June begins.

June 1

Last night we went to a “ball” hosted by the Lycée (a.k.a. a high school dance). It was fun, but really sort of awkward since we’re still new and everyone just wanted to look at us all night. The music is pretty cheesy, but it’s fun to watch them dance. They sort of remind me of a swarm of bees, kilalaky-ing around in a circle. (Note: PLEASE look up “kilalaky” on YouTube and watch some of the music videos. This dance is way harder than it looks.) Mostly we just tried not to get groped, although, for the most part, everyone was on his best behavior. The highlight was when Aurore danced with the caricature-like Dr. Dina and he told her that she doesn’t know how to use her hips properly. Bah!

downtown Vondrozo

downtown Vondrozo

Today is Sunday, and there’s lovely singing coming from the church – a nice change from the loud pop music that screamed out of the dance until 6 this morning. It also means that the power is on from 11am until this evening, so I might even try to call home on the payphone up the street (the only phone in the village, as far as I’ve heard). In other news, last night, while attempting to unscrew the outer casing of the video camera with a teeny little screwdriver, I got over-excited and stabbed my thumb with it. It was pretty deep and it bled for a long time, so I’m just trying to keep it covered and not get it wet… Gross. It’s also kind of numb… curious.

We were invited to a theatre presentation this afternoon at the church, which was about two hours too long, but it was a really cool experience. We sat front-and-centre, and kids pushed each other out of the way to try to sit next to us. We took some photos, which was really exciting for them, since they rarely (if ever) see digital cameras, and it’s really thrilling for them to see themselves appear instantly on the screen. They all cover their smiles with their hands and say “ohhhhhh!!!” It’s really adorable.

kids at the church

kids at the church

some of the performers

some of the performers

Our neighbours are getting to be a bit annoying already. They are really sweet kids, but they’re completely fascinated by everything we do, and they’ve all learned our names, so I’m constantly hearing creepy-ish little voices saying “Lizzz”. But Clauthilde, their mother, is really sweet, and baked us a cake, which was a glorious treat. One of the other ladies really freaked us out by holding out her baby and seriously asking Silvia to take it back home with her, saying that it was under-nourished and deserved a better chance, and so on. Silvia was really upset by it, and isn’t keen to spend any more time doing dishes out in the back. Unfortunately, it’s the only place to do them, but it’s six feet (max) from the fence, behind which is a constant flock of curious women and children.

our neighbours! (and yes, this is how close they are to the fence ALL THE TIME)

our neighbours! (and yes, this is how close they are to the fence ALL THE TIME)

Jamila and me, washing dishes

me and Jamila, washing dishes

June 2

Scorpion in the room!! Only about an inch long, but apparently they’re not the kind of friends you want in your bed.

scorpion!

scorpion!

Gross. Today was market day in Vondrozo, which was sort of crowded and overwhelming, especially since most of those coming in from neighbouring villages hadn’t yet caught a glimpse of us, and took it upon themselves to crowd us all throughout the stalls. But then Mme. Victorine took us up to the top of the hill, inside the hospital boundaries, to check out the view. It’s really incredible; we could see the village and the hills beyond. And, as an added bonus, it’s super quiet up there, since no one would follow us into the hospital. So I’m hoping to go up there soon to do some yoga and unwind.

view from the hospital!

view from the hospital!

We went to the Lycée this afternoon too, to give a little presentation to the oldest classes and answer questions about our home countries, conservation and our projects. Mostly, they were enthralled by our descriptions of moose and beavers. (It’s like a giant RAT? With a flat tail? It builds DAMS??!) Their enthusiasm was wonderful though, and they took down our addresses and stuff – maybe I’ve acquired some new pen pals.

June 5

Dad’s birthday! Unfortunately, the line for the payphone is far too long. I’m sure he’ll understand.

my entourage, accompanying me to the phone at the post office

my entourage, accompanying me to the phone at the post office

We spent the day working on our presentation for World Environment Day, which should be quite hilarious. It involves a game called “pin the tree on the tavy”, if that gives you any idea of its maturity level. BUT there will definitely be many kids, so I’m sure it’ll go over well.

I had a hard time working in the office with all these cute faces sticking in the windows all the time.

I had a hard time working in the office with all these cute faces sticking in the windows all the time.

There are also some strange vazahas in town! From La Reunion. They’re sort of pervy men who have taken six months off from their regular lives to walk Madagascar from South to North. It’s a pretty fabulous journey, but they’ve been in the woods for far too long, and they did not behave entirely honourably when we had a beer with them this evening.

Manora, featuring some props from our presentation for Journée Mondiale de l'Environnement

Manora, featuring some props from our presentation for Journée Mondiale de l'Environnement

June 7

Today is World Environment Day! It’s been totally impressive, actually. There was a “marathon” this morning – Ryan ran 11km and Jamila ran 5km, and though they’re both super athletes, they were no match for the raw barefoot power of the locals. There were speeches and songs and presentations on a big stage in the middle of town, which drew a huge crowd. Unfortunately, most of the crowd was turned the wrong way in order to look at us, but the energy was great nonetheless.

vazaha drawing a crowd

Charles drawing a crowd

...note the stage BEHIND the kids.

...note the stage BEHIND the kids.

We did our presentation this evening as well, which was a big success, we think, though we left feeling overwhelmed and sort of confused. One of the questions posed to us was something along the lines of, “If we can’t practice slash and burn anymore, how do we feed our families? What alternatives are you giving us?” We were wondering the same thing. This should be interesting…

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