Sunday, February 13, 2011


I've never actually read A Tale of Two Cities, but Dickens' opening remarks have come to mind a number of times of late.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The last couple of months at TNP have been both amazing and horrible. Just to get it over with, today I will detail the worst of times. This was supposed to be a short post, but instead it is the longest ever, which I realize is a blogger no no. But, it feels rather therapeutic to vent, so I am rolling with it. In an effort to keep you interested, there is talk of private parts near the end of the post. Classy, I know.

The worst of times.

First, I got sick. Really sick. Oddly sick. Painfully sick. I was only semi-coherent and spent ten days sleeping all day on a cement pad (which is hard but cool) and all night in my tent (which is more comfortable but often over 50°C in the day). I had a very unusual rash while I was sick and continue to have odd symptoms (patches of red blisters and strange bruising), but will deal with that in due time. Here is a blurb from Christmas day:

Dec 25, 2010. 6:35pm. Tent.
I am really sick. I spent another laying and sleeping day on the cement. I thought I would die in the night. Maybe not actually die, but I was really really sick and nearly beside myself. My back and bones were so achy and hurt so bad. Plus, my head felt like it would crack in half and my skin may burn or itch right off my body. Worst Christmas ever! Poor Meghan studied for the GRE for "fun" today. She must be going nuts with me just laying around for days on end. She has never been away from home for Christmas before. I keep wanting to engage with her or do something remotely fun, but then I just fall asleep for hours and hours.

Ten days is a long time to be really sick when you are stuck out in the middle of nowhere. It was truly miserable. I think I either had Dengue or Chikungunya Fever, but who knows. The following is a pic of the blister patch that surfaced on my leg last week. The green is sharpie- I wanted to keep track of any increase in size.

Next, everything I own has fallen apart, including:
- Radio receiver 1. Kaput
- Tent. Its held together with duct tape and a tarp (see below)
- The tarp over my ten. It completely disintegrated (see below)

- My boots. They have been re-soled 3 times since I got here
- My clothes. Sunday is now 'darning' day. Here is my beloved pink tank top and my "good" "clean" pants:

- My duct tape. The roll and any used duct tape simultaneously lost its stick
- My body. I'll have to elaborate on this at a later date
- Radio receiver number 2
- Generator. The alternator and various other unobtainable parts are dead
- water purifiers. I have now spent countless hours and more than $800USD filtering water
- Backpack. Is part of the Sunday darning
- Headlamp. RIP

- My foamy mattress moulded from the consecuative tent floodings. I think it has bugs too, but they aren't too bothersome.

Clearly I could and will survive without the aforementioned possesions, it just makes my life more difficult. When combined with the heat (upwards of 50°C) and all the other annoyances, my will to live wains. Finding and staying with my lemur groups without a receiver can be particularly difficult. I was trying to upload this really embarrassing video I took while crying like an idiot in the forest, but it won't load on my current internet connection. I suppose its really not that embarrasing anyhow, considering my only reader is my husband. RON- you better be reading this. And get the mustard off the ceiling! Here is a terrible still from the blubber video:

I look like a really sweaty 80-year old woman. For the record, I am a really sweaty 32 year old woman.

And the worst thing of all???

The insects that followed the rains. I am pretty robust about creepy crawlers. Sure, I had the whole spider thing, but I nipped that in the butt. Last year was a drought in southern Madagascar and so when the rains began this year there was an immediate and overwhelming response from many insects, including the mosquitoes. And they love me. They come in swarms and the swarms are so dense that I can't inhale or talk without them filling my nose and mouth. And the flies will never leave leave me alone. Ever. The flies are partial to going up my nose and getting stuck in my throut, but they will also just go straight into my mouth. Worst than eating mosquitoes and flies, is trying to use the nonexistant facilaties with them...

Dec 31, 2010. 3:54 pm. Camp. Bug net.
Well, mosquito season is officially here. We've noticed a few mosquitoes during the day lately, but today I officially got swarmed and am currently hiding. They are these nasty big mosquitoes that bite through clothing and somehow manage to bite my face and or neck without my detecting them. Its really horrible. This is way TMI, but I just had to go to the "bathroom" (which is a hole that I just dug in the forest). Its really scary to drop your pants when you are simultaneously being swarmed by flies AND mosquitoes. I try to go as quickly as possible, but you know, sometimes these things need a minute. Anyhow, I am squatted down and trying to balance myself as low as I can get (if I don't squat low enough, pee splashes onto my feet and pants) and can immediately feel flies landing right on my bare butt. So, I stretch one arm straight out in front of me to act as a counter balance, and then use my other arm to swat the flies (and hopefully mosquitoes) away from my nether regions. Its horrific. Then, the second I am done I get my pants back up and proceed to bury the ensuing waste. In the brief moment between there are already easily 100 flies happily feeding themselves on, well, s*&t. These same flies will be on my food shortly. Horrible. And I received 19 new mosquito bites on the area that my bathing suit bottom covers (privates!), and one on my pinky finger of my balancing arm.

