Well, it's been a while since I've been able to update this, but it's also been a very hectic several weeks. I've been in Tana for a few days because I have in-service training next week and then will be doing business projects with some other volunteers. This much-needed break could not have come at a more perfect time. It's been nice to see all of my American friends from my training class and be back in a place with more amenities and connectivity to life off the island.
My housing situation had been growing increasingly problematic, mostly because of an overbearing landlady and many health issues. A combination of doctors' recommendations and my supervisor's visit to my site led to me being moved into a new house last week. I'm still in the same village, about a 2 minute walk from where my old house was. Luckily I don't think there are any hard feelings, and I still swing by the old neighborhood almost every day to hang out with my friends around there. I have still been eating with my old neighbors, but my work schedule and the new house have made it less convenient than it used to be so I may switch to eating with them only on the weekends now.
Here's a picture from moving day, which I thought was absolutely hysterical. I had to get assistance my friends across the street who have an ox-cart to move my furniture and other heavy things to the new house. My very own Malagasy U-Haul.
I had a great week in the new house, and I think it's going to solve a lot of my problems, making it easier to get acclimated to life here and get started on more serious work when I'm back at site in a few weeks. I'm RIGHT next to the clinic now, but I like it. Most of the other staff also lives in the vicinity, so I think it helps all the patients affiliate me with the clinic and health work when they see me around there even more frequently than before. Here are some pictures of the house: a view from the outside (mine is the room on the right; the other rooms are used by the clinic when staff comes from other towns to help out for a few weeks at a time); views of the inside; 2 of the 3 ADORABLE puppies that often sleep in the shade in my yard.
These last few days in Tana have been simply marvelous. Everyone from my training class has been trickling into town over the last couple of days - it's nice catching up with everyone and getting to explore the city a little bit. Even though I came into Tana several times during training, it was usually for half a day and was to take care of Peace Corps business; never had much free time. It felt kind of ridiculous that I've been in the country for almost 5 months and had no idea how to get around the capital city. But, I've been living a life of luxury here at the Peace Corps meva (transit house). I've had free internet, couches, flush toilets, hot showers, a kitchen, the ability to sleep past 4:30am since there are no roosters or village children in the compound, and the temperature has been in the 70's (MUCH cooler than the average day at my site).
And the RESTAURANTS in Tana are nothing short of DIVINE!! I've enjoyed Indian food, salads, paninis, and other delicious meals. The place that has just topped off the whole week, though, is an American-style cafe called The Cookie Shop. The Cookie Shop has things like bagel sandwiches, tuna melts, chocolate chip cookies, brownie ice cream sundaes, cupcakes, iced coffee, chai tea, and fruit smoothies. I had an utterly delightful Saturday brunch special there this morning including waffles topped with chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Another volunteer was asked, "Would you like your carrot cake to come with the luscious cream cheese frosting?" -- to which she replied, "Why, yes, I believe I would like the luscious cream cheese frosting." The wait staff speak English, and one of my friends was even sassed with American-style sarcasm by an employee, giving us a good chuckle. (Sarcasm is a concept that is usually entirely lost on the Malagasy people.) It probably goes without saying that I have been to The Cookie Shop every day since I rolled into town.
These last several days have lifted my spirits and renewed my energy and excitement for my Peace Corps service. It is still going to be a few weeks before I'm back in my village, but I think I'll be ready for it when the time comes. These last couple of months have certainly not been the easiest. But I'm looking forward to going back and starting fresh. I've actually been learning a lot about my town and many of the health and development issues that I'll be working on . . . I'll update about all of that soon.