I'm an Agriculture Extension volunteer with the Peace Corps on the beautiful island of Madagascar. My first year of service I mostly focused on agriculture specific projects like rice cultivation, community gardening and composting for large scale farms. Now my focus has switched to trying to save lemur habitat/natural forest. I'd love to answer any questions you might have!

My reason for doing an AMA is to get the word out on a grant I'm trying to get funded. It's an amazing project for an amazing place. Please share!

Proof: Here's a photo of me at a river crossing on my way to do a medical mission with some American doctors. The shirt I'm wearing has the name of the village in which I live printed on it.

edit; Need to take a bus somewhere, will be back on in a few hours to respond to comments

edit2; Wow this got a lot more interest than I thought! Thanks a lot for asking questions and I hope I was a help in sharing a little bit of Malagasy culture and life with you. If you still have questions please don't hesitate to ask, I'll get around to answering them when I can. And if you can, please donate, but if you can't, please share the link posted above with folks you think might be interested. Thanks again, Reddit!

Comments: 279 • Responses: 75  • Date: 

julieacts28 karma

How many lemurs can you fit in your suitcase to bring home to us?

But seriously, what has been your favorite moment so far?

KneeDeep18560 karma

Could probably fit a lot of these guys in a suitcase.

I'm not sure I necessarily have a favorite moment, but I have a favorite place. In the northwest of the island there's this place called Ankify (on-kee-fee) that must be the most gorgeous place on earth. For $12 USD you can stay in a decent hotel overlooking white sandy beaches and emerald ocean. Here's a picture of a friend on the beach

julieacts8 karma

That beach picture was stunning. And now I just want a lemur to ride around on my head everywhere.

Thanks for sharing and good luck with your projects!

KneeDeep1854 karma

Yeah happy to share it. An important part of PC is sharing my experience with folks back at home, too.

bunnyhouseinyoursoul15 karma

What are your interactions with the locals like? Also, are you male or female?

KneeDeep18546 karma

I'm a dude, and it depends on where I am. It feels like the farther I go from my village, where I live and work with the folks, and where they all know me, the more hostile people are to me. Big cities is fine, but if folks don't know me out in the forest then they're pretty weary of my presence. There are all sorts of stories about white people stealing children and harvesting organs and stealing their blood. Parents get a kick out of scaring the shit out of their kids when I'm in town. Not gonna lie, I sometimes threaten children that I'm going to eat them if they're bugging me.

bunnyhouseinyoursoul10 karma

Wow, I was not expecting that. If you have time to go into detail and tell some stories, I'd love that.

KneeDeep18529 karma

I should mention that for every negative experience I have in country, there are 5 more that make this a great place to live and reinvigorates my faith in the goodness in humanity. However, not all white people here in Madagascar are trying to improve other peoples' lives. Being a Vazaha (white person) in Madagascar means you're automatically associated with some of the morally corrupt stuff that goes on with (mostly old French guys) other expats, namely: Sexual Tourism, Prostitution, Child Prostitution, exploitation of natural resources, that sort of thing. Usually when I start talking to someone in Malagasy and explain the work I do here, their attitude changes and I'm into their home to share a bowl of rice and/or have coffee.

That said,

About two weeks ago I went to a traditional Malagasy ceremony called a Tsaboraha (tsah-boo-rah) about 20 km from my village. A group of host country nationals and I took a canoe down the river to a town where one of my really good friends' family is from. We all piled into the boat, then joked and talked for the next 6 years til we got to the town. Here's a picture of the river we were on, and this isn't the same boat but one similar.

Once there, we were invited to the village leader's home and were served a simple meal of beans and rice, the leader gave a little speech, I thanked him for having me there, that sort of thing. Malagasy people are VERY into giving speeches of thanks. It's a way to humble themselves. Anyway, after the meal, I go outside of the hut to collect my shoes and discover that someone had spit two fat loogies into each of my shoes. Standing outside, waiting for me, was a group of about 8 teenage boys, all waiting outside for me to see my reaction. I asked them who did it and everyone just stared at me. Obviously I was pretty upset, but all I could do is walk away, so I did. After about a minute it occurred to me that if I left my shoes there someone might steal them, and I could just put some dirt in them and rub the dirt/spit away and it wouldn't be a big deal. Sure enough, however, I came back to find that someone had stolen my shoes.

tl;dr Took off my shoes to attend a ceremony, asshole kids spit in them, stole them, and I went barefoot the rest of the weekend.

covermeImgoingin7 karma

My daughter is in the Peace Corps in Madagascar as well. She said all the young boys in the villages yell "Vazaha! Vazaha!" as she approaches, which literally translates to "Person or thing that is not from Madagascar! Person or thing that is not from Madagascar! " And that their language does not have the "ch" sound so she (Chelsea) is known as "Sosea" in the highland villages she teaches health and hygiene in.

