Habitat for Humanity was probably one of the best experiences I have had in country thus far. Volunteers always say that your Peace Corps experience is like a rollercoaster, with both ups and downs. And I hate to say admit it, but I’ve been dwelling on the downs. Life is frustrating at times in this country. Classes that I want to start don’t because people don’t show interest in them. Villagers that I want to help tell me they don’t need it because they don’t trust me. Others befriend me just to ask for gifts down the line. Habitat for Humanity came at the perfect time. It was really a freak accident. Two other volunteers were supposed to be translators before me, and at the last minute were not able to assist. That’s when I stepped in. But to be honest, this program brought me back to life. It made me remember why I came to this country, why I chose Peace Corps. I met some absolutely amazing people who reminded me of who I was and where I wanted to go in life.
Days were long and tiring. 6am waking up, 9pm bed times for 10 days straight takes a toll on you. Emotionally and physically. I would be lying if I didn’t say I got sick once….okay maybe twice. I guess I’m not Malagasy so I can’t do the half liter of water a day, even though I thought I could. Oops.
The group was broken up into four construction groups, one Peace Corps Volunteer as a translator for each construction group. 7 months in country and I was a translator, so I apologize to my construction group for the past two weeks. (Just kidding!). But I do have to say, my translations became very comical as the week wore on. “Can you tell him that because he works hard and always preempts our needs, we can complete our job. If that didn’t happen, we wouldn’t be able to work, but we can so thank you”…turned into “he said, you’re awesome and you’re always ready with everything, which is awesome. If you weren’t awesome, we couldn’t work, but we can because you’re awesome.”
My construction site was up a hill, a huge hill. To be exact, 76 steps…bleacher style. Needless to say, I learned quite fast, I was no longer in shape. Add that to carrying never ending bricks, mortar, buckets of water and making the walls level, vizaka be aho (I am exhausted). Yes, I got my hands dirty and build walls. I was up on scaffolding. Shocker! Not the life I’m used to living in Alakamisy-Ambohimaha by any means. We didn’t complete the entire house, but that’s normal for all Habitat constructions abroad. You never know what problems you will run to on a construction site and definitely abroad, you don’t have the luxury to extend the time allotted. However, we finished the walls of the house and porch; all that needs to be completed is the roof and floor. So I think success.
But hard work aside, we had a lot of fun. We took children from each building site to the hot springs and to see the 50ft waterfall. There seemed to be mortar fights on my construction site. Intentionally accidently dropping of mortar on people’s hands or flung on peoples clothes **cough John cough**. We walked the Ranomafana Park and saw four different types of lemurs. We ate all meals together in which it became a ‘if you can’t finish your meal, give it to the Peace Corps Volunteers because they starve at site’ event. No arguments from us. Races to the shower to be one of the lucky ones who gets warm water. And the normal picking on Christina moments (why am I an easy target?). But you only pick on those you like……..right?
John: So I heard you were a triplet.
Mike: Wait…what did you just say? I heard, ‘so I heard you were a stripper.’
(my ‘job’ as a stripper became topic of conversation for the rest of the trip)
Me: Yea, I guess I’m the rebel sister.
Eden: …because Peace Corps is a rebel thing.
Norman: Where’s your Harley, rebel? Biker chick…
Mike: What sin did you commit tonight? (meaning what alcoholic drink did you consume)
Me: I’m with him. (pointing to John, meaning he was buying my drink)
Mike: Oh really… (and then proceeds to tell the story to the entire group)
Earlier in the day:
Mike: John you’ll be the hoddy today. Meaning you’ll get bricks, mortar, or water for anyone that needs it.
Later on, after lunch:
Me (to John): so you’re a hoddy again? (hoddy pronounced hawdy but sounds like hotty)
John: …well I didn’t say it, you did.
So John, Eden, Michaela, Norman, Pam, Kate, Mike, Barry, Lew, Tony, Trish, Kathleen, Lisa, Glenn, Leith, Jeremy, and Bruce, I miss you already, come back to Madagascar! Thanks for adopting me, Sally, Kim, and Mike (little/PCV one) into your Habitat family. For the support, the gifts, the pure kindness of your hearts. I hope we keep in touch and I will forever remember the experience I shared with you.
House dedication ceremony
View from my construction site