Showing posts from September, 2009

So now its Edmonton-Crazy?

My blog description reads: "A blog to capture my travels, pictures, emotional breakdowns, and amazing experiences...." but some days, I think it should read: Emotional Breadowns 101. (Maybe even Emotional Breakdowns 401 - a far more advanced level than just the intro class?)
Since taking this job I have had ....oh...about nine hundred or so breakdowns. After this week - nine hundred and one (okay...maybe a slight exageration)

On Tuesday (why is it always Tuesdays?!?) I had a really hard day for no particular reason. I had a great morning, helped a friend take her little one to pre-school; did some damage to my credit card; had a nap; and made plans to meet up with some friends for supper. But the entire day I just felt like something was a bit off and was on the verge of tears... more than a few times.

Why? I'm feeling like I'm somewhere "new"....but I've lived in Edmonton most of my life.

A few expats had talked with me about the transition coming home…


I haven't shared this on the blog but it has been a pretty stressful last couple of days.

I may have mentioned before that there were severe riots in Madagascar in January 2009. Deaths, lootings, fires, etc. I'm not going to get into all the political reasons why this happened, maybe I'll save that for another post - but its happening again.
Typically, the riots start in Tana (the capital) and come to Tamatave within a month or so. This can be scary, but we just stay in the camp and work from home (providing we have power and internet). I'm not trying to make it sound like a walk in the park...but once you're in the camp.... but its not like walking into a war zone or anything. Its just hard when you have to LEAVE the camp.

So, last weekend the protesting/riots started in Tana. We were expecting that they would come to Tamatave in about a month's time. WRONG. They started this weekend.

Thursday was a bit stressful....kind of a calm before the storm type feeling. An…

Safety Training for Six Year Olds

Well, after being postponed and changed at least three times we finally had our big “security meeting”. The intent of this meeting was to discuss the changes in the country; what expats need to do to be as safe as possible; and what additional security measures will be implemented. Like all things Madagascar – the intent and the result are two different things.
We recently hired a new security guy who has worked all over the world and is an “expert” in expat security. He gave us instruction on how to: - Not talk to strangers- Not to fight a kidnapper- Give up our car in the event of a hijacking- Be aware of pickpockets- Avoid going to dangerous areas of town in the evening- Let someone know where we are at all timesGee, thanks! I’m glad that working in the Congo, South America, and Nigeria has taught you of all that valuable information! All you really had to do was to come to Canada for a day or two – because I’m pretty sure I learned all that stuff in grade two. Would have saved you…


The little kids on this island start learning French in primary school - about the same time that I learned this song.They can say basic words like "Bonjour" and thanks to the Aussies - after we left also knew how to say "G'day Mate" and "Hasta la vista, baby!".They were little sponges - they picked it up so quickly and on the way back we drove past them and they yelled at us, "Hasta la vista, baby!". How's that for some....cultural diversity! Haha.

Whiplash Post

This post is a little all over the place…but I’m excited that I finally feel back to normal (for now, anyway). Week five was…just…harder. And I’m guessing I’ll still have harder moments, but my head feels a little clearer and I’m less… overwhelmed. Week six is going awesome! I think going to the doctor really helped – it was nice to know that all the feelings I’m having are pretty standard – and even though I’m going through an amazing time – it’s also really, really hard. And that its natural to find things hard. I have a new country, new culture, new language, new environment, new climate, new coworkers, new food…. And through all that I still have to go to work every day – work eleven hours – and manage to have some fun, rest, and downtime for myself. No wonder I am having troubles adjusting! It’s a lot to take in! I need to be a lot more patient with myself! I feel like a totally different person than last week. I guess “they” were right when they said that week five is a hard one…

The day-to-day differences

My routine here vs. my routine in Canada – is basically the same. But – it’s so different…and hard to explain. In MG and in Canada, most days - I wake up, eat breakfast, go to work, go for lunch, go back to work, eat supper, run/do yoga, hang out with friends, watch a bit of TV or read, and then go to bed. But in Canada?I wake up and get ready for work - and don’t even think about the fact that I’ll have power and running hot waterI eat breakfast – and don’t have to think about what I’ll have for breakfast. I have a well stocked fridge to pick something from. Or as a treat I can pick something up from Starbucks.I commute to work – I have an idea of how long it will take me to get there. Even if there is a traffic jam, it’s never too serious or the radio has already warned me about it. I work – and don’t have to worry that the people won’t understand what I’m saying or vise versa. We all speak English fluently. I eat lunch - if I bring my lunch – it’s something that I chose to eat. If…

A few pictures of my Sunday


This Tall Whitey Went to Market...

The shops are all closed from 11h30 to 14h30 every day and closed on Sundays, so the only shopping I can ever do is at the market. The market experience. My first time there I was extremely overwhelmed and kind of scared, but now I'm pretty comfortable. Of course, this is a new group of people not yet used to the giant whitey, so I get way more stares than the people that are *sort of* getting used to seeing me around town.

