SAMBATRA BE ZAHO!! (I'm verrry blessed!) And I really have been thus far in 2010. So much so, that I'd like to recount the best adventures/ accomplishments of each week of this year:
Week 1: New Year's Day, as a matter of fact, I found myself and a few PCV friends roaring with the ripping waves of the Indian Ocean as I attempted to body surf. What an adrenaline rush to see a biggen' comin', prepare for take off, and before I could have any furthur thoughts, I was twisted, turned, pounding off the bottom of the sandy Ocean until I arrived on the shore of the beach. WAHOO! What an magnificent adrenaline rush, and a great way to start off 2010!
Week 2:Cinemobile with Population Services International (PSI). A couple days before departing for Montasoa, to train the newbies, reps from the NGO, PSI, arrived at my hut to tell me they will be using their mobile big screen television and speakers to sensibilize my village of Antetezambaro on the dangers, and how to prevent Tazo Moka (malaria). PSI takes their cinemobiles to small villages to share And me, being the Health PCV in Antetezambaro happily obliged to their request that I open up the night with my own advice for preventing the deadly disease that's too rampant during these hot, rainy summer months in the southern hemisphere. It was amazing! I was on a big screen t.v., in front of my entire village, plus the surrounding areas that heard about the 'entertainment'. I'd say a couple thousand people showed off, maybe just to watch the Gasy music videos that are shown in advance to attract as many people as possible, but they also listened to me as well. The next few days were definitely a confident booster as my fellow villagers yelled " Efa mahay be teny Gasy, Kanto" (You're already really good speaking Gasy) Maybe not so much, but I would take that chance to quiz them on "so how do you prevent malaria?" (use a mosquito net, close your house at dark, where longer clothes, eliminate standing water). It was definitely a night that I felt I really made a difference.
Week 3:Seeing my beloved Malagasy family and newborn baby Sister. My family's village of Alarobia is fairly close to Lake Montasoa, which is where I went for training the newbies. I was told it Alarobia was 10 kilometers away, which I figured would be a long walk, but totally worth it to see my family, whom I miss dearly and still hadn't seen since my arrival back to Mada. Especially Mama, we really developed such an intimate sisterly, motherly, but truly best friend type of a relationship and the joy created when we both saw and ran towards each other was beauuutiful! And I saw my new baby sister, "Bableu" they call her but her full name is Osoavehivavy Kanto...literally meaning the "good girl after Kanto". I was sooo touched!!! To have not only one family back in America, that I already know has an endless love for me, but another family in Madagascar, that I know will be a part of their lives forever, is bliss! The walk ended up being 20K, which is maybe about 14 miles, up and down the rolling hills of the rice paddies, but the heat and fatigue endured was certainly worth it:)
Week 4: The trek through the untamed rainforest of Madagascar After training, on my way back to the east coast, I decided to stop off to stay with Melissa,a fellow PCV, who was located near Andasibe, which is a well= known rainforest park on the island. Melissa has a beauuutiful setting of a bungalow hut situated on a river rolling through her back yard, in a valley, with a taunting rock jutting up from the earth above hut. Her counterpart said "mazava tsara ny lalana" (yes...you will see the road to the top very clearly") but it ended up being not quite so clear. After encountering a very large yellow striped snake (luckily there are no deadly snakes here), a flock of bull- headed geese (quite likely the most intimidating domesticated animal produced), and a lady that was known to be "adala" (crazy), we thought about turning around, but then again, what kinda fun comes outta not reaching the top of a mountain? So we trekked on, until fortunatley we came upon a rice farmer who had a machete and was oh- so kind- to lead us up, the slick rock, and untamed jungle to finally reach the top of the taunting rock that towered over her hut. Upon arrival to the top, our guide completed the prayer ritual since it was a site of an ancestral burial grounds. We also could hear the Indry's (the largest lemur's) as they bounced their mating calls off the rainforest trees. It surely was a tough hike, that had the potential to be deadly, but after arriving back at Melissa's hut and wading in the crystal cool waters of the river, I thanked God for the privelag of being back as a PCV in Madagasikara!
