Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Moni Hits the Road!

            After six long weeks of training, myself and the 13 other Health volunteers were rewarded with our Technical Training Trip aka vacation!! For the first time since my arrival on this island, I actually saw the ocean! We road tripped 8 hours to the east coast of Madagascar to a city called Tamatave. And what a road trip it was. After eight hours of narrow, twisting, and winding roads, I had never felt happier to arrive somewhere. Tamatave kind of reminds me of a post-apocalyptic bohemian beach town. The roads and buildings are crumbling, and the beach is really dirty, but there are remnants of the French colonial influence all around, so it creates this very unique and strange vibe for visitors to the city. Our first night there, we all went out to pizza, and I have never been happier to eat a slice of my favorite food, except for maybe that time I gave up pizza for Lent. One of my friends got a candid picture of me mid-bite, and I will do everything I can to make sure that the photo never sees the light of day. :) And even though our hotel had electricity, old habits die hard, and I still went to bed at 8pm!
            On our second day in Tamatave, we visited Sanitec, an NGO working on water sanitation and latrine projects. They had started a locally run latrine factory and were training people on latrine building, which was pretty cool. We learn a LOT about the multitudes of NGOs working in Madagascar, so it’s nice to put a face to any organization. We also visited with Population Services International (PSI), a French NGO that focuses on sexual health and awareness. For dinner, we went out for burgers. You can probably see a pattern building here, American food is so hard to come by that it was impossible to turn down while we were somewhere that had more than one restaurant!
On the third day, we left Tamatave and drove a couple hours north to a town called Foule Pointe. Foule Pointe is a medium sized town located right on the Indian Ocean. It is very beautiful and tropical. There, we visited the CSB (the local health center/doctor’s office) and helped with vaccine distribution and baby weighing. After that visit, we hit the beach. Being that I am a genius, I forgot to bring any bathing suit with me, because really who brings a bathing suit to an island? But luckily one of my friends had an extra, so I was still able to enjoy it. The beach here was not like at home in Half Moon Bay. The breaker was waaaay far out, so there were no waves, and the water was really shallow. It was gorgeous. We all stayed in little bungalows that opened right out to the ocean, it was breathtaking. That night, we went to a PSI event where they used visual and audio media (blaring sirens, loud music videos, etc) to gather a crowd, and then they do a couple health demonstrations and then show a movie with some health message. The Peace Corps volunteers who were training us lead a couple condom races, which was hilarious because the Malagasy volunteers were so shy! After the PSI event, we all went back to the beach for a bonfire, which was a great end to the night.
After Foule Pointe, we trekked it 12 hours back to Antananarivo, the capital city. It was the longest drive of my life, but we finally made it to the Peace Corps transit house, and it has Internet, hot water, and comfortable beds! It is quite the mecca. I left for Demystification, of Demyst on Saturday. Three others and myself went and stayed with a current volunteer at her site about 95K away from Tana. We didn’t do a ton, but it was really nice to get an idea of what life will be like on our own, away from Peace Corps at our own sites. We went to her market day, cooked our own meals, and walked around. It was actually really relaxing, especially after all the extensive traveling I had been doing. The local people though were shocked to see five vazahas all together in one place, sometimes I felt like a walking freak show, but you just have to laugh. The other benefit to Demyst was to experience and learn how to use to taxi brousse (bush taxi) system. Basically, the brousse companies just fit as many people as they possible can into one brousse, and then send it off. So if a normal seat in the brousse would fit three people, the brousse fits five. Needless to say, it’s squished! On our way back from Demyst this morning, I sat next to an old lady who fell asleep on my shoulder, and a chicken that squawked for most of the ride. It’s an odd experience, but one that I’m going to have to get used to.
I leave this afternoon to return to the Peace Corps Training Center for the remaining four weeks of my training, before I swear in and move to my site down south. I’m so excited for what’s coming next, but living completely on my own is a daunting concept. If the past weeks here have shown me anything, it’s that I can handle more than I thought, so I’m going forward with that mentality. I won’t have Internet again until sometime in mid-September, so please send me snail mail! I appreciate so much all the support and positivity everyone is giving out to me, it keeps me motivated and happy. Bisous!

The view from my bungalow hotel room at sunrise

The beach at Foule Pointe

1 comment:

  1. Monica, I am so blown away by your blog--it's so interesting and funny and Monica-esque. How fascinating! I'm so happy things are working out and envious too of your adventure. Gemma and I miss you a lot and I can't wait to show her the photos on the blog. Last night we were reading a book called ``Tell Me Again About The Night I Was Born'' and on the last page there's a mother and baby encircled by a several people and she pointed to them saying, ``That's Monica, and Emma and Ian.'' XXOO