KneeDeep1859 karma

Oh wow, small world! Well now, tell her Chris says hello. I was training the agriculture half of her stage back in February. Totally spot on about the Vazaha thing, though!

Octopuss_in_Boots7 karma

Fun fact- vazaha is a combination of words. "VAhini"- stranger or guest, ZAny- from a place, HAfa- different.

KneeDeep1854 karma

Whhaaaaa?! Mind = blown. Thanks.

Who are you, Mr Octopuss man? edit; added question.

jakelr6 karma

It took you 6 years to go 20km? Damn dude that should only take a few hours by foot :P

KneeDeep1854 karma

Haha my bad. Yeah my beard was craaazzzyyyy long after the trip but we made it!

OnlyRealWhenShared10 karma

What are your qualifications for your position?

What was your occupation before joining the peace corps?

What is a day in the life for you from when you wake to when you go to sleep?

What is the most surprising animal you've encountered in the biologically unique Madagascar?

KneeDeep18520 karma

Before Peace Corps I'd had many, many jobs, including: operations and logistics with a company which manufactures and distributes bulk sugar (60,000 lbs at a time), Purchasing Agent at a salmon production facility in Alaska, US Forest Service, I drove the drunk shuttle for my University (that was a hoot).

What made me 'qualified'? The program that I was in (Agriculture Extension) was in its first year, my group was/is its first program members, so we're kinda making it up as we go along, but it's replacing the Small Enterprise Development and Environment programs which preceded it. Basically we've combined the two, or train volunteers on elements of both sectors. What made me qualified? I dunno, really. I was a farm hand in highschool (irrigating hay, moving irrigation pipe and fixing fences) and I have some business experience.

Day in the life generally goes like this: Wake up at 6:30, walk over to my neighbor's house to take a poop in their pit latrine (cuz I don't have one), pour a bucket of water over my head, walk to the market to buy veggies and eggs, cook, hang out with folks. I help host a nutritious cooking class once every two weeks. I'll work in my own personal garden a few times a week. A lot of the times work gets done off a schedule, just sitting over lunch and talking about projects. I have a lot of side projects I'm working on that just sorta happen when they happen.

This is what I was working on last week. Trying to get affordable electricity to folks out in the middle of nowhere.

Surprising animal? The ay ay lemur. Looks like a god damn alien.

Mustangarrett3 karma

Isn't that a awfully expensive bike for such an application? You could sell it and buy a few five watt solar panels.

NeverEnufWTF5 karma

Sorry to jump in--the bike isn't the important thing, the demonstration is. You could just as easily build this from a chair, a few rotating parts, and some ropes, provided you had the generator (alternator?) it's all hooked up to. I expect the bike is just personal transport that was useful for the demo.

Mustangarrett2 karma

If it's just for demo purposes, why not just show the desired audience a video of one of the many already built ones?

GoonCommaThe2 karma

Because they can't test out a video to see how they like it.

KneeDeep1856 karma

I could show people all sorts of videos about fancy generators that 'foreigners' made, and how they should drop $1000 on one. Or I could show them one that I hired their neighbor to build for $90 USD using stuff they can buy in their own market.

KneeDeep1851 karma

correct, the bike is my daily commuter (so to speak). The alternator is in the picture, that big round thing on the far side of the frame. I think it was pulled out of an old Honda Generator.

penfield10 karma

How was the food? Any favorite dishes? Is there a street food scene? (Thanks for the AMA!)

KneeDeep18520 karma

The food here is... disappointing, let's just say that. It's a lot of rice. It's very difficult to describe this, but you know how in most cultures/countries, rice acts as a filler, and the seasoned vegetables and/or meat are the 'main dish'? Like, you order thai chicken and you get rice on the side along with vegetables, but the important thing about the meal is the chicken, the veggies, and the delicious sauce. Well here in Madagascar, the meal is the rice. Sometimes they don't even put anything on it (if they're especially poor). Rice is life, life is rice. Having a good sauce to go with the meal is totally optional and actually kind of rare. Even the verb mihinim-bary is used as 'to eat', like, "hey let's go eat" and literally it means to eat rice. If you asked someone if they'd had lunch already, you'd say, did you eat rice (nihinim-bary antoadro anao?) earlier?


