Long time no blog. The internet café in my banking town has gone to shit so blogging has been even more difficult. The wifi there has been getting progressively slower and it is to the point where I am unable to load WordPress (or Facebook for that matter). It is hard to get in the mood to write a blog when it won’t be posted for a long, long time. Even worse, the wifi there was completely down today. Apparently there is another decent internet café about 1km off the main road so it looks I will have to investigate that. But anyway, I am sitting here is the fancy restaurant in town charging my computer and trying not to get annoyed while a woman is taking pictures of me on her phone (at least turn the sound off lady!) so blogging it is.
This is going good so far! Despite having a very difficult time trying to find people to volunteer to build things for the school, the main construction aspects are finished. I kind of had to scare people by saying that if the community didn’t work hard on the project that Peace Corps wouldn’t give us anymore money (partly true, if it turned out to be a big hassle I probably wouldn’t have the motivation to apply for more funding). The well now has a new cover and the fence around it is basically complete (I just need to finish adding bamboo to the other half). It looks beautiful and everyone (especially the teachers) is really excited. We also have a beautiful roofed compost/fertilizer area. The poor guy who built it was supposed to have people help him but he got bailed on for two days and ended up doing everything by himself. What a trooper! We are working on putting in raised garden beds right now (logs) and I am supposed to have someone help me cut notches in the poles tomorrow. I tried to borrow some woodworking tools to do it myself but it turns out I am lacking such skills. I still have all my fingers and toes though! I would still like to add a little tree growing area, more raised beds, and maybe a trellis, but all those require is logs which are super easy for me to order (ie. approach any man on the street holding a big knife and offer him money). One big project ended up getting dropped. When my project was over funded I talked to the school director and suggested we add a tool shed with the extra money. He said yes but when meeting with other involved in the project, the idea was shot down. They are scared of theft (of course it would have had a lock, but that is easy enough to get around) which is all too common in Ambohidray. So we are using that money in other ways and have hopeful plans to convert an area in one of the classrooms into a storage area sometime in the future. I bought a whole bunch of supplies today and still have about 120,000 Ariary to go. I was able to purchase 50 packs of colored pencils so when we do classroom activities there will be enough for ever student to have one. Yeah! So excited! Thank you again to everyone who donated and stay tuned for more updates & pictures!
Women’s Gardening Group:
Last week was the big day where the women were able to collect their tools. It was a great! Peace Corps is supposed to be about teaching and building human-to-human interactions, NOT just giving people stuff like so many aid organizations do . Even so, seeing the look of absolute joy on these women’s faces when they had all their tools was amazing. It is one of the best days of my service so far. The issue of women not having enough money to make the payments ended super quickly when the tools were actually here. All but 2 women fully paid for and collected their tools that day and everything was done by the end of the week. I am still trying to find enough fertilizer for the group. We need another wagon load and a half and nobody in town has any (fertilizer meaning mature manure, all the poop now is still “manta” or unripe). So the lady’s living in the southern section of town may have to wait a bit. Due to bargaining and buying cheaper notebooks than originally accounted for, we still have about 40,000 Ar to spend. A large portion of this will go towards photocopies and also a communal supply of seeds so they women can try new varieties. Each women got 4 packs of seeds as a part of the project but everyone basically chose the same few things (carrots, greens, cucumbers, and zucchini). Hopefully tying something new will open their horizons. Also, I am going to hold the communal seeds hostage so that they can only use them when I am present. I keep on telling the women that I want to help them set up their gardens, but no one has taken me up on it yet.
We have had one meeting since the tools were distributed and, as expected, some of the women did not show up. No matter how much you try and account for it, some people are going to lose interest in the educational component once the physical items are in hand. That being said, there was still a good group of women and the class went really well. We talked about double digging and some helpful soil amendments. Most of the time was just spent chatting which is really wonderful. We snacked on some squash and sunflower seeds which they found very strange but interesting. People took home sunflower seeds, mint starts, and rosemary starts. I have some malabar spinach growing which everyone loves so I took some cutting and am trying to see if I can get them to root and then can hand them out. Everyone seems pretty excited about these new things!
Also as expected, once the tools were distributed I was inundated with women wanting to join (but where were you at the beginning when I was begging every woman I saw on the street to come to my meetings?!). I keep on kindly explaining that they are welcome to join the group and learn about new agricultural techniques, but that they cannot buy the items because there is only enough money for the 15 women who were involved in the project from the beginning. They generally don’t like this answer, but oh well.