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"Maybe Next Week Sometime..."

So the consolidation of Peace Corps Volunteers continues in Madagascar. We have now been consolidated for a week here in Fort Dauphin - a long and stressful week of uncertainty. We are receiving daily 'cryptic' updates from Peace Corps about the situation which usually involve the words "calm but very tense" and "peaceful political unrest" as well as "Tropical Cyclone Gael" which is threatening to make landfall sometime this weekend.

So we wait, hoping for the political situation to resolve itself in the best possible way for the people of Madagascar. The Ambassador has issued a statement to the BBC World Service warning the Madagascar government that receiving American aid in the near future may be unlikely without addressing some of the issues at the center of the current political crisis.

He said President Ravalomanana was seeking a grant totalling $500m (£345m) starting in 2010.

"There is very little opportunity for that to happen unless some of these issues of political freedom and economic freedom as well begin to be addressed," he said.

So we are spending some of our days helping a Malagasy friend create a web site for his guide service near Fort Dauphin. When we aren't doing that we're reading books or watching movies. Most recently we watched the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight" which we both enjoyed.

If things stay calm this weekend we might be returning to our village sometime next week. But who knows.

Fort Dauphin Business As Usual

Fort Dauphin remains one of the few cities unaffected by the social unrest and political issues affecting other cities in the country. Yesterdays political rally was peaceful and involved a few hundred people listening to and expressing their grievances. When it was finished everyone returned home and went on with business as usual.

Here are a few pictures we've taken around Fort Dauphin the last few days while waiting for the country to return to peace.

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Fort Dauphin Still Calm

Fort Dauphin - our beautiful banking town - is still calm. However, there are rumors that today is "their day to shine". There is a gathering in the town center today which will reveal whether Fort Dauphin ends up like Tulear, Antsirabe, Tana, and Tamatave with the looting of stores and World Food Program warehouses or if it remains calm and unaffected by the political and social unrest taking place in the Northern parts.

We are hoping things stay calm so that we can return to our village and friends as soon as possible. As of now power, water, cell phones, and Internet are all still functioning in Fort Dauphin. We'll try to keep you all updated on the situation here as much as possible. The New York Times & aljazeera have just posted articles on the most current news - also check the facebook page which now has over 500 members updating photos and information.

New York Times Article
Aljazeera Article

Fort Dauphin Calm - Madagascar Crisis 2009

So yesterday we received a call from Peace Corps on our BLU radio and we were told to leave our village because of the social unrest currently taking place in many larger cities throughout the country. Within an hour we found a vehicle to take us, quickly packed our bags, and took Zeus (our dog) to a friends house to look after. We were really emotional - wondering if this would be the last time we would ever see our village and not even getting enough time for a proper goodbye to friends.

After the 4 hour drive in the back of a truck contemplating how crappy it would be for our service to end this way we arrived in Fort Dauphin. We were happy to find everything in Fort Dauphin to be calm and, for the most part, business as usual. We are now together with the volunteers from the South waiting for the "go ahead" to return to our villages.

Every afternoon a commune vehicle with a loud speaker announces that Fort Dauphin has a nightly curfew in effect from 10 pm to 4 am. However, it doesn't seem like it is being adhered to or enforced from the stories from a few non-Peace Corps friends. Other than rumors of a few gatherings and speeches things are calm in Southern Madagascar. The opinions of many of the Malagasy people here is that this crisis really doesn't affect them. Hopefully this crisis stays calm and can be resolved quickly with minimal effects on the Malagasy people and businesses.

Just letting everyone know we are fine! Here are a few links to check out to keep updated on the crisis:

Facebook Group With Frequent Updates on the Situation
Impressions From Le Grande Ile
Global Voices Online - Madagascar

Fort Dauphin in Photos

Thanks to Erin's parents for the new camera! Here's some of our first photos with it...

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