KneeDeep18514 karma

Yes there's street food, but the best stuff you find in cities where there's a decent muslim population. They make some pretty delicious fried meat pockets called Sambosa. Malagasy street food is fried bread of one variety or another. I don't mean like 'donut bread' I mean salt, flour, water, dipped in hot oil and served with coffee.

KiwiLicker6 karma

Haha, as a Malagasy-American, I can confirm the true appreciation for rice. A meal without rice is not a meal!

"Vary amin'anana" I could have that for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

KneeDeep1857 karma

Zany?! Avy akaiza anao e?! Mipetraka any amin'ny Anivorano Est za, faritra Brickaville. Tena mahafinaratra be mahita Gasy amin'ny Amerika! Akaiza anao izao? Tamana? Ino mahatonga anao mipetraka akany?

tiranasaurusrex4 karma

Lol, here in Albania they say, "Ha buke" (Eat bread) when they refer to eating anything.

KneeDeep1853 karma

Mmmmm... Bread..... How I miss thee.

Norwegian_whale10 karma

Did they shut down their shipyards much while you were there?

KneeDeep1855 karma

Nah, there was a small scare about a boat trying to come to port from Liberia, I believe, and they closed the port for them. Otherwise nothing else.

I_spy_w_my_Goldeneye10 karma

What's the bug situation like there? Are they huge? Are there a lot of them? Spiders??

RPCV China

KneeDeep18518 karma

Nothing terribly toxic, thank you jeebus, but I've got a spider chillin in my house right now that's the size of my hand (I'm 6'2"). Not my palm, my hand. I'd send a link but I'm not actually at my house right now. Can I get back to you on that one? I'm in a coastal region so we get affected by bugs differently than the highlands, but those guys get swarms of locusts coming through that can blot out the sun. I haven't personally experienced the locust thing, though.

I_spy_w_my_Goldeneye18 karma

"Spider as big as my hand."


KneeDeep1857 karma

haha right o

KneeDeep1855 karma

Where in China did you serve? What language did you learn? Mandarin, Cantonese? Are there dialects/differences in language based on region? We have regional dialects that vary a lot in vocabulary, timbre and pronunciation and I always find it really fascinating.

I_spy_w_my_Goldeneye3 karma

Many of my fellow volunteers were in rural areas, but I served in an urban area of Chongqing and I studied Mandarin, which made it tough to talk with many people, as they mostly spoke the local dialect (and Mandarin with an impenetrable accent). And even just standard Chinese is a tough language regardless...

Yeah, there are probably hundreds of dialects in China.

KneeDeep1853 karma

They had you studying a dialect that was different than your community's? That's a bit of a bummer. I/We take great pride in speaking the dialect of our towns, even if that means walking 20 k down the road to a neighboring village you can hardly understand what the hell people are saying.

Monkeyfeng1 karma

Are you Peter Hessler?

KneeDeep1851 karma

I know a guy named Pete Hess, PCV in Kenya. That who you're referring to?

sidvictorious8 karma


KneeDeep1856 karma

Haha you sound like you might be PC staff.. Are you watching me?

50PercentLies8 karma

Are lemurs underrated?

KneeDeep18511 karma

I believe there are about 43 species of lemur... That's probably something not well known. The Indri species of lemur has the loudest animal call in the entire animal kingdom (someone want to look that up?). They don't like to get their hands dirty, so when you offer them bananas or food or something they grab it straight with their mouths. My friend put a banana in his mouth and a lemur grabbed it out with its mouth. They basically made out.

Are they overrated? I dunno, I guess that depends on how high you rate them? I'm going to Tanzania next week so I'll let you know how they compare to chimps on the cool/interesting factor.

MiloLeFleur8 karma

Do you get paid? What does the peace corps do?

KneeDeep18523 karma

We receive a moderate stipend to cover travel, food, living costs. Peace Corps is all about living with your community, integrating with your community and becoming a part of them so they trust you when you tell them stuff like 'wear a condom so you don't get AIDS' or something like that, so that means our salary matches what a middle income family might make in our communities. My stipend is about $220/month, and I'm one of the richest guys in town.

Peace Corps is a US Government organization of volunteers... Too difficult to describe, google that shit.

