This is our final week for data collection on our independent projects. I’ve been to around 10 different streams to catch and measure nearly 200 crabs. Some streams are nearby in the national park and for others I have taken a car to reach the destination. I also took 1 night last week to go deep into the rainforest, and I’ve decided to go again for 1-2 nights. I’ve been to a lot of the streams within 2 kilometers of CVB. So I will probably go to a campsite that’s about 8 kilometers away either from tomorrow to Friday or Thursday to Friday. Dr. Patricia Wright is also going out there on Thursday. I saw the IMAX movie before leaving with some of you; she is the woman who was the main star. She has been coming to Madagascar for 30+ years, and she founded Centre ValBio as well as Ranomafana National Park. She’s going to be looking at a species of lemur called the Sifaka, and she’s actually going to be tranquilizing some of them (safely) in order to interact with them up close. She is an amazing person and researcher, and she extended to me an invitation to hold some lemurs, which I’m excited about.
This past Sunday we had a chance to go white water kayaking in a big river that goes through the rainforest. That was an incredible experience. The kayaks were like rafts, they were inflatable and held 3 people in each. For the most part the 2-hour journey was fairly calm, but there were also some rapids that were pretty crazy. It was also pouring rain including heavy thunder + lightning for about an hour and it even hailed out of nowhere. That only made it more fun for me; it felt a bit dangerous and it probably was. By the end I was soaked all over and by that night I was sore all over. I don’t think I can get out there to do it again at this point but I would gladly go all the time if I could.
On this day I have exactly one week remaining at Centre ValBio before it is time for us to leave and prepare to fly back to New York. When we leave next Tuesday we will stop in a couple different towns for 1-2 nights on our way to the capital of Antananarivo. We’ll be presenting our research projects at the University of Antananarivo in front of students and professors there and it’s also where our flight leaves from in 11 days. I’ll be getting back into JFK at about 6:30am on Sunday the 23rd. There are some people and places that I will strongly miss that I will be leaving behind here. I haven’t even left yet and I already want to return to Ranomafana. I’ve been to so many areas of the country, but there is something about this rainforest and the surrounding villages that I love very much and really hope to see again. I even have some business ideas that I’ve discussed with some of my Malagasy friends that live and work here. I will definitely be keeping in touch with some of them; I have one very close friend named Khen that I see a few times per week. He is Malagasy but speaks English fairly well. His family owns the small restaurant that is a 5-minute walk from CVB. People from our study abroad group go there all the time because their food is seriously awesome and it’s a great place to hang out in the evenings. It’s also no more than 10 meters from the entrance to the national park, so every single tourist that comes here walks by. Right now they also have a small campsite on their property, but there are so many hotels in the area now that very few people stay there. But they do get a lot of people eating there as they come in and out of the park. If I ever save up some money I would really consider trying to turn that place into a little hotel with 5-6 bungalows, which could hold a group of 10 people. It sounds like a big project and it is, but building materials and payment for workers adds up to a very small amount of money compared to what something like that would cost in America. Who knows if it is something that will ever turn into a reality, but it is just something that seems extremely appealing to me. Khen and his family live simply but comfortably. I’ve added him on Facebook and I’m positive I will continue to speak to him.
All that being said, I am of course looking forward to seeing all my friends and family very soon! I can’t wait to tell everyone about my adventures and feelings towards this incredible country. I’ve only been able to hear bits and pieces of what everyone has been up to and I really want to catch up with everything that’s going on. It will feel great to be back and surrounded by people that I love and miss. Just a few days after I get back will also be Thanksgiving, which I know will be the best meal I’ve eaten in months. Get plenty of stuffing and gravy ready. I also feel like I could eat 50 cheeseburgers as soon as I get to New York. I miss cheeseburgers very much. There isn’t even cheese here.
In case this ends up being my last update I want to say thanks to everyone who has followed along and taken an interest in my journey. When I get home I’ll put up a final post with hundreds or thousands of pictures. See you soon.