Sunday, February 28, 2010

News Update

I realize that now more than ever, I need to be checking up on the news from Madagascar as often as I can, not as often as I remember to check. With only 29 days left until departure, I find myself wanting to be as "in touch" with things there more than ever.

The most recent news story I found while reading today was one about how the textile industry has all but collapsed. Recently valued as a $600,000,000 annual operation, this industry is just one more casualty of the current political regime in Madagascar. Because of the current crisis they have been shut out of not only foreign aid, but an end to a preferential trade agreement with the U.S. This has resulted in a slow down of exports and the closing of factories, leaving approximately 150,000 people unemployed.

In a country that already struggles with extreme poverty (not like poverty in the U.S.), this leaves even more families alone to fend for themselves. The result of the factory closures in the capital city, Antananarivo, has led to a flooding of the public markets with people trying to sell their textile related handiwork. Obviously the market can't sustain the influx and many people are left making a small fraction of what they did before. It will be hard to see what is happening in these markets with my own eyes. Too bad my mom will be so far away for my "why is humanity/life/circumstances so cruel/sad/heartbreaking" talks.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Best play list ever!

Trip news - I got a less ugly countdown during lunch, as you can see. I am also looking for a good weather widget to post for while I am gone just for fun.

I am also working on the best play list ever for my iPod. Brian gave me a battery booster for my iPod so I could always have my tunes even without power to charge up with. I have been listening through my stuff and deleting anything I can't stand listening to anymore. I will also add some new stuff to keep it fresh. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Can't keep putting it off

Seeing as I have 33 days left until I leave, 10 of which I will be traveling for work, I figure I can't put off the treatment of the mosquito net any longer. I don't think the weather will be warming up any time soon, so I will just go with hanging things up in the basement bathroom. I am putting a shirt in to be treated as well because it's supposed to be enough for that too, don't want to waste any chemicals.

Brian walked in while I was pouring the bottle in the bag and said that it smelled. It does, like paint thinner or something. So, things are soaking for three hours and then get hung up to dry. Watch out bugs, you're no match for the military-strength chemicals I'm packing. (I hope they hear me and get scared enough not to come knocking on my tent in the first place.) =)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Just for fun

I realize how purple this picture is but it was snowing and taken by a cell phone. We didn't pack the cable for the camera so no uploads of good shots available. All in all it was a great time and I'm looking forward to going again!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sidebar

As I mentioned a post or two ago, we decided to take a last minute trip to Tahoe for a long weekend. It seemed like a good time to go and have some time away from home with Brian before I leave. The weather started out beautiful this morning and changed to blinding snow about the time my first snowboarding lesson started. Made for some fun visibility.

Hoping that the snow backs off a little tomorrow so we can get up the mountain for day 2. They were requiring chains on our way down for anyone trying to go up - would rather not have to buy and try those out. We'll see.

My only official trip news for Madagascar is that I ordered unscented soap, shampoo and conditioner so the mosquitoes aren't attracted to me as much. Exciting, I know.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thinking in the shower

You know you're either busy or using your time unwisely when the only time you have to think is while you take a shower. This morning I had a thought about how to avoid sewing a loop to my tent to hang up the mosquito net. Not that I can't sew, but I was trying to figure out how to get the net high enough in the tent so it's not on my face. Then I thought of my clothespins! What a great way to put up the net and make my living area underneath it bigger. I wonder if anyone else has ever thought of that?

My mom gives me a subscription to Budget Travel magazine every year. (I would suggest the magazine if you can resist travel temptations.) The first article is always travel tips from readers. I sent in a tip a year ago and have never seen it published. Maybe this one would make it in!

I have also put into motion my final payment for the trip, so in about three weeks it should be complete!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Not to be confused with France

I have been assured that I will have a reservation on April 29th at the Manoir Rouge. I have only the details that Google could translate for me on rates and types of rooms but I think I will at least have a bed and a shower, so I am happy.

I can't figure out exactly what they mean by - "We have a catering and takeaway as well as small snack prices for super mowed often happens at the end of your stay." But I have a feeling I will be super mowed by the end of the month there.

I got out the box of pesticide to treat my mosquito net today and read the directions. It seems easy enough except you are supposed to hang it up outdoors to dry for two hours afterward. Seeing as it was 23 degrees today, I skipped the treatment and will check the weather forecast for a warmer day. I also figured out that I need to make my final trip donation very soon as it took my last cash transfer three weeks to go through the American donation process. This allows me to claim the tax donation and not deal with Bank of America giving me problems for foreign transactions. Since my final donation is due three weeks before I leave I need to do that very soon.

