Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Big Trip South Part I

            And I’m back! Today’s date is Tuesday, September 13, which means I only have three more days of being a Peace Corps trainee until I am officially sworn in as a volunteer this Friday! I am so excited to finally start my own life here in Madagascar, but it’s also like leaving all over again, because I’ve built a mini life from myself here at the training center over the past few months, complete with good friends, good food, and a pretty regimented routine of language class and culture sessions. So it’s scary to try and realistically comprehend living in this country on my own, and building a life and routine from scratch in a place that is totally different than where I am now. But the move couldn’t come at a better time because I’m definitely getting tired of the whole training routine here. To catch all of my followers up on what I’ve been doing for the past month, here it is: language, language, and language. ‘Burned out’ really doesn’t even cover how I’ve felt trying to soak in 7+ hours a day of Malagasy, but I have to say that I do feel it’s all been worth it since my language competency is pretty high (thank goodness!) I’ve given a 10-minute presentation on family planning, taught nutrition to a classroom full of 5th graders and Sex Ed to a classroom full of 11th graders, and given a 20 minute presentation on family planning, birth control, condom use, and STIs…ALL IN MALAGASY! Not to mention, I made it through language immersion only receiving one red card for speaking English (please refer to my earlier post if you don’t know what the whole red-card system is). A lot of people say that training ends up being the hardest part of your service, and if that turns out to be true, I’m happy to be making it through the whole experience still happy being here and not wanting to go home or anything.

            Today is Saturday September 17, 2011. I am finally an official Peace Corps volunteer! Yesterday morning myself and the 26 other volunteers raised our right hands and swore the official oath. And, for the first time in the last seven days, it didn’t rain! So it was a beautiful day and a very nice ceremony, and just like that, my ten weeks of training are over. It’s honestly a little surreal! The advice that Peace Corps Washington gives to incoming trainees is to pack and plan for the first three months that you will be in country. For me, that meant I brought a lot of sweaters and enough Fiber One bars to carry me through any digestive problems. But now I’m all out of Fiber One bars and I’m moving to a site where the weather is decidedly much warmer than where I’ve been for the past ten weeks. But on the other side, I am so excited to get some independence back and have the opportunity to really start working in a community and not just practicing my presentations and counseling sessions on sympathetic English-speaking listeners (haha). This morning at 6:30am, I left the Peace Corps Training Center, my home for the past few months, and started on the three day drive to my site in the south of Madagascar. We should arrive on Monday night to Fort Dauphin, where I’ll be doing all my ‘housewarming’ shopping for myself and my new house/hut. For example, I will be purchasing a powerful gas stove since my time in homestay showed me that I absolutely cannot cook over a fire for the next two years, I just do not have the skills or the patience. Then on Wednesday, we set up my new house/hut and if everything goes according to plan, Peace Corps will leave me there to start my new life! I have heard that one of the scariest moments in any PCV’s service is watching the Peace Corps car drive away after moving into site. I’m a little nervous for this feeling of momentary panic, but as with every emotion involved with being a Peace Corps volunteer, the negative emotion is accompanied by a foil emotion, in this case, excitement about moving to a new place and starting the work I came here to do!
Thanks to my friend Eric Campbell for the cool pictures

            So to sum of my last month here: survived red cards, became competent in a language that sometimes makes no sense, gave four presentations about something that I care about and is relevant to women here, got sworn in as a volunteer, and started the BIG TRIP SOUTH. The next few months will be a very interesting time for me, so there will be a lot more to write about then, especially for those of my followers who more enjoy the “Monica is an Idiot” anecdotes similar to the chicken story from an earlier post of mine. Things to look forward to in future posts: Monica tries to put Malagasy furniture together, Monica tries to quit speaking English cold turkey, and Monica tries to live on the beach without actually possessing a bathing suit. I am excited and nervous and ecstatic about the happenings of the next few months of my life, so please stick with me! I should have Internet about once a month, so look out for me again around this time in October. I miss everyone a lot, thank you so much for the mail that has started trickling in, keep it coming! It really makes my day anytime I hear anything from home. And wish me luck as I attempt to survive the treacherous and windy roads of Madagascar without projectiling everywhere over the next few days. Love and bisous from my side of the world! 


  1. Hi Monica,
    Looks and sounds like you are doing so well! I just read thru your whole blog--what great stories. Gee, I am glad I never had to do my laundry in my river up north. Congratulations on all you have accomplished thus far. We love you and will be thinking of you often. Keep up the good work--you are making a difference.
    love you, Aunt Sue and Uncle Tim

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  3. Hi, Monica. I don't think I've met you, but I have met your folks - they're friends of my dear friends Jim and Elaine D. I had sent Elaine a Peace Corps link a few weeks ago, thinking Sam might be interested in considering it...then today, Elaine sent me a link to your blog. It is SO AWESOME that you're doing this. One person can totally make a difference, and you are doing that. Your posts are fascinating and inspiring. Sending you all the best as you work to make the world a better place.
    Debbie W