Monday, December 27, 2010

What Did I Do for Christmas?

Oh, you know, the usual: took a train through the rainforest, swam in the Indian Ocean, and drank rum out of coconuts on the beach. Just your typical, traditional homestyle holiday. There's so much more to say about it though, so I'll write a more detailed post later, just wanted to put a few pictures up!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Updated Photos!

New photos have been posted below to the "In-Service Training" album and the "Madagascar Wildlife" album. Most are self-explanatory, but the little, spiny, anteater/hedgehog-looking critter is called a tenrec, and can only be found in Madagascar and a few surrounding islands. This is a streaked tenrec, one of about 30 different kinds of tenrecs that are known to exist...cute!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

In-Service Training, or I Have Officially Survived 3 Months at Site

Well hello again! Not much new to report from Ankazobe, but here are some of the more notable points of the last couple weeks:

- Esther and I made an oven. Yes, made an oven. It was pretty easy actually, all it took was a charcoal stove, a giant pot, a bunch of sand, and a small tomato paste can (to set the baking dish on top of). We then proceeded to make brownies in it, which turned out absolutely delightful. I meant to take pictures of our finished product (really, I did), but we became consumed by the chocolatosity and ate it before I had a chance. Next time!
- December is apparently the start of fruit season. On December 1, out market got lychees (my new obsession) and paiso (similar to a peach). A couple days later the paiso Chrismassy came, which are like really, really tiny plums and are also very yummy. These are in addition to the bananas and mangos that were already plentiful in the market. Love it!
- It's also rainy season. We've been having crazy storms pretty much every day now, and I'm thankful that my little room in the clinic seems very stable and waterproof. It's making an absolute mess of the water pumps though- my water is so dirty now that it's almost not even worth showering.
- I learned how to do a malaria test. The tests come individually wrapped with a reader, alcohol swab, solution, pipette, and...finger-pricker? What would that be called? I don't know, but it's a little piece of metal with a point at one end to stick the finger and draw blood. What I've learned is that it's not really that sharp, and you have to press quite hard to puncture the skin, and...ew, moving on. I guess if anyone comes in with a fever over 37.5 Celsius they get tested. I didn't come across any positives, but malaria is definitely out here, even in the highlands.

I know that was pretty brief, but to be honest I've been fairly busy with the usual routine and then this week with preparing to leave there was a lot of stuff to take care of, like cleaning, packing, protecting my house against invaders (human and rodent alike). It's finally our IST (in-service training), and we're all meeting up in Tana then going to Mantasoa where we did our PST. I've been looking forward to this for what seems like such a long time- it'll be so nice to see everyone again, and being at the training center in Mantasoa means 5 days of good food that I don't have to cook myself! The first three months at site are notoriously hard, so this break is coming at the perfect time. I'm not exactly sure what we'll be getting training on, but hopefully it'll be useful to the projects I'm trying to start in the new year.

IST also marks the point in my stage's service where we are allowed to start traveling for vacation and business instead of just banking. This is also good timing because with the holidays coming up, I can't imagine anything more depressing than being by yourself at site, eating burnt rice and studying for the MCAT (oh wait, that's not how everyone spent Thanksgiving?) My plans are to travel down to Fianarantsoa, which is in the south east highlands, spend a couple days there and hopefully check out the paper-making business that the region is known for. Then, some friends and I will be taking a train (the only working passenger train in Madagascar) to Manakara, which is on the south east coast. I'm super excited about this because I've never been on a train, let alone one that goes through rainforests and mountains! Once we get there, we'll be spending several days including Christmas on the beach. After all that fun, it's off to Ambalavao (Amber's site) where we'll be creating health-based lesson plans for classes at the Lycee.

It's quite weird to be thinking of spending the holidays on a tropical beach, when a white-Christmas (or a cold one, at least) is much more my usual stride. I think it's actually better this way though- if you can't have what's normal, you might as well do the complete opposite! Instead of drinking hot cocoa and scrambling to do last minute gift shopping, I'm debating which sunglasses to bring and hoping the cyclones stay far away from Manakara. My hopes are that since it won't feel like Christmas, maybe I won't miss it so much. This is what I will continue to try to convince myself of anyway.

That's it from here for now! I'm not sure if I'll be able to update again before traveling, so if not, I hope everyone's holidays are wonderful. Take care, and I'll try to do the same!