Amy studied forestry at Michigan Tech and is now using her skills to protect threatened flora and fauna in Madagascar and at the same time improve the quality of life for the local citizens. Amy will return to the United States with a new view of the world. Here are a few of her thoughts ....
"I live in a small village on the small volcanic island of Nosy Be off the northwest coast of Madagascar. There are no roads that lead to my village because it is separated from any of the major towns by a mountainous forest reserve. Therefore, the villagers must use pirogues to go to and from town. To reach the market, I usually paddle with someone from my own village for two to two and a half hours. The villagers use sails too so if the wind is right one way can be done without paddling. The sail can cut down on the time, too. I have been really lucky that the people in this village have been so kind and welcoming. They have taught me to maneuver a pirogue and have just welcomed me like a part of the family."
"We will be doing research in the forest and helping to promote alternatives to any current extractions from the forest. I hope to research plants and tree species along with censusing the lemur populations. In my village I see and hear lemurs every day. I am amazed by the diversity in the forest and in all of Madagascar."
"It is rice harvest season and I've picked, dried, beat, and pounded rice. My hands are all blistered from pounding the rice. The villagers get a kick out of it. I just ache after all the work. Harvesting rice is the worst. You stand for hours cutting seed heads off the rice plants, one plant at a time. The sun beats down and sucks the life ouf of you. HOT, HOT, HOT! They have to do this or they die. We Americans don't understand that concept and never will. It isn't a concept to learn, it's one to be born in. It's much different from working to make money and buy food. We don't experience the devastationwhen a crop is destroyed by disease or insects."
December 25, 1997
"The weather here is hot and humid and the mosquitos are ferocious. My Christmas dinner included the malarial prophylaxis Meflaquine. Christmas on Nosy Be is fairly quiet, but New Years is the big festival. I have bought my first chicken to fatten up for the big party."
A Big Party on Nosy Be
"Jennifer (the education volunteer in Hellville) and I just returned from Antsiranana, the largest town in Northern Mad. What a difference from Hellville, much more metropolitan. We visited Montague D'Aubre National Park, a beautiful rain forest reserve. The large weekly market was a treat. We ate litchis for 25 cents a kilo - an amazing fruit. The area around Diego is now being scoured by saphire hunters. I'm not much into gemstones but there are some gorgeous saphires coming from Madagascar. Gold and silver can be rather inexpensive here also."
"A serious rainfall has begun so I need to set up my buckets and catch some of it."
September 21, 1998
"There were times when I would really have liked a little direction. However, I learned so much from the families by discovering what projects really were interesting to them. There's drawbacks to this too, because I've really become parts of their families and it will be very very hard to leave them. I've shared their problems, eaten with them, drunk with them, played games with them, fished with them, etc. When my parents came to visit, the villagers took care of them.
"The seasons are subtly changing here. The midday sun is a little hotter. Some of the deciduous tropical trees are absolutely bald waiting for the rains to come. There is still a chill in the morning, but the nights are becoming more humid. Can I survive my fourth hot season here? It's similar to a sauna, but I haven't found a snowbank to jump into. The ocean is no relief."
The End of February, 1999.
Here, it is nice not to deal with all the commercialization of Christmas and New Year's. After the holidays I went to Majunga, a bigger town on the west coast of mainland Madagascar - quite the contrast from Nosy Be. There are low, rolling hills so I could see for quite a distance. The town was built near the delta of an extensive river. Most of Nosy Be's rice comes from this region.
The rains have arrived in full force. Just last night, I thought my house would float away. However, everyone's rice is growing well even my small plot. The harvest should feed me until I go home.
I finished my PhD research [Editor's note: Amy is enrolled in a PhD program at Cornell] in northern Ethiopia and am returning to Ethiopia to work at a university for 10 months. My advising professor received funding through USAID/ALO for the Partnership of Higher Education Institutes. I began as coordinator while I was completing my research and will continue until next September. We are working on integrated watershed management and development of Lake Tana (largest lake in Ethiopia). I will also be teaching a course or two about water resources and hydrology at the university.
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