Monday, May 30, 2016

Serving Alone


            Within the first month of arriving and starting my training here in Madagascar I received the name of the site where I would be living and serving for the next two years;  Vondrozo, a small town in the Sud Est of Madagascar.  I knew very little about the place at the time except for a ruff idea of its location on the map.  Not too far from everything, it seemed, and I had some friends that were going to be living in my banking town just 70 km (42 miles) away; not to shabby. 
The first thing I learned about the site, and what was repeated to me every time the town was brought up, was how bad the road was.  Tena ratsy be ny lalana (Really very bad road)” was every Malagasy person’s response to “I’m going to be in Vondrozo.”  But I mountain biked in the States, I
was getting a good bike from Peace Corps, and 42 miles is not too far, so how bad could it be.  Well they were not lying.  The road was bad; worse in rainy season (though it really rains all year).
Also, I always needed to travel with more stuff than I wanted to carry on a bike.  Not to mention not wanting to bike with my computer for fear of running into dahalo (thieves).  This meant I often would have to travel by brousse to my banking town, an eight hour ride that would leave me hurting and tired at the end of it.  The brousse always took to long to be able to catch another one out so I would always be stuck (though I really love Farafangana so I am never really stuck) there till the next day, meaning it takes me a minimum of two days to get anywhere.  Not to mention that my friends that were living in Farafangana left country a month into their service; leaving no one to stay with in my banking town.
This is something I feel most volunteers, or anyone really, truly do not understand.  If they do understand, they at least do not fully comprehend the strains it puts on travel and service because it is not part of their service.  Most volunteers can make a day trip of going to their banking town if they wanted; where it is a three day trip for me.  Many volunteers, at least in my region, meet up somewhat frequently to hangout, bar-b-q, help out with projects, ext.  This is something which would mean canceling half a week of work minimum to be able to participate in.  A factor those that live close to their neighboring volunteer rarely have to worry about. 
I do not want it to sound like I am complaining about my service or my site; I am not.  I love Vondrozo and could not think of living anywhere else.  I get to participate in many things and travel a lot.  I am out of site enough and more than I really should be; especially in this second year of service where Peace Corps work takes me out of site a lot.  I do not write this for pity, but only for understanding.  That the reader may understand that ones service is a struggle in many ways.  That even for those that serve close to others they do so in a foreign land away from the culture and life that they knew.  In a land where travel is hard and long, it is truly a service alone.
Road leaving Vondrozo during rainy season

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