Sunday, April 10, 2011


Thanks for the pic Bronwyn. Taken in Toliara during the "Dictator Day" fireworks.

Well, I did it. I survived my dissertation field work. Barely. But I did. Though I have/am/will write about my experiences of this year in greater detail, the following is the condensed version of what I survived:

• 10 months of Rice.
Strange but true fact: I don't like rice. "What", you might say, "how is that possible?" I don't know, but rice is just not something I would choose to eat. Plus, its none too kind to my gut. However, I have actually come to love beans and rice. You'd be amazed at the variety and diversity of beans and preparation thereof. Along with a smidge of rice my meals are lovely and not horrible at all. And very easy on my stomach. My favorite is the bean goo called Carbarra. Sounds and looks a bit gross, but it is wonderful. Especially when topped with Lanto's special homemade saki sauce, which is a very spicy garlic ginger onion sauce.

• The Heat.
Day time high of 55°C and an overnight low of 32°C is miserable. Especially for months on end. There is no way to acclimate. Its horrible.

• Working amongst limestone/thorns/spines.
I had lots of spills but I've thus far managed to escape without breaking my face. I am however sporting a new snazzy souvenir scar on my right knee. Thanks limestone!

• The tormenting flies.
They simply torment you. Endlessly. And they are everywhere and so gross. They barf on you and then lick up their own barf, for goodness sake. And on your food and dishes and eyeballs. And then they continually land on the same spot, like the tip of your freaking nose, and fly up your nose or down your throat. For months. Sick.

• The incessant mosquitoes.
Actually, the verdict is still out on this one. I suspect I had dengue fever, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. Also, I will wait until I get my post-Madagascar blood work done to see if I've officially survived the thousands of mosquito bites I've gotten. Emotionally, I am screwed. And it will take a long while for me to stop affixing panty liners to the areas of my clothing that mosquitoes most often get through. If you see me wandering the streets with panty liners stuck to my shoulders, swatting at the air, or slapping my own butt, you'll know why.

• Everything I own falling apart.
I arrived in August. In September my hiking boots died. In October my radio receiver died (this is how I track my animals). In November my tent and water filter died. In December my body kicked the proverbial bucket, as did my duct tape. Seriously. In January my second radio receiver arrived, and promptly died. In February my generator died. In March, I was given a human raised pet lemur, who I am sure died after escaping from my tent- I will elaborate on this soon, once I am not so heartbroken. In April, I dropped Discosaurus (my 80G video Ipod) in a bucket of dirty laundry water and it died.

• Illness and mystery parasites.
After being ridiculously sick in December, I continued to have one malady after another. I just knew something was wrong and finally saw a doctor in February. After antibiotics, supplements, and time, I am feeling better, but am certainly not 100%. Maybe I am just a bit worn out. Maybe I have a super parasite. Yay!

• The car ride from hell.
Normally a 10 hour drive that turned into a 5 day epic journey. Probably the one and only time I will sleep inside a car (with 4 others) which is a) cozily parked in the middle of a lake and b) short a functional transmission. I did more than my share of wading in stagnant water over the 5-day period and yes, I had open wounds on my feet. FML.

• Cyclone Bingzia.
The 2011 "cyclone season" opened with Cyclone Bingzia and was responsible for the car ride from hell. It was much more destructive on the Eastern coast of Madagascar (I am on the West) but did manage to make rivers out of "roads" and bring a 2ft deep flash flood to camp.

• Attempted assassination on the president and a sequential 4 day internet black out.
To be honest, this happened when I was out in the forest and I actually had no idea, but it sounds pretty dramatic. The government has been unstable and under dictator rule since 2009 when a popular 30 year-old former DJ decided to stage a coup and ousted the actual elected president. The former DJ has been in power ever since.

I've just arrived back in Toliara and am completely overwhelmed by, well, everything... More to come, when I get my wits about me.


  1. You are one tough cookie, not many people (no one else has done it have they?) could have stuck it out that long with so many adversities.
    Stay safe and come home, love Mom PS think croob and sprinkles:)

  2. Tough, or, stupid?! My order has been placed: spinach salad, broccoli, and yes, Sprinkles cupcakes. Drool.

  3. Marni-- Congrats! It's done. And now you can eat icing and cream puffs for months. We were talking about you at the AAPA meetings in Minneapolis this past week (I am now in the Seattle airport on the way back to Victoria). i have many questions.
    Are you coming to Victoria? Would be so fun to see you. Did you really lose all your video from your super iPod??


  4. Lisa- I am currently in Antsirabe stuffed with pizza, chocolate ice cream and beer. I can feel my pants shrinking as we 'speak'. Not planning to be in Victoria anytime soon- I just want to hug Kitty for a while before I even think of going anywhere. Are you coming/going to Mad this summer?

  5. Ha! Isn't the pizza in Antsirabe good? Keep it up-- the hoovering of ice cream and pizza.
    No, I am HAPPY to announce that my NSERC finished last year (YAY YAY YAY) and I'll apply for another next fall, but this summer it's NO MADAGASCAR and i can't tell you how happy this makes me. Instead, I'm using up all those airline points from all the Mada. travelling the last several years and going to Italy for 3 weeks in June for a HOLIDAY!
    We should talk when you get back to SD. I have gmail chat which is free (like skype but no camera which is fine with me). Let me know when you are back.