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;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;> >

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'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 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!!!