Week 5: Mamono A'omby!! Soon after arriving back home in Antetezambaro, after training, there was a big 'fety" (party) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a local elementary school. Parties like that here are quite serious productions and is not officially a fety unless an a'omby (cow) is sacrificed). Watching the full, 3 hour long tradition of kabary's, and speaking to a the ancesters to thank them for the cow, was definitely a culturally enriching experience. To kill the cow, they tackle him like a heavy weight high school wrestler tackles his/her opponent. The big difference here was the cow definitely had the advantage in the weight division over the tiny Gasy man, who maybe weighed 150 lbs, grabbed the omby's head and somehow, maybe through divine powers, dragged the cow to the ground so another man could use the machete to finally put it out of its misery. It's quite an event that is greatly celebrated and appreciated in the Gasy culture and I have to say was quite delicious over rice and sauce, that afternoon, after a morning full of traditional singing and dancing.
Week 6: Bevoka! (pregnancy!) There have been 4 women that I've especially gotten close with , as they come visit the CSB for they bi- montly pregnancy check-ups. And they are all blessed with healthy babies- 2 of them girls, and 2 of them boys:) And I also found out that we Cummings' family will be having another set of twin cousins, as Jenny/Sean and Molly/Jon are both expected this summer! Lord willing, they will be happy, healthy babies, and it was especially suuuuper fantastic news to know that Jenny will presumably be having a baby GIRL>....WAHOO! What a girl I know she'll be! And my good friends, Elizabeth and Jordan will also Lord willing, be having a baby coming soon as well! I will miss seeing all the newborns but they must know they have the coolest Auntie Kanto just a dream away and I will return by the time they can remember me, anyways :)
Week 7:\Not only surviving teaching middle school sexual education, but loving it!! I've been getting back to my old' stomping grounds of the middle school age group by doing health lessons of sex ed and preventing STI's and AIDS. This age group can be initimidating but I do feel as if I thrive in front of a group of teenagers. I know my experience of teaching 7/8th grade at KMS helped, but lets just say, talking about "the birds and the bees" to teens, is never going to be a breeze, but I not only survived it but feel as if I was able to supply pertinent facts about preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Fortunately, AIDS hasn't quite made it to Madagascar yet, from the mainland of Africa but Syphillus is very prevelant meaning that safe sex is often not being practiced. I did get some very good and challenging questions: "What causes people to be gay?; What causes a woman to give birth prematurely?; How do I know AIDS exists if I've never known a person with it?" It certainly was tough, especially speaking a foreign language, trying to give helpful info to these teens, and I feel I did my best to explain what I know about these topics. Health, the body, and illnesses are fascinating and curious subjects and I do enjoy getting to be a leader in facilitating these discussions that are important for all people, especially teens, of all places, races, ages, and socio- economic status.
Week 8:FARANY, momono voalavo!!! :).. I finally killed the rat! After my hut being unoccupied for the 2 weeks while I was at training at Lake Montasoa, sure enough, the rats moved in!;( The past few weeks have been filled with sleepless nights , with my waking up hourly to the 'keeeeek, keeeek, keeek' sound of the dang voalavo's, along with their endless gnawing and destroying of whatever is in site. They've eaten my soap, tomatoes, nibbled through a tank-top, my radio antenna, my gooney- bag which had un-cooked rice that they wanted, plastic tupperware brought from hom, to get to last- nights dinner, and my pillowcase I use to wrap up any fruits/ veg. The capturing of this most annoying rodent has definitely been the #1 tripmphant success of this week. I never thought I'd be sooo happy to see something dead!!! Hopefully you can see why I'm sooo jubilant about the ending of a live...after all, I am on the top of the food chain and these little rodents should not be diminishing my quality of life, I've decided!! :) Thanks to my neighbor, Mamaneny, she filled me in on the secret of using dried fish in the rat trap. Dried fish sure does stink but it sure does work!!! Cheers* to more peaceful, voalavo-less nights!!!!!! Amy menarka!