Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Summer in Madagascar

WOW, it's been a long time since I blogged. But I'm back!  Where have I been and what have I been doing, you ask?  I've been away all summer working (and playing) in Madagascar! Why Madagascar you ask?  If you're new to me or my blog, then maybe you haven't heard me mention Madagascar about 769 times.  I was a Peace Corps Volunteer and lived there from 2008-2010, so it's pretty important to me.  Only 2 years of my life, but it's become a part of me and a second home.  

Last spring, I found out about an opportunity to go back there to illustrate a field guide of medicinal plants.  The project was created by the MAHERY organization, and funded through National Geographic. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC! The book will be a guide of medicinal plants in the Maroantsetra area of Madagascar, written all in the Malagasy language (the language most spoken by people in Madagascar).  The book will be printed in 2014, and distributed for free to health workers in rural villages. Totally a Peace Corps-style project, but with a bigger budget and huge name behind it.  Pretty exciting stuff. I submitted some work samples and the hiring committee was tied between me and another applicant. So we split the work, and the pay, and we both went! I was there for about a month, knocking out 2-3, sometimes 4 illustrations per day, all digital!  Now, I knew Photoshop before, but doing 85 realistic plant illustrations using the program definitely refined my skills.  I also learned a lot from the other illustrator on the project.  Below is a picture of one sample. See more by clicking here.
The project happened to be located in a town close to the village I lived in my first year of Peace Corps. (That's when and where I met the guy who started this project). So during that month, I took a trip out to the village for a few days and stayed with my "family" (sister from another mister, and her family).
The Fam

Trip to the waterfall with the kiddos!

My family's store
It was SO great to be able to get back to the village for a visit.  It had been a long time, and it was good to see how things had changed - and not changed.  Someone remodeled my old house! (ok, remodeled is a strong word. They added a porch and put up wood walls instead of reeds). There's also been a few family moves, a few deaths, a few new houses built, a few new babies.  The murals I painted all over for people are all still there. Faded, but there. That was pretty cool to visually see something I left in the village. Great part of the trip. Before I knew it, the work part of my trip was over, and I flew back to the capital, Antananarivo, to meet my family! (my real, blood one). My parents and sister came out to meet me, and spent the next month traveling around with me! I can't even begin to explain in blog form how amazing that part was. Maybe I'll dedicate my next post to that part. But for now, i'll just say that it was definitely one of the highlights of my life so far, to be able to show them around.  My worlds collided: My life here, and my life there. Now they get it. They understand me in a way that they didn't before. And I got to share with them this beautiful country and the people there I care about, so that they could experience it all as well. It was amazing and I'm SO grateful that my parents and sister were able to make the trip. We'll never forget it and will always share those memories as a family. Anyway, more to come! If you're STILL interested in my trip (really?!?) then click here to see the chronological facebook photo album. Thanks for reading, dear's good to be back. :)