Saturday, August 30, 2014

Installation

            This morning we awoke to the sound of a bustling early morning in Tana.  A sound that would be deafening if not for the music like attributes playing the song of Gasy life in the big city.  It was almost tranquil in its confusion of sounds; a reminder of where I was.  This though would be the last time I would hear such a bustle for many months it seemed.  So as I stood at the window, over looking the city, I reveled in its sound.  This was not a feeling of dismay or regret, but a feeling of joy for what was to come.  And with this I grabbed my bags and headed down to the car that would be taking me to the Sudest.  Upon loading up we said our goodbyes to those of us at the hotel not going to the Sudest and Julissa, who though going to the Sudest had to ride with a different group due to the
lack of space in our car.  After our goodbyes Stephen, Clarissa, Efrain, and me, along with Feno, a LCF and our installer, and the driver left for what would be a two day travel to Fara (Farafangana), our staging point for installation. 
            Most of today was spent traveling south, stopping here and there to get out and stretch and use the restroom.  By use the restroom I mean walk into the woods and go there, a custom everyone does in Madagascar, many times even in the cities.  We also stopped at two hotelys along the way for breakfast and lunch where we were meet by the other Peace Corps car on its way south to Fianar (Fianarantsoa).  After lunch we said our goodbyes again to those in the other car; for we would soon be splitting off and heading east to Ranomafana.  Ranomafana has a beautiful national park with mountainous rainforest, waterfalls, and wildlife and the road going east goes right through it.  While in the national park we stopped at Chute Andriamamovoka, a beautiful waterfall that has cut its way through the rocks.  Continuing our way through the park we saw our first wild lemur since we have been in Madagascar; although only a glimpse as it scurried across the road.  As we made our way out of the park we made one final stop at a gazebo on a hill looking back over the park and saw a series of small waterfalls and rapids as the river was also making its way east.  Arriving in town shortly there after, we stayed at a fairly nice hotel and the four of us shared a bungalow for the night.  We were going to meet up with a volunteer in the town for dinner and possibly a place to sleep, but he had left earlier that day to go to Fianar. 

Sunday, 8/31/14
            Waking up this morning we all took turns taking the last real shower we would probably have for months, with hot water I might add.  You never realize how much you love showers or how spoiled you are with unlimited amounts of hot water until you are completely without them.  We then loaded back up in the car and began our drive east and then south to Fara, stopping again then and there for a break and/or food.  As well as stopping in two towns to meet the volunteers there, but like the night before they had already left, one for the states and the other having already made her way to Fara to meet us.  It should be added here that we were driving on nice paved roads this whole trip, which you come to love after spending any amount of time on the non paved roads in Madagascar.  Well they were paved this whole trip except for the last 20 km into Fara, then the roads became the worst I have seen in country as of yet.  Arriving in Fara this afternoon we made our way to the carpenter to order the furniture we wanted to be made for our houses, this being done without actually seeing our houses yet. 
After ordering our furniture, we started to make our way though town and we got to see the Indian Ocean for the first time and a beautiful site it was.  Although the beach was separated from the road by a canal you could still hear the waves as they lapped against the sand and smell the salty ocean air as it caught a breeze across the water.  We soon arrived at Stephen and Clarissa’s house which is right on the canal and has a view of the ocean.  Here we were meet by three of the volunteers from the surrounding towns who had come to Fara to greet and welcome us to the Sudest.  When then left their house, it not being completely ready to move in and needing a few repairs, and went to the hotel where the volunteers were staying.  Here we checked into two thatched roofed bungalows, at the insanely low price of 5,000 Ar a person/night (≈$2.08).  It is at this point that Efrain was finally able to get into his trunk to get his money and pay me back.  This is a good thing because I was starting to run low on money since I had been funding the two of us since swearing in.  Once we got settled into our hotels we walked with the other Volunteers to the Green Cucumber for some beers and dinner.  Here I ate a crab sauce with rice that was amazing!  It was a little pricy for Gasy standards, 10,000 Ar, but it was definitely worth it.  Here another volunteer meet up with us, Greg, my site mate in Vondrozo.  After we had finished eating we all split into groups with different tasks, with the end game to meet back up on the beach.  From this point on the four of us new volunteers to the Sudest had little idea of what to expect next, except that there was to be a bonfire on the beach.  Meeting back up on the beach we dug a pit in the sand and built a bonfire, which in the ocean breeze is not the easiest of tasks.  After this point in the story I can not relate the details of what happened, it is a Sudest thing, but I can say that we were inducted into the Sudest family and that it was a lot of fun. 

Monday, 9/1/14
            Today not much of note was done.  Efrain and I both got to experience withdrawing money from the bank with a check instead of our bank cards.  You only have to do this if you lose your card, pin, or, in my case, had already pulled out the max amount for a week.  For me the bank experience did not take long and I spent most of the day hanging out with the other volunteers and shopping for some of the stuff that we would need for our site like propane and bottle, dishes, buckets, water basin, mattress, ext.  Stephen, Clarissa, and I also made a trip to the Police Station with Feno to be introduced to the Police Chief.  We make courtesy visits to all of the important people in our town so that they know who we are and can look out for us.  In my case, Vondrozo does not have police, but since I would be spending some time in Fara for banking it was necessary for me to be introduced to them.  The four of us and Greg ended the night with a nice candle light dinner at a restaurant.  It was a candle light dinner because there was no electricity.  We had little to no electricity since we left Tana, due to a dispute of some kind.  This lead to us many times leaving the light switch on so that we would know when the electricity came on and we could take turns charging our electronics. 

