Monday, December 26, 2011

Joyeux Noel!

I am currently on the plane headed back from Paris to Madagascar after my 10-day trip. I’ll keep this short and sweet for those of you who could care less about my cushy vacation in the first world! :) Since leaving Mahatalaky and my last post, I had my Peace Corps Inservice Training. It was great to see a lot of my fellow stage-mates again and reconnect on what we’ve each been up to the past few months. We also actually did some work and training too! It really helped me refocus on my role as a Peace Corps volunteer, and a couple of my friends and I came up with some really cool project ideas were going to try and get off the ground in the next three to six months (I’ll talk about that later!) AND THEN I WENT TO PARIS!

Being this far away from home and my family and friends has strongly reinforced a few things in my life, the first and most important being how much I love my family. I feel so lucky that I was able to go on this trip with my sister and spend Christmas with family. Not to mention the whole Paris thing! Emma met me at the airport in Paris, and we caused a little scene since I was so happy to see her. I definitely felt the whole culture shock thing at first (there’s so many cars! And people! And food choices! And refrigeration!), but it’s pretty easy to fall back into old patterns. I also found that since my two worlds (first and third) are so different, there’s virtually no overlap at all so it’s not very hard to keep them separate and fit in wherever I go. The other bid difference of course was the weather. It was a little strange to be cold!! It’s been months now that I’ve wished for chilly weather and then once I got it I was wishing it were hot again! The grass is always greener, right?

Emma and I went everywhere and did everything that we could in the time that we had in Paris. The Louvre, Versailles & Marie Antoinette’s Estates, Museé d’Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, the Sacre Coeur, Montmartre, the Arc de Triomphe, the Christmas Markets on Champs Élysées, Cathedral Notre Dame, and that’s not even all! We definitely made the most of our time. I also ate tons of delicious well-stored and refrigerated food and drink, and made up for lost time on eating no dairy for the past three months. I also ate escargot and it was delicious! One of my good friends from college also happened to be traveling in Paris after his study abroad quarter so I got to see him. It was the ultimate jackpot, Christmas in Paris with my sister (family &) and Ben (friend[s])!! I’ve posted some pictures below from our Paris trip.

Eiffel Tower


Sacre Coeur

Christmas Eve 

And just like that, I’ve been in Madagascar for six months! I fly back to Fort Dauphin tomorrow (Tuesday December 27) where my Madagascar family will be waiting for me at the airport. I’m excited to get back to Mahatalaky, and I feel lucky that I have people that really want me to come back too! In January I’m going to start work on Nutrition and Sanitation curriculums for kids and adults to teach in the schools and to other interested groups. If all goes according to plan, I want to plant a big community garden as a manifestation of healthy living. I’m also going to start planning and mapping out an idea I came up during Inservice Training with my two friends. We want to develop a Sexual Health and Education curriculum to implement at the school or with the Boy’s and Girl’s Club (which I’m also planning on starting in 2012) with the aim to identify specific young people who are interested in training to become peer health ambassadors. The idea behind the peer health ambassador is to ensure sustainability, so when I leave, other young peers will be able to carry on with the health education I started. I’m really excited about this idea, but it’s a big undertaking so we’re definitely going to spend some time planning and organizing before we get anything off the ground. But I hope that by summer we’ll have the beginnings of a peer health program in the works!

As you can hopefully tell, my New Year’s resolution is to figure out the ‘work’ part of my life as a Peace Corps volunteer, and I am SO excited! I feel so at home in Mahatalaky, and I am ready to really start contributing and being productive and proactive in the community. Remember, I’m always reachable, just call me or send an email! I’m going to try and get on more of a schedule for going into Fort Dauphin so hopefully I’ll be able to start better predicting when I’ll have Internet access. I hope everyone had a happy holiday and enjoy all your New Year celebrations! I think of you all often, and I’m so lucky and blessed to have the love and support from everyone at home, Kisses!

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