So many updates…

Well it’s been a minute. Things that have happened since my last post –

  • I traveled to Ethiopia and Kenya
  • I took a two week intensive French course in Montpellier
  • Gareth and I had a lovely weekend in Sevilla
  • I FINALLY went back to Los Angeles (first time since leaving in 2016!) and watched two great friends get married and visited so many people I love.
  • I moved back to London(!)
  • I started working back at Marie Stopes International on the South East Asia Team, mainly supporting the Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Vietnam country programmes (LOVE my job).
  • I took the exams for my first year of my masters (it was HARD but I think I passed them all!)
  • Brady got sick and very nearly died (but he didn’t)

So there’s a lot to catch this blog up on. First, I had to make the incredibly difficult decision to leave Madagascar. That’ll be a whole post, but basically I had some health stuff come up (on top of being insanely sick most of my time there anyway!) that needed a bit more treatment than I could get there. Still dealing with some of it – I spent 13 hours at the hospital in the middle of my exams because I have parasites in my lungs and intestines (and maybe heart??). Not ideal!

To learn more about the work I was doing in Madagascar for project Mitao, read the blog post I wrote for the SEED website here.

But now that I’m free of exams and have my life back a bit, I can finally work through the backlog of what life has been these past three months. So watch this space, more to come soon – first up about Ethiopia and Kenya because they were dreamy.

Sainte Luce Trip

Sainte Luce Trip

The morning after International Women’s Day,  we left for our Sainte Luce trip to SEED’s camp.

Sainte Luce Trip Sainte Luce Trip Sainte Luce Trip

It was GORGEOUS. We rode these little boats made from trees (that had to be consistently bailed the entire trip or they’d sink, haha), down the water to a completely wild beach. It was heaven. From there we walked through the forest to the other side of the area and had dinners and played games at an empty bar with ocean views.

Sainte Luce TripSainte Luce Trip Sainte Luce Trip Sainte Luce Trip Then we had a bush party, where a local band plays and woman dance and then you all dance and it was pretty fun. I was really proud of myself cause we were quite remote – the drive out took a while and often I can feel anxious being far from a town. But this was fine. I camped in a tent with spiders, I used a squat latrine WITH HUNTSMEN SPIDERS IN THEM, and just got on with it. Go me. The Sainte Luce trip was another weekend spent being so happy and proud this is my life right now!Sainte Luce Trip

 

Fort Dauphin Sunset

Madagascar – Month Five

A lot of exciting things have happened this month!

First, we had International Women’s Day, where the women of SEED, along with many other groups, marched through town.

International Women's Day, Madagascar

The next morning we left for Sainte Luce, where SEED has a camp. It was GORGEOUS. I did a lot of things that would have freaked me out in a previous life, mostly like exist in closed spaces close to huntsmen spiders, and it was fine.

Sainte Luce Trip

I think that’s kind of the big thing I’ve realised I’m learning from this experience. I can do hard things. My laptop broke when we went to Greece and I CRIED because I couldn’t imagine how I’d get through the trip without it. My laptop broke in Mada about 6 weeks ago and you just kind of get on with things. (That is my excuse why I got so behind on these updates). When we first moved in, the cockroaches terrified me, and now they are nothing. Just big beetles really. I used to be so neurotic about food and I’ve really come around there as well – there’s no point in stressing. If I did that here it would be every meal and that’s just a terrible way to live. I don’t find it embarrassing to have diarrhea or health issues – my body is incredible for how it’s gotten through everything. My bed is filled with ants and fleas, there are ALWAYS bugs all over me when I’m sleeping. For a while I was going to bed in full pants and socks but it’s just too hot so I let them have at it. You adjust. You can do hard things. What an empowering thing to not only believe but to know and live.

Travel

I also spent some time this month travelling in Ethiopia and Kenya, which I was freaked out about doing solo and really shouldn’t have been. First of all, compared to Mada those places might as well be the UK. I think another thing I’ve learned is life just goes on everywhere. Mada was recently named the poorest country in the world, and yes, sure, you can see that. The infrastructure is poor, as are the education and health systems and so on. But you can always find a bar to listen to music or have a dance, everyone still loves to laugh, and life honestly stops feeling any different there vs here. Kenya and Ethiopia used to sound exotic to me, but by the time I got there they felt familiar in ways they reminded me of Mada or the UK and interesting in ways they were different. But exotic isn’t really a thing, is it?

Giraffe Centre Nairobi, Kenya

Art from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The last big highlight of month five was stopping in at Marie Stopes Madagascar in Tana. I spent an hour with the Country Director, just talking SRHR in Madagascar and it was educating and inspiring and wonderful. I’m so incredibly proud of the time I spend working for MSI and really hope to be back there some day.

Marie Stopes Madagascar

I’m in the UK for another week and just got back from a quick trip to Sevilla with Gareth which was amaaazing. I’ll do posts about Addis and Nairobi and Sevilla soon, as well, now that I’ve got a working computer and SO MUCH FREE INTERNET WHAT.

Sainte Luce Trip

Madagascar – Month Four

Month Four has easily been my best month yet and started off with quite a bang! We spent the
weekend in Evatraha – my favourite place I’ve been in Madagascar thus far!

