Thursday, January 26, 2012

and so be it...

Well hello there. I have been back in the US now for about 6weeks and haven’t put up a final blog post. So here I go. My last couple months at site were great. It was very difficult saying good bye to all the people that had not only become my new friends but family as well. I made a painting where I had all my kids come into my house, after washing their hands, and trace their handprint on a piece of plywood that I had written the hand-washing song on. They then painted their handprint with one of the many colors I had. I am so happy I got this finished. It will be something that will be in my village and they can remember me by. It was hard saying good bye to my friends in the cities that I would visit to buy all my food and other necessities. Lots of tears were shed and lots of final laughs were had. I am so grateful for my two years spent in my village and all the people whose lives have touched mine and hopefully whose lives were touched by my two year stay. I had two PCVs, Raff and Brian, come stay at my house the last couple nights to help me get all my stuff together and just help keep my sanity. It was very stressful and sad and they did a fabulous job at keeping me as calm as possible and always laffing. I am forever grateful and thankful for everything they did those last few days. On my final day, MBG had their yearly celebration of the coming of the organization to Mahabo and I tied in a farewell for myself as well. There were a bunch of speeches including one by yours truly and dancing and music along with food and beverages all day long. I had 12 of my closest PCVs come down to help support me which was clearly necessary. I would go out and mingle with everyone and have to go back to the hut and cry and repeat all day. The PCVs helped with all the hugs, tears, and laffs that were provided for me all day long. One of my favorite memories from this day was one PCV bought a bunch of cookies and had myself and 2 other PCVs hand them out. The kids go WILD for these and were all grabbing for them and kept asking for more and more and more. But in the middle of handing out a package I looked up to see one of the other PCVs running from all the children that just attacked her for the cookies. I couldn’t stop laffing as she was running from one side of the compound to the other. It was so fun and so sad but exactly what I pictured and needed for closure. I left my village with the kids saying “bye bye” and felt so great about the last two years of my life spent there in that village. I will miss them dearly but no one can ever take away those memories that were formed while there and I will carry them with me in my daily life.

I was lucky enough and able to fly back with 2 other PCVs…Sara Tolliver and Aaron Acosta. We flew to Paris then to Chicago, where we all went our separate ways. Of course, to be expected, all 6 of our checked bags were left in Paris, which for me was no biggie becuz that meant less to carry and nothing to go thru customs with and I got mine the day after and Sara and Aaron ended up getting theirs as well, eventually. I had been doing ok with no crying when I left the Peace Corps house where I said good bye to fellow PCVs and made it all the way to Chicago. Well Aaron’s family came to meet him there and as soon as I saw him hug his dad, the tears were a flowing. It was very emotional to see him see his family for the first time in 2 years. We all hugged and parted for I had a gate to find. I found it and had time to spare so I went to exchange some Euros that I had acquired and stopped to get a good beer. I sat down and this woman asked me where I was coming from. She said people with their hair like mine, it was all braided, were usually coming from some far away place. I smiled and told her Madagascar. She was very kind and we talked about traveling, she herself was well traveled. It was a nice conversation and good company. Well the hour long flight from Chicago to LaCrosse went by so fast. It was some of the first sleep I had gotten out of the 21hr flight. I think I slept the whole way. Getting off the plane, I knew it was going to be emotional to see my family. I walked off the plane and had to step aside before entering the airport to take a few deep breaths. I could see my cousins and aunts holding “Welcome Home” signs and cheering and clapping. Oh man before I was even thru those doors I was crying. My sister came running over and hugged me with tears and then my mom and dad and everyone else. It still brings tears to my eyes thinking of that moment. Even though it went by fast it felt like a lifetime since I had been hugged by my family and it felt great.

