Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hello everyone! My name is Jazz. Lars Jazz. Most people call me Jazz, some people call me Lars and everyone else call me Lars Jazz Monkey. I am a special envoy, chargé d'affaires, internuncio and substitute correspondent on temporary assignement for Sara. She's bummed out that her computer crashed so she has engaged me to assist in updating her blog. Enjoy! It's a good read! All the best! LJM
Well it’s getting close to that time of year again, when Jews stop eating bread and start drinking wine. Four glasses per sedar to be exact. It’s got me thinking of that magical story of Passover. In particular about the story of the 10 plagues. So in honor of the season, I’ve composed my own Madagascar version. Enjoy
The first plague God turned water into blood for Moses but for me it’s swept floor to dirt in seconds flat. I’m not sure how it happens as I sweep it out it blow right back in. My concrete floor is perpetually covered in dirt.
The air shall be filled with mold …”that it shall come up into your house and into your bedroom and on your bed.” Exodus 8:3
“All the dust of the earth became [poultry poo].” Exodue 8 :17 My neighbor has a goose and 3 chickens. Their favorite thing in the world to do is defecate on my porch and in my front yard. I have a special chicken poo broom now.
Guess what thinks chicken poo is just tops? Ants! They’re everywhere inside and out. I had a friend buy me Muesli while she was in Tana- it’s the equivalent to about 3 weeks worth of groceries at site but it’s delicious and I savor it. After eating it once I found the next day that where once there was delicious oats and seeds there now was ants. I may have cried- I’ve tried to repress the memory.
Thankfully spiders eat ants. Unfortunately I’m freaked out by large spiders at night time. I slammed on in my door one night and found it the next morning being devoured by a swarm of ants. Then a battalion of spiders set up webs to combat the ants. Everyday I am plagued by stepping through their delicate and sticky webs.
Thankfully my skin remains boils free unlike the Egyptians of yore at this point in of God’s wrath, it is however torn up by thorns. It used to be just around my ankles as I trek through thorny brush a lot. Now that I’m spending a lot of time in the tree nursery though, my arms have fallen victim to the thorny wrath.
My number seven plague is not hail, but hail in it most liquidy form- rain. There was a hurricane last week and has been raining every since. Perhaps I should allegorically be refrencing Noah instead…
They swarm when I’m at my smelliest, dirtiest, and most disheveled state. No- not locusts, but young Malagasy men. By virtue of being American and white I’m whistled at and hit on constantly. Despite inadequate and inconsistent bathing, lack of deodorant and the general even-though-I-just-washed-this-shirt-it-still-smells state of my wardrobe I’m batting them away! I must be irresistible.
Exodus 10:22 “So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch black in all the land of Egypt three days.” Here in the heart of darkness, I can’t even see my hand if it’s touching my nose at night time. But this isn’t a plague- even dark, dreary days offer rain yoga and puddles to play in. It’s more something to wonder at- nighttime in a rainforest is really dark.
And finally…
Death of the first born…mosquito. And the second born, and the third born… We have several different species- some bite in the day some at night. Some can give you regular run-of-the-mill malaria, some cerebral malaria and yet others a slew of different diseases. Plus as any outdoorsmen knows- even without the threat of disease- their bites itch like crazy!
So I hope my list was more funny than concerning. Life here is really great despite these pesky problems. I’m finally receiving letters and packages (thanks Staci and Gabe, Kathy and Larry and who ever this new package I have yet to pick up is from!). Thank you all for keeping in touch- I love hearing from you and my mailman laughs at me every time he drops off a letter because I do a little dance. I write everyone back (I have 4 letters to mail today!) though it sometimes takes a little while for me to get a chance to buy postage.
In other news, there was a big celebration here for Women’s Day on the 8th of March. It’s great that it’s such a big part of culture here. There was a parade and speeches and women’s only basketball game in Andasibe. I went to be a spectator, but was ushered up to the stage by my vice mayor as an impromptu female VIP. There was a reception afterwards for all the VIPs on stage. I got cake and coke- it turned out to be an awesome event.
Last weekend, Amanda rode her bike to my site and stayed the night. We made chocolate chip pancakes (courtesy of her sister’s care package) and toured the orchard. It was serendipitous that Dan Turk- an American man I’ve been working in association with due to his role with SAF/FJKM- and his family were visiting the park that same night and invited us to spend the evening with them. They treated us to a delicious dinner, and we played games with their 2 kids. It was really great to spend time with an American family. Plus we got hot showers, and to use their hotel room’s electricity to charge our phones! So things have been really great. I’m spending a lot of time with the trees- getting dirty and working hard. I love it. I’ll be traveling to another part of the country soon for work so I’m really excited to see a new place! I also get to meet the new stage in about 2 weeks and talk to them about life in the first few months. I hope I can excite them, assure them, and calm any nerves they have- because although the first 2 months have been really difficult- they’ve been so wonderful at the same time.That’s all for now. I wish happiness and health to you all! Salama tsara!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Everything you ever wanted to know about propagating trees...

