Thursday, August 5, 2010

I like to ride my bicycle

Hello all it’s been a while and i’m now typing on a french key board I can’t change. Please be patient with any typos.
So a lot has happened these past two months. I sent an email detailing my first vacation- if you want to be on my emailing list and I actually know who you are- comment on this blog post or send me an email at and i’ll add ya!
Anyway, I got back a few days ago from a sweet awesome bike ride. It was an HIV/AIDS awareness ride that stopped in 9 towns around Lac Alaotra, the largest lake in Madagascar. I sadly had to come late and was only there for 5 presentations, but I learned a lot, worked a lot, sang, danced, and made a fool of myself on a stage more than ever before in my life. It was fantastic. So what’s the difference between cycling across the United States and biking around the largest lake in Madagascar ? I’ll tell you in my go-to form of a humorous list.

1) Road biking and biking on a "road" is not the same. The RN 44 (yes Route Nationale- aka National Highway) is not paved on ¾ the circumference of the lake. I wasn’t there for the paved part so I can only say with confidence that at least ¾ of that ride was bumpy, sandy, rocky and to top it all off windy. Think biking through the corn fields of the midwest but with rice paddies replacing corn fields and ox drawn carts replacing tractors.

2) Due to above detailed terrain and a not-so-recent spill on the highway near my house, I was overly cautious going downhill, at least in the begining. I slowly grew confident and embraced my usual reckless downhill speed and ended up really enjoying what was, by default, the best mountain biking I’ve ever done. (and made it back in one piece Mom and Dad- no worries)

3) Hoping that the showers in the next town would be hot was a laughable desire. Many went over a week without a proper bathing. Those that did brave the cool air for health and sanitation sake took a freezing cold bucket bath- who know’s how ‘clean’ they really got.

4) No peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. No donated day old Panera or Wholefoods bagels, breads or snacks. No pasta, no lasagna. It was rice and loaka (side dish- oily meat, maybe cucmber and vinegar salad if lucky) or it was fried street breads and bananas. Some tried to subsist primarily on THB the local beer (not unlike Bike and Build actually).

5) Biking across America required the biking of a ridiculous number of miles each day, passing out, eating , and maybe giving a brief presentation to a church group about why we’re riding. This time we biked a reasonable amount of kilometers, had a 2 hour raffle where each of 5 tables had to present a topic and drunk guys went from table to table asking for you to sign their raffle ticket so they could qualify to win, then a 2.5 -3 hour performance on stage complete with singing, dancing, condom relay races, and other fun games. Finally the day ended with a Malagasy movie whose message was if you cheat on your significant other wear a condom. We usually packed up our tables, pitched our tents, and got some beer during the movie.

6)It was no longer Mika that serves as a sound track but rqther Shakira’s WakaWaka (with the chorus changed to be about AIDS in the Malagasy language), Rihana and Eminem’s song (which Steph would sing on stage even though she didnt know most of the words nor did anyone in the crowd understand), and other hits from Tom’s CD he brought back from his trip to the States.

7)On our last day of the trip, instead of going to an Indian restaraunt and singing Mika’s ‘Happy Ending’ we had a bonfire, smores and then went dancing. It was then that I found out a surprising number of Malagasy men know how to swing dance. Roger, the Gasy guy from PSI, the NGO that supplied the sound system and the movie for our trip, threw me around the dance floor for a good 10 minutes of jumpin’ and jivin’.

8)I brought home an ornament from Santa Fe for my Mom and chocolates from Ghiradelli when we left San Fransisco on Bike and Build. This time I brought home for my neighbors a live goose inside a rafia bag that was sewn shut to serve as a travel carrier for her. Chris named her Lucy. She is loud and not a fan of soggy bread.

And now to round out a list of ten with two similarities…

9)Water bottle. Chain Reaction’s cycling sports water bottle- still awesome.

10)Bike and Build jersey. That’s right. I wore it-under my rain jacket. Those pockets are just so darn useful. But really I just wanted to be the cool kid in a cycling jersey.

Like I first stated I had an awesome time. I love riding, I love spending time with friends, and I love feeling like I have useful work to do. We decided our Peace Corps service may be better spent as a 2 year AIDS bike tour around Madagascar. But as soon as I got home from the trip I came down with a head cold- ratsy be! For now my garden is growing, my nose is running, and I’m looking forward to Amanda’s environmental summer camp I’ll be helping out with and Matt’s visit soon! Good things on the horizon. Here’s hoping all your hoizon’s are bright too.