The overall feeling I have now: things are going to get real pretty quickly. I’m starting to feel like I’m a little behind in my preparations, but I’m also not exactly sure where I should be at this point. Confusion, excitement, anxiety are the feelings of this period.
This week, I was fortunate enough to hang out with a local San Diegan who is also a recently returned Peace Corps Volunteer that taught English in Madagascar. We were connected through my Peace Corps recruiter who suggested that we get in touch and talk all things Malagasy. Well, it was mostly her talking about her time in Madagascar and me intently listening and asking random questions every once in a while. But still, it proved to be such a valuable resource and a really entertaining encounter. She confirmed some of my suspicions, calmed some of my nerves, opened my eyes a little more to the true nature of Peace Corps service, and gave me some great tips on how to get along on the Red Island. Her excitement and passion for Madagascar were contagious. She was candid about her experiences and brutally honest about some of the realities that I am bound to encounter. The types of things that you don’t necessarily hear from Peace Corps directly. We chatted for a while over beers and here’s some of the things I learned:
Getting a stomach malady is not a matter of “if,” but rather “when” and “for how long”
The bubonic plague is a real thing still but it’s not the worse disease to contract; it’s manageable with vigilant medical care
People will want to touch me because I’m a white person
Malagasy is pronounced “mala-GAS-ee”
Focus on packing more supplies and less personal items (clothing, creature comforts, etc)
Even as a teacher with a more structured work schedule, I’ll likely have more free time than previously expected
Running as a form of exercise is not widely accepted among Malagasy; you look dumb when nothing is chasing you
Overall, most Malagasy people have a very positive view of Americans because most Americans they come in contact with are PCVs
Our conversations were very engaging and informative. It definitely helped me get a more realistic grasp on the service that I am soon to enter, from staging and training all the way through service and coming home. And the best part is that it didn’t scare me at all, just made me more curious and thankful for having this awesome opportunity to live and work in such a special place. We will continue to keep in touch over the next couple of months and she has offered to help me start to learn the Malagasy language.