With the current monetary conversion from dollars to British pounds at $1=0.637651, I still owe 726.41GBP. ING Direct transfer now in process. Also, my third form of insurance is now paid for through Azafady, so I should be more than covered for anything that may come up.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Addict

This may not come as a surprise, but I think I am an addict...a travel addict. I get these ideas of places I want to go and then I obsess about how to get there, when I can get there and the details of what the trip will be like. I was recently accused (by two different people) of planning things out too far in advance. Obviously with my big trip coming up, I needed time to plan things out and really only started planning in the fall, which is last minute in my world.

After being in Utah all week for work I was thinking about traveling for fun and started thinking about my desire to go to Tahoe and learn how to snowboard. I talked to Brian about it last night and although it was super last minute, not planned or budgeted for, we are leaving next Friday for a long weekend. You only live once right? Guess that means I'd better treat my mosquito net on Friday night when I get home so I can report some progress for the week.

Oh, and an exciting moment in my blogging - I had my first comment from someone I don't know yet, "hi, Don"!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Assist

Why didn't I think of this sooner? I e-mailed the Azafady people today about my difficulty with trying to contact the hotel to book a night in the capital city before heading home. I explained that two months ago I had tried filling out an online reservation form and e-mailing them and hadn't heard anything back. Azafady said that booking a room was something they could do for me and would I like them to.

Heck yes, please! I haven't heard if it's booked or not. Or if it's at the nice place I wanted or some other place. But at this point I am just glad I won't have to spend another night on the airport floor like I am planning to do when I arrive. Oh the adventure that awaits. And in less than 50 days!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Stalling

I was supposed to get something done this weekend and blog about it, but I didn't. Seeing as I am leaving tomorrow straight from church for the airport, I will not be able to accomplish anything until I get back on Thursday most likely. I guess I did start looking for a lightweight rain suit today. I didn't find one but I know I don't want a poncho. I also thought about ordering the travel version of Settlers of Catan, but didn't. I could get that big item checked off my list this week when I'm in Utah.

That brings me to lists. I think I have referred to a list over the life of this blog. I love lists. I like checking things off and I like the feeling of knowing I won't forget anything because at one point when I made the list I was in the zone and "thought of everything". Confession - I don't have a list for this trip. It has all been in my head. Very uncharacteristic for me.

I guess at some point before I go I will probably come up with some sort of list for packing or something. Or maybe I should fight it off, just to see if I can.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Worrisome

I just happened to look for news today and was shocked to find same day news out of Madagascar. The news is sad but comes just in time for me to feel extra inspired and purposeful about the work I am going to be helping with.

As the politics remain shaky, the transitional government in place is allowing the export of illegally harvested precious woods as a source of revenue to support itself. All foreign aid has been stopped due to the forced political power in place. If the current structure goes on much longer, Madagascar runs the risk of being eliminated as one of the world's most biologically diverse hot-spots. Rosewood, palissander and ebony are the top illegal wood exports. Removing them not only threatens their survival but are also endangering the species on this island.

You can help by not purchasing items made of these woods or by tracing the source of the wood prior to purchasing. This situation is of course only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to environmental injustice but we have to start with something. You can read more about this situation at http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=87978.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Patience

The tent was tested out in the basement this weekend. It consisted of me getting it all out of the box, admiring the shiny orange poles and then attempting to assemble. Given that all tents are different I think they should come with some sort of starter instructions to help you save face the first time. But alas, no such directions came with the box so after one pass of a pole through two sleeves I called in Brian to help.

What you can't see in the picture is that there are three large stabilizing poles, this is a little awkward and took some finesse. I think we got it in general and I finished by laying in the tent, testing out the size and comfort I would experience while I waited for Brian to figure it out. I think I need to look it up to see if directions do exist because there was still a slight wobble to our final configuration. Brian said that I would have plenty of time to figure it out when I got there.

I am glad we put it up because I discovered that there was no central loop on the ceiling to hang a flashlight or the mosquito net. It came with a little shelf you can hook to the ceiling so I am going to sew a loop to that. Didn't get to the mosquito net treating but maybe next weekend...