The last couple months have been crazy. There’s been so much going on, and it’s starting to scare me how quickly time is passing. The holiday season came with a lot of ups and downs, and, to be honest, I’m extremely happy that it’s over with.
Thanksgiving was a hoot. We celebrated it the Friday after so it wouldn’t interfere with classes. Israel (my site-mate) and his friend who was studying abroad here showed up at my house with a giant bag of food and a live turkey. Now, I may no longer be the pleather-wearing, tofurkey-eating, PETA-loving activist many of you so fondly remember me as; nonetheless, I had a slight emotional breakdown as I gazed into the eyes of my dinner and promptly made the guys go far down the hill to kill him. We spent the rest of the afternoon cooking American-style (or as close as Malagasy market availability allowed) Thanksgiving food. Israel’s friend and I went on a beer-run to the nearest bar – quite the ordeal traversing several hills in the midday heat with enough booze for the entire party. Of course, passing a large group of my students on the road while lugging an entire backpack and crate full of beer bottles didn’t make the trek any less uncomfortable. The real party got started soon after that. We had about 17 people: A handful of PCVs, a bunch of our Malagasy friends, my American neighbor, his Malagasy wife and 2 kids, and one Brit. Among the many things served were cornbread, stuffing, and potatoes, Malagasy street food as appetizers, and zebu shish-kebabs afterwards. Definitely my most odd and eclectic Thanksgiving, though the American traditions of gratitude, gluttony, and drunken bickering served as reminders of what the holiday is truly about.
Israel, Paul, and I flew out of Fort Dauphin around December 12 for a week of training back in Mantasoa. After the initial excitement of seeing everyone again wore off, I had no further desire to be there and would much rather had stayed at site. That seemed to be the general consensus of my training group, as IST (the training) was pretty darn boring and largely pointless. The week did contain some highlights, however, such as a house-warming rum party thrown by the security officer at the US Embassy and a tour/pool party at the embassy itself, which is absolutely GIGANTIC and comes complete with a poolside bar stocked with Malagasy soda, beer, and….GUINNESS.
I took a taxi-brousse down to Fianarantsoa a couple days after training, spent a couple days there, then headed back to Ranomafana with Ryan, a PCV friend who lives near Fianar. It felt more like a homecoming than anything. As the taxi-brousse from Tana pulled into the Fianar station, I was immediately recognized by a group of friends who work there. Even around the city (which is the second biggest in the country, I believe) random people who I didn’t even remember asked me if I was that girl from Centre Valbio. Ranomafana was incredible. Ryan and I got a tour of the park; although we didn’t see much in the way of wildlife, it was so nice to be back in my old stomping grounds. That afternoon was Valbio’s staff Christmas party. I can’t even begin to describe how fantastic it felt to see all my old friends in one place at one time. By the time my short trip was finished, it felt like I’d never left – except this time I was actually able to speak Malagasy to everyone as opposed to broken Malafrenglish. As much as I love Fort Dauphin, Ranomafana is still very much my home in Madagascar.
Christmas Eve, Ryan and I went to another volunteer’s site near Fianar. We had a huge Christmas (Eve) dinner and brunch the next morning with a big group of nearby PCVs. Christmas day, I headed back to Fianar and left for Tana the next morning, then flew back to Fort Dauphin on the 28th. It’s incredible how I originally went to Tana wishing I could stay at site, then left Tana three weeks later not ready to return. I had a rough few days of adjustment being back here, but ultimately I’m glad to be back. I have, however, already made tentative plans to move back “home” to Ranomafana during the Grandes Vacances (summer break) and work there until school starts again.
I have much more to write about life here and my interpretation of it, but that post is coming soon, keep checking back. Hope everyone had a fantastic holiday!