...just kidding that would be a super boring post probably. Unless you really really like trees. In which case call me up and we can chat grafting techniques.
At any rate- that's what I've been doing for the past week at my 7:30 am- 5pm job. It's been a 4 day long training workshop (though it's just me and one other Gasy guy getting trained in Malagasy by another Gasy- so that was tough) in all things trees. I get to take these skills I now have back to my home and propagate trees on my compound. Rockin'! If anyone wants hot chili peppers let me know- though it would be illegal to send them to you. Oh man do I need to share my hot chili pepper story with you all. Not my most brilliant moment- but entertaining nonetheless.
So about 2 or 3 weeks ago I was preparing my dinner of spicy beans and rice. I take 3 of those tiny peppers we call "sakay" and tear them up with my fingers because I don't have a cutting board. I would like you all to keep in mind that I had never cooked with these peppers before and therefore didn't know what I was getting myself into. So I throw the peppers into my simmering beans and wipe my nose (i had previously chopped onions and my nose was all runny). About 20 mins later my nose begins to tingle. Then it begins to hurt. Then it feels like I have flames shooting out of my nostrils and I'm a mythical dragon freak. So I of course try to wash my face with buckets of water, but where ever the water goes the burning seemed to spread. As a former chemistry student I know that water dilutes things, but it doesn't neutralize acid burns. Bases do- like milk. But I don't have milk, I have powdered milk. So in a stroke of pure genius I decide to put powdered milk all on and up my nose to see if that will help. It didn't. Now, in addition to the virtual flames shooting out of my face, I had cheese paste in my nose making me nauseaus. At this point my food is cooked, and I've been in pain for a good 40 minutes. So I call up our doctor over here (probably disturbed his dinner) and asked what I could do. "Wash with water" he says "it may take several buckets full." Great. After 2 full buckets of water my face calms enough to be able to sorta eat dinner, wash dishes, and crawl into bed. I'm in bed reading Dune (at that point I was reading about the gom jabber- I think you should look that up right now bc it adds to this story) when all of a sudden my hands have that same on- fire feeling. It hurts so bad I untuck my mosquito net and bring my bucket of water next to my bed, all the while using the light of my candle to check and see if my skin was blistering from the 'burning.' Everytime I took my hands out of the water it's excruciating pain, so I lay half in bed, half out shaking my hands in my bucket of water- for a good 2 hours. I was so exhausted at that point (it was close to midnight) that I was able to fall asleep half in bed half out. I woke up the next morning completely fine, my hands slightly dried out from keeping them in water all night long.
I'm completely fine now, though I may forever be a little emotionally scarred from the powdered milk failure.Two weeks later I braved the chili peppers once again, using only one this time. Delicious!
I've had a great past few weeks, and I great few weeks coming up. We are getting a new group of trainees in (today actually!) and the environment volunteers will be taking a field trip to see my tree nursery and the national park I live next to. I get to tag along with the newbies for a night hike, teach them all about grafting (maybe?) and show off my super awesome home. I'm super excited. We've got St. Patrick's day coming up (we will partay), Passover (I will make people get together for a sedar), Easter (probably a rockin' time with my villagers), and my bday! (see below for possible care package ideas :)
Peace and much love to you!

-Photos! Of you right now, of us before I left of us from 1st grade(shout out to Jillian- your pictures are so very amazing it’sfantastic)
-Reading Materials! Magazines like Time or Nature or NationalGeographic are great. If you just read an awesome book send that too!
-Any Gators paraphernalia- it makes me ridiculously happy. I specifically could use a pillow case or blanket if anyone can findthose. But anything would be awesome
-Funny shirts, movies, Q Tips, hand made crafts (noodle frame to go with the pictures you send- absolutely!), or anything silly.

And now that I’ve waited an appropriate amount of bullets to make me seem less the glutton I am…the food category!
-Condiment packets- BBQ, ketchup, mayo, etc. Extremely useful here.
-Anything sweet- cookies, gummies, frosting, starbursts, m&ms, reeses- anything chocolate, really anything sweet.
-Dried fruit- blueberries, apples, mangoes, etc
-Trail mix! Granola! If it has oats and or nuts and/ or dried fruit its for me!
-Beef Jerkey! I never liked it in the states but Teryiaki BBQ sooo good!
-Tuna in water! It’s impossible to find here!

Just some ideas. Don't feel like you have to send a care package, letters really make me super happy and are $0.98. I have successfully received my first package (thanks Staci and Gabe) though it was sent to the address below- which still and will always work. My new one has so far been pretty unsuccessful- but you can try (my new one is on the right hand side of this webpage and on facebook).

(old address- still works well)
Sara Tolliver, PCV
Corps de la Paix
BP 12091
Poste Zoom Ankorondrano
101 Antananarivo

LOVE YOU ALL! Healthy and Happy Passover and Easter!