goodbye, my babies

the program ends today. three students are flying back home, returning to loving family in los angelos, chicago, and st. louis. one student is visiting south africa before going home to east hampton, new york; one student is stopping in germany for a few days with her mom before flying to portland, oregon. one lucky student is already home, enjoying cookies, hot showers, and snow in beautiful new hampshire. i am here in tana, missing everyone desperately.

the last two weeks were an utter whirlwind of activity–studies, travel, sickness, vacation–and i’m only now taking deep breaths and reflecting on it. pardon me if this post is short and scattered; i will surely supplement it in the days to come as i continue my thesis work in tana before heading to europe again for the last few adventures of the trip.

we finished our ISPs on Tuesday (one delirious Sunday night stands out both for the strangeness of working until 2am in Madagascar and for the gorgeous lightening we saw over the ocean on the walk home) and celebrated with a “re-immersion” pancake breakfast–i had a feeling jim was really proud of it, and it felt like the day before summer vacation. our dear rachel, recovering from her eighth bout of dysentery, had decided to fly home from tana on thursday instead of go north with us, so our group was already fracturing. i remember being so tired that tuesday–exhausted from the effort of the ISP, from the flurry of activity and changing group dynamics, from the heat–everything.

and i woke up wednesday morning with a 102 degree fever. i slept poorly all morning, packed in ten minutes (our room in Mahavoky looked and smelled exactly as you might imagine a mildewy room occupied for a week and a half by stinky college kids–it was a daunting obstacle to stuff that room into our three packs and leave), ate some rice and beans, said goodbye to naina, and said my final farewells to ft. dauphin from the back of the pickup on the way to the airport. i got chills on the plane, even wrapped up in a blanket–when we landed in tana, my lips had turned blue and my head was too warm. by the time i got to the room in hotel raphia, my face was red from the fever–two thermometers showed temperatures of 103.8 and 104 degrees. off to the doctor–same doctor, same diagnosis–malaria. i spent the next three days traveling constantly and trying to deal with the horrible side effects of the different malaria meds, (extreme nauseau, dizziness, fatigue and loss of apetite) which often felt worse than the disease itself. it felt impossible even to walk to the bathroom. on thursday, rachel went home and we went to diego. i don’t remember much of montagne d’ambre, and skipped going to ankarana in favor of going to diego a day early and resting. so, jim and i took a bus into diego–a packed bus, i fell asleep but everytime i woke up jim was shuffling around with all his stuff (it looked like he was dancing in a very flustered manner)–and i checked into my room at Le Village.

a lonely 24 hours before the group arrived and although i was feeling much better i still had to stop occasionally and sit down rather than continue walking; i was constantly thirsty, tired, and not hungry. but still, i loved diego.

our vacation was great. we spent one day at a picturesque beach (sailed over the emerald sea and landed in Paradise)–the waters were a turquoise i’ve never seen before. swam, even snorkled a little, laid out in the sun and read gossip magazines with michelle: an incredible morning. delicious lunch–coconut rice, crab, fish not half an hour dead, coco “punch”–oh, it was tropical heaven. and i got burned, but not too badly. we spent the next day buying lambas and other various malagasy wares. madagascar has so much to offer, but i have more cloth squares that i know what to do with–and they are the most versatile thing i’ve ever owned. good thing, i guess.

oh, what next? we flew back to tana, had our last program dinner before jim left for vacation to the states with his family, spent a day doing errands, packing, and other tasks, had a last dinner with the group, emily and michelle left, and i spent half the night in the bathroom puking and pooping because something i ate didn’t agree with me. stayed put all morning, and went with ben, sophie, and kate to the airport; last beer, last hugs, goodbye program! goodbye colleagues! i can barely believe its over. i miss those kids already.

i can already feel my mentality shifting back to independent mode. tomorrow, i’ll go back to the archives, have dinner with mamy and his family, and think about what to do for the weekend (mamy invited me to do to the country with his family, which would be so cool). i cleaned the almost-empty room at the raphia, packed alot of my stuff to get an idea about traveling next week, got my isp bound, and delivered stuff to the classroom. getting there…

ben, emily, sophie, michelle, rachel, kate: i love you all immeasureably, safe travels, thank you all for everything you’ve taught me. i couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful group of people to spend three and a half months with.

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