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February 2011

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I am beginning to feel the possibility of evacuation is more stressful than when I originally settled in Madagascar. It is difficult to commit to projects when I could be on an airplane to South Africa or Kenya tomorrow. Should we resort to evacuation, we have the option to transfer to another country, and that too is stressful, as that opens up the entire world again.

I have considered taking the transfer and hope my second country does not wipe out my love for Madagascar. If we get a choice, I would like to try a different continent, maybe Asia. Obedient students appeal to me greatly.

When I interviewed for the Peace Corps, the person that interviewed me had just returned from his service in Tonga, and he said that being a foreigner there was “instant rock star status.” I figured I could deal with it. I wanted to be famous when I was a kid, so why not. Now that I have that status, well, it is not exactly glamorous. People talk about whatever I do. I go to the market, and they talk about what I buy. There are always people outside of my house, trying to look in. I thought since I am in a more touristy area the people would be used to seeing foreigners and wouldn’t stare so much, but they can never stare enough. Free show!

While I feel I have one of the safest (and most beautiful) sites in Madagascar, things are changing on Ile Sainte Marie. There was a string of robberies, vaazaha houses targeted. A group of young Malagasy men stole food for their families. My house is fine so far, but people are starting to ask more and more of me. Today a man stopped by. He said my property owner hired him to cut the wild grass in my front yard. Once I let him inside my gate, he attempted to enter my house, and then he changed his story to, “I need food, money or both.” I learned my lesson early on when it comes to giving things to people. Give it to one person, and the entire village feels entitled to some, too. In that case, I had given water to one of my students, and people stopped by to ask for water days after the fact. I hated turning this desperate man away, but I had to, but before he left, he said I did not give him anything because I do not want to. My community refuses to believe I make the same wage as them and am hurting just as much.