Happy Halloween everyone! They don’t really celebrate it here though… but we arrived in Tana last night, after a very long day in taxi-brousses. And everyone was on edge and snapping at everyone—my guess is because of the lack of gouter, and dehydration, plus some stress about starting ISP. But nevertheless, it wasn’t the best long car ride. I was pretty relaxed, though—I had had a good night where I felt close to my host siblings, my sister especially—she and I wandered around together and I met her best friend. So anyways, yesterday was mostly in the car, listening to music and watching some beautiful scenery. But today… today was crazy. And it’s only halfway over. We spent last night in a hotel, and woke up this morning and came into the center to receive our stipends for the next month. And let me tell you, that’s a thick wad of cash I just got! Then we went to the taxi-brousse station to buy our tickets for tomorrow, which was possibly one of the most intense experiences of my life. There were dozens of guys shouting destinations at us, trying to convince us to go with their company… one of my traveling companions gets carsick, so we had to go to several different companies to find one that had seats open in the front. We finally did, but we accidentally underpaid, and then had a huge misunderstanding complicated by the language barrier and the fact that we had been told by our super nice taxi driver to watch out for thieves, so we were paranoid and didn’t believe they weren’t trying to sneak an extra 10,000 Ar (about $5) from us. I can’t even describe how insane this place was, but I know that after being able to cope well with that and negotiate a better price in that environment, nothing in the US could ever faze me.
I think though that while I wasn’t super stressed at the station, it did stress me out, and when I got left behind during the hotel switch, without really any money and all my bags, trying to find this other hotel in a very nice part of town that I don’t know at all, with a companion who was complaining a lot (although she bailed me out money-wise, so I’m glad she was there), and trying to text my host mom in French to tell her I’m not going to be there tonight, I just got super tense and stressed. Although if I’m honest with myself it’s probably really about going off to do this research project that I feel underprepared for, even if I am excited, and knowing I’m going to be essentially on my own for the next month—one of my closest friends in the program will be there with me, but I’m going to be in a village by myself for two weeks, but more than that it’s being completely on my own academically—I have this big project I want to do, and I know what I want it to turn out into, but it’s up to me to make it happen, without much of the support I’m used to having on big projects like this. I know it’s going to be a great experience, and one that will make me a phenomenally better researcher, but it’s scary all the same. But I’m excited, too, and that has been my predominant emotion for the past two weeks about ISP, so I guess it’s ok that right now I’m freaking out. It’s to be expected, really, the day before. And I’m doing much better now, actually doing some preparations for it (largely involving shopping… but I won’t have access to a lot of the things there are here in Tana when I’m in Manakara). Anyways, I’m not sure how much internet access I’ll have in the next couple of days/weeks, so updates might be a bit spotty… but that’s life right now!