Who knew but American Airlines fed me so much I couldn’t go get the nachos that I had wanted becuz I was still so full but we did make a stop and had the best bloodies in LaCrosse at Del’s bar. Don’t worry we picked up my older sister from the train station the next day and had them for lunch. I was pretty jet lagged for the first couple weeks and stressed with the holidays but it was so great to see all my family and I’ve been able to visit with many of my friends already including a great afternoon spent with my bffs Colleen and Dave who were in the area from Oregon and Texas. Mainly life has been uneventful but it’s just what I needed to readjust. I’ve kept in contact with some of the other RPCVs from my group and talked to my close PCVs that are still in Mada over the holidays. We had a conference call last night that I like to call “comfort call” with 5 other RPCVs from my group all on the line at the same time. It was great. But yes I think this may be my last entry. But thank you for being a friend and coming along for the ride. Take care!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Well out of the 36 of us that got off that plane Dec 2009, 23 of us gathered together this week for a Close of Service Conference. It was a 3 day long adventure that brought us all to the great Mantasoa one last time. We shared experiences, memories, plans and many other things, including sickness. Yep I’ve gotten my first taste of a stomach illness that wasn’t food poisoning since I’ve arrived here. I consider myself one of the lucky ones because I haven’t been sick and this is miserable. I’m afraid to leave our Peace Corps house for fear of not being able to find a bathroom when I’ll need one. But on a more positive note, the conference was great. We got some useful information and like I said before just being together was a great time. There are a few that are extending for another 6 months or a year and others that will travel before heading back to the states and then some, like me, that will be coming home. I’m excited to be home for Christmas. It’s been quite awhile and it’s way overdue. I’ve been enjoying my time at my village, still going out to the villages and weighing babies and talking to the mothers about lots of good stuff. A friend and I started painting or re-painting signs all over my village. Doing a little clean-up Mahabo. It’s been so good. I also found another little girl in my village who is about maybe a little over a year old and her name is Melissa. Makes me feel honored and really a part of my community. One of my friends here also had a baby at the beginning of September and when I asked what his name was she would say she was still “looking for one”. So I told her “Well he was born on the same day as my dad, Sept 2, and my dad’s name is William. If you want you could name him that.” She was very excited and immediately said yes. The kids were all saying William, William! After a few minutes, I heard her whisper to one of the kids, “what was his name again?” So I told her I’d write it down for her.

The last couple months at my site will be basically me closing up everything and saying my good-byes. It’s been a hard two years but this last couple months will be the hardest. I have made new friends and family both Malagasy and American and it will be hard to say good-bye. I know I will be seeing some friends again and others I prolly won’t. That’s the hardest part of it. I am very excited to come home and see everyone, especially around the holidays. And I am SUPER excited to come home for some snow!!!! I’ve already told my parents that they better bring some warm clothes and boots or at least closed toed shoes. I have nothing warm. I am going to be walking around with the airplane blanket wrapped around me. Here, this would be considered normal, we’ll see how people in Paris and the states react.

So yeah I can’t wait to see everyone when I get home..i don’t have definite plans as of now so I’m open to lots of possibilities. Hope everyone is enjoying fall! Take care and see you soon!

Here are some pics from a market in a bigger city...


pumpkins, squash.....

chickens anyone?



some random seeds..

so i've got some salt..

lemongrass....great for tea.

Friday, September 16, 2011

on the road again....

These are some pics from my latest vacation...
a great swimming hole..
lemurs...just roaming around.
cool little tree.
the beach in mangily....

