Things I’ve learned in Madagascar:
1: The United States is in France 2: Michael Jackson is NOT dead 3: 98% of the world speaks Malagasy 4: All Americans look alike 5: I am too old to give birth 6: It’s acceptable to squat anywhere if you have to pee 7: Stealing your neighbor’s vegetables is acceptable if you “O-Day” at the gate 8: Machetes: better fashion accessories than an iPhone or Hunter clogs 9: It is socially acceptable to pick your nose, spit, or burp in any social situation, formal or otherwise 10: The best Malagasy parties start in my backyard at 2am!
So, I just spent the last two hours of my life listening to Goldfrapp with my women’s group. They asked for American music, and unfortunately I don’t have any current top 40 with me, so they got a synth party (didn’t think they’d appreciate Nosaj Thing or Flying Lotus….). I have been spending almost every afternoon with them because vingt-six is coming up, which is Malagasy independence day. From what I’ve heard, it’s an excuse to be drunk all day (which seems to be the case anyway) and have a parade. The women’s group has been pre-gaming all week, drinking toka gasy (moonshine) after we farm in the afternoons. I’m not complaining because we were able to double the number of plat-bandes (beds) in our garden yesterday. We’re now up to 20 beds total (about 15-20 meters long, all dug by hand, mind you), and I’m extremely impressed with how motivated these women are. Today they tried to teach me how to dance gsay-style (think missy elliot circa ’98). It was completely ridiculous, but I got off the hook when I told them I wouldn’t be able to dance when taking pictures of them at vingt-six (they didn’t complain, as they love to look at pictures of themselves).
Nothing new is going on at the pepinaire, I’m sad to say. Next week we have a round of Japanese entrepreneurs looking to invest in Malagasy cash crops, but I’m not holding my breath (also hoping that they don’t speak English…). I haven’t seen my counterpart since I attended his family picnic. I didn’t realize it was a Pentecost picnic until I had a couple of beers… luckily another volunteer was with me, and she actually speaks gasy so the attention was off of me. Some workers from the plantation brought me vanilla plants for my yard on Monday. I have four varieties: Mexican, Indonesian, Jaun, and Bourbon. They are cuttings about 3 ft tall. It still baffles me that they are orchids.
Now that I’ve been in my house for over a month, I’m getting a little, well, bored. I hope to get busy with my CDS report (community diagnostic survey) for Peace Corps, as it is expected to take the full two years to complete. It’s really just progressive data collection, but Peace Corps talks about it with a sense of urgency. Luckily, I have a light at the end of the tunnel. My family has confirmed that we’ll be spending my birthday, Christmas, and maybe New Years in Spain. Thus far, the itinerary includes Madrid, Barcelona (Gaudi!), Seville, and Rioja. I’m really just looking forward to staying out past 5:30pm (it’s true, I definitely don’t go out when it’s dark in my village),listening to Spanish guitar, and tapas (sans rice), of course.
I’ve been spending huge percentages of my living allowance on coconuts (4-5 per day), just for the water, and then I give the meat away to my neighbors. I hadn’t seen any green coconuts (only good for the water) at my market, but one of my neighbors brought me a couple today. Apparently, he has a bunch of green coconut trees, and isn’t a huge fan of rano coco, so he’ll be sending kids over to my house everyday with a basket green coconuts! Just like nature’s Gatorade.
Looking forward to receiving more letters, magazines, etc. from the States! I have another round of letters headed your way today, should take 2-3 weeks. Miss you all,
-MallorE-eh! (apparently, my name in gasy)
P.S. after telling my women’s group that my parents are planning on visiting Nosiarina next year, the women proceeded to ask if my mother spoke Malagasy… yes, because everybody in the United States speaks Malagasy.
P.P.S. I think I’ll start including the music I’ve been listening to at my house. Considering that my neighbor listens to “Happy Birthday” on repeat at full blast (sung by children, no less) between the hours of 11am and 7pm, it is impossible not to listen to my music on a regular basis (external speakers have saved my life). Last week’s playlist: 1: Don’t Nobody Care About Us – Jay Dee 2: Quest – Nosaj Thing 3: Aidys Girl is a Computer – Darkstar 4: Hubble – Actress 5: Engineer Fear – Birdy Nam Nam 6: Something Bells – Daedelus 7: Funky – DJ Shadow x Cut Chemist 8: Where We At – Jurassic 5 9: Gorrillaz Routine – Kid Koala x P Love 10: Odessa – Caribou 11: Menopause Man – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti 12: Electricity – The Avalanches 13: Heartlands – Games 14: Sun Lips – Black Moth Super Rainbow 15: He Got Game – Public Enemy 16: Hold U – Masta Ace 17: What Yall Wanna Do – Peanut Butter Wolf 18: To Care (Like You) – James Blake 19: Go With You – Toro Y Moi 20: Winter Spring – Ezekiel Honig 21: Chariots of Silk – T.Rex 22: Rubric – Philip Glass 23: Top Ranking – Blonde Redhead 24: Lina – Les Sins 25: Confirmation – Wild Nothing