Fort Dauphin, Madagascar

January Goals

I’m trying a new thing where instead of plotting out large yearly goals, I break them down into bite-sized monthly goals. It’ll make everything feel more manageable and considering Gareth left yesterday and I’m feeling quite sad and far from home, it’ll give me a tangible list of things to focus on instead of the 6,000 miles between us.

january Goals

MPH

  • Finish the project for my Social Research class.
  • Finish the book for Issues in Public Health.

French

  • Get to lesson 16 in Pimsleur French 1. I used Pimsleur to learn Spanish before moving to Spain and it was hugely helpful. It’s a bit different this time, though. I studied Spanish from grade 8-11 in school, and though it had been nearly 10 years (!), a lot stuck with me. French is literally starting from scratch, I have to google how to spell oui, etc. I get through lessons a lot slower but the plan is to just stick with it and by the end of Jan be over halfway through level 1.
  • Work on the 1000 most common French words in Memrise (100 words).
  • Read first five chapters of Madrigal’s Magic Key to French.
  • Arrange for a tutor to begin biweekly lessons in February (waiting until I have SOME background).

Health and fitness

  • Stick with Kayla Itsines workouts three to four times a week for the full month. While I’m not crazy about the branding (every body is a bikini body, etc ), these are really effective and easy to do without equipment.
  • Try to figure out why I’m sick ALL. THE. TIME. The indicator for this is if I haven’t improved by mid-January to go back to the doctor.

So we’ll see how this goes. If I come close to accomplishing any of this, I’ll update and make a new one for February. If not, it’s safe to assume I failed on nearly all counts. :p

 

Ring-tailed Lemur at Berenty Reserve

All About the Lemurs

As you all know, we spent Christmas at the Berenty Reserve in Androy, Madagascar. You can read about the logistics of such an adventure here, and see the photo diary of everything but the lemurs here. What you will find below are the best pictures and videos I got of all the different lemurs that live in Berenty. So without further ado, the highlight of the trip — the lemurs!

Sifakas Lemurs

These guys were so cute. They live in big groups (up to 13!) and can co-exist peacefully with other lemurs (though they do have certain territory, it can overlap). Sadly, all species of sifakas are threatened, ranging from vulnerable to critically endangered. When not stuffing their faces, which we saw quite a bit, they spend a good part of the day sunbathing, stretched on the branches.

Sifakas lemurs in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar Sifakas lemurs in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar      Sifakas lemurs in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar Sifaksa Lemurs in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

We also saw these guys do a little dance to cross the road at one point, which was honestly so, so cool.

Ring-Tailed Lemurs

These guys were crazy friendly and brave. Though we commonly saw them out in the forest, there are also about 20 who live in the camp and hang out whilst you eat (and try very hard to steal your food). The ring-tailed lemur is highly social, living in groups of up to 30 individuals. It’s matriarchal, a trait common among lemurs. To keep warm and reaffirm social bonds, groups will huddle together. The ring-tailed lemur will also sunbathe, sitting upright facing its underside, with its thinner white fur towards the sun. Sadly, though they reproduce quite easily, they are also endangered due to habitat destruction and hunting for bush meat and the exotic pet trade. In 2017, it was estimated there are only about 2,000 left in the wild.

Ring-tailed Lemur at Berenty Reserve Ring-tailed Lemur at Berenty ReserveRing-Tailed lemurs in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Brown Lemurs

These guys are called the “common” brown lemur and while they were cute they were kind of overshadowed by the others, haha. Though the littler, darker one below was very frightened of this water and watching it muster the courage to drink was pretty adorable.

Brown lemurs in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Also this momma was carrying her baby in her mouth as it was too young to cling to her back.

White Footed Sportive Lemur in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

White Footed Sportive Lemurs

These guys are nocturnal, though we spotted a few in the day. They cling to bush and are pretty difficult to spot. Mothers will live with the children and males live in solidarity but have territories that will overlap those of one or more females. They also eat their own feces, so that’s something.

