Showing posts from February, 2011

Looking for A Sub-Contractor

This weekend I was looking forward to dogsitting a friend's dog. She's calm, well trained, and sweet. BUT, when you live in a country where 95% of the dogs look like this:
And your dog looks like this: tends to freak out the locals. I've seen children cry and grown men run into their cars when they've seen this dog. To me and you, I see nothing but a smiley, older, chubby labrador. But they see a 50kg beast. It's possible that she weighs more than 40% of the adults here (I'm totally making this statistic up in my head...but I think it's probably true).
Anyway, savage dog, also known as LC was coming to stay chez moi this weekend. This was where she was going to stay - in our guest room (I know, I know, I know, this room is A DISASTER and requires a SERIOUS organization-a-thon). Anyway, there's her bed along with her dish of water (I used bottled, but apparently she'll drink tap. It's my opinion that if it's not safe for human consumpti…

Madagascan Ex-President Demands Role in Talks, Wants to Run in Election

Marc Ravalomanana, who was ousted as president of Madagascar in March 2009, said he wants to return home to participate in mediation talks, and that he would like to run in presidential elections this year. Five days after he was prevented from boarding a flight to Madagascar from Johannesburg, where he is in exile, Ravalomanana said he didn’t want to participate in a new transitional government headed by Andry Rajoelina.

“I just want to go back for 24, or 40 hours, to take part in peaceful dialogue between Malagasy parties, and then I will come back,” Ravalomanana said by phone today. “I do not think I or Rajoelina should be part of any transitional government.” A proposal from the Southern African Development Community’s international mediation team has said the former president shouldn’t return to Madagascar until the country’s stability can be ensured. That would make it impossible for him to run in elections to be held by November because Rajoelina changed the constitution to say…

Child sexual exploitation

Gendarme trained in Moramanga Capacity building is one of the means used by the Madagascar Development Group, member of the “Acting for Life” organization, to fight against child exploitation or to help the victims of child exploitation. In this line, this organization works with the Gendarmerie Nationale which is also part of the network that fights against child exploitation in Madagascar. Therefore, 2 criminal investigators from the Gendarmerie were trained, as well as interns from the judicial police at the Gendarmerie Nationale School in Moramanga. These people are often confronted with cases of sexual violence perpetrated against children. The training took place on February 14 – 16, and focused on child development and needs, child sexual exploitation as a form of child abuse, as well as the related regulations and on how to listen to the victims.

Click here for more MG News

Rio Tinto Alcan starts exploration of bauxite mining project in Madagascar

Reportedly, Rio Tinto Alcan began the study of the bauxite project in Manantenina area in southeast of Madagascar in early 2008. Currently the project has entered the initial exploration phase.

According to the official of Rio Tinto Alcan, it’s predicted that the deposit of the bauxite project may reach more than 100 million tonnes.

According to the plan, Rio Tinto Alcan will build an alumina refinery mine in this area designed annual production capacity of 1.5 million tons of alumina.

Furthermore, the establishment of alumina refinery will not only bring added value income but also create employment opportunities for local and foreign exchange earnings.

Click here for more MG News

It's that time of the year again....

Although there is no "official" malaria season, and the risk is technically there all year round, it becomes more prominent late January - March. Rumor has it that there have been 16 cases of malaria in the last couple of weeks so it's time to start taking my medication again. I'm pretty awful at remembering to make medication, so Sergio has programmed my phone for an alarm to go off to make me remember to take my pills.

I have three options for anti-malarial medication.
The first is Larium. It's taken once per week, and many experience psycho side effects like night terrors, vivid dreams, hallucinations, and depression. Um, no thanks, I already get enough of that on my crappy days at work, so I'll pass on that one.

Next up is Malarone. I took this one when I first came here. I made the mistake of not taking it on a full stomach and had projectile vomit mid-air during take-off. (I seriously am obsessed with talking about puke for some reason!). It made me a…

Exiled Madagascar leader asks for help to return

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Madagascar's ousted leader Marc Ravalomanana has met with a regional mediator to discuss his predicament after being prevented from leaving South Africa, he said on Wednesday in a statement.
Ravalomanana, who has been in exile in South Africa since 2009, met former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano in Maputo, the Mozambican capital, to ask for his support after authorities in Madagascar barred the deposed leader's return to the Indian Ocean island.

"I explained that I needed to go back to participate and promote the Malagasy-Malagasy talks which SADC (the southern African regional bloc) has recommended," Ravalomanana said in a statement.

