Coming Home

            I recently retuned to the United States for a month of home leave before starting my new job with the Peace Corps Madagascar.  After all of the stress of leaving my site for the last time and getting all of my stuff to Tana I was looking forward to going home, seeing friends and family, and just relaxing for a bit.  And the food; of course the food.  That was the majority of what I was looking forward to.  Sorry family and friends, but lets be honest, food is what makes up a Peace Corps Volunteers’ dreams.  If you see a volunteer starring into space, most likely there is a hamburger or some other delicious food in their minds eye.  

Leaving My Home

            After two years of service in Madagascar I am going home to the States, Texas to be exact, for the first time since I left 27 months ago.  I have extended my service with the Peace Corps for another year and as such they are sending me home for a month of home leave.  It is still bitter sweet to say the least.  My extension will be in Diego, the far north of the island, and so my service in Vondrozo and my beloved region has come to an end.  

Slam Dunks - A Basketball Court

            A volunteer in my region is currently fundraising to create a better basketball court to promote healthier life decisions.  See below for a write up on her project.

The children and youth in my community here in Madagascar have very limited access to recreational activities during vacation, after school and/or work. Because they don't have recreational activities to keep them occupied, our youth is more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as: drinking, smoking and unsafe sexual relationships and our kids have no place to be physically active.
According to the World Health Organization, the current cigarette smoking prevalence among the Malagasy youth is 19.3% and tobacco prevalence is 22.8% while the alcohol consumption reported by the Malagasy Institute of Public Health is about 59% among teens during the last 12 months. Additionally, the chances of suffering from a sexually transmitted disease are exponentially amplified due to the lack of access to sexual education.
Our local youth and kids are not only exposed to risky behaviors but also they are completely unaware of the health effects they can face in short and long term. But we can promote some change and provide a safe recreational place for the local youth and children by building an amazing basketball court. My project "Slam Dunks" hopes to give teenagers and children not only a place to be physically active, an opportunity to have a hobby to keep them away from engaging in risky behaviors but also to educate them about all these unhealthy behaviors that can potentially jeopardize their future.
The Slam Dunks project has the potential to improve the lives of hundreds of kids and teenagers not only from my local community but also from the surrounded areas by promoting basketball tournaments as well as by developing strong youth leaders than can become a role model to others.

My Teaching Has Come to an End

            Last month marked the end of my two years as a teacher here in Madagascar; at least here at the Lycee Vondrozo.  I have taught 574 students, eight classes (yea that’s a lot of students per class), in the two years that I have taught here.  It has been an experience that I will never forget.  It was rewarding in so many ways, but it was far from easy; many of the best experiences in life seldom are.  Although I most likely will never teach again here in Vondrozo I know that my teaching career is doubtlessly far from over and the experience gained and the many things that I have learned here will

Tratry ny fetim-pirenena! Happy Independence Day!

June 26 signifies the independence of Madagascar from France. This year marks 56 years of independence and like always there was a huge party to celebrate the occasion. (You can read a detailed description of last years Independence Day in Vondrozo here or in Mantasoa two years ago here.) Like last year, everyday of the week proceeding independence day was marked by individual parties and performances of dancing and singing on the podium at the Commune. The morning of Independence Day itself was unfortunately marred by a down pour of rain, but that did not stop the celebrations. After the flag was raised and the national anthem sung the new Chef District (similar to

Secret Language

            In Madagascar the two official languages are Malagasy and French.  While both are known by almost everyone, French is rarely used (or possibly not well known) by those that live in the countryside.  English on the other hand is known by very few.  That is where I come in, to teach English, but even in the classes that I teach the comprehension level is fairly low. 
That gives English speakers the ability to talk to each other without worry about if others can understand us.  Volunteers take full advantage of this but it sometimes backfires when we least expect it.  It is great until the time when some Malagasy person around us turns and starts also speaking English to us.  We are not the only ones that do this though.  It is almost inevitable that whenever those around us do not know who we are (sometimes even if they do know us) they will begin to talk about us in Malagasy, not knowing that we also speak Malagasy and can understand what they are saying.  

Two Years Have Come and Gone

             Two years have come and gone while I have been here in Madagascar.  My Stagemates and I have finally finished our TEFL requirements and have become the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers to graduate from the program and receive our certificates.  This two year mark was also, like all of the volunteers before us, was marked by attended our Close of Service Conference in Mantasoa.  Here was detailed the next steps for our last two months of service and the years to come. 
My conference, along with a handful of other volunteers, was slightly different than that of the others.  About a month ago I had applied for a one year extension with Peace Corps Madagascar as the Volunteer Leader for the north of the country.  I had just had my interview with the senior staff about my extension the day prior to going to the conference and there I waited for their response.  The sessions we all attended were the same; resume building, interview skills, job hunting, ext.  The
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