Two Peace Corps Madagascar Volunteers: AUA! (One current, one returned!)
Manahoana! (Hello!) Part of the goal of every Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) is to share our experiences with anyone and everyone. Living and working in a 3rd world country for two years is not something that most people will end up doing, so naturally us PCVs love to talk about the challenges and rewards we encountered. It's therapeutic for us and sometimes people are interested enough to ask questions and listen!
My primary assignment was teaching English as a Foreign Language (2012-2014) in Farafangana, the regional capital of Madagascar's South East region and a lively beach town that several colorful ethnic tribes call home, chiefly the Antefasy ("people of the sands," fasika means sand). My friend Rory, who will also be joining us in this IAMA (internet connection depending), was in my pre-service training group and was the closest teacher to me in our region. He extended for a third year and is still teaching, now in Manakara, the biggest city in the South East region (he originally taught in a near-ish, off-the-beaten-path village called "Ampasimanjeva").
The differences between his experiences and my own; the rhythm(s) of life in his original village and my larger town and his current even larger town; the intricacies of the Malagasy language; the difficulties; the rewards; the Malagasy school system; teaching EFL; the food; the lemurs; and most of all the PEOPLE that we met and lived with and who saw that we were safe and well-fed and happy in their country, which was originally foreign to us, for almost three years in Rory's case--all of this should provide for an insightful discussion :)
And speaking of challenges, right now Rory is going through the application process to become a Challenge Detroit Fellow, which pairs hard-working, creative individuals (like Rory!) with non-profits aimed at revitalizing Detroit. You can follow the link below to see a video he made for the occasion that shows a snap-shot of his life in Madagascar as well as, you guessed it, of course, a L E M U R! Clicking "VOTE" at the top of the page will HELP HIM (!) on his way to becoming a fellow as the top 30 most voted fellows will then head to Detroit for the final interview stage. Help him out!
I would not be asking this of you before we get started on this IAMA if I did not think that Rory would make as great of a fellow as he has a PCV. If you're not quite convinced, I stumbled upon something another PCV wrote about his project to build a school library in his original town (it includes a link to his blog which has many photos and stories): "Rory is a volunteer down in the Sud Est and is raising money to build a library at his high school. You can check out his blog here: http://rorylincoln.blogspot.com. Rory is, in my opinion, one of the best volunteers here in Mada, and definitely one of my favorite people on the island. It would mean so much to me if you could donate to his project in lieu of sending birthday gifts my way this year. The ultimate birthday present will be seeing this library dream come to fruition and open countless doors for the students in his town."
Ain't that sweet? Let the IAMA begin!
(Note: I hope this all counts as enough "proof" that I am not making this stuff up. I'll happily post photos of my experiences to imagur if there's interest! My name is Jeremy Cahill and here is a photo of me and another PCV playing a malaria awareness game with some local kids in her town on the peacecorps.gov website: http://medialibrary.peacecorps.gov/p746102877/h38a9f05d#h38a9f05d)
Misaotra betsaka anareo! (Thank you very much you all!)