Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How Peace Corps Made Me an Animal Hater and Three Other Ways I’ve Changed Since I Got Here

[I’ve been here eight months, so it seemed a fitting time for a list-style post.]

1.     Animal Hater
           While I won’t pretend that I was ever a passionate PETA supporter and I’ve never called a bearded dragon my child (Grace..), I’ve always liked animals. Really, who doesn’t? I’ve had fish and cats as pets since I was a kid, and Addie the dog is probably the most valued and beloved member of the Skelton family. But since moving to Madagascar, any love I ever felt for animals in the past has been extinguished. I hate all animals. Chickens, roosters, ducks, goats, dogs, cats, cows, mice, rats: you name it, I hate it. And before you condemn me as a heartless rhymes with witch, please refer back to some of my former posts (read: Monica Eludes an Escaped Cow)! I think part of it is the fact that I live in a village where the main industry is agriculture, so barnyard animals are always roaming around. Sometimes to amuse myself, I just throw rocks at the chickens and see how long it takes me before I hit one. Lucky for the chickens, I have pretty poor aim. And WHY would a rooster crow not only at 4 am when the sun is rising, but also at 3 pm in the afternoon when I’m trying to do something?? Because roosters are stupid. Many of you may not know this, but a goat is one of the most irritating animals on the planet, because it’s bleating sounds extremely human. It’s unsettling. Google “goat that sounds like a man” and you’ll see what I mean. Imagine living with that. I don’t want this post to become a rant on animals, so I’ll end it with this: I recently got a mouse as a roommate. EXCELLENT!

2.     Nature Lover
     Ok, I have always liked nature, probably more than the average person. But, after 8 months living in the most beautiful place in the world, it still takes my breath away. The green of the rain forest, the enormity of the mountains, the blue of the ocean.. I could write poems about it, if only I knew how to write poetry. Take today for example. I’m here in Fort Dauphin to work the cultural center but also primarily to finally finish writing my health curriculum and project proposal for the Peer Health Ambassador program I’m trying to start. I was lamenting to a Malagasy friend of mine about how I had no good place to stay, and she kindly offered me a bed at her house. She told me the neighborhood it was in so I knew it would be nice, but she never told me it would be inspiring! She lives in a roomy bungalow right on the seaside cliffs of the Indian Ocean. Literally, the windows to the room I’m staying in open right out to the ocean. It’s amazing. Nothing compares to the beauty of the completely un-developed ocean side property that is all of Fort Dauphin. I love it.

Photo credit to my friend Amy Stephens, an Azafady volunteer who worked in Mahatalaky. 

3.     Happy Waiter
       I believe I’ve written before about the notion of “Malagasy time.” Someone says be there at 9am, they really just mean sometime in the morning. Someone says a restaurant is open for lunch, they really mean it’s closed from 12-3pm. A bush taxi driver says the broken down car will be fixed in a little, he really means after at least 4 hours. This has all become the realities of my life here in Madagascar. At first, it would drive me crazyyy. Like bang-your-head-against-the-wall-scream-your-head-off crazy. And then I just got used to it. In fact, I can now say that I depend on waiting anytime I ever go anywhere! I always bring a book, and since I’m currently in the middle of the epic that is the Game of Thrones series, I actually look forward to these time lapses because I have an excuse to read! Yay!

4.    My Relative Role
      Every Peace Corps volunteer, whether they admit it or not, wants to save the world. Even if it’s only in the littlest way, it’s still part of the reason you join Peace Corps. But moving to my tiny village in rural Madagascar has really changed my perspective, not only on what it means to “change the world” but the role one person can play in making a difference. I used to think my success as a volunteer would be based on the number of projects I completed or the number of wells I built here. After 8 months here, I measure my success based on how my community values and perceives me as one of its members. I am currently working on the proposal for the project I want to base my entire service around, and I am so excited about it. I really feel like this is an idea that my whole community can get behind, and an idea that I can potentially take to many more small communities around the Antanosy and Antandroy regions of southern Madagascar. I’ll keep you updated as this idea comes to fruition, hopefully I will have the proposal completed in the next week!

In other news, work at the Health Center continues and my responsibilities there continue to grow. My English Club is flourishing; I’ve really found a lot of joy in teaching kids who genuinely want to learn! My camera broke (sad!) but I’m trying to get in the habit of taking pictures on my iPod so I can keep up to date with photos. I should be able to post pictures of the cultural center in Fort Dauphin, my English Club, and the health center in Mahatalaky next time! XO

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