Friday, December 7, 2012

Holidays and Lychees

It's been a while, yeah I know. I hope everyone is doing great and is in the holiday spirit. I'm doing great here on the Mad Island.

Our regional volunteer meeting was held in Tamatave at the beginning of November. It was great to see all the other volunteers from my region as well as those from other regions who came to VAC crash. After the meeting, it was back to site until Thanksgiving, where I worked with a farmer/one of my good friends in my town to get his rice fields ready for planting. Since the people in my village don't have agricultural machinery (tractors, plows, tillers, etc.) or livestock (cows) to work the fields, everything is done by hand and foot. Plowing is done with oversized hoes. And in order to get the field ready for planting, water is run through it and the soil is stomped (with man feet) into a mud that can be planted. Haha this is not easily done! But we did it and, just this past week, got all of our plots planted using improved techniques. The improved techniques will continue to be implemented all the way till harvest time, likely in April or May. Google "SRI" if you'd like to get more information on the improved rice techniques us Agriculture volunteers are teaching in Madagascar.

Two weeks ago was Thanksgiving and it was real hard to be away from home, family, and friends for the first time ever. Missed everyone! But I had a great time traveling around the Mananjary and Fianarantsoa areas of the island. Mananjary was fantastically hot and FULL of lychees. I'd never had a lychee before (and I guarantee most folks in the states haven't either). They're a red-skinned fruit with clear/white meat on the inside and an oblong brown seed in the middle. The skin peels off very easily to reveal the most delicious fruit I have ever put in my mouth. Didn't think it got better than watermelon, but it does. I had just arrived in Mananjary on the a taxibrousse, was walking the streets towards where another volunteer's office is, and saw the fruit stands full of them. I bought a plastic bag full for 100 ariary (about 5 cents). I haven't exactly stopped eating these little red fruits of heaven for about 3 weeks now. Makes me sad to think they will be out of season soon and I will have to wait another year before I get to have them again. Also great to see some other volunteers from my stage down in their area (Nick, Anne, and Monica).
Fianarantsoa was also great for Thanksgiving. There were lychees there, too. I killed and cooked the Thanksgiving turkey but much thanks must be given to our Malagasy friends who helped to gut and clean the bird. He was a scrawny fellow but he came out delicious and everybody got to have some. We had about 30 PCVs eating Thanksgiving dinner together so it's great to have our own little family get-together down here.

After Thanksgiving, it's been back to site and back to work time. Rice fields are planted and all that remains are the weeding and water control methods that we'll get implemented. Tomorrow, I've got a meeting with my VOI organization that I've called to start getting things order for a cow raising project that I'm putting together. We're wanting to get a few cows bought for manure sale and use, milk production, and general farm labor. Keep your eyes and ears out for this project to hit the web in the coming months so that you can help fund it! Wouldn't that be cool?!?!

Christmas is upon us. Well, it's upon you folks in the Western world. Here, there is no such sign that the holiday season even exists. I do miss that. And the cold weather of winter. But, as for Thanksgiving, I'll also be traveling around the island a little bit. Hopefully gonna hit the northern most tip of the island with a bunch of other volunteers. Beach for Christmas in Madagascar? I think I'll take it, folks.

Happy belated Thanksgiving!
Merry Christmas! (or Hanukkah) (or whatever you choose to celebrate)
And a Happy New Year!



  1. I've had lychee before. We'll make sure buy them at asian supermarkets when you get back.

    Regarding the process for preparing rice field beds (I visited one in Mississippi a few months ago), the non-machinery process blows my mind. I'm glad you're doing well, James!

  2. James loved this update. Thanks for your writing! Please keep us posted on the cow needs and jeanne and I will help for sure! Peace Tom

  3. Lychee are the best thing I'ver ever put in my mouth. And the working of rice fields by hand and foot only is backbreaking. Haha what agricultural revolution??? I will keep posted for cow updates!! Thanks Ninh and Thanks Tom!

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