02 September, 2009

Let's Try This Again

For those of you who haven't totally given up on me, I have decided to give this blog thing another shot.

As most of you know, I arrived safely in Madagascar in June of 2008. I completed my training and was sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer August 22. I was placed in a small village near Ambositra, on the Plateau, where I taught English to middle and high school Malagasy students.

Although I did bring my computer along, I had no electricity. And even when I occasionally made it to the nearest larger town (Ambositra), there was no internet access. Apparently, at one time, Ambositra DID have internet access, but when I inquired about it, I was told it was "broken." Fianaratsoa did have relatively decent internet access but it was still quite slow and the longer I lived without it the less patience I had for it. Consequently, my blog sort of died.

There were many challenges to life in Madagascar. But there were just as many rewards. I grew to love my village and my neighbors and my job.

Sadly, I had to leave it all behind when a military supported Coup led by 35-year-old DJ turned mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Raojolina, resulted in the ousting President Marc Ravalomanana in March of 2009.

Peace Corps worked hard to keep us safe and secure while allowing us to remain in country in the weeks leading up to the coup, with the hope that things would blow over. But in the end, the Peace Corps program in Madagscar was suspended and all volunteers evacuated from the Island.

After spending a few weeks seeing South Africa, I arrived back home and spent the summer working and spending time with family.

We recently received word that Peace Corps is planning to reopen the program in Madagascar. I have been invited back and have enthusiastically accepted the invitation. Although Raojolina continues to claim the presidency, leaders are working toward a compromise that involves democratic elections scheduled for December of 2010. We'll see how that goes. They've got a lot of work to do. Anyway, things have calmed down and I will be returning without fear for my safety.

As for my blog; I will be placed somewhere new this time around, somewhere that will likely have electricity. For this reason I am confident

10 June, 2008

Goodbye goodbyes, hello hellos

This may be my last chance to post for several weeks (I've officially been prepared for worst-case scenario). So, from my Philadelphia hotel staging, I will try to briefly cover everything that's been going on...

Packing: I don't even want to talk about this. I am trying to push it far far out of my mind. I may have done an okay job, or I may have done horribly. I'm really not sure and I won't be sure until I arrive. All I know is that I'm not looking forward to being responsible for all of my luggage at once. For those of you who knew me with "the house/la maison" on my back, you ain't seen nothin'.

Goodbyes: They were difficult and plentiful. They consisted of lifelong friends...and family...and newly formed relationships...and colleagues/coworkers. Although I am saddened, to put it mildly, I am also extremely grateful to have so many amazing people to miss. And missing you is exactly what I am doing. At the risk of sounding cold and without a soul, I am glad they are over.

Hellos: These may seem exciting and all-together cheerful, which they were, but not without their own element of discomfort. Present were the always awkward "ice-breakers," the team-building exercises, and the sharing of feelings. All-in-all, I am excited to get to know my fellow trainees and learn from each and every one of their unique sets of experiences.

Staging: Pre-departure orientation went pretty well. We had wonderful trainers who, despite the often dry content, managed to keep things quite entertaining. There is already a seemingly strong network of support evident among my peers and the Peace Corps organization in general.

So tomorrow I will set off for JFK with 25 other future EFL teachers. We will have a brief stop (not even allowed off the plane) in Dakar before reaching Johannesburg. There we will set up camp for one night before leaving for Tana on Thursday. By Friday night, I will be completely immersed in my host family's culture and lifestyle. I'll let you know how the next phase works out. Until then...

30 May, 2008

A little taste of my life to come

This evening my friend Mary prepared a traditional Malagasy meal for me, my sister, and Molly. She did the research and was able to find just about everything she needed-minus lychees-right here in Grand Rapids, MN. Amazing. Well let me just say that if her recipes were indeed authentic, which I do not doubt, then the food is one thing I am not going to stress about. It was delicious: a vegetable soup puree with turnips and carrots, a tomato salad with tangy scallions, some stewed beef served with a little dab of a paste made out of crushed red pepper, oil and garlic (my favorite), and of course rice, which was cooked with mustard greens. Yum! For dessert; fresh strawberries, pineapple, oranges, and cantaloupe drizzled generously with vanilla, a little sugar and lemon.

Recently, I became sad about missing my favorite season in Minnesota - summer - and my favorite summer activity - farmer's marketing (hey, I hear there's a verb in Malagasy meaning "to go to the market" so I figured I'd give it a shot). But then I realized that I will soon have ample access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Really good ones. Year round. So no worries here, although I will miss the cute tomato guy at Mill City...and the walnut, fig and anise bread from Mid-town...and of course sweet corn.

So, thank you Mary for giving me a break from the packing and good-byes and endless errands to enjoy a wonderful meal with perfect company that also succeeded in re-igniting the sparks of excitement that had somehow gotten buried beneath the previously mentioned errands.

29 May, 2008

Write to me!

For those who are so inclined, I give to you my address, beginning June 12, 2008 (and promise to try my hardest to respond to each and every letter received):

Elizabeth Tofte, PCV
B.P. 12091

Just plain "Beth" will probably due too, but so far they only know me as Elizabeth. Oh, and don't let the "ZOOM" in the address throw you off, it will take a very long time to reach me. They recommend numbering all correspondence, as they don't always show up in order, and this is supposed to minimize confusion.?. Also, I will have a different address post-training, which I will try to send out, but this one will also work for the duration of my time there.

For those who are extra ambitious and feel like sending me a package (I promise to name my first born child after you), it is recommended that you try to stick to padded envelopes, which tend to be taxed less heavily than boxes, and only take 1-2 months rather than 4-6!

Thank you in advance for keeping me up to date on the goings on in your lives.

Veloma! Mandrapihaona!


25 May, 2008

The Countdown

Two weeks from tomorrow I will board a plane to Philadelphia, where I will finally meet my fellow PC trainees for a couple of days of pre-departure orientation (staging). From there, we will somehow get to JFK, then to Dakar, then to Johannesburg, and finally, land in Antananarivo, Madagascar sometime on June 12. I will spend the following 10 weeks living with a Malagasy host family and taking part in intense language, cultural, technical, and health and safety training, which, combined, will hopefully prepare me for the following two years as an English teacher somewhere on the world's fourth largest island.

This blog is my attempt at keeping my family and friends in the know.

Welcome! I look forward to sharing my adventure.