Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Vacation and a Greeting

It has been an extremely long time since I last posted on this blog.  As a brief update, I am currently in the USA for a month of home leave.  In early May I will be returning to Madagascar for a third year of Peace Corps service.  Instead of living in my former village I will assist in managing the Peace Corps regional office in Diego and teach, part time, at the University of Antsiranana (Diego).  I hope it will be a busy and enjoyable year.

And, because I never post links, I thought now would be a good time to start.  D Lain, a minor Malagasy celebrity, recently won an African version of the Idol contest.  The song he chose for the final round, Ravo Ravo by Mika and Davis, is my favorite Malagasy tune.  Essentially a long greeting, I will use it to greet each of you after my long, long absence from this blog.  Enjoy...


Sunday, December 9, 2012


Here is one picture of the treadle pumps which were installed at my site in October.  They are much easier to use than simple watering cans and will, in the future, save time.  Currently we are experimenting with ways to improve water flow.  The green hose that you see in the bottom of the photo is too small to effectively water all of the garden plots quickly enough.  More to come on this project in the year ahead.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Borrowed Post

A post I put together for someone elses blog (yes, I am neglectful, sorry).  It discusses the work that has taken place at the primary school in my village, Analasatrana.  Oh...and it is also dated.  Maybe three months old...(again neglectful)
The first chapter of the construction of the EPP in Analasatrana is, as one might expect, anything but mundane.  With the arrival of funds in July the community eagerly looked to complete its work before the start of school.  And, as a related note, no one knew exactly when the start of school would be.  Still reeling from the strikes of the 2011-2012 school year much of what the new year would be remained in flux.  But work must carry on. 
Finding a mason and carpenter for the doors and windows were the first task of the leadership team (the secretary and treasurer of the parent’s association or FRAM and the local schools supervisor).  Made to specifications and of quality lumber and hinges, the doors and windows were constructed in Ambilobe and sent to site for installation.  The pastor of the FJF (protestant church) in Ampotsehy was selected to complete construction from start to finish.  Here, to everyone’s surprise.  Is where trouble reeled its ugly head.  Somehow, and no one knows exactly how, the doors and windows did not fit their frames at the school.  A problem, to be sure, but nothing creativity could not solve.  With skill and patience Pastor added extra brick and support to make the too big frames fit the too small doors and windows.  On to the next task: the walls.
Deciding to complete the interior walls before the floor, Pastor leapt into action.  At his disposal was an immense mound of sand on the school’s front steps.  Gathered by community members in one of two work days the sand, we all thought, was clean and abundant.  Again, trouble fought its way in.  Work on the interior walls required a fine grain sand.  Only with a smooth finish could paint be properly applied.  Gathered from the banks of the Mahavavy river our sand was too coarse.  Not a disaster, just a misstep, and the purchase of a sifting screen allowed work to continue. 
And on to the floors.  Other than cement, the primary ingredient in a solid floor is rock. If the rock is about the size of golf balls, no bigger, it will provide the floor with the resiliency to survive the heavy traffic and wear of time.  As you may be suspecting, our pile of rocks were much too large.  “No problem”, says the parents association, who then organized teams to break the big rocks (occasionally boulders) into the proper size.  Several weeks later, through lots of sweat and a fair amount of bickering, the rocks were ready and the floor of the first classroom was set in place. 
Which brings us to the present.  Currently work is taking place on the floor and patio of the second classroom.  Additional sand is being gathered and we expect the interior to be complete before that mysterious day in the future when class resumes. 
None of the above would have been possible without the work of two key leaders: the treasurer of the parent’s association and the local schools supervisor.  Rolling up their sleeves (both literally and proverbially) they have each striven to see the thing through to completion.  As an interested and perhaps slightly meddlesome observer, my role has been to provide suggestions, motivation, and most frequently a listening ear.  When trouble arose and tensions mounted I listen to the gripes (some earned, some not) and refocus on attention on the work ahead.  With time, and their and your continued support, I am confident the school will reach full completion.  

Ampotsehy School

Thanks to the generosity of a really great Australian couple (pictured with myself) the village of Ampotsehy will be getting a primary school.  Below are images of the first planning meeting held by the village to discuss the plan of action.  This is work that I love as everyone - donors, villagers, myself - are so motivated to see the projects through to completion. 

I Almost Traded Shirts

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Cost of Doing Business

Motivated by an unsavory encounter today I would like to briefly talk about bribery and corruption.  It should come as no surprise that all governments struggle with the inefficencies created by the abuse of political influence.  Some companies, individuals, and other interests search for every avenue to achieve their desired ends.  Often, those avenues come at the expense of the public itself.  For example, a mining company who wishes to aquire mineral rites may agree to provide kickbacks to those with the means to provide those rites.  In this example, local opposition is steamrolled by the allure of quick and abundant cash. 

According to Transparency International, the respected advocate of fair and open governance, roughly "US $20 to $40 billion are received annually by officials in developing and transition countries".  But don't get thrown off by the sheer enormity of the sum.  For most, corruption is seen in micro, not macro.  An example of this may be something as small as US $2 to $5 to help "expidite" business or "avoid" a fine.  Yet, for those with nothing, these small sums are even unattainable. 

Madagascar, a country that one and a half years has taught me to love, is sorely in need of greater political transperancy.  Only when that transperancy comes will Madagascar begin to fulfill its obligation to all its citizens.

For more information from Transperancy Internationals 2011 Report, click here 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fundraising Ride

First, let me begin by thanking each of you who have donated to Atsika and my campaign to rebuild the roof of the CEG in Marivorahona.  Through your generosity we have raised roughly half of the $2000 needed!  But the campaign is not over yet. 

On the 15th of this month my friend Bryan and I will embark on a 701km bike ride to help raise additional funds.  I encourage you to support us on our ride by pledging per kilometer.  Any amount will help.  If you are interested, simply email me your pledge commitment at koenig.ted@gmail.com.  Your email will help me better keep track of funds as well as ensure that you are kept up to date on the status of our journey.

Thank you all for your support!