Catch up

Unsurprisingly, Maman and Papa’s car broke down after hitting one too many giant pothole, so I fortunately spent the night with a friend in town and now have the whole morning free. Woke up to a loud rooster and some malagasy jams blarring from the radio–at 6h30.  It’s Saturday morning.  No one sleeps in here.

We are leaving tomorrow to go study lemurs in their habitat for four days, and we just returned from Andohahela National Park on Thursday after spending three days in the spiny forest doing an ecological inventory (sounds fun but isn’t really unless you are into plants in a big way–although I loved the baobab tree in our site).  We’re entering into field trip season–soon we will be finished classes in Ft. Dauphin and will leave for the most epic roadtrip ever, driving to Tulear and then up to Tana (barring any more disasterous protests/looting/shooting that I hear rumors of), and then embarking on ISP (Independent Study Project), which means four weeks in the field, and then final evaluations and assessments, &c.  Time is flying by.  And I realize that I haven’t written about many of the great things that have happened so far because it’s hard to find time to get to the internet café.

For example, I never wrote about climbing Pic St. Louis our first weekend here with SIT and CEL students and their families, how windy it was and how steep some of the hiking was, how I stood up at the summt and was for a short moment the tallest person in Ft. Dauphin, how gorgeous the coast is from that vantage point and how prehistoric everything looks: ocean, coast, village, mountains.  That was a fun hike: the descent was tretcherous, and the picnic we had afterwards was top notch.

And how weird it is to be packed into a car, blasting whatever music, driving up hills of sand or navigating through crowds on streets in villages on market day, watching groups of women with buckets of water balanced on their heads or men trying to move their herd of zebu to the side of the road; or driving over rivers or around hairpin turns when it feels like you are not in a car but rather in an old time rollercoaster ride.  Even to be viewing the otherworldly Madagascar countryside while listening to American pop music–sometimes it is so surreal.

And how I woke up from a nap once at the homestay house and turned around to find a giant turtle crawling across the floor that I had never seen there before, and how Papa passed by my room, stopped, pointed to the turtle, said the Malagasy word for turtle, and walked away (I found out later that they used to have three turtles but two of them never returned from an evening outing, ending up in someone’s stomache instead).  Or, how I spent last Sunday afternoon driving all over Ft. Dauphin (which is difficult) packed in Maman and Papa’s car with various other family members  just so we could spent fifteen minutes at a fruit market and eat a coconut and pick up a papaya (Maman made papaya juice that I died over).

Spiny forest (Andohahela)

And Andohahela National Park was awesome this past week.  The spiny forest, plus sections of transitional and humid forests that we also saw there, are all incredible.

Baobab (Andohahela)

There are all these weird species of flora and fauna, like trees with spiny trunks and heart-shaped leaves, and tri-colored lizards, and gold beetles, and spiders bigger than my fist.  There was a river running over a rockbed right next to our campsite, and downstream 3/4 mile was a natural pool where we went swimming and jumped off of rocks and sat under a waterfall (and only found one snake there).

River runs through it

We visited a village nearby and played soccer and took pictures of the kids (which they loved) and two boys holding turkeys helped me walk back because the path to the campsite was pretty hard to find.  I had one meal there where I found probably ten rocks in my rice.  I saw my first baobab trees–best tree ever.

And now I think I’ll head home, take a bucket shower, have lunch (last weekend we watched American choral groups singing songs about Jesus kareoke-style; “a little bit country,” said Papa, “and if they sing about Dieu, all the better!”), go for a swim in the ocean (it’s really hot here today and the water is surprisingly placid at Libanona beach), work on a write up for the forest ecology field study, and pack all my stuff for the lemur-study trip.  Maybe we’ll have something delicious for lunch–this past week was a little rough, and I had to refuse a dish of little whole fishes (eyes and everything–I tried but couldn’t even get as far as putting them on my plate)–and Maman served “grands poissons” the other night, just a big fish chopped in half and cooked (which I ate put avoided the fish heads &c.).  Although Maman really likes fried things, which is great.

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