(The name of our blog is from the movie, 'Madagascar', when King Julien introduces the animals from the New York City Zoo to his lemur colony. [The zoo animals are much larger than the lemurs, and we're both from New York State.])
Our invitation finally arrived!
On December 29th, after an uninformative Holiday visit to see family in upstate NY, we received our Peace Corps invitation to Madagascar, staging March 1st, in a city yet to be named. We're very excited, and are beginning the steps to wrap our lives into a nice, shrink-wrapped bow, all the while consolidating down to two 50-pound bags and a carry-on each.
It has been a long application process.
We applied in October of 2008 via the internet application, interviewed in November, and were nominated in early-February 2009. We passed medical, dental, and legal clearances rather quickly, all the while answering the multiple essays promptly.
Then the waiting began...
Apparently it's more difficult to place couples, because placing two people in the same place with different assignments presents a unique challenge.
Additionally, Madagascar was evacuated due to political unrest in March 2009. Delay number one.
Delay number 2 occurred when Peace Corps personnel were evacuated from Guinea in October. Guess where many of them got sent? You guessed it, the newly re-opened, empty Madagascar!
We had our 'final interview' scheduled for November 20th, but our Placement Officer had a medical issue, keeping her out of the office for ~3 weeks. Delay numéro trois.
To further dampen our spirits, we learned in December 2009 that many Niger volunteers were also being transferred to Madagascar due to an unstable situation in their original country. Delay ìsa èfatra.
As of this moment, I'm leaving my job at Total Wine & More on January 20th, and Polly is leaving her job on February 5th. Until then, it's business as usual. I'll begin sorting and arranging the move while Polly completes her time at NOAA.
We're currently cramming French into our brains via nightly injections of Rosetta Stone, and perusing the Malagasy/English dictionary and Peace Corps online materials. Malagasy is going to be tricky, as the vocabulary and phrase sound-bytes demonstrate.
Our beloved cats are going to our respective parents' homes. Chava will stay her 27 months at Polly's parents', while Roscoe will go to my dad and step-mother's place. They'll both be in a great environment, with lots of love, nature and lake. We don't think they'll mind the separation from each other, as they merely tolerate one another in our small Silver Spring apartment. The human/feline separation will be tougher for them, and us.
Chava enters a home with 2 other unique, smaller female cats, and Roscoe's new pals will be a gentle female yellow lab and an inquisitive male chihuahua.
We're not sure how the technology situation is going to be in Madagascar, but many of the volunteers evacuated in March were kept up to date of the situation with text messages.
Hopefully, intermittent internet access will allow us to keep everyone informed of our trials, tribulations and discoveries during our 27 month term. We'll be bringing at least one laptop for word and photo processing, and the iphones should take the prepaid Orange or Madacom SIM cards. Definitely no data connection. Skype could be an option at some point.
We're in contact with handful of people with experiences in Madagascar, through various connections. Hopefully, we'll gain some valuable insight and answers to our plethora of questions and curiosities.
This is but the first of many posts, as we New York Giants embark on our Peace Corps adventure.
Thanks for checking us out.
"Quick, to the volcano, before we all come to our senses!"
King Julien, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa