Another few days have passed and we are slowly but surely finding our rythm in this remote corner of the world. The introductions are behind us, the rules have been established, the goals have been set.
I received some feedback that my description of Coco Beach Hotel might sound like we are at a luxury resort. Well, compared to the living conditions in the village, this is certainly true. Compared to where we come from, not in the least! Our new home, although known as a ‘hotel’, would probably much more deserve the title ‘hostel’. It consists of a dozen or two of small huts, made of wood and thatch. The volunteer huts are currently shared between 2-3 people because we are a small group, but they can contain up to 4 people. Showers, sinks, toilets and roofs tend to leak, the mosquito nets on the windows (where they exist) are broken, the beds are creacking and the matrassess have seen better days. The permanent staff have their own huts, but these are without toilets, so Im not sure its worth the tradeoff...
A short anecdote of the kind of experiences we have here on a daily basis: yesterday I caught a scary millepied in the bathroom (after we chased each other through the 2 m2 room several times). Once I was settled in my bed, thinking that the adventures of the night would finally finish, I was stung by a small scorpion on my toe. My roommates were asleep by this time, so I had to face this drama alone and decided to do an emergency internet consultation (Wikipedia). I was told to squeeze out the venim immediately (I hadn’t done it and by then it seemed too late) and then put some ice on the spot (hahaha...). I was reassured to find out that out of 150 scorpion species, only 30 are fatal, and guessing by their names, they are not located on this island. (The bite since then has sort of disappeared and someone told me at the breakfast table that I was probably only “warned” by the scorpion and not stung by it. Lucky me!)
Our days also remain eventful. We were officially introduced to the ‘nahodas’, the elderly men of the village, including the vice-president. The meeting –to our surprise- took place in the village’s biggest social venue: Dada’s Bar and Disco. We all said a few words in Malagasy (our names and where we come from) and then listened to the welcome speech of the vice-president. He was very kind and told us that the village is very happy to have us here. Additionally, he offered to be at our disposal if we ever needed anything.
(I brought with me 10 laminated pages of pictures of where I come from, the animals/fruits/seasons etc in Hungary and of my family and passed this around. It gave me a huge smile to see these Malgache fishermen look at them with a lot of interest. And for the record, the map of Europe and Hungary have been very useful, also to show geographically-challenged, European (!) volunteers where my country is located...).
Once the introductions were over, we were encouraged to dance. It was 5 in the afternoon and felt a bit strange to stand up and start moving ourselves in front of a group of old men and some bystanders, but we had no choice. Luckily, I had an appointment with our education team and left after a few minutes, but the rest of the volunteers were stuck on the dancefloor for a while, feeling like some sort of entertainment crew... To make the evening even more unforgettable, one of the volunteer girls was licked on her face by an intoxicated local gentleman... ;-)
Since the beginning of this week, we spend three times one hour with Malagasy Blue Ventures staff, teaching them English. We were all assigned a partner and are encouraged to engage with them in whatever way we wish to improve their English. Their levels of English differ, but they all seem equally motivated.
Last, but not least, I have to mention our most frequent topic of discussion: our disgestion. Im very excited to be surrounded by doctors, because I can by now say in a very fancy way that I have diarrhea: ‘I have some gastro-intestinal discomfort and my stool is loose’. Only British people can be so polite about this, I love it! Without giving away much detail, let me say that we are still very much adapting to the local bacteria with various degrees of success... ;-)