MiloLeFleur8 karma


KneeDeep18515 karma

Technically, yes. The requirement is that you are 18 years or older. Will it happen? Highly unlikely. Applicants with college degrees are at about 17% acceptance rate (when I was applying).

fuzzyscreen17 karma


KneeDeep1852 karma

Yeah you're right, they've recently changed the way they take applications. Or, they've made the announcement that they're changing the system, at least. Have they already begun implementing it? I'm a little out of the loop.

edit; wording.

KneeDeep1857 karma

Are you interested in doing Peace Corps? Where are you from? How old are you?

MiloLeFleur5 karma


KneeDeep1854 karma

You're an American citizen so that's a good start. Peace Corps is an incredible experience and I'd highly recommend doing it. You will, however, need a degree. Probably best to contact your local PC recruiter (they have them in most major universities) and find out what he/she recommends you do in order to be a qualified candidate.

HomemadePasta6 karma

My stipend is about $220/month, and I'm one of the richest guys in town.

To put that in context, the annual GDP per capita of Madagascar is $471. If /u/KneeDeep185 stays there for a full year, he is making $2640. In the US, this would be the equivilant of making $297,870 a year.

KneeDeep1855 karma

Wow... that just. Wow. I'm saving this to share with others.

little_Nasty7 karma

Fellow Oregonian checking in. Peace corp sounds like a cool experience. Is it true what they say about the organization basically leaving you out in a village and not really being there to support you when you have issues come up? And what happens when someone really hates their assignment and wants to quit and leave?

KneeDeep18511 karma

Well, I'd say that might have been true 10 years ago, but nowadays even the most rural communities have cell reception, and Peace Corps will require you to contact them. Basically I'd say you have as much dependence or independence as you feel comfortable with. Don't like having your 'boss' looking over your shoulder on projects and life? Stay out of the way and they won't come finding you. Need a little bit of extra emotional/project support? Peace Corps staff will answer your phone calls, day and night, whenever you need them. You can always go up to the capital to take some days of R & R, use the internet, catch up with family, eat good food, etc.

About assignments... It kinda depends on what sector you're in, but you have A LOT of freedom to choose how you spend your time. A LOT. Education volunteers generally have a set schedule and their 'assignment' is less flexible, though usually you have plenty of time to do any kind of side project you're interested. Most other sectors, if you find something in your village/town/city that you'd like to improve, you just do it. You design the project, choose your work partners, figure out a plan of action and go for it.

KneeDeep1853 karma

What part of Oregon are you from?

little_Nasty5 karma


KneeDeep1853 karma

Right on, I was in SE PDX for two years before doing Peace Corps. I miss the mountains, no doubt about it....

little_Nasty6 karma

If it's any consolation today was the first day of rain and it's still coming down pretty hard. So enjoy the weather in Madagascar.

KneeDeep1854 karma

Haha thanks, definitely helps.

RegularRob5 karma

Very interested in joining the Peace Corps and have been for some time, what are some tips to ensure acceptance?

KneeDeep18513 karma

Depends on the sector you're interested in/applying for, but relevant education or work experience in those fields. Also, having prior volunteer experience is a must. Already being bilingual I believe really helps your chances, and having prior experience abroad usually shows recruiters that you know what you're getting yourself into and you won't be shocked with your new life to the point that you'll Early Terminate (quit PC before your 2 years of service).

TheLiberalMedia05 karma

What did you get your degree in? does it relate to your volunteer experience?

KneeDeep1853 karma

I have a degree in Advertising from the School of Journalism and Communication from the University of Oregon.

tl;dr No

redditacountforme5 karma

Are you working with my friend Don Quin?.......are you don?.........don?.........hello?

KneeDeep1853 karma

Haha no I'm not Don but I'm his stage mate! I love the reddit community, this is hilarious!

thehouseofflattery3 karma

Thanks for doing this. I have been invited to serve as an Agricultural Extensionist in Madagascar starting in February 2015. Just a couple of questions: How did you spend your time in between staging and invitation (disregarding all of the pre-service requirements)? How much autonomy do you feel you have over your project? Also for charging electronics, how practical would it be to bring a solar charger? Thanks!

KneeDeep1852 karma

Working! 2 months before Peace Corps I left my job and hung out with folks, saw family, took road trips, drank good beer.

I have lots of autonomy. At first it can be daunting, absolutely, but once you get the hang of things being able to choose exactly what projects you want to do and with whom is great. Not just for personal moral, but feeling a sense of personal accomplishment as well and the fact that if you're excited about a project then your counterpart will be, too.