Evatraha, Madagascar Evatraha, Madagascar

We met a bit outside of town before hopping in a few boats and riding for about an hour
through the lake and reeds to get to the coolest little camp on the water. It was fairly remote,
but with bungalows to sleep in, paddle boats to borrow, and a great dock to jump off of.
We pre-ordered all our meals so there was no hassle with food and brought quite a bit of beer
with us, and logistically it all worked really well. We played games, read, swam and just relaxed, and it ended up being my best weekend to date! I loved Evatraha!

Other big things to happen… I’ve started my health economics course for my masters, which is
the one I was most dreading of all my classes this year. And so far, I’ve really enjoyed it! I’m
pretty surprised by it, and nervous for the final, but the process of learning about it has actually proved to be quite engaging.

Masters of Public Health in Madagascar

Wales beat England in 6 Nations, making Gareth and I quite the sports power couple. Some
other horrific sports stuff happened that has once again called into question the morality of my
love for the NFL, and what I would class as the only ACTUAL Patriots scandal that deserves
outrage. Why can’t we have nice things? Why do men in power consistently let us down?

ANYWAY. I’m riding a bit of a high at the moment because MY PROJECT IS NOW FULLY FUNDED! Honestly, the high of getting funded is like no other. I am into it.

We had a lovely dinner at my friend’s flat – we hung out with her new kitty, made DELICIOUS curry, and two different types of cookies. It was luxury.

Life in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar Life in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar

Also, I head back for a visit to London in just about two weeks, and on the way I used my trusty
airline miles to build in a 1.5 day layover in Addis Ababa and 2.5 days in Nairobi. Now I just have to decide if I want to hang out in Nairobi the whole time or squeeze in a two day, one night safari to Masai Mara National Reserve. These are the decisions that keep me up at night.

Fort Dauphin, Madagascar

Madagascar – Month Three

Obviously, the top highlight is WINNING THE SUPER BOWL. What else was I gonna say? To some it may be the most boring Super Bowl in history, but I was pretty stressed out the whole way through – it was within a field goal or tied down to the last 7 minutes. Also, our D played lights out and JULES GOT MVP! Brady got SIX. We tied the Steelers, life is good, etc etc.

Nearly tied with the Super Bowl win was the AFC Championship though. THAT GAME. OH MY GOD. From the moment it started to the heart attack inducing final moments, I wasn’t sure I’d survive it. Kansas City. Kansas City of “we’re onto Cincinnati” fame. Kansas City where we played so poorly I named my newly adopted (and now 5 year old) kitten Brady in remembrance of the once-great QB. In Arrowhead Stadium, which was only happening because we couldn’t close the Dolphins game. We didn’t look like us. This wasn’t our year. We were going to make it to a record breaking 8 th straight AFC Championship and then go home. I just wanted to keep in close. AND KEEP IN CLOSE WE DID. I honestly do not think I’ve ever been so stressed throughout a game but man was it worth it.

For both these games I had to watch from 2:30 – 6:00sih and the next days at work were rough. But well worth it. I miss football. Gronk and McCourty please don’t retire. Trey Flowers, how ‘bout a team friendly deal??

Fort Dauphin, Madagascar

Now for serious life stuff, unfortunately.

A colleague’s son died from measles and that was really difficult. We’re in such a weird position here because we have the privilege of being Vazahs, have health insurance, get to travel to beautiful parts of the area, can eat at the nicer restaurants sometimes, but then there’s this other side of life where water is scarce and my bed is infested with fleas and you’re sick all the time and life is fragile for people who live in this context all the time. Our night guard and his wife and 7 month old daughter live in a tiny wooden shack in our back garden and their daughter got measles (it’s outbreaking here). The treatment was about $7, which they couldn’t afford to pay. We obviously paid for it, and made sure she got ongoing care. However that turned into them asking us for basic necessities like fruit and vegetables, which was fine, but then turned into about 2-3 daily calls with requests for luxuries like diapers and sugar. It’s so hard to know how to handle things like that, and luckily SEED took over once it got too excessive – but it’s hard because you’re so privileged compared to people who have nothing. It honestly took us about 6 weeks to even realise anyone lived there – through our unadjusted eyes it seemed impossible a family could fit in such a small space.

Someone else in the office has Scarlett Fever and it feels like every day someone else is ill with something new. I will say, it hasn’t been me! Since getting over the stomach stuff and kidney infection, I’ve been relatively healthy which has been SUCH a nice break. I was starting to doubt I’d ever adjust/feel healthy again in my life. You hear horror stories of someone contracting something once and never really recovering digestively and I was terrified that was me. But nope! All good on that front (or as good as can be expected in the context haha).

It hasn’t been that eventful of a month. We had a really fun retirement party with lots of dancing.

Life in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar Life in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar

It continues to be so hot it’s difficult to work or focus or breathe, and we’ve started having near daily power cuts and I gotta tell you life without the fan isn’t my favourite.

Sweaty Life in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar

Still plugging along trying to get the rest of our funding. Organising some activities we can be doing now, which is exciting!