“It’s hard to be efficient in this country,” I say to Peace Corps education volunteer, Erica Wherry, one evening after dinner in Vondrozo. “That,” she says, “is very true.”
Madagascar is the land of “mora mora,” meaning that everyone takes life slow. For the most part, as I draw to the end of my three months in country, I realize that I have come to terms with a pace of existence so different from that which I knew back home. I have grown accustomed to changes in the schedule, to unforseen challenges, to waiting for things to happen. “Nothing teaches patience like life in Madagascar,”says Brian. That, also, is very true.
However, in these last two weeks of work time in Vondrozo—our field excursions finished and our only remaining work of the computer and desk variety—I find a renewed frustration and an eagerness for resources that are not, and will not be, at my disposal for some time yet. How much I would love to fact-check my statistics with a quick search on GoogleScholar, how nice it would be to charge the video camera in the morning and skip out to the countryside for a few shots in the late afternoon! As it is, however, our work capacity is handicapped by four hours of computer battery and the strict hours of city-wide electricity—5pm to midnight on weekdays, noon to midnight on those precious weekends.
Not that there aren’t plenty of other things to do when the electronic work can’t be done! As Christa says, “Cooking takes twice as long here”, for all meals come from scratch, and dry rice and beans take a long time to cook. Our favorite, delectable, chickpea-like bean, voanjo-bory, takes a full three hours to prepare to a satisfactory softness, but we think nothing of it. Three hours for meal preparation is nothing in Madagascar—just think of Maman’Dilo and the chickens!
The simple tasks like laundry and dishes take much longer, too, for everything is done by hand. You can’t exactly multi-task while waiting for the laundry when it is you who must scrub and brush and attack the clothes that are never really going to be clean again, anyway. It takes me almost two hours to do a load of wash, and then who knows how long to dry if the wet-season rains start in again in the late afternoon.
And so, life has its challenges in Madagascar—perhaps felt all the more in the semi-civilized environment of Vondrozo. In the field, at least, we are so removed from the technological world that it is futile to worry about it much. In Vondrozo, we are more aware of developed-world expectations and developing-world resources, but I dare not complain—life here is wonderful, still. There are mitsangstanganas and soccer matches and breaks to walk to the corner stand for coffee and mofo’akondro, the delicious fried bananas that are somewhat of a southeastern Malagasy specialty. I’ve already decided to one day open a restaurant in the U.S. called Café Fary, serving sugarcane coffee and all types of mofo treats. Maybe the proceeds can help fund Vondrozo National Park. Christa recommends mats on the floor and bamboo decor, and Brian suggests that Berkeley, CA might be a receptive venue. We’ll see if this Stanford grad can bring herself to make the move...
This is goodbye again for a short while. As with many things in Madagascar, our internet key is broken, and my communications are posted at the expense of our Peace Corps friends’ limitless generosity. However, Brian is currently en route to Hawaii for his brother’s wedding, and Erica is soon to leave us, too, for In-Service-Training in Tana. So, in addition to losing friends in Vondrozo, we also lose internet next week, and the blog must fall silent again.
We are scheduled to arrive in Tana next Saturday, December 11, and at that time, I will write again with closing thoughts and final news from the eighth continent. Goodbye for now, and I hope you enjoy reading the new posts about our most recent adventures sur terrain. Stay tuned for videos and photos and all wifi-requiring blog additions in a week!