Tuesday, September 28, 2010

P.O. BOX!!!!!: A Small Triumph in the Midst of Setbacks

SUCCESS!!!! Shayla and I just opened a P.O. box that we’re going to share here in Morondava. I’ll only be able to get my mail when I come into town to do banking, and I don’t know yet how frequently I’ll be doing that. But at any rate, you can now start sending my mail to:

Kristen Walling
B.P. 294
Morondava 619

It’s such a relief to have done that. We did it completely on our own (without the help of our Malagasy installers), and almost exclusively in the Malagasy language. After a rather frustrating and exhausting week, it was good to realize that we can in fact accomplish tasks on our own here. START SENDING MAIL!!!!

Which is good, since I’m finally almost ready to actually be out at site. As you may have read in my post a couple days ago, myself and the other two volunteers in my region have had quite the time trying to get situated at our respective sites. Sure enough, they hadn’t finished the construction on my latrine and shower when I tried to move in. (Rather, they’d hardly even started—they had dug the hole for the latrine but that was it.) It’s apparently finished now, though. I moved most of my things in yesterday but as everything wasn’t 100% finished, I couldn’t stay. I had a couple more courtesy visits to the police and such in Morondava to finish up today anyway. As it would turn out, I actually got pretty lucky that I couldn’t move in right away.

I’ve had a pretty nasty struggle with what the doctor assumed is acute food poisoning since Saturday night. For the first 36 hours I was making excursions to the bathroom every 20-30 minutes. Even though I’m not staying in the most posh hotel in Morondava, I definitely appreciated having a flush toilet for the experience as opposed to a hole in the ground. (Although the couple of drives to and from my site trying to get things moved in were certainly…..interesting, shall we say.) After a while the doctor put me on an antibiotic which started to turn things around pretty quickly. I’ve been improving very rapidly for the last 24 hours. I tried to eat a good meal last night but ended up just nibbling at the food. I finally got some more substantial food in me today. (Mom, I know you laughed at me for saving those granola bars I received in the package a month ago. But boy am I glad I did! Breakfast this morning was utterly delightful.)

The schedule’s still tentative because Shayla still can’t move into her house. I’m assuming at this point that I’ll be dropped off by my installers at my site whenever they are completely done with everything and ready to head back to Tana. They have to drive through my site anyway. But, depending on how things go, I wouldn’t be surprised if they just decided to go out there and drop me off tonight. Who knows. Go with the flow.

This week has certainly epitomized what I expect much of my life to be like for the next two years. Ups and downs abound (a lot more downs this week than ups), and it’s going to take a lot of willpower to stay committed to being here. But despite all of the challenges, there are still many moments of great joy. On Saturday night we walked out of our hotel to head to dinner right as the head of government’s motorcade drove by. All the windows were down, and he WAVED TO US!! FROM 15 FEET AWAY!!!! It was pretty cool . . . I’m pretty sure I’ll never get that close to any American President. And when I was moving my things in yesterday, all the kids and women in my neighborhood started crowding around my house to watch the whole production. They seemed very excited that I was moving in. So, it’s the memories like these that I need to hold on to during the moments (or days, or weeks as it may be) when I’m struggling. As the Malagasy would say, “Mazotoa!” (Enjoy!)

Love love,

ALSO I think I got this picture upload to work. So here's what the pictures are: 1) me with my host family during training, 2) my host family enjoying the s'mores I taught them how to make one night after dinner, 3) my host family's house, 4) me giving a demonstration (in Malagasy!) to the neighborhood about clean/safe water, 5) me at swearing in, with the Malagasy and American flags behind me


  1. Wow! So much to comment on...but most importantly, I'm so impressed that you're at a point with your Malagasy that you could give a demonstration on clean water! Was it challenging or pretty basic given what you learned in training?

    Also, I love reading your blog :)


  2. YOU GO GIRL! You are so utterly amazing and every day give us one more reason to be proud. Virtual hugs and love from thousands of miles away! ~Mom

  3. i heart you! i love your pictures and everything sounds amazing.........-booty

  4. I love reading your blog and seeing your updates.


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