the importance of using sureau which is chlorine that we use to get clean drinking water then taught her how to make rehydrating solution with sugar and salt i felt good about it and they never came back to the CSB so im hoping the baby got better. Then the next day, a sunday, I had another toddler and mother come with some really bad burns all over the babies legs and belly. It took everything not to cringe; but to remain calm/ I washed it with clean water, wrapped it and told mom to come back on monday. When she came back the burn had swollen up sooooo big all over his body. The doctor explained to me that theres water in there and needs to get out so took tongs, popped them all, and pulled back the babies skin to reveal the peachy flesh beneath, and he was screaming his lungs off. Soooo hard for me to watch and questioning if popping them really is the best thing to do. Then the doc said he needs wind and left them uncovered! I just thought about all the sand and dirt that could infect the flesh but things are not done the same way here so i just need to observe for a while and try to understand everything. But communicating with mothers and weighing babies daily has been great, but even better is the friends im making; i Have a group of adolescent girls who come to see me a couple times a week for english lessons and thats cool. It feels good to speak my native language a wee bit so people know i really am capable of making sense! But slowly speaking malagasy is getting a bit more fluent; My favorie kids are the 3 brothers who take me fishing in teh wee river behind my house. They even made me my own cane pole! And Harriet is a wonderful older lady who lived in germany for a while, speaks some english, and is very motherly; She had me over for new years meal including CAKE!!! I havenùt had cake in forever!!! sooo delicious; she has a lot of acres of plants, flowers, vegetable, and rice fields that i enjoy learning about; soi to mention a bit about the not so great things:: Last time i was in tamatave with my good friend Lindsay we were sitting on the beach at a spectacle ( concert) enjoying the paradise in front of us and catching up, when a group of teenageres circled us; They tried to say I love you in broken english and when they got too close and we stood up, they strategically swiped our purses and my chaco sandals and ran!!! I didnt have much valuables in my purse, it was more of the papers, address book, my compass that ive LOVED having here to keep my direction, my sunglass clip ons (e.b. im sure your laughinbg right now... never shoulda got them), pictures, swiss army knife, and i.ds ; But it was my diginity that was stolen and having to walk into the Malagasy police station in Tamatave, in shock and not being capable of speaking, with no shoes made me feel so small. No shoes for a malagasy person is normal but for a vazaha (foreigner) is totally strange. Anyways, Lindsay and I have our health and thats most important. Just a reminder for us to not let our guard down and to remember that we are in a developing country. Anyone who is white, in their eyes, have a lot of money and its true compared to what they have. Other PCV,s told us that Tamatave, the main port city in Madigasikara (the city about 15K south of me in Antetezambaro that i go to every week for food) is getting worse in terms of theft because there are some french mining companies coming in, which is attracting Malagasy people to move in but there are not enough jobs to go around which is leading to more crime. Anyways my soul has recovered but my feet really miss my chacos!!!! Well i hope this blog works please respond if you do read this so I know its working;;; I hope yall had the best christmas, joyous new years and keep your heads up strong in this great new year of 2009!!! Amy Menaraka! (till next time yall) Cheers!

first blog!!