Tuesday, 9/2/14
              Waking up this morning before the sun, we packed the PC car with all of my stuff and started our trek out to Vondrozo.  Well we had all of my stuff except for my furniture, which was still not finished due to the lack of electricity.  The road to Vondrozo is only 43 miles, but I had been told that in the PC car, which is 4-wheel drive, would still take about three hours because the roads were so bad.  I had heard from many other people before that the road was really bad and had been waiting for the chance to finally see this notoriously bad road, and the time had finally come.  The road at first was not so bad and I was starting to wonder why it had gotten such a bad reputation.  But as we rumbled on down this dirt road, passing by a few small villages, the road gradually became worse and worse, until eventually, not all to far from Vondrozo, I finally realized why they had said it was so bad.  The road began to give way to ruts and potholes you could almost lose a car in and has truly lived up to its reputation.  It has now become the worst road I have been on since my arrival in Madagascar.  The road past sometimes through rolling hills of vast open grasslands, in which you could see for miles around, and sometimes through dense forest, in which you could not see past the edge of the road.  We stopped only once on this journey for a break, on a ledge over looking Vondrozo, my future home for the next two years.  It was an amazing site to see.  From this vantage point I could see the relatively small town of Vondrozo amongst the forest, surrounded by the rolling grassy hills and over shadowed in the near distance by the Corridor, the rain forest covered mountain range that makes up the western border of the Sudest. 
            The entire trip took about three hours, but I was informed by Greg that by taxi brusse it would be about eight hours in the dry season and 12 hours in the rainy season; something I am not wholly looking forward to experiencing.  Upon arriving in Vondrozo we went straight to my house, which is at the Lycee (high school).  My house is a one room, converted office, which is part of a slightly bigger building, but is a fairly big space.  I have a porch area in the front, that they are in the process of fencing off with a stick fence, that over looks the Lycee grounds and has a good view of the Corridor in the distance.  The house space itself is roughly 13’ X 20’, by what I can tell, and has cement floors and yellow cement walls with a 1’ red strip bordering the floor.  The paint is somewhat worn in some places and highly worn in others and is in dire need of a new paint job, but as for now I may just leave it as it is, as I kind of like the rustic look it gives the place.  The house is positioned long ways so when walking through the front door on the western wall you have a 20’ walk straight through to the back door.  Along the wall you follow through the house, and that borders the rest of the building, there are two other doors leading into the other rooms of the building, but these are nailed shut and PC had installed bolt locks on the inside to make sure they can not be opened.  Along the other long wall are two barred windows, with shutters that open out, and there is also one of the same type on the walls containing the doors.  So all in all, there are two working doors and two non, and four windows; all red in color.  The house also contains a small 2’ X 4’ table provided by the Lycee.  Walking out the back door of the house and down a few steps takes you to my back yard, which as of yet is still open and has a path that leads through it, but I am unsure if they will be fencing that in as well.  In the back yard is located my Ladosy, just newly made for me and is a very nice one as well.  There is also a pepper plant and twelve fruit trees in my backyard: a pibasy, a corasol, a grapefruit, a borjdedefo, two jackfruit, two banana, and four peach.  There are also two types of mango trees in the front of my house.  My kabone is located a short walk across the Lycee grounds and is part of a kabone structure, but the Lycee has locked one up just for my use. 
            Upon arriving at the house, we meet the Proviseur (comparable to a principle), Proviseur Herilala, my counterpart and he is a really nice man, though he does not speak much English.  After meeting him, moving all my stuff into the house, and changing the locks, we headed back out into town to meet the other important people in town.  We first meet the Gendarme, which is the military police and is what polices the county side regions in Madagascar.  We then meet the District head; Vondrozo is the district capital of this area.  In Madagascar there are neighborhoods with their leaders, then communes (towns) with the mayor, then districts, then regional capitals, then the nation.  After this meeting we went to meet the interim mayor and then out to lunch at a local hotely.  Afterwards PC left to head back to Fara to continue their installations and I was left in Vondrozo, but my day was far from over.  Once they left, Greg, the Proviseur, and I went down to a local bar to have a few drinks and talk.  Here we were meet by one of the other teachers at the Lycee, Mr. Marolahy, the math teacher, who also speaks really good English.  It was during this time that I found out what classes I would be teaching; all of the sections of 2nde, the first year of high school, which they estimated would be about 300 students.  It was also during this time that I found out, due to a gas shortage brought about by a transportation strike, Vondrozo had to cut back the electricity usage to two hours a day, 7 - 9 pm.  After the night was done, the Proviseur and I walked back to his house, just behind the Lycee for dinner.  Then arriving at my house after dinner and it being somewhat late and I tired as I was, ripped open the plastic covering to my mattress and slept on it there on the floor; there being no bed to put it on.  







My map wall

My 'kitchen'

The bedroom


The Ladosy

The Kabone

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