One of the things that really made me think twice about rejoining the ranks of Peace Corps Madagascar was the memory of the culture shock I had dealt with when I first arrived at site last time. My first few weeks, months even, in Andina were really tough to get through and the thought of going through that again was really not appealing. Having lived through it once and being familiar with Madagascar, I assumed it would be an easier process this time. First, I already know how my body deals with that kind of stress so I would be able to identify culture shock for what it is rather than constantly pondering over whether or not I’m manic depressive. Plus, I wouldn’t be quite as clueless when it comes to Malagasy culture and things like shopping at the market so I wouldn’t have to constantly think about every little daily activity – previously a source of great distress, mental and physical exhaustion as well as questioning of my mental capabilities both by myself and my neighbors. On the other hand, I knew going into reinstatement that my new site would be very different from my old one and we were going to arrive at site right as the holiday season began. So while I convinced myself I could survive the inevitable adjustment period, I was also bracing myself for a painful first few weeks.
I’ve been at site for three weeks now and I must say, the adjustment process is going much smoother the second time around. First of all, I seem to have skipped over the culture shock induced state of constant hunger I suffered through last time. That’s been a relief given the lack of food options in Morarano and insanely high price of food in Foulpointe. Plus, there’s nothing more embarrassing than always feeling like you’re starving when you live in a place where most people really don’t have enough food to eat.
The language barrier is also miniscule compared to last time. I still have issues, obviously. They speak a different dialect here and I forgot a lot of Malagasy while I was back in the states. But it’s coming back to me quickly and even though the dialect often makes it difficult for me to understand what people are saying, everyone here is usually able to understand my random mix of official Malagasy and Betsileo. I think this has a lot to do with the process being easier this time for two reasons. First, I’m able to express my wants and needs. When I got to Andina I was constantly stammering through broken sentences about wanting to do something like buy an egg, all the while gesticulating wildly in the hopes of supplementing my incomprehensible gibberish (picture me hopping around imitating a chicken laying an egg), and being met with blank stares or long lectures on the correct pronunciation of “egg” (neighbor: “ah TOO dee” me: “ah TOO dee” neighbor: “no no no, ah TOOOOOOO dee”). Needless to say, I either did not get answers to my questions or would be unable to understand the answers to my questions and ended up egg-less and sad. This time I have had much more success. I can actually ask a question and then have a full on conversation about the response. In keeping with the egg example, I asked about eggs and my neighbor told people don’t sell them here. I explained that I really like eggs and that they are a good and cheap source of protein and she went off and tracked down some eggs to sell me – success! The second reason my improved language is making life easier is closely related to the first: as seen in the egg example, the people in Andina thought I was a huge moron. And while I don’t blame them for thinking this (after all, I thought I was a moron half the time too), the belief that I was a moron really stuck and it took me months to redeem myself. So far in Morarano, however, the people appear to consider me a fairly capable adult – or at least as capable as a vazaha can be.
I also think that having more to do here in Morarano is helping a lot. I feel like I’m spending a lot more time doing things that can be defined as work as opposed to sitting around all day. I do still do an awful lot of sitting around so it’s possible that I’m just more used to doing nothing. But I’m at least telling myself I’m doing something productive and this is enormously helpful.
Over all I’m kind of amazed at how quickly I’ve settled into a routine remarkably similar to my routine from Andina. I still listen to the news and Border Crossings every night on the Voice of America. I make a lot of the same meals. I’m becoming friends with a lot of the teachers. Every Sunday, I avoid the church crowd and do my laundry. I go to bed and wake up at about the same time. The kids here are even stealing from my fence just like the kids did in Andina – it’s good to know at least one thing is the same on both the plateau and the coast.
Political Economy of Development Cheat Sheet
1 week ago