I’m in Farafangana for the next few days to catch the tail end of WWF’s regional meeting. Marlin, the coordinator from Fianarantsoa, is here, and we’ll be reviewing the status of WWF’s southeast Madagascar project and elaborating my work plan for the next five months. Hopefully I’ll score a little beach time and get rowdy at 310 (the local club) while in town, too.
Thanks to Jordy, Drew, Claire, Kreeks (that damn snowflake…), Kyle, Huff (he claims to have played an advisory role), and, especially, Katie Mancino for the letters and care package. Just about made my life with the spam singles, butter buds, beef jerky, trail mix, etc. Thanks also to Mom, Mimi, and Katie Mchugh for the letters and magazines; English reading material is always cash money. And Shirmila, your postcard finally reached me, as well. Congrats again on the new job.
A bunch of people have asked what might be useful in future care packages (besides letters and trail mix), so I’ve quickly thrown together a list of suggestions:
1. Trail mix
2. Dry bags (the Velcro camping kind are working really well), or anything else that keeps things from getting soaked. Jimmy, I’m still finding use for that emergency poncho Suzanne gave us in Boston.
3. Beef/turkey jerky
- Chili powder. I just discovered that I can buy ground beef in Vondrozo, so I’m stoked at the prospect of making a big pot of Mom’s chili.
- Garlic salt
- Miscellaneous (anything that sounds delicious)
6. Tupperware/other containers
7. Cliff Bars/Powerbars/other -bars
8. Barbeque sauce
9. Worchester sauce
10. Peanut butter
11. Cheese. No idea if there’s any feasible way to send this, but I miss it. Claire, you can sympathize, right?
12. Seeds for the garden (vegetables/fruits/herbs/spices)
13. Nori and more spam (for musubis)
14. Trail mix
15. Drink mixes (tea, iced tea, Gatorade, Cristal Lite, etc.)
16. Pringles/Goldfish/Oreos/Cheesits/other snacks I never bought when I was actually in the US
17. Books/magazines/movies/TV shows/sports shows. I’ll marry whoever sends me ND games and analysis. Except Billy Lewis.
Those are just suggestions, though; you really can’t go wrong. I’ll be ecstatic to receive and find use for anything and everything.
Also, some good news—Peace Corps sent me an Orange USB modem that works in Vondrozo, so I’ll be able to check email more frequently than I have been. It’s expensive and slow (like dial-up back in the 90s), but it still beats the 6-hour taxi-brousse ride to Farafangana. The trip here yesterday was especially bad. I bought my spot at the last minute and had to sit in the middle of the truck bed on bags of rice. It wouldn’t have been a problem, except that I kept slipping off of the bags and onto an irate mom behind me. Pretty sure she bruised me.
One other anecdote—I’m staying in a beach bungalow at Hotel Aba, the cheapest room in town. It has a single light and an area to take a bucket shower, but you have to request hot water from the kitchen. This morning I woke up and asked for hot water, and a hotel staff member came over shortly with a bucket. As he was leaving, he noticed that I was digging at my toe with a needle. “Misy parasy,” I said. “There’s a parasite.” For the third time, I’d picked up what I think is medically known as a “Tonga penetrant,” a bug that burrows under your skin and lays a large number of small white eggs. If you don’t dig out the bug and clear away the eggs, they’ll hatch and spread; it’s supposed to be a painful and itchy experience. Anyway, once the guy saw what I was doing (and saw how amateurly I was doing it), he snatched the needle from me, grabbed my foot, and did it himself—a kind gesture, to say the least. That’s room service in Madagascar.
Five months down, and no major crises or afflictions to date—just a few flesh wounds, bruises, parasites, and gastrointestinal bugs. And a pretty gross- looking beard.