Hi Everyone - or I should say 'Salama', a word constantly used here in Madagascar as all the children, men, women, everyone wants to say hello to 'Vasahs' (basically tourists /white people)… It is a bit different to London as everyone is friendly!
I have just spent 2 weeks in the bush working in a village helping to build a school latrine, fuel efficient stoves and also doing some community mapping.
Remote would sum it up fairly well and it was quite hard going with just my tent or a 3 sided tarp 'shed' to go to- especially when it rained. Anyway, after many, many meals of rice and beans, we actually came back a few days earlier than planned. Partly because we were ahead of schedule as I think we were a fairly efficient bunch and managed to get 800 bricks made quickly and a latrine nearly finished, but we also left early because our guides had news of some 'bandits' in the area looking to steel Zebu ( type of cow), which are really valuable and worth a lot to families here. Even though they were of no threat to us at all, the charity obviously didn't want to take any risks so Thursday morning, we packed our stuff up and loaded us, our stuff, all the kitchen things, about 20 volunteers and staff, some villagers and a live (just) chicken onto the truck! It is quite hard to describe the trucks here but to put it into a bit of perspective, I fell through one of the 'seats' on the way out because the road was so rutted, I bounced and broke it (too much rice and beans maybe!), we had to constantly stop and all pile out of it for the driver to either refill the nearly burnt-out radiator or for it to cross over a pot hole the size of a car. The journey is not for anyone with a dodgy stomach or the faint hearted - especially when you look back at a bridge we just crossed and realized the truck's wheels went over the sides of the bridge so if the driver had gone a little bit too far to the left or right, the truck plus contents would have gone in the river! I am sure they have done it countless times and its best not to look!!
The villagers of Malialhambo (not sure that is the correct spelling but I will update it when I can!), are genuinely so grateful for us being there and helping them; the government is going through some difficult times here and there is no public funding for new buildings. Azafady has therefore built a school, the teachers house and now the latrine for the school for the village and it means that, come October, about 300 children will be able to go to school when previously, they would have to walk 2 hours there and back each day or not go at all.Azafady has also built a well for the village but there is a bit of a problem of people not using it because they are scared to break it or simply, they don't know how to use it so use the river for everything… and I mean everything. All the other volunteers except me and another girl used the river for washing and I managed to gain the courage one day to use it but just did not feel clean at all so had to resort to treking to and from the well for my bucket showers each day (hair wash day was especially interesting with just a bucket of water so I ended up just staying at the well, sometimes with a few kids watching me!). Anyway, back to cold but running showers here in Fort Dauphin now.
Thought I would include something about the weather like a good British girl I am… It has been a bit rubbish at times, especially when I hear the UK is having the best summer for years- grr. Anyway, it has been good to be a bit cloudy when we have been working because when the sun is out, it gets really hot. Today is finally sunny, a beautiful day and the wind has dropped also so things are looking good. It is officially winter here but it will start to get better next month I believe.
I thought I didn't have much to write as the days were quite similar in the bush but actually I could carry on, but I think the man here in the internet café wants to go for his lunch so I better get this posted online and I will try to update it again before we go on the next project. We are heading to St Luce which is on the coast and supposed to be beautiful next weekend so that will be good to get working again (although I will be in the office for a bit this week as I am writing up my interview with the chief of the village!). We will also go back to see the village we have just left to say goodbye properly and see the finished latrine because a construction team are going this week to finish it off.
Sorry if this is a bit difficult to read or bad spelling anywhere, I am on a French keyboard so a bit tricky!
Hope everyone is well and missing everyone...
Lots of love, Liz xxxxx