White Footed Sportive Lemur in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar White Footed Sportive Lemur in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Gray Mouse Lemur

This teeny little lemur (it only weighs about 2 ounces) is ADORABLE. We only spotted them at night and it was hard to get a good picture, but doesn’t it look kind of like a non-creepy furbie? The gray mouse lemur and all other mouse lemurs are considered cryptic species, as they are nearly indistinguishable from each other by appearance. For this reason, the gray mouse lemur was considered the only mouse lemur species for decades until more recent studies began to distinguish between the species.Like all mouse lemurs, this species is nocturnal and arboreal. It is very active, and though it forages alone, groups of males and females form sleeping groups and share tree holes during the day.

Gray Mouse Lemur in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

So I’m assuming you’re currently looking up flights to Madagascar to have your own experience in Berenty Reserve, no?

Honestly, what an incredible Christmas/life experience this was. I’ve seen the lemurs!

Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Berenty Photo Diary

Everything But the Lemurs

During our three incredible days at the Berenty Reserve, we were able to see so much. Dozens and dozens of lemurs, reptiles, birds, bats, and bugs. I’ve already written a post about the logistics of organising a trip to Berenty, but here I wanted to share a photo diary of our time there. This is everything but the lemurs as there were too many of those for one post. You can find the lemurs here!

The Room

Bungalow at Berenty Reserve
Bungalow at Berenty Reserve
Bungalow at Berenty Reserve
Accommodation at Berenty Reserve

 Animals

Lizard, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar Radiated Tortoise, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar Scorpion, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Chameleon, Androy, Madagascar
Owl, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Lizard, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Sleeping Chameleon, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Bird, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Three-eyed Lizard, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

We saw the cycle of life in full effect a few times as well 😉

Chameleons Mating, Berenty Reserve, MadagascarSpider Tortoises Mating, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Snake eating a bird, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

yes, that is a snake eating a bird

Flying Foxes

Flying Foxes, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Flying Foxes, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Flying Foxes, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Berenty

Spiny Forest, Boabab Tree, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Baby Boabab Tree, in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Garden, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Spiny Forest, Boabab Tree, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

We saw an 850 year old Baobab tree, which made my Little Prince loving heart very happy. Boabab Tree, in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar Boabab Tree, in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Don’t forget to check out the lemurs, here!

Madagascar – One Month Update

So I blinked and it has somehow been just over a month since I arrived in Fort Dauphin! In some ways it feels like I’ve been here much longer, and in so many others it feels like I’ve literally just arrived.
Fort Dauphin, Madagascar

getting here

To back up, I left Boston the evening of Sunday, November 11th and after a long journey (Boston → Chicago → Addis Ababa → Tana), I arrived in Madagascar on Tuesday, November 13th.

I was nervous for the chaos I’d been told to expect at the airport, but it was really easy to find my driver and secure myself a Telma SIM card for my phone – everything went smoothly right up until I realized I had forgotten the PIN of my brand new ATM card and had no access to money. I changed what little cash I had and THANK GOD was able to remember it the next morning, when I was back to catch the internal flight down to Fort Dauphin.

Fort Dauphin

Fort Dauphin is stunningly beautiful. I keep having to take a break to look around in shock that I actually live here.

Fort Dauphin, Madagascar

view from my flat

Fort Dauphin, Madagascar

view from a favourite lunch spot

I’m really loving the work aspect of everything, which is exciting as that’s what I’m here for. My projects are all very interesting, and I’m really looking forward to learning so much more about HIV and WASH. I’m going to focus on learning enough Malagasy to get by — the basics, numbers, words for food, etc, and then I’m going to switch to learning French, as I think it’ll be really easy to learn the basics here and most people I’ve met speak it. There’s also an Alliance Francaise in Fort Dauphin where I might be able to take lessons. This is the first time I’ve been anywhere near an immersive French experience, and I want to take advantage!

Fort Dauphin, Madagascar

Settling in

I live with one other girl in house new to our company, meaning it’s empty aside from two beds, a table, and a couch. It’s going to take some work to make it homey, and our first week was a series of unfortunate events where every time we thought we had it figured out, something new went wrong. Finally got buckets to fill up when the water is on at night to use for showering/flushing the toilet, and the water went out for 10 days straight. There was a period of time when I had giardia, no water to flush and all the lightbulbs in our house had burnt out. Stumbling to a dirty toilet with a head torch whilst feeling like you’re dying in a brand new country is QUITE the trial by fire!