I'd say bring a charger if you can afford it. There's about a 50/50 chance you'll be at a site with electricity and it won't be worth the dough you forked out in the states. That said, you can always sell your charger to one of the many people who ARE at sites without electricity and didn't go for the charger while they were getting ready for staging.

thecacti3 karma

What language are you learning to help you integrate; one of the indigenous languages or something more mainstream like French? What's your experience like with it?

I interviewed with Peace Corps near the end of college since I was eager to get out and experience the world and wanted to "make a difference" within a community. They ended up putting my application on hold, which basically means they didn't see me a good fit, I guess for lack of leadership skills or something. I ended up going to the Czech Republic on my own to teach English and it was probably the best two years of my life.

KneeDeep1853 karma

I'm learning Malagasy and it's everyday essential here. I'm picking up french here and there because so many Malagasy words are borrowed from French, but otherwise just the local language. I'm doing... ok. I'd say I'm about as articulate as a 1st grader, which, after never having heard the language til about 19 months ago I feel is pretty good.

enterfunnynamehere3 karma

How old are you?

Where did you live before joining the peace corps?

KneeDeep18510 karma

I'm 27 and I'm from Bend, Oregon, though I lived in Portland, Oregon for two years before joining.

hulagirl47373 karma

Do you like to move it, move it?

KneeDeep1855 karma

All day err day

-Johnny-2 karma

I know this may sound bad or it might offend someone but I'm really curious as to money. You may or may not have loans but I was wondering what you plan to do as far as money goes once you get back? You will need to find a job and a place, that cant be done with little to no money. I know they pay you 200 some a (month?) but you obviously cant live off of that once you get back.

KneeDeep1852 karma

Peace Corps gives you a 'Readjustment Fund' once you close your term of service. I think it breaks down to something like $275/month for however long you're an official Volunteer (I don't believe you accumulate the RF fund while you're still a trainee, though I may be wrong). $275/month over 24 months is about $6600 they give you once you get home. Should be enough to get a place, get a phone, and about 6 months to find a job.

Shibainu5152 karma

How have you dealt with leaving your life completely for two years (Job, family, friends, comfort, SO, etc.)? Did you have any say in where you were placed? Do you ever get lonely?

KneeDeep1859 karma

No I didn't really have any say in where I was going to be placed. I speak spanish so I was expecting to go to latin America somewhere, then after about 6 months they told me I was going to Francophone sub-saharan Africa, then 4 months before my departure they said I was going to Madagascar. Honestly though, I feel like I hit the jackpot in as far as Peace Corps countries go. This place is pretty stinkin amazing. Not without its faults or challenges, lord knows, but overall I feel incredibly blessed to be here.

I try and keep up with my family as much as possible on FB (I have access to internet on my smartphone whenever I elect to buy it. My village doesn't have electricity but I can get on Facebook whenever I want. The developing world is all sorts of priority confused). I have a Malagasy family that I'm very, very close with, and they help fill the gap. Also, commiserating with other volunteers is a pastime in itself.

nraesmith2 karma

Are there medical opportunities within Peace Corps? Some days I wish I had done Peace Corps before going to medical school. I know about Doctors without Borders, but placement in a war zone scares me. Does Peace Corps have programs for physicians in places where I'm less likely to be blown up?

OsitaBella3 karma

Check out the Global Health Services Partnership on the Peace Corps website. Doctors and nurses volunteer for 12 month assignments in Africa, supported by Peace Corps and Seed Global Health.

KneeDeep1851 karma

Oh cool, I was not aware of this.

KneeDeep1851 karma

My first response was going to be "Yes, of course!" But really what health volunteers, at least in my country of service, focus on basic hygiene, eating nutritious foods and encouraging people to seek treatment when they get sick (like herding cats, I swear to god). I have a feeling you might be interested in doing something a little more... skill intensive?

Peace Corps has on-staff doctors who receive an American doctors' salary, and you'd be treating PCV's.


Check out this group of American Doctors who do awesome work here in Madagascar. I was an interpreter for them last August while they set up free health clinics out in the forest. They usually do a once-a-year trip here for 2 weeks. If you're interested and make contact with the group, tell Ginny that Chris says hello!

binneraccount2 karma

Hi. I'm travelling through Africa at the moment and I've met loads of Peace Corps volunteers. No offence, I'm sure you're aces, but why are the vast majority of Peace Corps volunteers such loud-mouthed, self-centered assholes?

fuzzyscreen12 karma


KneeDeep1853 karma

Well stated. Also, when you saw those volunteers it's highly likely that it was in a city, surrounded by friends, and after being in the bush for a month straight. We tend to let loose when we're all together and we have the slightest bit of anonymity like in a large city. In our villages we have no choice but to be perfect angels, less our community members and co workers lose respect and won't work with us. I can assure you, we're not like that all the time. That said, /u/fuzzyscreen1 nailed it.

