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!


  1. Brianna,
    I love how your reading list is growing! Let us know if there are any titles that you'd like added to the nook or sent in the mail.

    We think of you ALL the time ... it's amazing the way you overcome the daily challenges of living. I'm so excited for you to begin your projects and collaborate with PCV friends. That will definitely improve the quality of your time there :-)

    I hope you have a great time and feel refreshed with your break after IST. The Indian Ocean and sandy beaches sound really, really nice. Hopefully you'll see some lemurs during your travels as well.


  2. This is Grandma Sonia. Hi honey, We are having a blizzard here today with up to 15 inches of snow expected and winds of 35 mph. It is great fun and so far not too cold although it is supposed to get below zero tonight.
    I am so glad that you are getting to try new fruits now. We had some in Turkey that we never did find out the names of. Fun to try!
    We were out for fish last night with 10 friends and people were asking aabout you. It is fun to talk about as it is a place NO ONE has visited! We think of you a lot a will come to visit before you know it. Love you, Grandma S.
    Sent you a little present hope it gets to you
    This is Grandpa Tom. I wsent you a three page article from Sail mag that is about a family sailing around the north part of Madagascar stopping in at a few ports. They may be a coupkle places you could vacation at in the future.
    Keep up the nice work on the Blog as they are very interesting to a lot of people that read them that arn't on your list.
    love ya
    Grandpa Tom