27 March 2009

Goodbye Madagascar

I keep trying to write on paper the blogs that I want to post, about the political situation, how it has effected my work, my mentality, its root causes, the way it impacts peoples lives in the countryside, Malagasy people's takes on things, what its like being evacuated, what I'm doing next, etc. At first I couldn't really process things. I couldn't even keep a journal. Now, all these ideas and all my experiences over the last two months are all run together and I still can't make sense of things, nor write clearly about them. So rather than try to analyze it all or really share my experiences, I'll just give you a dry, blow-by-blow to bring you up to date. It'll be bare bones, but maybe after some questions from you all I will be able to elucidate matters a little more. I'll try to post some pics, too.

So late January I left my site to go to the capital and pick up my good friend Alex, who was visiting from the states. We had grand plans but unrest broke out the day he arrived. After driving through looting and general mayhem, we holed up at a Malagasy friend of mine's house. After a few days with no resolution in site, Alex left for South Africa to take his vacation elsewhere and I got consolidated with about 50 other volunteers. We stayed at a training facility for three weeks playing volleyball, reading, getting daily briefs on the situation, and generally going stir crazy. We all wanted to get back to our communities. During this time Liz was supposed to have arrived to come down and work in Vondrozo again with me, but WWF suspended volunteer activities so she couldn't come.

Finally, things were deemed face enough for us to go back to our sites under a heightened security protocol. I tried to get back to work on my way down to site. We had written a grant proposal before I left and I took it to a couple donors. It was clear though that things were pretty much at a standstill and agencies were waiting for things in Madagascar to get better before resuming normal operations. Then I got caught in town with some shooting and had to be moved with one other volunteer to a safe town for a couple more days.

I finally got back to Vondrozo in late February. The students I worked with were disheartened by the whole deal and not motivated to keep doing projects. My WWF agents were grounded and not allowed to go out in the field and do their work. So my work changed. I did some project planning with WWF and helped a friend to plant rice using improved techniques. It was a productive week of work, all in all. But then the military factionalized and the security situation in Tana degraded substantially. Peace Corps decided to pull out.

A week later I was in South Africa, with all 120 or so of us who had not chosen to leave earlier. We had a rushed conference to either get reassigned or separated from Peace Corps. I was not done and really wanted to transfer, but my medical exam turned up some things that Peace Corps was not comfortable with, so they want me to go back to the states and get healthy. Immediately after finding out I couldn't transfer, I booked a flight to Cape Town and the next day was here.

I've been here a few days and love the town. Tomorrow a few friends and I will rent a car and do an overland journey through southern Africa. We are all really excited for the trip but still stressed and sad to see others go.

Next month Ill go to Malaysia for two weeks with Liz before returning to Africa. I want to make it up to Cairo and into Europe. We'll see how far the money lasts. Eventually, I'll get back stateside to have these medical check-ups while I wait for things in Madagascar to right themselves so that I can return.

Damn, I miss that island so much already...