Friday, April 16, 2010

Trip into the cloud forest

Man oh man so much has happened since my pre-Passover post!
I went down to Ranomafana with the NGO I work with to see their arboretum there. Ranomafana is a beautiful cloud forest that I would say is maybe even more beautiful than my rainforest- and that’s my home! So maybe I wouldn’t- but it’s still gorgeous out there. I didn’t see any lemurs but I was about 15ft (5m) from a Madagascar Harrier Hawk, picked up (oh yea) a 6 feet (2m) long boa (freaking out my Gasy coworkers- who are terrified of snakes), and saw the COOLEST chameleon- more then a foot long without counting the tail! That last bad boy was actually in the arboretum- they have a beautiful space there. It had been Dan Turk’s (NGO guy) experimental site for his doctorate 15 years ago so now it’s full of big, beautiful native tree. Now they’ve added an orchard and have made it a tourist friendly area to learn more about the trees you see in the forest. Every outing spent with Dan, Germain, and Rolland (two aforementioned Gasy co-workers, they work with Dan in Tana) is a learning experience, not only trees but my language also seems to improve after our trips. I’ve received a lot of positive reinforcement lately and I attribute to those outings and to my rockin’ neighbors that always talk to me.
After Ranomafana, I got to meet the new PCTs while they were on a tech trip in Andasibe. Ryan and Letti were there too giving a presentation on VOIs (community based conservation associations) and Amanda joined me in a presentation of what life is like the first few months at site. We spent the night with them and went on a night hike (though 30 loud people traipsing through the forest don’t usual see much- and we didn’t), a morning hike (the next day) and wanted to follow them to the beach. We weren’t allowed to go which is sad because Madagascar has pristine beaches which I still have not been to. Bummer! It was however nice being ‘home’ after so long away.
A couple weeks later SAF/FJKM celebrated its 20th anniversary at Moramonga (my banking town and our supervisor) so there was a big party! I wore a skirt (which made my neighbors ‘gaga’- the Malagasy word for surprised) and all my coworkers were all spiffed up for the festivities too (making me ‘gaga’)! There was prayer (it is a Christian NGO after all), speeches, tours of the tree nursery, slideshow presentations and a FEAST! Sooo muuuuch fooooood! Dan and co. were all in town for the festivities so they took me and my neighbors back home and assessed the condition of the nursery there. Their recommendations for the site have been keeping us very busy lately.
I pitched an idea about using the empty space in between the trees of the orchard as plots of land for the landless community members to use for crops. It’s a start and perhaps we can tweak it and make it more sustainable or try it out and see what exactly the flaw are and hopefully be able to fix them up.
So that’s work life. As for culture, I spent Easter with the family I go to church with every Sunday I’m in town which was really nice. I made guacamole and tortillas for my neighbors, and pancakes for the orchard workers. I got a break down on the different types of witches that are found here (yea we got witches) and my neighbor has been teaching me French in addition to Malagasy. I’ve been trying to learn about the trees I’ve been planting and the Malagasy names of birds I’ve been seeing.
So life is has been good, educational, difficult, fun, lonely, comfortable, busy, cold, hot and basically just life, but with cooler fruits. I recommend persimmons, annonas, carambolas (aka starfruit), ramboutans (crazy looking litchis) and the number one fruit I’ve been eating here (besides soooo many bananas) guava! YUM! Until next time…
As my friend Lupe Fiasco says: Peace and much love to you!