Sunday, November 11, 2007

Turning a new page

This is a recent shot of the three of us during a visit to Great Falls National Park, just about an hour outside of DC. (There are many more new photos on the flickr page. Check the link to the right.)

My hand is the one turning the new page. As many of you know we returned from Madagascar in June, spent a few tumultuous months job-hunting and bouncing from relative to relative, before finally landing in Northern Virginia. As luck would have it KP hit paydirt first on the job front and started working in early September.

My break came about six-weeks later. I interviewed for a position with a federal agency in DC and two weeks later heard back with an offer. If we thought our lives had been crazy up to that point, as soon as I accepted our lives rocketed forward at an even faster pace.

I've been at work for about a month and it feels good to working again. I do miss the special connection between ORP and me, which has seemed to fallen back on KP and his new daycare provider (and her grand-daughter).

For better or worse, the trophy days of Madagascar are gone.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Back in the USA!

To my loyal readers, what few that are left after almost 5 months of silence, KP, ORP and I are back from Madagascar. We've been back for a while, since mid June, but have been swamped with getting back into the swing of things. Mainly this means finding gainful employment, which has proven more elusive than we had thought it'd be. In the meantime we're living out of our car, hoping the arrival of our sea shipment continues to be delayed, and taking advantage of friends and family who are too polite to say no to our visitations.

We're in Maine right now introducting ORP to the wonders of Ocean Park. No lobster rolls yet, but so far he's enjoying the beach. (He's only managed to eat a limited quantity of sand, plus one cigarette butt.)

Will keep you posted on our eventual landing. Keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Villefranche sur mer

We made it to Villefranche sur mer where Kristen is enrolled in a two-week intensive French language course. The town is lovely. I can now understand why southern France is such a popular destination. Yesterday I walked around the bay with Owen and he fell asleep long enough for me to pop into a cafe and have an espresso. This is living!

There are more photos from our trip on flickr.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Merry Ole England

Well, we made it to London yesterday afternoon after 14 hours of traveling. It's great to be back in "civilization." We left Tana just shy of 1am on Tuesday morning and by 1:15pm our plane from Paris to Heathrow was at its gate. As we de-planed in London, Kristen and I were both surprised to be greeted by the gate agent in English. Owen, at 5 months, was a bit harder to handle than he was when we flew from Ohio to Madagascar when he was only 6 weeks. We did have bulkhead seating with a bassinet to put Owen into when he slept. That was great, except he didn't sleep very much. I spent most of the flight walking the aisles with him in my arms, trying to keep random strangers from putting their dirty mits on our "très mignon" son. With the sleep deprivation and the change of scenery, by the time we boarded the plane in Paris for London, he was at his limit. He cried like we've never heard him cry. Finally, with much persuasion, he nursed himself into a stupor until we landed in London.
So, here we are. Another night in London before taking the train out to Norwich and East Anglia University for Kristen's conference. I am the domestique on this trip, and, after the month of consulting I've just come from, I'm looking forward to my time with the lad.

We didn't have the right clothes for Owen for our spring trip to Europe. But we did have this cape, which we tried on Owen before we left.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Back in the saddle again...


Sunday, February 25, 2007

I’m in Tuléar tonight by myself at the Eden Hotel, whose outer façade is the color of mint chocolate-chip ice cream. The cheap kind. I’ve landed another contract with CARE to do some more proposal writing. This will probably my last hurrah before KP’s contract ends in mid-June, so when this opportunity arose I felt like I should take it to get all the experience I can before leaving. (As a side note to those of you visiting the blog: we’re looking for jobs, so any leads—or offers!—would be welcome.) I’m not in Tuléar to work, just to catch a flight to Ft. Dauphin, on the east coast. I’m going to be on the east side three nights before catching a flight back to the west side, doing background research and talking with the team there. It seems a silly commute, but the Fianar—Tuléar drive is A LOT better than the Fianar—Tana one. Having just done the latter yo-yo trip a week ago, I know what I’m talking about. The last 7 weeks of steady rain have left large stretches of the road in bad shape that prevent you from getting any decent head of speed from building up. Last Sunday we took 10 hours to do Tana to Fianar, and today I made it to Tuléar in just under 7. (Okay, full disclosure: last Sunday we had about a one-hour delay because we were stopped by the gendarmes and forced to pay a fine for not having our papers in order—our green plates were of no use that day—and we stopped so Owen could nurse. Today, I didn’t have any of those same issues.)

