Survey progress and wedding bells

•6 June 2011 • Leave a Comment

Wow, what a week! This week was my first full week of survey work. I went to a local print shop (consisting of one working copier), and had 120 copies made of my survey. (It took three hours to print, sort, and staple them) But I’m ready to work now. As of today, I have 57 surveys done, roughly one third of what I need in Tana. I’m getting about 10 done a day depending on how much time I’m able to spend in the area, so I should be done here in a couple weeks at most. Then I’ll take a quick vacation in the south and head to the east coast to continue my survey in Tamatave. I’m excited to see the numbers when I get all my surveys processed. Preliminary analysis indicates that my hypothesis is correct, that is, that ethnic bias is no longer a significant influence in politics. But the sample size is still way too small to take anything for granted.

Saturday, I took the day off to attend the wedding of a girl I baptized shortly after I first arrived in 2003. It was a riot. The government here doesn’t recognize any religious or traditional ceremony as legally binding so most people do three weddings: the traditional one called a vodiondry (butt of a goat) where the groom gives money to the bride’s father and the two exchange standard oratory, the legal ceremony, and a religious one. I had the privilege of attending not only the church service, but the legal ceremony, as well as the catered after-party. The legal ceremony only lasted about 15 minutes once we finally got in. There were so many weddings going on though that ours was an hour later than scheduled. We then went straight to the church for a more or less typical church wedding with vows, music, and speeches. The party was the best part though. I ended up seated with her brothers and some other close relatives, which made me feel like part of the family. It was really quite an honor. Over 200 guests were served a four-course meal on fancy dishes at a venue with an incredible view of the entire southwest side of the capital. There was a huge wedding cake, karaoke, dancing, and, of course, hundreds if not thousands of pictures. I mostly hung out with her brothers, which was fun. The older one is about my age and the younger one only a few years behind. We had a great time and later went out for brochettes and listened to some music before finally going home.


•27 May 2011 • Leave a Comment

Getting visa and permit paperwork has been a pain in the butt. I made three trips to the University talking to three different professors before getting my letter of authorization today. And that was after going to the Ministry of Higher Education only to be told that I need to go to the University. However, the professors were extremely helpful and interested in what I was doing. I now have three useful contacts of educated and interested men. The visa paperwork on the other hand was been frustrating though I’m only lacking one paper at this point. The Embassy of Madagascar in DC only mentioned needing a police report and a letter of recommendation. But when I went to the Ministry of Interior to extend my visa they told me that I needed a whole list of documents (12 or so). Of course they didn’t give me a copy of the list but instead directed me to where one was glued to the wall from which I could take notes. This list included certified copies of my passport, my ID cards, my host’s ID card, certificate of honor, and a letter to the Minister requesting the visa. I also needed a certificate of residence and foreign residency declaration. Many of these documents also required passport photos. I went out to what I thought was the district office to do the foreign residency declaration (a 1.5 hr trip) only to find out that the office was not there but back in town (45 min back). When I got back, I found out I have to have my certificate of residence before I can do the foreign residency declaration. So I went home and the next day went with my host, Lalari, to the Fokontany (community) office to get that. They, in turn, tell us that they can’t do it there, but that we have to go to the commune office. We get to the commune and find out they can do it as well as the foreign residency declaration, but I need to be registered in Lalari’s ID carnet at the Fokontany first, I need more passport photos, and four copies of a form they gave us. So, after getting some of my paperwork certified (stamped with several red ink stamps that Malagasy bureaucracy loves), Lalari runs to make copies while I go back to the Fokontany and home for passport photos. At the Fokontany they tell me they need a copy of my passport, so on my way home I grab that too at a nearby copy shop. Finally done with the Fokontany (after paying an unanticipated amount of money, probably illegally requested), I return to the commune where Lalari is waiting for me with the four copies of the form. I fill those out, go upstairs to pay, yet another unanticipated fee, and then back down to the lady in charge who stamps the form and sends me back up stairs to process the form. Fifteen minutes later, I am led back downstairs to get the mayor’s signature and I finally have a certificate of residence and foreign resident declaration form. Unfortunately, I forgot one form that needed certification with Lalari present, so we’ll have to go back on Monday. But other than that, I think I have all the rest of the paperwork depending on what they want from me to prove my academic situation. Lalari and his wife have been extremely helpful throughout this process; I owe them a lot.

Getting started

•20 May 2011 • Leave a Comment

So I’ve been here for about three weeks now. My main accomplishment is translation of my survey. I translated it myself and then a local friend of mine reviewed it for errors. However, the main obstacle I ran into was the length of my survey. On a second visit to the mayor of my local commune, I discussed the survey. He had some good suggestions on how to make the questions more clear and less offensive. But he also mentioned (and I later verified) that the survey would take people 45 minutes to an hour to finish. It seems like every time I ask someone to do my survey they have all sorts of reasons why they can’t do it. The concept of just filling out a survey without over analyzing it doesn’t seem to register with Malagasies. With a goal for my sample size of 300, this was not going to work, so I had to cut it in half and put the easy questions first to see if they can get used circling answers without over thinking it before they get to the more pointed questions. I think now, it should work. I’ll officially launch it on Monday.

In other news, it’s been fun coming back to my mission. I’ve been able to reconnect with several old contacts (members and investigators alike). Some are less active now, others that I expected to be so are going strong. Not too much exciting has happened, but I have enjoyed wandering around the city and soaking in the nostalgia of it all. The rainy season has just finished and it’s still pretty warm so I’ve finally found summer despite Utah’s insistence on cold weather. Probably the worst part of it so far is the internet. I had assumed that I’d have reliable wifi here at the house but instead I’m using mobile broadband. Unfortunately, it’s not the best. I can email and check things on line, but skyping and chatting are hit and miss. Oh well, if that’s the worst I have to deal with I can live with it. I can’t wait to get out to the coast though.

Total Time Log

•27 April 2011 • Leave a Comment

3655 Min or 61 Hrs

27 April

•27 April 2011 • Leave a Comment

50 Min — Class (April 13)
120 Min — Study for final
60 Min — Final Exam

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