Ok.’s been quite awhile. I have had an amazing last couple months. My site was great. A friend and I painted a world map in the middle school that was color coded by the percentage of HIV/AIDS in each country. We also painted a Madagascar map showing the different climates here in Mada. They both turned out just great and I am very proud of them. I went to another PCV’s site for a week long health camp. It would start with soccer in the morning for about an hour or so and then we would have about 2-3hrs of health/environment sessions. I am very impressed by how well everything went and her planning skills are just amazing. She is an excellent resource for other PCVs and I am honored that I was able to help participate in such a successful event. After that we headed to our regional capital to meet up with our group that was headed to the great SOUTHWEST of Madagascar! Oh my this was great. We had a 3 night stay in Isalo. Stayed at a great little hotel. Went for an all day hike the next day and sang some karaoke later that night and then walked into a jam session with some other French travelers that were staying in the same hotel. It was a great day. Then we got up early the next day and hiked up a couple mountains and just chilled up there. It was a beautiful day, a tid bit too windy but great for making home videos. We then made the trek to Toliara. This city was great. We had a sweet hotel on the beach and it was near a lot of nice restaurants so we had a lot to choose from. We headed to Mangily the next afternoon. About an hour ride on a bad road in a huge camion, but we made it. Found a really nice hotel with a family room that we stayed in for two nights. It was great. It was a 5 minute walk from the beach, which was beautiful!! We had dinner on the beach at sunset, massages, went snorkeling, and just had a blast. I had been having a slight sore throat for a few days but our last morning in Mangily I woke up and could barely breathe my throat was so swollen. Had Brittany call the doc for me cuz I surely couldn’t talk. He told me to go to the out patient clinic in Toliara. Well because I couldn’t talk Brittany, the good friend that she is, volunteered to go with me and be my voice. Turns out I had laryngitis. And oh man that’s not fun. Dr’s orders were not to talk for 48 hrs…48hrs!!!! that’s a long time for me not to talk. You have no idea how hard it is when you want to express a want or a need or just say something funny and you can’t. But I did it. And am thankful that I did it. My voice is still raspy and my throat is still sore but it’s nothing I can’t handle. We are very lucky to the Drs here that we do because they are great and can always tell you what you need to do to make it better. But yeah so I missed out on the last day of vacation because I was resting but it was much needed and I do feel better. I will be heading back to site soon and welcoming a new PCV neighbor that will live 2km away from me sometime next week. Then in less than a month we have our Close of Service (COS) conference. It’s already been 2 years! 2 years! But yes as with every start there comes a close just to open a new door and start a new adventure. I hope all is well. I love and miss you all! Take care.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Hello again!!! I just wanted to write a brief blog about my vacation out west. IT WAS AMAZING!!! Even more so than I expected. Jules’ parents, Dr. Smith and Antsy, were unbelievable. We took a private car to Miandravazo, which is about half way to Morondava. Spent the night in a nice bungalow and took off in the morning for Morondava. On the road we were like dogs thinking, SQUIRREL, every time we saw a baobab. They were all so amazing and we weren’t even to the Avenue of Baobabs yet. We kind of relaxed when we got there, watched the sunset over the Mozambique Canal, which is a first for me since I see the sunrise over the ocean, and had a good meal. It was Jaja’s birthday the next day and so Julie and I snuck off to go hunting for supplies to make a crown. That was an interesting and entertaining hunt. As we were buying her gift, Jaja walked up and we freaked out and Julie pulled her away. We were soooooooo close. The next morning we took off for Kirindy Reserve where we saw lots of lemurs, bugs and even a fosa (the largest carnivorous mammal on the island. It’s catlike and as big as a medium-sized dog maybe) in the forest while on a hike. We drove through the Avenue of Baobabs. It was breath-taking. Words really cannot describe how I felt when I saw them all. We gave Jaja her gifts and her crown along with a wand that came in handy when the electricity went out…Jaja was a natural and with a wisp of her wand…there was light! We did a market visit and lounged around with a return to the baobabs for sunset. We found a nice huge baobab to call home for the sunset and chilled out listening to the top hits of the 90s. We headed out the next morning and arrived in Tana on their Independence Day, June 26. It was crazy all around town.

Overall, this has been my favorite place I’ve visited in Madagascar by far. Julie’s parents were so generous and willing to try many new things. Their company was great and much appreciated. Julie and Jaja are two of my favorite PCVs to travel with. It was a great vacation. Thank you! LUVIN’ LIFE!!

PS I tried to upload some pics but it didn't work:-(

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


happy healthy sabrina.
this is the scariest part of my day..going into my bathroom.
one of the kids coloring a health message picture brought by one of the Wash U students.
Juliny in her Sunday best.
dinner.we figured in the states this fish would have been around $ we bought it for $4.some of the best fish i've ever had.