Amaturus1 karma

It's a common stepping stone to a position in the State department.

KneeDeep1851 karma

Non Competitive Eligibility for federal jobs is a really nice perk.

Bro-Science2 karma

Do you know Tom Tuttle from Tacoma?

KneeDeep1851 karma

Nope, sorry, Science Bro, haven't met him yet. Where does he live? Peace Corps?

rootless2 karma


KneeDeep1851 karma

I've yet to see one! I'm in a coastal region and I think those might be more specific to the southern highlands?

sonia72quebec2 karma

I knew a young woman from Madagascar and she told me they were a lot of sexual abuse/incest on the island. She was so disturbed by her childhood that she took her own life. Did you ever witness (or heard of) this situation?

KneeDeep1851 karma

Sexual abuse... yes. Girls are sexually active at a very young age (whether it's consensual or not, still pretty sick when it's socially acceptable for a 13 year old girl to have a child with a 30+ year old man). Actually I heard a story in my village about 7 months ago about how a 15 year old girl was given too much alcohol and after she passed out was sexually violated by 5 different men in my village. One of which was my neighbor. I asked a few friends in town if the men had been arrested yet and they said, more or less, "What's the point? They'll just bribe their way out of a charge anyway."

KneeDeep1851 karma

Incest, however, is not something I've seen. In fact, kinda the opposite. Male and female siblings (as adults) would never, ever share a bed, even if it meant them sleeping on the floor. I got a hotel room with a co-worker and her brother once (Woman was 37, brother was 30), and naturally the girl was going to take the bed. When I said that it was a big bed and the brother could just sleep on the edge, they said that was very, very against cultural norms. Then again, it's a big island and I haven't seen a lot of it.

coyl161 karma

Im considering joining the peace corp in between HS and college. What can i expect to be doing if i do decide to join?

throw_karma1 karma

Come over to /r/peacecorps and check out all the questions that have been asked like this. There are many returned peace corps volunteers (RPCVs) who have been answering questions like yours daily!

KneeDeep1851 karma

Find a recruiter in your area, he/she would be able to answer that question better than most of us could.

MereGear1 karma

Do you choose where your sent?

KneeDeep1851 karma

I did not choose, but the application process is changing. They're making it so applicants have, I believe, 3 options for countries of service based on relevant experience. I just got really lucky landing here.

TeamEarth1 karma

What do you think you'll do once your two years is up? Is what you have in mind now much different than what you expected before going to Madagascar?

KneeDeep1851 karma

I more or less have the same 10 year plan, though the order has changed. Originally I thought I'd go straight for grad school, but now I think I'd rather find a job I like FIRST, then pursue higher education for it. Nothing specific, though, I'm afraid. I might try and take advantage of the Non Competitive Eligibility you get through Peace Corps and find 'conservation work' with the Forest Service, EPA or some such federal government agency. Who knows, though.

Plagu3_Born1 karma

I've been considering joining the peace corps because I like helping people and want to see the world and experience different cultures, though I actually know very little about the peace corps. For what I want, would you recommend it? Besides what I said I want, would you in your opinion recommend it in general?

KneeDeep1852 karma

For those reasons then yes, Peace Corps sounds like a great fit. Talk to lots of RPCV's and PCV's about how they're enjoying/enjoyed their experience; not everyone's will be the same. I tell you what, though, I have stories for the rest of my life. My friend and I were joking one evening that after a while our friends and family are going to inevitably get sick of our Peace Corps stories, and we're going to have to start going to open mic nights in order to find fresh audiences and get the stories out.

hibiscusgoose1 karma

Hi! I'm leaving for Tanzania as an Environmental Education volunteer in February, and I'm just curious about a few things:

What was your in country training like, besides learning the language? What kind of skills did they teach you?

Any advice on what I should do to prepare myself for service?

What is something you wished you had packed but didn't?

Thanks for doing this AMA, I'm getting really nervous and talking to current volunteers and RPCVs seems to be the main way to ease my anxiety!

fuzzyscreen11 karma


KneeDeep1851 karma

Hi I'm flying to Zanzibar on the 5th of October, then cruising the rest of Tanzania for 3 weeks. Suggestions? What's the haggling situation like? Do people usually jack up prices for white folks like they do here? How would you describe the relations between HCN's and tourists/outsiders?

shagilabagila1 karma

If you're into diving, Swahili Divers in Pemba gives excellent rates for currently serving PCVs, irregardless of whether you're serving in Tanzania or in another country.