Today I went for lunch with the IT guys and they wanted to make a stop and pick up some souvenirs for their families. I've been to the market three or four times now. I want to bring back souvenirs for everyone...but this is a really, really poor country... and there isn't a whole lot of stuff to bring back.. so I tried to take some good pictures at least.


Every couple of weeks the Bank of Madagascar calls me. I can’t understand a WORD THIS GUY SAYS. I ask him to repeat himself slower…and then again…and then I just wait until he’s done talking, say yes or grunt a few times, and hang up.When I first came here some idiot told me I needed to create a bank account so that I could easily withdraw local currency. What he DIDN’T tell me is that the bank is closed…well… almost all the time – I haven’t quite figured out their schedule. AND they charge you for cheques and charge you each time you deposit a cheque. AND they also have an ATM outside that’s open all the time. And apart from Fridays when they run out of money, you can withdraw money twenty four hours a day (although I wouldn’t recommend in once its dark).Stinky French lady took me to the bank on my second day of work – and at this point I was still freaked out at just about everything  (wow, how things have changed!) – and figured since I can speak French I didn’t need her help and s…

The Men in My MG Life - Part One

As anyone whose ever been in a taxi with me knows - I love to ask the taxi drivers LOTS of questions... Where were you born? Where did you learn English? What did you do back home? Do you have family here? Doo you have family back home? How many kids do you have? What did you take in school back home? What does your wife do? And on…and on.. I’ve always found it fascinating speaking to a person who has a their PhD in like…Physics or something, but then flees his country, comes to Canada, and drives a taxi. The Taxi Inquisitions have continued here - but instead with the drivers that drive me to/from work every day. They live SUCH different lives than me….and I love talking to them. I find when I don't see one for a fewe days, I almost miss them. At first, some of the drivers were a bit surprised that I actually wanted to talk to them at first – but they soon found out I’m just incredibly curious, nice, and just trying to get to know them and make the most out of this experience. (A…

Thursday, September 10th.

Its Thursday already?? September 10th!?!?! I have survived more than a month here!!
Today was a hard one so I really have to make sure I write down my “Five-a-Day”s.        
The five things that went well for me today are:
#1 - I found chocolate bars at the store today!! I won’t share how many I ate. #2 -I received an invitation for an all day boat tour along the river on Sunday. #3 - Zoolander is playing on TV tonight. One of my top three favourite movies! #4 - Pineapple is back in the mess hall tonight! It’s been about a week since I’ve had it and I really look forward to it!!! #5 – The connection on Skype was really clear today. I managed to get through to a few people...all of whom really helped to make me feel better.
I could go on and on about what makes a good day versus a bad day here – in a few quick sentences: I long for something familiar and predictable. Being a foreigner...really got to me.  I expect far too much from myself and am so incredibly not patient. I just want to kn…

WoahhH!!! Look at that wave!

Just a quick little video taken from this weekend. I put my camera away after this because it was just too hard not to use both hands to hold onto the boat!

Tuesday, September 8th

It surprises me how relatively easy it can be for me to revert to a negative attitude when I’m tired. It also surprises me how being negative can increase how tired I feel. Now.... I am well aware that my attitude and optimism will make or break this experience for me. AND - while I try to be as optimistic as possible– after an 11 hour’s not always easy. Lately, I’ve noticed my optimism works just about as faithfully as the electricity in Madagascar.  Some days - no problems...or maybe the electricity goes out for a few quick seconds. Other days... all day long it cuts in and out and in again - or even worse – its out for the entire day.  I also know that being healthy – physically and mentally – makes it easier to be optimistic and have a good attidude. So, I run or do yoga every day, interact with the locals and the expats, call home often, force myself to go out for supper or do something fun when I don’t feel like it but know that I should, and make sure that I get enoug…

Walk in the Dark

I went to get something to eat tonight and I thought I would video just how dark it can be. I pass by a Japanese guy and we scare each other because we can't see each other until we are less than a meter apart. And then I giggle the rest of the way to the restaurant...

My boat tour day in pictures

I haven't quite figured out how to post pictures properly on here yet - so start from the bottom of this post and work your way up.

All-in-all the day was amazing. Every weekend I end up saying, This is the best weekend of my life! And every weekend, it seems to get better and better. I think my face hurts from smiling so much.

After I woke up, we lounged around the house and then headed down to Le Bateau Ivre (Translates to The Drunken Boat) for some supper. The power went out only..four times..but we were having such a great time, it didn't really matter.
The goofy picture taking continued while I slept. Any good prankster ideas that I can do with this picture?

But the day had left me sleeepppy. I passed out on the couch. The other expats let me have a nap, but not before (sweetly) covering me up with a blanket and (of course) putting a bottle of scotch next to my head and snapping a picture. No, I'm not passed out drunk!!

And of course, I managed to take a quick dip!