"It is important for me to be there to negotiate with the genuine political parties so we can get together for genuine Malagasy-Malagasy talks."
The beleaguered leader was prevented from boarding a plane home Saturday after he had announced two days earlier that he would return to help bring democratic …

Super Human Recovery

My stomach might not be able to handle Madagascar (I'm sure every third blog post is about puking or visitng the toilet....), but my body has proved to have super-human strength.

I’ve heard about lots of people having small cuts get infected here – so I was *kind of* concerned about having open wounds. Especially on my hands. Hands have like ninety gazillion bacteria on them.

I wasn’t panicked enough to start picking out coffins or anything….but I was keeping a pretty close eye on them. The water we use in the village and at work is treated, but we have, in the past, received emails in the past that the treatment facility isn’t functioning properly, etc. so we can never be too sure. (Oh - Recently an expat wife sent out an email saying she only uses bottled water to wash her hair. I think this is A LITTLE extreme.)

Anyway, my horrible near-death trauma injuries have gone from this:
 To this:
 From this:
 To this:
 From this (this one actually got worse a couple of days later...):


At one point when I went on this tour, I said out loud, “If I’m ever having a bad day, I have to think of this exact moment right now”.

Today, I’m trying REALLY hard to remember that moment. Because, for no reason (other than I’m tired and stressed), I’m having THE WORST day ever. I’m frustrated with about thirty things (Or forty. Or fifty. Or three hundred and twelve). This week is also providing some challenges that I just don’t feel like dealing with. And I’ve been here seven weeks and still have another one to go.

I’m doing what I normally do when I’m having a crappy time. I try to be extra smiley with the security guards and cleaning ladies, exchange stories with the national staff about Canadian life vs. Malagasy life, buy myself a Coke Zero at lunch, and try to not count down the days until I leave (8). And most especially, try to remember to this perfect day. That perfect day is just ONE of the three hundred and twelve reasons why it’s an amazing opportunity to be here doing w…

Ten Days & Fifty Six Degrees

I walked outside around 15h00 today for a meeting in town (I work about 8km outside of town). The 25 steps from my office to the car made me have sweat dripping down my back (no, that’s not TMI). Walking from one building to another made me actually have beads of sweat drip down my face!

Check this out.
This does not include the 79% humidity, which makes the 37*C, “feel like” 46*C.

Please don’t read this as if I’m complaining!

Being sweaty – isn’t the end of the world when your air conditioning works. Sunny weather – means that I’ll get enough vitamin D and have a healthy glow.

But, what the hell is my body going to do when it goes from a "feels like" +46*C to this?!?!
I'll let you know in TEN days!!

My hobby that I'll always suck at. In a good way.

For a while (like four months???) I was having a super hard time with running.

The one activity that provided me with stress release, was stressing me out. Each and every time I went for a run, I would come back feeling a defeated. I would run like….2km and be exhausted. It was mentally draining to run around the same circle over and over and over again.

To pass by the security gate and the barbwire fences over and over and over again. I tried a few things (the MG Run Club, for one), but I couldn’t get into running. First, I was bored, and second, it’s MOTHER F&CKING HOT AND HUMID HERE!! It can get up to 44*C (111.2*F) with humidity. At night. That’s the temperature where you sweat just by breathing, never mind running.

Also….I couldn’t get it out of my mind that it wasn’t that long ago running 16km on a Saturday was the norm, and that running less than 5km seemed like a waste of time. I was NEVER a fast runner, but had a respectable half marathon time of around 2h15min? And I alw…

Most appropriate book ever given to me as a gift....

Close runners up were: "Procrastinate No more, Read the Damn Book" and "How to Read Books in Places Other Than the Washroom".

Email Cyclone Updates

Email received Saturday morning at 10h47:

All, the cyclone BINGIZA should not affect Toamasina this week-end. But vigilance is still needed. Thanks.

Email received Sunday morning at 11h00:

Please note that the yellow alert of our Plan has been activated. We’ll keep you regularly informed of the situation.

All, the directives for a yellow alert are the following :
• Put valuable things in back pack (money, jewelries, personal documents, changing clothes).
• Secure things around the house (roofs, planks, garden furniture and other materials outside).
• Fill up fuel (vehicle and electric generator).
• Identify things that can be carried by wind and that can become dangerous projectiles like garbage bin, drum or sheet of steel ..
• Secure the bay windows exposed to the wind with plywood sheets (up to 5 mm thickness) attached outside . I
f not, with large adhesive paper band.

