Thursday, December 31, 2009

More Embassy Fun

So, I tried calling the Madagascar Embassy once again to see how much money to add to my visa application fee for shipping. This is the fourth time I've called and someone actually answered the phone and gave me some information. Apparently their embassy doesn't have a website (which is odd as I have found two, apparently not legit) at present and their is no visa fee for less than 90 days. This is nice as the figures I have seen before have been between $33-85. Of course no one was available in that department once again and he told me to call back Monday. He said not to mail anything yet. So now I need to figure out another item on my checklist to do today - maybe I will get my prescription for Cipro filled or comparison shop for the malaria meds. Man, going to FedEx was going to be so much easier. Anyway, I had a good trip to Cabela's and got a bunch of cool things including the mosquito net, a 40 hour flashlight and lots of people-safe pesticides, more on that next time.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Gathering

So I weighed my tent today, 11.5 pounds. (It seems light enough but when I figure it is slightly more than 10% of my total carry-on weight it seems like a lot.) My family is in town visiting for the holidays and we are going to Cabela's to get some things for the trip as part of my Christmas gift from them. I hope they have the cool insecticide that you treat your clothes with and lasts for six weeks through washing! I got the Lonely Planet on Madagascar book for Christmas, the Malagasy-English dictionary (not too many of them sold I'm sure) and a comfy travel pillow. I am on day 7 of the live virus, it's giving me some stomach problems but only a couple more days to go. I am also going to mail off my visa application this week, I figured I would not get it involved in the holiday mail frenzy in fear that my passport would get lost.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mmm, live viruses...

So I had an appointment at the Travel and Immunization Clinic today and thought I was just getting info but I ended up with all my shots (Hep A, seasonal flu, H1N1), a live virus (typhoid) and two prescriptions (one for Cipro - in case if extreme diarrhea and one for 40 days of a malaria prophylaxis). I had a choice with the malaria drug - either take it weekly with a side effect of 25% nightmares and night terrors or take it daily with minor side effects, I went for the daily (obviously) even though it costs four times as much. I don't need to be screaming in my tent all alone. Glad that's all taken care of. Now onto the visa acquisition. I tried calling back Monday and they said to call Wednesday - hopefully this has nothing to do with the travel warning that was issued by Canada and is being suggested to all other non-essential travelers. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hmm...

Al Jazeera English - Africa - Madagascar protest rally broken up
I guess it's possible that March's elections go well and it's settled by the time I arrive on March 31st...just hope things don't get too crazy in the meantime. Thinking of the volunteers who are there now...

One of Three

So, I finished booking all my flights today, I had to call the airline in Madagascar to book the internal flights from Antananarivo to Tolagnaro. I've been putting this off because I wasn't sure if they would speak English or not. They did and it worked out okay, although the one hour flight cost $583, guess it made up for the savings on my other ticket. No luck on the transfusion kit, apparently not something the U.S. medical suppliers are used to selling to non-medically trained individuals. I have e-mailed the people at Azafady to see if this is an absolute necessity, oh and I also included my question about how laundry was handled while we are there. I am now moving onto finish up my visa application (when I called the Embassy yesterday they told me to call on Wednesday due to the weather). I think I will just mail it and cross my fingers that I am sending the right things. I also talked to my doctor's nurse about the shots and she gave me a couple of dates on vaccinations I had that were still good and said she would try to get me prescriptions for the malaria prophylaxis and the antibiotics. So one major thing down and two to go. I guess I also need to work on learning to speak Malagasy...

Friday, December 18, 2009

We're Closed Now

So, I have gotten a little behind on keeping up my blog and getting anything done for my trip. It's that time of year after all when for some reason the stress of everyone's holiday insanity easily rubs off on everyone else. That coupled with an unplanned trip to Maine to visit my Nana (who is doing much better) and I am not as far along with things as I would like to be. So, I was determined to have some things done by the end of the week, and then I realized it was Friday, gah! So today at lunch I tried to call the nurse at my doctor's office to get a prescription for the transfusion kit, she said no problem she'd call it in to some random place I had heard about from my CVS pharmacist. She has yet to call me back to say that it's complete.

I then called the Madagascar Embassy in D.C.. This guy answers the phone "Good afternoon, Madagascar Embassy" and when I ask for a visa application he says, "Oh, sorry we're closed now, call back Monday." I tried to ask what he meant and he said, "Okay, sorry talk to you on Monday." HA! Okay, I guess I'll try back on Monday.