Well I’m off again. After just a short amount of time at my site, I am heading for another vacation. This one is the most anticipated destination in Madagascar for me…..the BAOBABS of Morondava!!!! Jewelz’s family is coming and so Jaja and I will be accompanying them out to see these magnificent trees!! After Thailand, I returned to my site to find that about half of my moringa trees (these trees are an amazing source of protein, vitamin A and C, calcium and potassium and they grow extremely fast) that I had planted before I left had sprouted and were ready to plant. So I had about 50 trees that I had to get working on getting into the ground. So I met with some of the Community Health Workers and taught them about this amazing tree and how to plant it and take care of it.

We also had some students from Washington University come to visit for about a week. That was great. I was able to go with them to many of the villages around my village. They met with fishermen and farmers and weavers (the women who weave baskets and mats etc). It was a great change to have them around. We taught some little girls in one of the villages how to play duck, duck, grey duck (or if you’re from anywhere other than Minnesota duck, duck, goose). We played soccer with the kids, went on long hikes, had nice talks and all got to see Milo’s 6 newborn puppies. It was a great time and they were all amazing young women.

We also got 2 new volunteers that bank in my same town. We welcomed them with a bonfire on the beach and grilled the fish they brought over the fire. It was one of the best installations we’ve had yet. We had a big celebration in our banking town this past weekend. I thought it went really well but I am glad it’s over. It was quite stressful for me but it all just fell right in place. There were 15 volunteers, one pcv’s sister, and a staff member. So there were 17 of us and a group of 10 people is usually too big so it was interesting but fun was had by all. The new PCV in my banking town had a dog that took a liking to her. She is the cutest thing ever. Always so happy to see us and we’ve taken her under our wing and have decided to train her. She is a great guard dog. She just follows us around like we’ve been part of her entire life.

Life has been good to me lately. I try not to take anything for granted. I am still in awe everyday by how lucky I am to have gotten this opportunity to live and work here. I am amazed everyday by the beauty that surrounds me from the scenery to the people, it’s all just unbelievable. And my kids…oh my kids. I luv those kids.
Well that’s about it. Luv you all and miss you lots. I hope all is well back home. Take care. CHEERS!

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Hello my friends and family. I don’t even know if anyone reads this still but Thailand was great! It is a beautiful country with such friendly, welcoming people. We spent the first few days in Bangkok where we went to markets, MALLS, and did some shopping. Great fun for Seland (enter sarcasm), but he was a great sport about it. We ate plenty of great food including much Thai, Arabic, Indian, sushi and even a burger or two. Geoff arrived an hour early from Australia and we surprised him with a birthday cake and song. We took the train the next evening to our next destination…Chiang Mai in northwestern Thailand. It was a great ride. We had bought tickets for sleeper cars in 2nd class and it was great. We arrived in the morning and found a sweet hotel and went out to explore. Chiang Mai is a beautiful, laid back chill big town. It was a great substitution for Bangkok which has 13 million people and Chiang Mai 175,000. We rode around in tuk-tuks which are motorized bikes with some seats in the back, like a pedicab but motorized. We saw the sunset on the roof of our hotel, went on a bike tour of the surrounding area for an afternoon, stopped by some temples, went to an elephant farm where we rode elephants and saw them perform a great show, took a bamboo raft ride down a river, and hung out with tigers. Chiang Mai is also known for their Saturday and Sunday Walking Street Market. This was just around the corner from our hotel and it went on for blocks and blocks. Just little stands of clothes and little trinkets. It was an amazing experience. We had great weather almost the entire time. We met some very kind souls along the way. I was very surprised how much Thai people spoke English. We didn’t have a problem at all for not speaking the language whatsoever. We spent about a week in Chiang Mai and I’m really glad we got to spend all that time there, such a great place. We headed back by train to Bangkok to get Seland to his flight back home. We stayed at a different hotel in a completely different area of Bangkok and it was great. The vibe was great, lots of things to do and see. After Seland left, we hired a tuk-tuk driver to take us around to see some of the temples. It was our lucky day! The government was giving drivers gas that day or something strange and so we hired a driver for $1 each to just take us around all day. We saw the Lucky Buddha, the Standing Buddha, the Sitting Buddha, and one of the most moving things that has happened to me, we saw a Monk receive his colors. We were also lucky because normally on any other given day, tourists are not allowed inside the temples or to take pictures, but on this day, we were allowed. So at one of the temples a man was dedicating his life to become a monk and we were there to witness the ceremony. It was absolutely beautiful and moving and I’m so glad I was able to be there for it. We then finished up our day of touring around Bangkok with a canoe ride that went by more temples, a floating market and just through some of the more neighborhoody areas. It was an amazing trip. It went by way too fast. I would recommend visiting Thailand at least once in your life if you get the chance. I would love to go back and spend more time there sometime in the future.