I wen…

Flushing le Toilette

Ok, please, please, PLEASE do not think I've lost it here. Actually....when I think about it, this is probably something that pre-Africa Nicole would do...
Every so often, the office doesn't have running water. I'm not sure why. I don't even care. For... a good week I couldn't figure out WHAT the stupid pail was for. Now I know....
This is how I flush the toilet in my office. We don't always have power (like right now) so they have windows in the washroom. There was someone on the roof and they can kind of see in, so I'm trying to look and watch to make sure no one can see me RECORDING how I flush the toilet....(oh, and pardon the savageness, I don't wear makeup on Saturdays or Sundays...)

Mood swings

No, I'm not (thankfully) going through "the change", but I feel like my moods here can change pretty quickly.

Especially lately in the last few days - where I have had a few more… “off” moments than before. I’m not sad, I just feel a bit… well, tired. Its tiring always being confused and always having to take about thirty more steps than I’m used to.
Example: I have been looking for duct tape for a week. I’ve been looking and looking and sent out emails and made phone calls – and – NO LUCK. It’s not just as easy as heading out to the local hardware store and picking some up…
It may be a little thing, but it’s a good example to show just how long things take. Nothing is ever easy. If I need to look for duct tape for a week, imagine what it’s like when I actually need to get something “hard” done? It can be….frustrating, and well….tiring.

I often feel hesitant about putting up a post that’s negative. I think family/friends will worry and I don’t want that… even though I know t…

Sappy moment...

I sometimes feel like I am the luckiest person in the whole world.
Apart from having amazing family, friends, and being healthy - I get to have this experience.

Most days, I barely know what is going on. I have been here working one month and haven't made enough progress for me to not feel useless (but I'm trying to give myself a break...the whole moving to the other side of the world with new cultures, environments, etc), and I don't know where anyhting is (I'm starting to figure out some things...sort of...), but I just really feel like I belong here.

I'm almost sacred to say that out loud.... and jinx that something might change and make me not love this experience... and I know, its my first rotation so its the honeymoon phase...but I have had so many moments here - good and bad - where I just feel like I've always needed to come here and this place is made for me to come here - even though I had never really thought about it. Actually - that's a lie - up …

Local Life

And I thought my back was sore?!!Laundry day

These little shacks are everywhere and they sell credits for cell phones. I 'm lucky at the project arranges that for me.

One of the garbage/donated items piles I pass by every day. People are always rummaging through this. One man's garbage is another man's prize.

Its hard to be in a bad mood when I see this on my way to work.

Some more random thoughs...

It must have been a long week because forming actual paragraphs seems impossible at this point – so I’m just posting a few more random points:Today I went for lunch in the construction camp. I almost (stupidly) thought that people were starting to get used to me and that I was starting to blend in a bit more? Um… no. I felt like getting a megaphone, standing up on the table and saying, “Yes. I am the white giant that you have all heard about!”.  I would consider going back there but the food wasn’t that great and I don’t feel like eating lunch while being watched by 300 people. And its not Madagascar scary, but it was kind of Canadian scary. If it was a Canadian restaurant I would have walked out after about five seconds. I didn’t realize how much I like the sound of people NOT talking until I was almost always with a person that talks ALL THE TIME. I do not want to say anything bad about this person….but I find the incessant talking overwhelming sometimes. I have arranged to have a l…

Not much goin' on....

Haven’t had much to say the last couple of days, but I wanted to post something after the post about the security issues. (And I won’ t have any more security updates until a big meeting next Friday). So here are a few random update points: 1. I have a new neighbor! The house that I live in is divided into four different units, with all units sharing a central foyer area. Its been basically empty since I’ve been here except for me and the other Canadian. Yesterday this girl (who I’ve met a few times and I think she is SO NICE) moved in. She is… just over 30 I think. WOO HOO!! Another girl in camp and another girl under the age of 50!!! She is no longer allowed to live in her own house by herself since the security incident, so she got to come and live with us! She brought so much stuff – our house is actually starting to look like a house and not a hotel! It make me realize that I really need to do more decorating in my unit….Pictures and all that other decorating junk. 2. I’m going …

Random pictures from the last couple of days

There are no public washrooms in Madagascar - so I see this....countless times a day...
Just talking the sheep for a walk ....probably their last....

Malagsy mini-van

The local coffee shop (I haven't had the pleasure yet...)

Disclaimer:Attention all family members and close friends who currently suffer from any worry or concern regarding the blog author’s geographic location and working environments. The following blog post may increase those feelings and should be read with caution. In addition, the blog author is not responsible for any increased anxiety, worry, or feelings of concern. Most importantly, the blog author continues to be as prudent as possible and security is her top priority.
For those who have decided to continue reading (which I’m guessing is everyone), here’s what’s goin’ on. After a sleepless night last night, I decided that this weekend’s events bothered me enough to write about here. But first - a few points required for some background info:# 1. More than half of the expats here have worked in far more dangerous places, like the Congo or Panama. They ALL think that working in Madagascar is like a spa vacation compared to the places they have previously lived/worked in. While that’s…