Email received Sunday night at 19h37:


The BNGRC « Bureau National de Gestion des Risques Cycloniques » has declared imm…

Valentine's Day Baking

For my birthday, a thoughtful friend bought me some cookie cutters, since I complained that I couldn't find any in Madagascar when I was making Christmas cookies. One of the shapes I received was a tiny little heart.

I knew Valentine's Day was coming up, and although I'm not hugely into v-day, I thought I'd make Sergio a gift for the occasion.

My brownie recipe is based on this one, from Kraft Foods.

First, I measured out all the ingredients:
4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate (all I had was 65% dark)
2 cups of sugar (I thought this was a ridiculous amount and I wasn't using unsweetened chocolate so I took out about 3/4 of a cup of it)
3 eggs
1 cup of flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla (I used vanilla bean)
3/4 cup of butter

My plan was to make a less sweet brownie, and then cut up peices of Mars bars and spread them all throughout the brownies. Except MG is out of Mars bars, so I had to replace them with a less quality, cheaper version we have called Bar One.
Also through the bakin…

Bingiza Update

Well, it looks like our little town of Toamasina will be spared. The updated cyclone/storm path passes to the west of us. I'm almost dissapointed. I have excitedly been checking this websiteevery half our or so for updates (sorry, it's in French, "cyclone" in French is the same thing as it is in English).
I sent out the link to two of my co-workers today who are from the Filipeans and they were like, "Average winds of 102km/hour?? That's not a storm.". They are used to cyclones with winds of up to 180km/hour. They'll probably be out playing soccer tomorrow or something, while us Canadians (who can easily handle -45*C with windchill and twenty cm of snow) will be watching from our windows and taking pictures.


Looks like Toamasina is in for a bit of a weather party!! Cyclone Bingiza is on it's way! (Does anyone know how cyclones get named? I googled it and got nothing??!)

Yellow means cyclone level 1 (there are 6 levels), blue means tropical storm (average winds of 102km/hour and wind gusts of up to 130km/hour), and green means a tropical depression, which I only understand as just like….a big storm.
Look a little closer….the blue is pretty much right on Toamasina. The actual peak of the storm isn’t expected until Tuesday.
Right now, it’s calm, warm, humid. Barely a wind...

Should be interesting to see what unfolds. No reason to worry, we have backup generators (so that I can watch Glee on DVD), a ton of water and food stockpiled, and window coverings. I think we’re good for just about anything.

Oh, and the interim president of Madagascar is coming to town tomorrow. Can't wait to see what kind of craziness that brings.

Bad Good Day Overall

Yesterday, I had a bad day.

I have been a bit stressed for a week or so. I think it’s pretty common, everyone goes through moments of ups and downs with stress, and its nothing unmanageable. Except I’m running a bit low on patience. It’s almost the end of my six week mark, and I still have almost three more to go. I’m on edge.

Yesterday, for literally NO reason at all, I just spazzed on Sergio. It had something to do with him talking on the phone too loud. Seems like a reasonable reason to absolutely lose it, right???

After Spazzapaloza 2011, I stormed up the stairs, stormed in my office. I sat down for a few minutes. And then realized I had just got furious at Sergio for NO reason, and then went to the bathroom (with my phone) and cried. I called Sergio, he was fine. I think a little confused why I got so incredibly mad (I was perhaps more confused).

I stayed in the bathroom for a few more minutes and cried (When I was in Italy, my friend got some sad news on the home front. We were in a…


Along with baking me a cake from scratch, buying me amazingly thoughtful gifts, Sergio also managed to organize a wicked birthday dinner out for me and twenty five of my co-workers and friends. (What a superstar he is!!).

Here's a few pictures of the night out. I'm short on words, because last night I was not short on my brain cells are a little sleepy....
The main course was honestly the best meal I've eaten since I MOVED HERE!!! Granted, that's not saying much, but the food was actually REALLY good!!!
I was spoiled with gifts and great company.
Yes, it was hot and humid out. And yes, that's the same fake smile I have been giving for now THIRTY ONE years.
The "surprised" look on my face is a total fake. Three minutes before they brought out the birthday sparklered cake, they brought it to the wrong girl. There's always these miscommunication things in MG. The waiter then took the cake away from her, went back into the kitchen, dimmed the l…