Mbola tsara folks!
I am writing from the third (and no question about it – best – hotel I’ve stayed in in the last week. This one has wifi (although I can’t connect to it bc my dumb self deleted wifi capabilities from my computer aka I typed this entire post on my phone that’s called dedication ur welcome mom), consistent(ish) running water and electricity, filtered water, and REAL BUTTER. At this moment I’m sitting on a bougie roof drinking bougie (read: sort of disgusting) dranks avec mes amis.
I know what you’re thinking: “that sounds bougie af Ione basic living amenities?? who do you think u r” but listen up folks I think I deserve this atm. Here’s a list of everything that’s happened since I left Antalaha:
1. I spent 9 days living in a rural village with a host family who only spoke Malagasy and could only speak English with one dudebro (my translator) while conducting my semi-structured interviews about food
(side note: every single person thought I was working with a conservation NGO or some shit and I was there to take their land and I had to explain so. many. times. that I’m still a student & have no power whatsoever)
Speaking or having to explain that I was still a student: every single person thought that I was over the age of thirty because Malagasy ppl are TINY and they think Americans grow fast idk
2. I hiked ~18 miles over a mountain which took me + my guide eight hours bc my stubborn ass refused to hire a porter for my giant hiking backpack #noregretstho even though I also fell on the mountain bc of my heavy ass hiking backpack and scraped my knee up real bad and everyone for the next five days was SO CONCERNED about the vazaha that fell on the mountain and kept pointing at my nasty scab also it may or may not be infected but there’s no way in hell you’ll catch me @ a French-speaking doctor rn bc I can’t handle that emotionally
3. I stayed in a surprisingly wealthy village where most things cost DOUBLE the price of the other side of the mountain bc the village is literally only accessible by foot over this mountain and porters carry cartons full of beer, planks of wood, cement, and all other things ppl might want to buy over this mountain every single day
My host dad here even spoke a little English/French which was amazing and the whole family was so welcoming even though they didn’t really understand my vegetarianism (but what’s new) and my dad showed us around the village and introduced us to the mayor and his mom despite being crazy busy running a school and being vice-mayor and also being a vanilla farmer and all
4. Unfortunately had zero internet or phone access whatsoever since there’s no Orange data over the mountain rip sorry for the six days of silence mom
5. Hiked another 18 miles out of the village and made my way to Sambava, where I was finally on a comfy bed in a hotel after a great meal of mediocre Malagasy pizza and red wine
6. Made my way from Sambava —> Vohemar on a taxi-brousse that was actually super delightful, but on the way we were harassed by every. single. police officer. for our phone numbers I love abuse of power
7. We arrived at our second hotel and promptly: lost the key and had to break into our room for the next three days that we were stuck in Vohemar waiting for our boat to leave
We also spent most of our time bouncing between the three hotels in the city: one that was ~quiet~ for working, one that we lived at (the cheapest), and the one that consistently had legumes and oeufs (just vegetarians living Madagascar probs) for food
8. The day we finally made the trek to Diego Suarez was actually possibly the worst day of my life – I won’t bore you with the gory details but it included but was not limited to: a sick boy releasing a wide variety of his bodily functions on me in a cramped tiny boat for seven hours; briefly missing luggage; being overcharged for rice; sitting in a mangrove for much longer than i’ve ever wanted to sit in a mangrove; many MANY obnoxious Malagasy men, a taxi-brousse that made me finally understand how a sardine truly feels; topped off by multiple breakdowns of the aforementioned taxi-brousse on the side of the road – a full day of travel which began at 4am and finished around 9:30pm
But no worries (tsy magnino) bc now I’m happy, clean, full of rice, a little tipsy, and a lot sleepy. I’m definitely not looking forward to actually having to start work, and there may possibly be a cyclone that may keep us from continuing our journey to Nosy Be, but that is a hurdle we will pass when we come to it.
Peut-être I will be better about making sure I post more of these… but probablement pas. I’m home in two weeks – which is both super scary and super exciting. I’ve had some conflicting feelings about this place ever since I left for ISP.
Not gonna lie, the last two weeks were probably the hardest part of this experience for me. As much as I felt so happy to be engaged in my own research, I was also extremely isolated by my situation and by the complete lack of French and/or English speakers around me. Being here (in general) has not been easy for me, and sometimes I’ve felt so much anger, stress, and fear at this place. I feel much better about it now as I’m surrounded by my friends and things like showers and clean drinking water, but feeling better bc of those things just makes me feel guilty about my feelings – which is very strange and unwelcome.
Basically, atm I’m very conflicted about a lot of things (including how the HECK I’m going to structure this GIANT PAPER I HAVE TO WRITE) but it’s FINE bc i have good food, freedom, friends, and bougie drinks.
See y’all soon!! (super freaking soon!!)