When my stage mates and I met in Mantasoa for IST, we talked over one another in sharing our difficulties and funny stories from our sites. It was interesting for the group of volunteers to meet again, compare our experiences and see how different we looked. The coast had tanned many of us and meager markets had stripped weight off others. The Peace Corps organized a NGO fair and sessions on improving our teaching. In between the sessions we feasted on meals whipped up by the Peace Corps cooks that we didn’t think were possible to make in Madagascar like tacos and apple pie. We also took canoes out on Lake Mantasoa and explored the area’s forests.
The stories volunteers had from the coast were vastly different from those in central Madagascar. Stories from the coast, which included many of my own, painted coastal Malagasy people as louder, more direct and extroverted than plateau Malagasy people. Unfortunately, volunteers from the coast also recounted more episodes of harassment, groping, and humiliation. A Malagasy person told me a fitting analogy, saying, “The people’s personalities on the coast are like the ocean: large.”