The good news is that I have some new Keens that came in the mail a couple of weeks ago, I have borrowed a lightweight sleeping mat (thanks Tom!), ordered some Avon Skin So Soft in bulk (the good kind that is sunscreen and bug repellent), my dad is bringing me a headlamp and some military duffel bags when my family comes for Christmas next week and my doctor's nurse gave me the phone number for the county health department so I can figure out where to get my shots. So, I am making progress but only with the easy things. Ah, Africa here I come!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Diversity


I was in Miami, FL this past weekend and had the opportunity to meet some great new people. Living in Kansas City the diversity of the people here can be fairly vanilla. That's not to say we don't have some great culture and a richness of diversity but it isn't everywhere you look like it is in a place like Miami. It got me thinking on my drive to Vero Beach for another work site visit, that I am really looking forward to the diversity of the people I will come across during my trip. Not only will there be the local people that we will work alongside, teach new practices to and learn about their lives but also the people around the world who, like me, are preparing for the same kind of journey. I wonder about who they are and where they will come from and how my life will change for knowing them all. I love learning about other people, their culture and what they think about the things that affect the world we all live in together. The variety of the animals, food, insects and plants will be exciting too - but I won't need any medicines, bug sprays, mosquito nets or shots to be in the company of the people I meet.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Scheduling

So for those of you who know me well you know that I am a scheduler. I like routines and lists and utilize the principle of "planned spontaneity" liberally. It seems like I have gotten better as I have gotten older but it's probably because I am oblivious to my own ways. I talked to my boss at the beginning of November and made sure it was fine for me to be gone for what will end up being 25 days of work. An avid traveler himself, he answered by getting out some travel books and showing me the Madagascar entries, thanks David! I just bought a 2010 calendar for my office the other day and was writing in work trips, conferences and deadlines. I took great pleasure in filling out April's page. I then realized I had a dentist appointment scheduled for March 31st and called to reschedule right away because some habits, like proper dental hygiene, are important not to break.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Madagascar


View Larger Map
Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world. Approximately 90% of the species in Madagascar are indigenous and many are in danger of extinction due to the island currently hovering around 90% deforestation. The population currently stands at 19 million but is supposed to double in 15-20 years. In order to provide food the villagers rely on slash and burn methods to make more farmland. The organization I will be working with is trying to help them find sustainable methods for both food and farming. The average Malagasy person lives on less than $250USD a year. The main industry is agriculture with Madagascar being the largest exporter of vanilla in the world. As a stop along many trade routes, Madagascar has had rich cultural influences from all over the world.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Plane Tickets and Medical Supplies

Good news, I purchased my plane tickets to Madagascar today and even better news, the fare went down from $2740 to $1750 in the three days since I last checked on it! I can't believe my luck!

I still have to call Air Madagascar to get a flight from the capital city of Antananarivo to Tolagnaro but that can wait for another day as it involves calling Bank of America again and explaining that I am making a foreign charge. When I did this to pay my initial deposit they rejected the charge and placed a fraud alert on my account even though I had called ahead, which required me to call them back. Lovely. The people from Azafady did say in their survival guide to "get ready to have nothing turn out quite the way you plan and make the best of it". I think this experience will definitely test my limits at times.

In other trip prep news check out my sweet stash of required medical supplies I gathered up today! Thank you Medical Savings Account! Now I just need to get a prescription for and purchase needles, a transfusion kit and a crap-ton of antibiotics...

Azafady

For those of you who like to know all the details - I am going on this trip through a non-profit organization that is based in London called Azafady which means "you're welcome" in Malagasy. The organization focuses solely on Madagascar and does a variety of projects including building schools, digging wells, working with lemurs, planting trees, bringing medical care and medicine to rural areas and educates the community on everything from personal hygiene to sustainable agriculture to entrepreneurial business practices.

I will be serving from April 1-28th on a team of 20 people from around the world. We sleep in tents we bring, eat the food they prepare and work until the sun goes down. I will be working for two weeks on the Volyhazo project (reforestation, building stoves that use less fuel and working in the tree nursery) and two weeks on the Environmental Education project (provided to the local children). The beaches there are supposed to be some of the best and it is rumored in the literature I received that some surfing may be had!

Friday, November 27, 2009

My first post!

So, if you haven't heard already, I am heading to Madagascar for a volunteering vacation for the month of April 2010. I love adventures, have always wanted to go to Africa and I love the environment so this was an easy choice for me. That doesn't really mean I know exactly what I'm in for but I thought it would be fun. I have a lot of preparations to make before I go and I am supposed to be educating my friends and family about this beautiful country I will be visiting so I will update this blog with the details. Enjoy!