KneeDeep1851 karma

Awesome. Not PADI certified, though. Potential problem?

ZenPiracy1 karma

My church is having a pastor from Madagascar (who's in the US working on his PhD) as a guest preacher next month. The flyer they've put out about it says the Malagasy Lutheran Church is one of the fastest growing Lutheran churches in the world. My question is, have you had any interaction with the Malagasy Lutheran Church (Fiangonana Loterana Malagasy)? If so, why do you think they've been so successful with their growth?

KneeDeep1851 karma

Nah sorry, can't say I know much about it.

Zamalak1 karma


KneeDeep1851 karma

Well what I'd originally planned to do has since changed after Peace Corps. Wait, I'm still in Peace Corps. How bout I let you know where I'm at sometime next april? ;)

11-191 karma

What is your living situation like? Did you get to pick where you were sent?

KneeDeep1851 karma

I live in a two bedroom hut with a roof made of leaves, and the walls made of 'sticks' and tree bark. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

I did not get to choose my country of service.

Kmdick38091 karma

Does the Peace Corps pay for your college at all?

KneeDeep1852 karma

I actually just a received an email about this a few days ago, and apparently they're opening up more opportunities for RPCV's to cut down their debts. Here's a link to Peace Corps page about it.

hoodyupload1 karma

Is that DG president that over throw elected president still hanging in the government house or has he been kick out ?

KneeDeep1851 karma

Hmm... I think the general feeling the government is going for right now is amnesty. I've been seeing in papers that Rajoelison might be coming back to the country after being in exile in South Africa since the coups. Not sure though.

ProfessionalExtemper1 karma

I was interested in joining and using my systems administrations skills. I thought that this would apply best to people who are in the Community and Ecenomic Development program with the Peace Corps. What exactly do they do? Do you have examples?

KneeDeep1851 karma

Hmm.. We don't have that program in my country of service, so unfortunately I don't think I could give accurate information about their day to day stuff. We had a Small Enterprise Development program (which actually kind of lives on in my program), and that may be similar? Here, where I am, those volunteers did a lot of microfinance and book keeping trainings. Encouraging communities to establish microfinance 'banks', or 'village savings and loan' programs. Basically doing trainings on and encouraging people to save their money in a safe way to mitigate problems associated with drought, hurricanes, sudden illnesses, that sort of thing. Also, teaching people when to buy in bulk (just after harvest season when prices are cheapest) thereby saving money for when the price of agriculture products are at their most expensive, mitigating the likelihood of not having enough money to buy food and having to sell off important items (homes, generators, tools). Not sure if that's what you're looking for but I'd suggest tracking down a Peace Corps country that has one of those programs and contacting some PCV's there. Facebook is a great place to find those groups.

banditx191 karma

You're doing great work. What would you tell someone considering joining the Peace Crops?

KneeDeep1851 karma

I'd say start the application process now, and if you change your mind midway through the app then no harm, no foul. It's truly an incredible experience and worth checking out.

DjHorsePlay1 karma

How did you decide to pursue being a member of the peace corp and how difficult was the training? Do you miss home often?

KneeDeep1851 karma

I miss home very much, especially the food and all the hobbies you can't really do here. On the plus side, however, most volunteers get hooked up with pretty sweet mountain bikes so I've been able to my fix there!

I can think of about 100 reasons I had for doing Peace Corps, but perhaps one reason that a lot of people can relate to is how much of an advantage it gives you on your grad school application. Plus a considerable amount of financial aid you can get with certain universities. Check out the Paul D Coverdell fellows program.

Training is difficult, but also really enjoyable. The hardest part might be that you're just living with 35 other 'personalities' (your stage mates, other trainess) in a pretty stressful environment. Training only lasts a few months. Once you get out to your site you forget all about what made it difficult, and hopefully you learned something ;)

Amaturus1 karma

I have a PC friend in Ethiopia at the moment and it's been hard for her to actually accomplish anything. Do you feel like you're making any kind of sustainable difference? Do you think being male makes it easier/harder?

KneeDeep1852 karma

"The hardest job you'll ever love." I'm working on trying to make a sustainable difference, but at the moment having a heck of a time getting my grant funded. There's a link at the top of the page for a project that I'm doing, please share it!

