There is much news! I have just returned from a site visit to Tsarazaza. I am halfway through training, and I have to say that putting site visit in the middle of all the intensity of training is very good. So, the previous Tuesday I took off for Tsarazaza on a very long uncomfortable taxi-brousse ride with my counterpart, Dokotera Rija. We arrived in Fandriana where I was heartily greeted by Vola and Voangy, a very friendly couple who own a hotel there. They are friends of PCVs and very warm and welcoming. They discovered I don’t much like meat and went to work preparing me some amazing vegetable loaka. Meanwhile, Rija worked on convincing me to eat meat—and I did! I ate brouchettes, which are like little beef shish-kabobs. They’re excellent! Broke the “no red meat” rule already! After dinner I crashed.
The next morning, I had a bowl of hot milk for breakfast and it was great! Then Rija took me to meet the Medicin Inspecteur of Fandriana. On the walk back, he told me (in English, which he speaks a little of) “If you take it easy, it is very funny to work in Tsarazaza!” He also told me that he was walking me back to the hotel because I was new and the boys in Fandriana can be kind of crazy! How sweet of him. I spent the morning exploring, talking to Lango, learning a Malagasy song on the guitar from Lango and writing. The cat at the hotel had kittens that we were playing with, and Lango promised me one when I return!! Around 3 I heard voices coming up the stairs and someone called out “Are there Americans here?!” It was Fran and Andrea! Fran is the PCV I am replacing in Tsarazaza; Andrea is the volunteer in Sahamadio, near Fandriana! I quickly discovered that Andrea is actually from Missoula, Montana! We all hit it off really well and I think there was rarely a quiet minute. We got some wine and ate the cheese I brought from Ambotomanga that night.
The next day we had cafe au lait and bought groceries to cook some peanut curry. We walked to Sahamadio (about 4km) to stay at Andrea’s. Her house is lovely and we had a great time. I’m really excited I get to spend the next year with her! We met this lovely old lady in Sahamadio who was really excited about us, and told Fran that I was going to by “mahay” (good, knowledgable) at Malagasy because I could speak English so well! They think if you can’t speak Malagasy, clearly you can’t speak any language! &#x1F60A So, our peanut-curry turned out amazing! We had a good night there, then said goodbye. Fran and I caught a taxi-brousse back to Fandriana, bought some groceries, ate some yogurt with Voangy (who is due to deliver her baby ANY day now!!!), and hopped a taxi-brousse down the long, grueling 16km road to Tsarazaza.
Once we arrived in Tsarazaza, everything became a blur! SO many people were excited and nervous to meet me! I think the first important person I met was Tina, a 5 year old boy who is just gaga to play with me and have a new friend! Next I met Mada, one of Fran’s good friends. Shortly after we entered our house, Mada and Bertine, best of friends, arrived with voamanga (sweetpotato)! We did a traditional welcoming with me eating a spoonful of honey to ensure a sweet service and life in Tsarazaza. Then we ate voamanga and chatted a bit. We gave them the loaka we purchased in Fandriana—freshwater crayfish (???)! We were so excited about it because we were so brave to buy them! Then we said goodbye and I had a chance to take in my new house. I have 3 rooms–one downstairs, two upstairs. The rest of the day I continued to meet people of the village and began to form an idea of this new place I’ll be living. I spent a total of 1.5 days there, but it’s a lovely little village and I’m very mazoto (excited, motivated) to live there. It completely encouraged me and reminded me of why I’m here. I feel like I will be tamana (settled) there, and I can’t wait to decorate my house! It is so hard to sum up all that happened in a few short days, but I feel that Tsarazaza is the place for me. It’s a little haven of a village settled in the mountains. I have a lovely view from my house and some really great people to get to know! Plus, lots of children to color with and learn from! The village is excited to have me and teach me, so I think all will be well!
This morning I took a taxi-brousse back to Tana and surprisingly all went well. The most interesting aspect was the brousse we were following—the top of it was completely loaded with large woven baskets each filled with 25 or so chickens!!
I’m sorry I cannot say more, but I look forward to more experiences here in M’car!

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