Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Now for a Kirsmasy Karol...

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
There’ll be rice for the planting
And lemurs a’ dancing
And omby out strolling in herds
There’ll be scary brush fires
And farmers all tired
Of guarding their fields from the birds

It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those mangoes and litchis
Those plums and those peaches
When summer is here
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year family and friends! While you’ve all been bundling up I’ve been peeling off sweaty dirty layers of clothing after hours of rice planting each day. Day to day not a whole lot changes; my language slowly improves, my roof slowly leaks, my mind frame and emotional health have become much more stable- still crazy, but mainly happy.
It hasn’t changed much but what is it that I have been up to? Well aside from the aforementioned rice planting (walking 8-20 kms each day to go be bent over for 4 hours planting rice really wears a kid down), my “primary project” has actually been working on finding a way to get some form of watering system for the orchard that I work at. So you all may be hearing about that again as it comes closer to find ways to fund said project ::wink wink:: Our current situation is very difficult. We have one worker that has to water over 200 trees over about 3 hectares of very hilly land by carrying two 15 liter watering cans to and from the little puddle a 10 minute downhill walk (therefore uphill on the way back with full cans) from the start of the park. It’s damn hard work that I can’t do but have tried my darndest to help. Even carrying one of those watering cans up and down the hills just once is exhaustingly difficult. He can only reach about 50 trees a day so it takes half a week for each tree to get water. Thankfully, the rains are just beginning to start again- but it was a very, very dry and exhausting 3 months for him.
Back in October (has it been that long since I last posted!) I went on a work trip with an NGO called Hope for Madagascar. We took elementary school kids on their first and maybe only field trip to a beach town for an exchange of cultural and a tour of various environments here in Madagascar. The program is called Life Experience Exchange Program and it was maybe my favorite project to be involved in so far in Madagascar. Growing up in the states, I got to go on field trips all the time. They were a highlight of every year and there were often several each semester, but here it’s a completely foreign concept and I’ve never seen happier kids than those kids. It was also a platform for me to interact with the principal of our elementary school and we’ve done a few other programs since then; environmental camps at Mitsinjo- a local park run independently of the neighboring Madagascar National Park, and I’ve given a few simple English lessons to the kids each week.
Aside from work I’ve also been blessed with two wonderful visits- first my older brother Matt came for a week and then my parents for 2. It was really great to get to see them all after a year of being away from home, but it was also a reminder that life as I had known it is so far from life as I live it now. So for all those wondering if I’ve changed since being gone- well I guess the answer is yes... But no worries- I’m still a goofball. I have come to appreciate how special and privileged it is to be an American.
That’s my recap. It really is true what they tell us at the beginning of service. It may take a year, but eventually we each hit a stride, each find comfort in our home here. I finally and honestly feel “tamana” or well settled here. I love spending time at site with my Malagasy friends and family just as well as I love hanging out with fellow volunteers. Sometimes, I’m sad to be away from home but other times I dread returning as it means I will never be able to live what I’m living, interact with the people I do on a daily basis, live in this culture, speak in this language like I do today and every day for the next year. For now I savor each and every day as it comes.
Thus it is that as 2010 draws to a close I would like to thank all of you, my dear family and friends, because without your love, support, encouragement and contact I wouldn’t be able to be where I am, be as happy as I am and I can’t thank my lucky stars enough for this experience I'm living. Thank you, thank you. Tratry ny Krismasy ary ny taona vaovao. Mirary ny fety sambatra ary fahasalamana mandrak’izay!