Being a male in this country specifically is not without its pitfalls, but I certainly have a tremendous amount of respect for all the women I serve with. It's not easy.

KnowTheDifference1 karma

Are there PC volunteers that you know of in other sectors in Madagascar? Do you ever hang out with them? What do they work on?

I find it interesting that you are doing such a wide range of activities, many of which have seemingly very little to do with "Agriculture" even if it is "Extended". Is there no pressure to stay within your assigned sector with the projects you work on? If you arrived and found that you were needed more than anywhere else in, say, youth outreach and intervention, could you have focused primarily on that?

KneeDeep1852 karma

Also yes, we're a pretty tight community of about 120 volunteers, and we all try and hang out together. Usually it's not sectors that keep us from hanging out but region. It's a big island, made bigger by horrible roads/infrastructure in general and unreliable transportation.

KneeDeep1852 karma

I spent my first year doing exclusively rice culture with different organizations. Frankly, the Small Economic Development and Environmental Engineering aspects of my sector are far more interesting to me. Some sectors give you lots of freedom to choose your primary project, others are more restricted (Education volunteers, for example). Secondary projects, however, are fair game for whatever you want to do.

utspg19801 karma

What are your religious beliefs? How does the village react to them?

The circlejerk over in /r/atheism likes to moan about how backwards the US is, but I find in many developing countries the idea of atheism is even more frowned upon.

KneeDeep1851 karma

I am actually atheist (or maybe agnostic), and I tell people that. I used to lie about it for fear of how people may respond, but now I have the language ability to express how I actually feel about religion and what makes the world a good place, a human being a good human being. Mostly the response is bewilderment. They just don't understand. Then it evolves to genuine concern for my soul, which I find very sweet. Either way, though, nothing too major.

NathanPatrice1 karma

Is there an equivalent to the Peace Corps for say Australians or the UK? (I'm Australian) If not, can other countries join the Peace Corps?

KneeDeep1851 karma

Hmm. I know there's a comparable organization of Japanese volunteers, and France has what they call 'volunteers' but they make a European salary (though a shitty one) and live in coke villas.

msn20611 karma

I've heard about some people going into the Peace Corps and getting some form of loan forgiveness. Have you seen anything like this? Also I am seriously considering volunteering. What sort of things are looked for in the application process?

KneeDeep1852 karma

When I was applying it was 15% off your loan, per year of service, but that only applied to federal Perkins loans. However, I just got an email saying that might be changing. Check out the official site to get a more updated response.

No_Orange_Zone1 karma

Have you encountered any talking zebras named Marty yet?

KneeDeep1851 karma

No, but I held a chicken on my lap on a bus today for two hours, while the chicken's elderly owner took a nap on my shoulder.

AnselmoTheHunter0 karma

Is it true they shut down the Bulgarian Peace Corps program because they were always doing a bunch of blow and hookers?

GoonCommaThe1 karma

I don't see why OP would know the answer to that.

KneeDeep1851 karma

can confirm, am OP

_hijueputa_0 karma

This may be a stretch, but I was wondering if you may know a former professor of mine? His name is Dr. Frank Cuozzo. He's an anthropology professor at the University of North Dakota but he goes to Madagascar every year to study lemurs, particularly their teeth. He has a pony tail and even has a tattoo of a ring tailed lemur on his forearm! Seriously the coolest guy I've ever met. If you're working with lemur conservation, there's a good chance you'll meet him next summer if you haven't already!

KneeDeep1851 karma

Nah haven't met him, do you know what region he works in? Always happy to see a fellow American. Murrica!

Thundersauru5-1 karma

How did you like the registration process? I wanted to sign up for the PC myself, but I even hate filling out job apps because of how tedious they are. The PC application is even more tedious, isn't it?

Also, I'm currently attending a tech school for small motor maintenance. Would the PC have use for skills like that?

KneeDeep1851 karma

Yeah I think that would be great, if you were willing to take the knowledge that you have and teach it to other people. If you could come up with a way for people to have less expensive electricity, for example, or find a way to build a water pump out of local materials. That skillset might be more for a secondary, side project, but you could use your general technical knowledge to do some amazing stuff.

lula2488-7 karma

Hello KneeDeep185! Your post has been removed because you have not provided adequate proof within a reasonable amount of time. Please see the /r/IAmA sidebar for posting guidelines. Thank you!

KneeDeep1859 karma

Is the whole post removed, or just comments? I added a photo, is that sufficient? I don't really have access to a newspaper at the moment (I live in a forest), what do you recommend?