Malaria Prevention in Morondava

I apologize for the inexcusable hiatus I took between this and my last post. My computer crashed in my final months in Madagascar, preventing me from documenting my full two years in the Peace Corps while still in the country in which I served. The problem of my dead computer has since been remedied, and now I endeavor to remedy the lack of documentation of the rest of my time on the beautiful island of Madagascar.

Where did I leave off? The west coast city of Morondava, land of the great Baobab trees. Below is Baobab Alley, a huge tourist attraction which we were lucky enough to visit when there weren’t great hoards of tourists clogging up the dusty road. Visiting the alley is most scenic and spectacular at sunrise or sunset. We were too early for those views, however we were able to capture some beautiful photos without random vazaha getting caught in our shots.baobab alley

Hitching a ride with the Health program team in their 4×4, we traveled west from Antsirabe, and in about 8 hours we arrived in Morondava. By taxibrousse, the trip could take anywhere from 11 to 20 hours and beyond, depending on the season. We scooped up a couple of volunteers who lived in the city, our country director, and visiting Peace Corps lehibe and headed for a small town just East of Morondava where both a health and education PCV lived. The reason for the whole trip was a Malaria Bootcamp. The education and health volunteer had arranged a lesson on malaria and malaria prevention for the education volunteer’s students. Afterward, we volunteers would all participate in a 3-day training about malaria and projects we could then bring back to our sites and share with our communities.lecture

One of the warm-up activities for the students was to draw a dream map of what they wished their futures would hold.

groupwork

This student’s dream was to eventually have a big house, a few rice fields, and a heard of omby.dream map

Afterward, we went outside to play a game, similar to Sharks and Minnows, which demonstrated the way malaria can be transmitted. Four mosquito nets were set up at the corners of a field. One mosquito, or moka, stayed in the middle of the field. The students had to get from one mosquito net into one on the opposite side of the field without being “bitten” by the moka. Once students were tagged, however, they now carried malaria and could start tagging others. The game ended, rather morbidly, when everyone was a carrier of malaria.catch and release

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Grabbing the Bull by the Horns

It may not be the most traditional way to celebrate the holiday, but it was definitely exciting to spend Easter Monday watching some good old-fashion bull wrestling. I knew it would be entertaining, but I wasn’t prepared for how nervous watching the show would make me.
The show started with various speeches and musical entertainment including dancing, singing and general crowd energizing. I could handle that. The bulls were funneled into the ring one by one and men sitting along the fence riled each one up by hitting long, thin sticks along the rails. That was fine too. Next, men in vests would run around the ring, agitating the bulls even more. Still fine by me. When the bulls were good and twitchy, swishing their tails and stomping their feet, the competitors would enter the ring. There was a white tent set up off to the side with a small red cross on it just in case. This was encouraging but also made me apprehensive. After walking circles around one another for a few turns, the competitor would make their move and pounce on the bull.
It was exhilarating to see. What was terrifying was how the bulls would fling their legs up and flail their hooves, swinging them so close to the competitors and tangling their limbs together. Or when the bull would buck against the fence, smearing the man along the railing. But the worst was when the competitor would lose his footing and fall to the ground and nearly be trampled. I ended up watching most of the show through my finger tips or peeking over the shoulder of one of my Malagasy friends. Luckily neither man nor beast was injured during the whole spectacle, and it was just as, if not more, exciting as any sporting event I’ve ever seen in the states.

getaway

bull wrestling

take down

charge

crowd  timeout

Giggles Takes the Big City

I had the absolute greatest opportunity to spend Christmas with my brother in Hong Kong this past December. We packed in a lot of sightseeing in the few days that I visited him during his semester abroad of business school. *Note to self: Remember that the seasons switch when you cross from the southern to northern hemisphere. duh. I had forgotten what cold felt like. Needless to say, I had to buy a sweater. Correction: Stuart bought me a sweater. Which brings me to my second *note to self: Make sure you have the currency of the country you are traveling in. duh again. Hong Kong operates mainly on cash or, get this, “octopus cards.” I had neither of these things, so throughout my visit, on the rare occassions when credit cards were accepted, I paid for us, and Stuart paid everything else. Thanks brother.

