Projects and ponderings from two kindred spirits in Madison, WI
Category : Peace Corps
As many of you probably already know we decided to take the option of early completion of service due to the current political and social unrest taking place in Madagascar. The decision wasnâ€™t an easy one as we were unable to say goodbye to many of our friends and co-workers in our village. Our village will always have a place in our hearts. We also left behind some unfinished projects that we had planned on wrapping up in our last few months of service. We are still processing everything that is happening in Madagascar and the changes we will be going through over the next few weeks. We are hoping to see you all soon and thanks for joining us on our adventure via this blog over the past two years. We hope you enjoyed the entries and photos and that it served to accomplish the third goal of the Peace Corps:
“To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.”
Erin & Jacob Vennie-Vollrath
RPCVs Madagascar (2007-2009)
So over the past few days meetings and gatherings have come and gone peacefully here in Madagascar. For volunteers this is great news as our consolidation passes the two week mark. Today the American Ambassador in Madagascar said that negotiations between the two sides are looking optimistic. We all continue to hope for the best and that the crisis resolves itself in the best possible way for the Malagasy people.
Note to foreign newspapers: The proper term (demonym) for referring to the people of Madagascar is Malagasy. Many articles incorrectly refer to the Malagasy people as Madagascans.
Also, BBC’s article “Madagascar crowds brave cyclone” is a little exaggerated. The rain in Antananarivo was little more than a strong mist with virtually no wind.
So the political unrest in Madagascar continues. Sadly, yesterday over 20 people were killed in Tana, the capital city. The news took a toll on Peace Corps Volunteers and some PCVs are considering returning to the US in light of the continued violence. All volunteers currently have the option of taking interrupted service. We have been offered to take an early completion of service since we are so close to completing our service in May. But since we never got a chance to properly bring projects to a close and say goodbye to our friends in our village we aren’t currently considering that option. Most volunteers are thinking along the same lines as we are. So we continue to wait and hope with the volunteers around Fort Dauphin for the situation to be peacefully resolved without more violence like yesterday’s tragedy.
While we witness the current political unrest in Madagascar reverse a lot of the progress that has been made over the past 10 years we are trying to keep our mind off things by staying busy. Erin & I have been working with a friend to create a web site for his eco-tourism project. The organization is called the Bright Life Association and aims to guide tourists into remote areas of Southern Madagascar and help them experience first-hand the wildlife, culture, and natural beauty of the region. He is also putting together small development, conservation, and missionary projects which will soon be added to his web site.
Although now might not be the best time for a trip to Madagascar if you are ever in the Fort Dauphin region and want a guided tour to any of the parks or natural wonders in the area contact Belgeant. He speaks English, French, and Malagasy and is one of the friendliest people we have met in Madagascar.
Check out the web site! – http://brightlife.madaprojects.com
Telephone: 033 14 475 54 or 032 61 292 04
Association Bright Life Amboanato1
Fort Dauphin, Madagascar
So the consolidation of Peace Corps Volunteers continues in Madagascar. We have now been consolidated for a week here in Fort Dauphin – a long and stressful week of uncertainty. We are receiving daily ‘cryptic’ updates from Peace Corps about the situation which usually involve the words “calm but very tense” and “peaceful political unrest” as well as “Tropical Cyclone Gael” which is threatening to make landfall sometime this weekend.
So we wait, hoping for the political situation to resolve itself in the best possible way for the people of Madagascar. The Ambassador has issued a statement to the BBC World Service warning the Madagascar government that receiving American aid in the near future may be unlikely without addressing some of the issues at the center of the current political crisis.
He said President Ravalomanana was seeking a grant totalling $500m (Â£345m) starting in 2010.
“There is very little opportunity for that to happen unless some of these issues of political freedom and economic freedom as well begin to be addressed,” he said.
So we are spending some of our days helping a Malagasy friend create a web site for his guide service near Fort Dauphin. When we aren’t doing that we’re reading books or watching movies. Most recently we watched the new Batman movie “The Dark Knight” which we both enjoyed.
If things stay calm this weekend we might be returning to our village sometime next week. But who knows.
Fort Dauphin remains one of the few cities unaffected by the social unrest and political issues affecting other cities in the country. Yesterdays political rally was peaceful and involved a few hundred people listening to and expressing their grievances. When it was finished everyone returned home and went on with business as usual.
Here are a few pictures we’ve taken around Fort Dauphin the last few days while waiting for the country to return to peace.
Fort Dauphin – our beautiful banking town – is still calm. However, there are rumors that today is “their day to shine”. There is a gathering in the town center today which will reveal whether Fort Dauphin ends up like Tulear, Antsirabe, Tana, and Tamatave with the looting of stores and World Food Program warehouses or if it remains calm and unaffected by the political and social unrest taking place in the Northern parts.
We are hoping things stay calm so that we can return to our village and friends as soon as possible. As of now power, water, cell phones, and Internet are all still functioning in Fort Dauphin. We’ll try to keep you all updated on the situation here as much as possible. The New York Times & aljazeera have just posted articles on the most current news – also check the facebook page which now has over 500 members updating photos and information.