Ive finally attempted to fill out a blog. i really shoulda did this before i left the states but my 4 months of not working and just having fun flew by in a hurry! Apologize in advance for all typoes the keyboard is for the french language so i cant type my normal pace and dont know where all the special characters are. anyways soooo much has gone on since i got installed in Anteteezambaro which is my rural commune that i call home for the next two years>. This week will be a month since ive been living in my super fantastic, all natural bamboo hut and i do really love it despite of the hardships endured. the health aspects have been such a great learning experience.
5th November 2008
MANHOANA!!!!!!!!!!! WOW!!! 5 weeks of Peace Corps Training, it's already 1/2 over!!! Swearing in is set for December 10th!!! Continue to keep me in your prayers. I absolutely love this experience so far. Our training is in a village called Alarobia, which is enveloped by the central highlands and rice fields of Madagascar. There's been soooo much that my brain has absorbed, eyes have witnessed, neart has felt, skin has sensed, nose has smelled, mouth has spoken, ears have heard, feet hve felt, hand has written, toungue has tasted, night- and day dreams imagined!! SENSORY OVERLOAD is an understatement. All of these experiences have been numerous and huge in quantity, while sooo amazingly spiritual in quality. I miss soo many of you very special people that I'm grateful to have in my life. But I want you to know that there hve been sveral felllow human beings, here in Madagascar, that I've gained, in attempt to relieve the heartache from not being ablt to see y 'all. My host family is suuuuper fantastic!! My mamako is my best friend here. She's only 2 years older than me, but so much wiser in self- sustainability. her adorable 5 year old son, my little brother, Pajhy (pron. Paat-sty) has been so much fun. I've always wondered what it'd be like to have a wee sibling- now I have 2!;) Lala is our 13 year old "helper." She's a daughter of my mamako's friend, who has 9 other children. This whole concept of "house helper" was very awkard for me at first, but I've grown to understand that it's the best option with her being born into such a large family. Without her parents using family planning, it's hard for them to afford food for their kids, let along school uniforms. So once a child in this situation (especially girls, unfortunately) get to be about 10 years old, their choices are often to be a farmer, mpanasa lamba (wash clothes all day), learn the lifestyle of a prostitute, or be a part of a new family. My mama and dad treat her almost as their own- but she is just the one in charge of going to buy the food for meals, fetching water, cleaning the house, helping with cooking. Mama is also pregnant and due in March, so I will for sure come back to Alarobia to see Nohavi (somehow she knows it's a boy, although I don't think there are any ultrasounds around the village). Her being prego really helped me out in my kabary this week (kabary is the word for the presentations and discussions I'll be in charge of leading at health clinics). I did this last one on pre and post natal care for the mom and child. Previous topics have been importance of calcium, eating for all the food groups (not just vary - rice - all day), and diarrhea, which is a huge cause of infant death here. I have to say that my 3 years of teaching life skills have definitely come in handy. I'm very comfortable getting in front of everyone and have a pretty good grip on how to get the audience engaged. Now- it is a million times harder that at Kannapolis MIddle School, since I speak Malagasy. But each week I surprise myself with being able to comprehend the language better, although it feels like such a slow process. One of the things I miss most (besides my beautiful sister's wedding in Mexico, my sipa- Brad, family, pizza, and ice cream) is not having to think about what words I want to say. Learning a language is soooo hard and I now have a much better understanding of how some of my Hispanic students felt after suddenly being immersed into a new language and culture. But 've already been told that I'm very "Gasy" with my new name my Mama gave me (Kanto) which I'm grateful for: it means "magnificent/ beautiful". Every day, there a tons of kids that I've never met screaming my name as I walk to class;P One of my goals of being mahay(smart/ good) at carrying things on top of my head has been accomplished!!! I started with a 30 lb. bag of rice and can now successfully carry a bucket of water, as the several African cultures do, on my head! I understand why so many people do...it's a great way to evenly distribute the weigh of heavy objects! Maybe a not so pleasant experience (but great in the learning category) has been using the kabone, which is the outhouse that of course always smells bad and is home to hundreds of fleas and flies. But hey- that's where people should be doing their business, as opposed to the road, rivers, or woods, or rice paddies, which is a huge contributor to diseases here. The po is my "business bucket" that's in the corner of my bedroom, because of course I can't leave the house after dark because of the mpamosavy's@!! They are the "witches" that the Gasy people believe come out at dark to lead you to the tombs out in the country, so all houses are locked up usually by 9. I went as a mpamosavy for Halloween, which the kids outside the learning center LOVED when I would try to scare them;). Another neat cultural experience was killing a chicken. The feathers were amazingly easy to pluck after pouring a bit of boiling water over it. And it was sooooo delicious, compared to most American chickens thare are full of steroids and perservatives. The kafe here is also delicious. One of my jobs is to buy 2 cups of coffee for mama and I every morning from the local stand near our home. It's a joy to get to know the friends that are gathered there daily and it's obvious that they are also very happy to hear me even attempt the language. Most vazaha's (foreigners) that come here, don't attempt Malagasy, so get the biggest smile on their face when I know at least a wee bit. I'm not learning the Betsimisaraka dialect because I'll be living on the east coast. YES- I'll be living within 1 KM to the COAST- Antetezambaro to be exact, which is on the Indian Ocean, between the IIsle of St. Marie and Tamatave- check it out on the globe!!! I met Kate, a PCV who will be about 15 miles from me and she calls BetsiLand "paradise" and says I'll never want to leave. I can tell by her personality that we have lots in common, so I believe it!!;) WAHOO....all my dreams are continuing to be lived!! I have full faith that God is sending me exactly where I belong- he has thus far! Wow! I've already wrote sooo much but coiuld write forever about this radical life I have over here. It's impossible to describe all the sights, smells, tastes, feelings, thoughts, and sounds I've witnessed but wanted to give you a glimpse, while I'm in the capital for a day! Please write!!! My mom's greeting cards have been a life savor on those really hard days, where I've had thoughts of not being able to successfully do this. It will make me soo happy to hear from all of you! Again, feel free to pass this on to whoever may be interested. Sorry for typos...no time to look over it;)
10th december 2008
WAHOO!!! WHAT A PEACE CORPS TRAINING!! Starting about 5 hours ago, my P.C. training stage are officially Peace Corps Volunteers. We had a short and sweet swearing in at the beautiful American Embassador's house in Tana. They had a beautiful Christmas tree, which was one of the only reminders I've had that it's approaching sooon!! It's been nice not to be bombarded with all the toy and other advertisements that invade during the season.
It was quite sad to leave my family last Friday, but I know they will be great friends to me throughout these next 2 years and my whole life. I didn't know I could establish such a close bonds with people as I did in 10 short weeks...especially my mamako. I guess my Mama told the P.C homestay coordinator how I've been not only a child, but also a sister to her. But I must use my wings to fly away on my own now;) tomorrow at 8AM I leave for my future home of Antetezambaro!!!! It'll be about 80 degrees, sometimes sunshine, sometimes rain. I kinda do miss the snow, but will take these temps any day!
It's already gone soooo fast I just can't believe it!. Just a wee bit I wrote in my journal last night that I'll share with y'all. Please keep up the prayers and emails... it's soo wonderful to be reminded that people haven't forgotten about me, even though I'm soooo far away!!!

10 weeks in Madagasikara have come and gone
The 1st week went so slow, I thought this would be long
But since then has actually been some of the quickest days
Plenty of great moments, soaking up the rays
Of this tropical sun setting over Capricorn
We're now getting prepared for monsoons and storms.
I can't wait to start the next chapter in my life book
While appreciating the diversity of each time I look
At a different perspecitive of this fascinating place
The people; animals; bodies of water; landscapes
All contribute to the shape-
Of the attitude I uphold
And the life I will mold
In Antetezambaro, with the Betsimisaraka tribe
Living near the Indian Ocean will help me feel alive
But more importantly, I'll be helping others survive
By preventing malaria, malnutrition, diarrhea, and AIDS
I feel natural at the Malagasy culture and love getting braids!
Because of my host family and training staff- I'm equipped to tackle tough issues
But will always be grateful for the positive thoughts from all of you
For all the prayers, I want to say "thank you" in Gasy- Misaortra Betsaka!
Now I must go eat another mango and banana!!!