So it's been a while yet again. At the moment, I'm back in Ft. Dauphin. We flew back from Tulear this morning. We were supposed to leave for our national parks tour a week ago yesterday, but then we had another evacuation scare (because the US government upped the travel warning even more). Luckily, SIT listened to our program directors and we got to stay... again. So we left to drive on our enormous TATA bus west into the heart of the island. We stopped one night in Isalo, which has really cool rock formations. Saw some lemurs and hiked in a canyon. Then we drove some more, spent a night in a town. And then we drove into the mountains into some of the most gorgeous scenery I have ever seen. There's been a lot of rain, so everything is green. There were rice paddies everywhere. So we went on a hike, camped a night on the way, and then climbed the second highest peak in Madagascar - Pic Boby (pronounced booby, no lie). The only problem was that the first day on the hike it rained and all my stuff (that a porter was carrying) got soaked. It was freezing. Really freezing. It was hard to imagine all the times I've been SO HOT in this country.
Ok so then we got back to the bus at around 3 in the afternoon. And then it started raining again. We were driving on dirt, mountain roads. And when the rain started, it got muddy. Really really muddy. We got stuck. Really really stuck. And then even more stuck. The point is, we were all out there pushing with random Malagasy children for hours. Ok, that's a lie, because I myself did more sitting in the bus increasing friction than anything else, but hey. It should have taken us a couple of hours, but we got to our hotel well after 11 p.m. Everyone was wet and cold and so muddy and exhausted and starving. But we were mostly excited we had gotten out at all. Now everyone's clothes are molding in their backpacks. yum.
Ok then we drove to Ranomafana National Park. The first real Madagascar rainforest I've seen. We saw three new species of lemurs. At one point, a young and ridiculously curious lemur came down to within a couple of feet of me. We were sure he wanted to jump on us, but he didn't. We named him Gerald. Absurdly cute.
Normally we would have driven to Tana (the capital), but it is definitely not allowed for us to be there right now, so we drove back to Tulear and flew back to Ft. Dauphin. We'll be here for a week and then everyone will go off to do their Individual Study Projects for a month. Then we'll reconvene here. And then spend the last couple of weeks in Diego, in the very north of the island. That's the plan. But our plans have been changing a lot....
So also, I will mention the bane of my existence, which is my left ear. Indeed, my ear infection is still causing me trouble. When I went back to the ear doctor in Tulear, he told me I had mushrooms - champignons - growing in my ear, and that they must be sucked out periodically until they stop growing. The visual image and the continued pain were.... upsetting. I got more mushrooms sucked out once more, so I got to see the Tulear ear doctor a total of 4 times. But then we went on the road and the directors worked it out so I had to leave very early in a separate car with one of our Malagasy staff - pretty much my favorite guy ever - to go to Fianarasoa, which is a big city in between Isalo and Ranomafana. Eventually we got to see an ear doctor there. He was appalled at the state of my ear. Apparently my ear drum was bleeding. And apparently the Tulear doctor was incompetent. I got way more antiobiotics and drops and stuff. I haven't felt much pain since then which is awesome, but I have yet to get hearing back. I haven't had hearing for about a week, but I think it's coming back. I saw the doctor again after a few days and he says it's way better. I guess it's been an experience in non-western medicine.
Ok, I have more stories, but they will wait. Although I do want to say that they have these rickshaws, called pousse pousses, in Tulear and I wanted very badly to drive one. So finally before we left, we paid some guy, and I got to run around with the pousse pousse with my friend inside. Awesome. He thought it was hilarious.
Salut tout le monde! (and happy healing thoughts to my dadwe).