I think Hong Kong is an exceptional place to live. It’s so safe, so clean, so beautiful and there’s so much to do. The days sort of blur together for me in a whirl of adventures, but some of the highlights were drinks at the highest bar in the world, temples, roller-coasters, Buddhas, seafood, dancing until the wee hours of the morning, Christmas, the ocean, dim sum, and a Guinness World Record holding light show.

skrimps   fish face

red meat   greens

1000 Buddhas

incense

mountain top

big Buddha

dragons

high in the sky

city lake house

orange bridge

smiley face   waiting for a bite

special delivery   fishing boat

victoria peak

two towers

stanley beach

Thanks, Stuart, for showing me around all week. I can’t wait to see you again soon. Now I’m only five months behind on blogging!

Mumbai’s Multi-colored Masses

The two things that I was overwhelmed by the most on my trip to India were one, how colorful everything was.  The saris, the flowers, the fruits, the twinkle lights hanging from the trees lining the streets, the baubles and bangles, shoes and sunsets. It was all so overwhelmingly beautiful even though Mumbai is one of the most polluted and populated cities in the world. Which brings me to the second source of my overwhelmedness. The people. And traffic. Everywhere and at almost all hours of the day and night the streets were crowded with buses, cars, rickshaws, pedestrians, even horse-drawn carriages. There were SO many people. Also, the food was phenomenal. From the home-cooked meals I got to enjoy, to the restaurants, to the street food, it was all delicious. So three things. Three things struck me the most about Mumbai: the vibrancy, the masses and the eats. juhu beach

pushing off

recess

fabric shop

shopping

trinkets and baubels charmed

street snacks

fruits

traffic

The Taj

hands in

mass to temple

temple sunset

Thank you Toral, for letting me stay with your incredibly welcoming family. I’m so happy I got to visit you in your homeland.

A Clean City, A Healthy Environment

International Volunteer Day is celebrated every year on December 5th. Well, I don’t know how celebrated it is (although it should be), but on the calendar anyway it’s designated as December 5th. This past year around that time, I had just moved to Fianarantsoa and taken over the role of supervisor for the English Club there called Tea and Talk. I wanted do something that would remind the people of Fianar that Peace Corps was working in their city, and I also wanted to do something to promote Tea and Talk. I took advantage of International Volunteer Day to organize a city-wide street clean up and to paint a mural in the center of town that would remind people to keep the city clean. Along with the Tea and Talk members, I went to the mayor of the city to ask for permission to hold the event. He agreed and gave us his official stamp of approval along with a promise to donate wheel barrows, shovels, brooms and even workers on the day of the event. We went to three of the city’s radio stations and recorded a message, to be announced everyday leading up to Volunteer Day, to promoting it and to talk about the importance of volunteerism and protecting the environment. We also hand delivered invitations to schools, organizations and businesses around town inviting them to participate in the clean up. The day of the clean up arrived, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled with the turn out. Middle school students, in their school uniforms, carrying brooms and buckets showed up. Workers from my bank showed up. Teachers showed up. University students showed up. Government officials showed up, all ready to work. It was such a success and the amount of participation warmed my heart.

Before commencing with the street clean up, Tojo, president of Tea and Talk,
gave a rousing speech to motivate everyone (which Tara really liked).

rallying the troops

In the morning, some worked harder than others.

hard(ly) working

In the afternoon, along with other Peace Corps Volunteers I’d invited to participate, Tea and Talk started painting the mural.

artists

The final work of art says: “Tanana Madio, Tontolo Iainana Salama!” In English, “A Clean City, A Healthy Environment!”

mural painting