I am now back in the capital where tomorrow, 40 soon to be new Peace Corps Volunteers will arrive and get ready for their swear-in ceremony on Tuesday. I do miss my village and am excited to get back and play with the kids. I also received funding to start a world map project in the school and can’t wait to get the kids to help with that. I hope all is well with everyone back home and you will be enjoying some nice warm weather soon. Take care and sending love!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

i'll stand by you.

HELLO!!!!! I am reporting from Fianar, MADAGASCAR!!! We made some pretty strong coffee this morning and I am feeling it. I am on my way to the capital to take care of business!! I’m heading to Bangkok, Thailand on Friday and couldn’t be more excited. Two other PCVs, Jules and Esther, will be joining me. We will be greeted by my dear friend Seland at the airport as he arrives 6 hrs before us. On April 19th, Julie’s friend will be joining us from Australia. We’ve been reading a Thailand guidebook so we have an idea of what we want to do and see. One of the things I’m looking forward to is going to the Peace Corps Thailand Office. I’m excited to see their office and meet some of the staff if they’re available. I also hope we are able to visit with some current PCVs. Esther has a friend who is currently a PCV and we hope she can join us for a portion of our trip.

Things have been really great at site. I have been really happy to be here. I have still been working with Nutrimad, weighing babies and talking about nutrition and family planning. I have also started going into the school and helping to teach English once a week. At first I was dreading this, but it has been a lot of fun and I’ve really enjoyed working with the students.

There are a group of new Volunteers that are getting sworn-in the beginning of May and will be installed near me. The closest one is about 15miles north of me. Alison and I were asked to go visit the village and check on the status of the house. It hadn’t been started 2 months ago and installation is vastly approaching. Catching a taxi to that village is kind of hard because drivers would rather take you another 15miles to the city so sometimes they won’t pick you up if you’re just going a little ways. So we decided to bike it. We left at 6am thinking it would take us quite a few hours to make it to the new village, have a meeting with the appropriate people, visit the house and continue on our way to the city. All in all, it took us under 4hrs to bike 35miles up and down hills the majority of the way and have a quick stop to check on the house, which the frame was up! I had a conversation with another PCV the day before and thought “This is when you know you’re a Peace Corps Volunteer.”

Me: So we decided to bike to Farafangana tomorrow.

PCV: That’s cool. How far is it?

Me: About 35 miles up and down hill. Not too bad.

PCV: Yeah that’s not bad.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m thinking 35miles up and down hill isn’t bad?! I love that.

I recently celebrated my birthday in my village. Thank you to all who sent love and thought of me. I had a great day. I went to visit Alison and she made me sushi….DELICIOUS!!!! She pays this woman to wash her laundry for her and she stopped by and asked me if I was Alison’s mother?! Am I really getting that old? Later that day I got my hair re-braided and I asked a little girl how old she thought I was and she responded with 100! It was a funny day.

2011 marks Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary so we are in the process of planning a big party in our banking town for mid-May. It will be an afternoon event with speeches, information booths, a raffle and some games to name some of what may be happening. We’re all excited about that. And yeah, that’s about all I can think of for the time being. I hope all is well back home and know that I love and miss you all dearly. Take care!