Last week I was back at the Peace Corps training site for several days of in-service training. After we've been at site for nearly 3 months, PC likes to bring us all back together to process the first few months and try to figure out where to go with projects now that we know a bit more of what it's like to actually be a volunteer. The schedule was pretty flexible so we got to help create our own sessions and get information about the things that we felt like we needed to learn and take back to our sites. It was also nice to see the other 37 people from my training class again - Shayla was the only one I had seen since I was installed at my site. We were all able to exchange horror stories about the mayhem we faced in our first few months at site and bounce some ideas off of each other for future projects.
I'm pretty pleased with how the week went because I feel like I have a little more direction for what I can do when I get back to site in a few weeks. At first I was flabbergasted at how many health-related activities are already going on at some of the other volunteers' sites. Although, many of these sites have had PCV's in the past or are in bigger, less isolated towns. My site is fairly removed from where many NGO's and aid organizations focus their work, and it's a new Peace Corps site. So there's not much going on in my area yet. After hearing everyone else's stories, though, I have realized I'm definitely NOT in the worst situation. While there's not much happening yet, I do have a pretty great clinic staff and a lot of excitement in the community so I think there's potential for things to develop.
Many villages already have many health educators who are trained in health topics and go out into the community to share knowledge and often provide basic health care such as vaccines. I either don't yet have them at my site, or they're not organized in a comprehensive and effective way yet. So when I get back to my village, I'm hoping to begin searching for people who are interested in doing health education and work with local organizations to conduct trainings and start getting people out into the more remote parts of my commune.
Perhaps what I'm most excited about, however, is a social marketing organization I may begin working with several days a week. They have organized many health campaigns and products for disease prevention, especially on malaria and STI and HIV/AIDS education. They do a lot of work on AIDS prevention and STI awareness among commercial sex workers, and that is definitely a major concern in the Morondava area. My Peace Corps supervisor introduced me to a couple of their employees who are hopefully going to get me in touch with their Morondava office so I can work with them when I'm back. I'm hoping that ends up working out because I think I could learn a lot by working with their office. Keep fingers crossed it works out!
Now beyond all the seriousness, as you can probably imagine, bringing together nearly 40 Americans who haven't seen each other for a few months results in a bit of ridiculousness and mayhem. In markets and roadside stalls all over Madagascar, you can find second-hand clothes from overseas; the Malagasy people call this stuff "frip." (I have seen about a trillion pairs of athletic shorts that say "Cleveland 23" on them - can't imagine why!) Anyway, a bunch of us decided to have an "Ugly Frip Party" during our in-service training, the idea being that we would all find the most outrageous frip we possibly could and have a dance party. It was pretty hilarious seeing what everybody was able to come up with. Here I am with other PCV's Christiane and Monique, and then Brianna. It was a fun night!
There was also a bit of chaos when we got back to the meva (Peace Corps transit house) in Tana. As the rainy season is beginning, we've had pretty heavy rain storms the last several nights. The meva is also at the bottom of a hill, so thanks to gravity water collects pretty rapidly and starts flowing into the entrance of the largest bedroom. This happened the first night we were back, but we got all of our bags off the floor and walked carefully across the tile floor. Two nights ago it rained again and we saw a ton of water pouring from the second-floor balcony, which we assumed was again from the rain. After it had stopped raining for a while, though, my friend Tisa soon discovered that the entire second floor was flooding because the tube to a water tank in the medical unit had broken and was spewing water everywhere. Several of us sprang into action, got the guards to help us turn off the water, called the PC duty officers and medical staff, and started a broom brigade to begin sweeping the several inches of water outside and over the balconies. JUST when I think I'm done with my days of being an RA - hah!
This is Lorin, aiming the still-spewing water into the sink so at least it wasn't spraying all over the med unit anymore.
Water gushing down the meva stairs.
Tisa and Monique moving dripping boxes of medical supplies off of the floor and to a more dry location.
Me, attempting to sweep up water.
There's just been all kinds of excitement these last couple of weeks!
I still won't be back at my site for a couple more weeks. I'm going to a couple of the other health volunteers' sites to help out with some projects. I'll be in the Antsirabe area for several days adding a kitchen & cookstoves onto the maternity room at my friend Glenda's site, and will spend Christmas there with her Malagasy friends and a few other PCV's. Then I'll be around Fianarantsoa at Tisa's site doing a training with the health educators. Tisa's site has 41 HEALTH EDUCATORS that do a lot of work in her community. Since that's something I want to start up at my own site, I'm excited to see how they work and get some ideas on how to begin.
I'm really not sure what my access to internet is going to be like over the next couple of weeks. I think there's a chance I'll have more access than I usually do at my site, but I just don't know for sure. I will be swinging back through Tana around January 2 or 3 before I return to Morondava, though, and I should have internet then that's fast enough for skype - so keep that in mind! Hope you all have a wonderful time for the holidays; I'm thinking of you all!