Letter to Grandpa

Trip Start Nov 02, 2003
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Trip End Feb 14, 2006


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Flag of Madagascar  ,
Friday, January 23, 2004

Dear Grandpa,

I've received 5 aerograms from you in the past 3 days, which has been great! (despite my frustration with the Malagasy mail system.)

I've moved into my new house now, though I'm waiting to fully unpack until I get a chance to paint the inside. The house has 3 big rooms: a sitting room, a kitchen, and a bedroom. There's a space perfect for a garden on one side, and planting is also on my to-do list. I'm planning to use the sitting room as a meeting space for people who want to chat about health topics; I'll put posters about nutrition, breast feeding, and family planning, etc. on the 3 walls as conversations starters.

Today I went to the office of a nutrition-focused non-profit to help with baby weighings (keeping track of their growth to ensure they're not malnourished, which is a major problem in Madagascar.) All of the babies were appropriate weights, which was great. Women from another non-profit focused on maternal health gave a presentation on family planning, and I'm glad I was able to see it. They rushed through it, mimicking/ miming a condom demonstration instead of doing a real one, and not mentioning the advantages and disadvantages of different methods, costs, what to do if their husbands are opposed to contraception, and other important topics. They also failed to address the benefits of family planning in general, which is unfortunate since many women know the economic but not the health benefits. So I saw a lot of areas that could use improvement, which made me feel optimistic about my work here.

I also met a French man named Paul who's in charge of a microcredit organization in this region. They get loans from people in Europe and lease cows and pigs to Malagasy people, who repay the loan with a little interest when they sell the animal or meat (but of course make a substantial profit out of the arrangement.) I'm really interested in microcredit, so I'm excited to work with them. (They're already working with the women's organization I'm partially assigned to.) One of the best parts is that Paul is practically fluent in English, so I could focus on what he was saying instead of having to mentally translate the whole time!

Love, Jessica

*****

And now, some legalese:
The opinions expressed and experiences described in this travelogue are those of one individual Peace Corps Volunteer. Nothing written here should be interpreted as official or unofficial Peace Corps literature or as sanctioned by the Peace Corps. I have chosen to write about my experience online in order to update family and friends; I am earning no money whatsoever from this endeavor.
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