This is the first time I’ve spent a night alone since Owen was born and it feels lonely not being part of the usual routine with he and KP. It’s small conciliation that I have a working TV. There are only two channels that come in, both in Malagasy and one channel is showing a Madagascar version of American Idol; the other is showing how Tropical Cyclone Gamede is on target to make landfall on Madagascar on the eastern city of Tamatave. The best thing I saw on TV was a commercial using Bob Dylan’s Just Like a Woman for its theme song. It was an ad for a beauty salon in Tana. Being a Sunday, there aren’t many restaurants open, so I happened to find myself at same Italian restaurant I ate at when I was last in Tuléar. About a year ago—last Easter Sunday to be exact—we were here with the FTC group and, like tonight, this place was about the only place open. KP and Claire ended up both getting sick and Hugo and I left with our respective wives so they could convalesce back at the hotel. This left AB and Patrick to chit-chat with Claire’s college semester-abroad host-family brothers and their girlfriends for the evening. The next morning we boarded our rental van (a.k.a. rolling Super Fund-mobile) and 10 hours—and one snapped accelerator cable—later, we got to Fianar. Thanks to a poorly (absent) exhaust system we arrived looking like a band of traveling chimney-sweeps. Oh, good times.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I made it to Ft. Dauphin this morning just as the sky opened up in a burst of rain. I suspect this was the leading edge of TC Gamede; it’s been raining off and on all day since I’ve been here. At present, according to the weather map the storm still looks poised to hit Tamatave head-on, but these things have a tendency to change direction at the last moment. Regardless, there are going to be many coastal communities dealing with the storm surge and a lot of flooding. When I arrived, the CARE driver took me to the office first. What struck me most along the way was how bad the roads were. Last May, when I was here last, the roads were in terrible shape, and since then have really deteriorated. I suppose the weather has something to do with it, but also I think the heavy trucks from the QMM mine and the port-building operation are not what the road engineers had in mind when the road was originally built.

Turns out I’m staying at the guest house of the regional coordinator. I didn’t realize this, but was excited by the prospect of not staying in town (less chance of random booty-calls from the local prostitutes). He lives on atop a picturesque promontory overlooking the Indian Ocean. Upon entering the “guest-house” I began to wonder if this was, in fact, a good thing. First impression was that I was living in a sty: clothes were strewn about the place, dirty dishes were piled high in the kitchen sink, the commode doesn’t have a seat, and there’s no shower curtain. The cook, who received me since the coordinator was still at the office, led me through two rooms before showing me my “room”—what is essentially a glorified closet with a double-bed wedged inside. There’s just enough room to maneuver around, but only just. There is a mosquito net, thankfully. But, what really had me worried was the corpse I passed en route to my room. In the second room I passed through lay a body on a bed with a sheet pulled up over its head. The cook didn’t even glance at it as she led me by. Not knowing what to do, I did nothing. As I was putting my suitcase down I heard the corpse emit a low moan, at which point I assumed the corpse wasn’t a corpse. I tip-toed back past the corpse to sit outside and wait for the coordinator to come home for lunch.

And eventually he did, and he explained the mystery of the corpse over lunch. The corpse is a friend of his who is working as a consultant on the project that I wrote up for CARE last summer. He’s one of these dyed-in-the-wool development jocks who has lived in Africa for the past two decades and has decided to eschew such western “luxuries” like mosquito nets and malaria prophylaxis. The corpse-like state was a product of two things: 1) an acute case of malaria and; 2) an acute case of alcohol poisoning from a weekend bender. It was unclear which of the acute cases came on first, but the end result was the corpse.

Now back home after working the afternoon at the office, the corpse was awake briefly and spoke, but has now turned off his light and is sleeping. I’m thankful that tomorrow I’m going out into the field; I don’t predict a good night’s sleep.