Manahoana da holo! ("Hello everybody" in Malagasy)
I arrived in Antananarivo (“Tana”) on April 23, 2013. The 14.5 hour flight from New York to Johannesburg followed by a 3.5 hour flight to Madagascar seemed long until I learned that a volunteer from Canada took five flights over three days. A WWF employee picked me up at the airport (my luggage arriving safely and a WWF sign at baggage claim were both reassuring). We drove to a hostel in the center of Tana, passing rice paddies, stray livestock, and soccer fields along the way.
The other five volunteers (ages 21-25) are from the following countries: three girls – France, Rwanda, Canada; and two boys – Gabon and Rwanda. Our conversations are a constant mix of French, English, and now Malagasy. Malagasy has simple grammar (no verb conjugations, only three tenses, no gender rules) but the vocabulary is difficult for me as there are few English cognates. The language is full of seemingly unnecessary letters – for instance the word for “a watch” is “famataranandro”.
It have quickly realized some of the things I take for granted, such as clean tap water and working street lamps. Poverty is rampant here with over 70% of the population in poverty (80% in rural areas) - a constant, glaring reminder of how fortunate I am.
We leave for the field next Tuesday where we will be for ten weeks. Once in the field, I won't have Internet access for several weeks at a time.