FML. Here is another bug related rant:

January 2, 2010. 6:52pm. Tent.
Just back from dinner. Oh my god the mosquitoes and flies are so so bad. I feel like crying. I don't even know what to do or how to continue on here. I am completely overwhelmed. Earlier, we walked by the Vintany sleep site and got completely engulfed in swarms of mosquitoes. It was actually really scary. We tried walking away but they just stay with you. We were swatting and spraying and running and just could not shake the bastards. At one point I looked at Meghan and I'd bet there were 100 mosquitoes on her butt alone. And her butt is tiny! I dropped my pack, realizing that it was also covered. There were 100s of mosquitoes on my backpack. Literally hundreds. We came back to camp to shower and ask for dinner early (in a vain effort to avoid the mosquitoes) only to have mosquitoes invade the "shower" and devour me. And then it was nearly impossible to eat dinner with the flies and mosquitoes. I couldn't open my mouth without flies going in and got about 40 mosquito bites in the 4 minutes it took me to scarf down my dinner. Unbelievable. I've never seen anything like it.

I've tried many a remedy for getting fewer bites. Deet (which I am now allergic to), complete body coverage with clothing (which they still bite through), a full body bug suit over my complete coverage clothes (which they still get into), and even setting up a mosquito net in the forest (which was a really bad idea, because I just got trapped in a smaller space with a million mosquitoes). Here is a creepy camera trap photo of me while I am all suited up:

Despite these measures, some days I get over 200 bites. For the record, mosquitoes here transmit malaria (including cerebral), elephantitus, dengue and chikungunya fever, rift valley fever, and many other serious illnesses. I think the following sums up the tribulations of the passed couple of months nicely:

January 14, 2011. 3:49pm. Camp. Bug net.
Oy. Today is tough. I am at a bit of a loss at the moment. Were to begin...Getting up at 4am was brutal. The mosquitoes were brutal. The lemurs were in a mood, which was brutal- Ilove ditched us twice, which is very unusual, and brutal. The flies and mosquitoes were absolutely brutal. Getting sweatbees, flies, mosquitoes and franken fly 2's trapped inside my bug hat was brutal. Wearing my bug hat was brutal. Wearing sweaty stinky socks on my hands was brutal. Getting bitten through my clothes, bug hat, and sweaty stinky socks on hands was brutal. Getting caught on the limestone rock and ripping my pants open again was brutal. Getting sweatbees, flies, mosquitoes and franken fly 2's in the newest hole in my pants was brutal. Bashing my sore legs in forest was brutal. Bumping my head a million times was brutal. The heat was brutal. Getting pricked by every class of thorn was brutal. Getting hung up on a zillion trees, shrubs, sharp rocks was brutal. Sweating enough to need to consume 1.5L of H2O per hour was brutal. Carrying enough water to drink was brutal. Today has been pretty much brutal. Chinese-water-torture style brutal. Is that racist? Can you say "Chinese water torture"? I'll have to look into that one. I draw the line at f&%k though. F*&k is deeply engrained in my mental culture and I am going to say it. F*&k is not going anywhere. Deal.*

Wow. I am now spent. I think I just did some sort of literary purge. Ok, tomorrow I promise to be less verbose as I detail the best of times. I promise there are lots of goodies, just look at me still managing to smile, despite being a little worse for wear:

*Not really sure where this teenie rant came from. Meh.


  1. OY! Such misery! Is the worst of fly season over? I remember the same thing at Beza in 1993, but at least there we could kind of hide in the big house. I was surprised to hear that Dengue and the other fevers are in Mada. I thought that Mada. was 'dengue free'I guess you are the first vazaha to experience the horrors of Tsimanampetsotsa over a year. You WILL eventually forget the fly and mosquito season, but you can see how doing research just in the cold season is much easier. Are the Frankenflies those really scary robber-flies with the evil faces? I have been stopped in my tracks with those ones, literally frozen solid in fear.
    Hope your last few months will be much easier!


  2. OK I just had to post this, as I think the Frankenflies are robber-flies. I found this on a 'robber fly' website:

    "Robber flies are not to be trifled with. Capable of immobilizing bees, wasps and other insects larger than itself, robberflies catch their prey in mid air. As with other aerial predators, robberflies have excellent vision, characterized by two conspicuous compound eyes. The mouthparts of this family have been modified to a stabbing proboscis."

    So give them PLENTY OF ROOM, when you see them. Oh! What about the wasp situation at Tsimanampetsoa?