When I first arrived it was kind of terrifying how helpless I felt. I didn’t know my way around town and Google maps is not really a thing here. Nor is Google translate, and I didn’t know any Malagasy. So for things as basic as food and water I was so dependent on others to show us where to get them, order for us, handle the money.  I’m so excited for everything coming up and by this time next month to hopefully feel even more settled in than I do now!

The biggest adjustment has been how much time it takes to accomplish anything. It took a full week to get to a point where we had drinking water, toilet paper, soap, buckets to shower/flush with, and a trash can. My first week I learned to celebrate the smallest victories – having a shower was an entire day’s accomplishment, and I’ve grown from there. There are still so many things I need (a fan! a fridge, a functioning laptop, a dresser not filled with cockroaches, etc), but I’m getting closer and closer to living a relatively normal life.

Fort Dauphin, Madagascar

That said, it’s only been a month and I’m now nearly as comfortable killing the roaches as our very capable upstairs neighbor is. We have a good stock of back up water, set up steady laundry service and a cleaner who comes twice a week (what luxury), and everything feels much easier. It’s shocking how happy the ability able to wash your hands, take a shower (even from a bucket), and flush a toilet can make you. I’ve also found a bunch of places  in Fort Dauphin where I love to eat, and beside the giardia haven’t been that sick from food yet (touch wood).

Coming up

Somehow time has moved fast enough that Gareth is currently in the air, on his way to Tana. It feels like we said goodbye so recently, and if we can keep this up through the year I think time will fly and be much easier than our LA to London long distance was. We’re hanging around the Fort Dauphin area while hoping to do a few day/overnight trips to nearby reserves and lodges, and maybe a few nights at the fancy hotel here in town.

After that we’re into 2019 which is almost too crazy to consider! 2018 flew by, and it’s kind of freaking me out how fast time has been moving lately. That said, 2019 will be quite the adventure and I’m looking forward to being even more settled here in Mada.

Big News Part Two: Madagascar

Hi there, it’s been a minute hey? We’ll be back to regularly scheduled Greece posts shortly, however I’m behind on everything due to some Major Life Changes. As of last Thursday, I no longer live in London. I’m home in Boston for a few (amazing) weddings, and next week I’ll be getting on a plane and arriving three days later in Antananarivo. Why you ask? I’m moving to Madagascar.

The when

I fly out next Sunday night, and arrive midday Wednesday. The contract is for 12 months to start, which feels great professionally and long personally. This is without a doubt the most exciting, terrifying, adventurous thing I’ve ever done. I vary between confidence and fear, along with overwhelming sadness at leaving Gareth (OH GOD AND BRADY), both of whom I’ve already had to say goodbye. But it is an incredible career move – and in that respect I’m nothing but excited.

The What

I’ll be a Project Development Officer for Community Health in Fort Dauphin, which is on the south-eastern coast of Madagascar. I’ll be working on project design and development, funding applications, donor reporting, and implementation for three projects – HIV in both rural and urban settings and WASH in schools.

MPH

ALSO, I was accepted to begin my Masters of Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Classes are through distance learning, so I can complete the work online while living in the field in Mada. It’ll take 2-3 years to complete, and I’m honestly shocked my degree in writing/TV got me into LSHTM, as it’s one of the top programmes in the world!

So by this time next year, I’ll be halfway through a masters and have a year in the field as an Officer on my CV. I’ve felt this urgency to progress as I changed careers quite late, and haven’t been so pleased to still be an assistant at 28. But now (I hope) the ball is finally rolling and things are going to only get more interesting from here. These are two things I’ve been trying to do for years, and I am SO happy it’s all happening!

What next

I’ll be able to check off number 12 and 23 of my 30 before 30, which are probably the most important ones on there. I’ll be posting more frequently as this is definitely a time I’ll want to look back on years from now. I’ll be talking about how to survive long distance, the preparation needed before moving to a developing country, and once I arrive, all things Madagascar. I’m so excited for this next chapter!