So for our last day at TMSE we talked about food and how it is a thing that gathers everyone together in all cultures. But, first we started off with a short quiz about everything we covered in the past weeks at TMSE to determine what information was being absorbed and remembered. Each of our little clans had some very good scores on the quiz and the top three individuals who scored the highest were rewarded with gummy worms and gummy bears.
Next, we went into the PowerPoint lecture which discussed foods from different areas around the globe as well as how these foods related to the culture they came from. One of our examples was the Margherita pizza, named after Queen Margherita, and we discussed how she liked it because it reminded her of the Italian flag. We also talked about how, in Indonesia, a meal is not considered a meal unless there is rice.
After we the PowerPoint lecture we had an international feast of different foods. We had Veggie Korma from India, which was really good but not a hit with all the kids. However, they all did like the naan that came with it! We also had cheese pizza (Italy), lychee gummy candy (which was a huge hit), lychee coconut jelly (also a huge hit), aloe vera juice (which they liked), and chips with guacamole. Even with all this food the kids kept asking about crickets! So I think we should’ve brought more.
We discussed how in many cultures, feasting and dancing go hand in hand. So, after we got done feasting we got up and danced the rest of the class away. We also got each clan to show us one final time their clan dances, which they performed in the front of the class. They really enjoyed the semester with us and say they all want to do it again. I am going to miss those little guys and gals and I hope they had a fun time learning about ANTHROPOLOGY!!!!
See previous post I, II, and III in this series, or related posts to this month-long trip here and here.
Note in our previous episode that I wasn’t sure if I had meetings set up, with who, or about what when I arrived at Ranomafana. I received a message from Dustin that I had a 10AM appointment, but he had not been able to confirm, so I should just ask for Maya Moore or Pascal Rabeson. When I arrived at Centre ValBio (CVB), Maya had left for Tana and Pascal was in another village until later in the day. Nevertheless, I was able to get an appointment for later in the day with him.
In the meantime, I explored the village, taking photos. I came across one of the silk making coops. I couldn’t afford to buy a scarf but was given permission to take photos. However, I overstayed my welcome, taking so many photos of every corner of the room that the coop president (How do I know she was president? I took photos of all the photos and lists of offers and deduced who she was) asked me to pay them 5000 ari for the photos.
I went down to the bridge to the town’s thermal baths and took photos of the bridge they were replacing. It had been knocked out in a big cyclone that hit Madagascar 20 days earlier.
I’m glad I took so many photos. Later, when I was meeting with Pascal, it turned out he was lab mates at the University of Georgia with our close family friend Jon Benstead. Jon had done his dissertation research in Ranomafana when CVB was just a shack in the woods.
CVB had the best wifi in the village so I shot Jon an email while I was there, and he asked me to take lots of photos of the Centre and village for him, since he hadn’t been there in 18 years.
But let me back up. Because I walked in here rather cold. CVB is a rather famous world class facility for conservation and education. It was started by primatologist Patricia Wright from Stony Brook University (SUNY). I have been meaning to invite Pat Wright for an ALLELE lecture ever since hearing what a great talk she gave at SUNY New Paltz. I have even more incentive now.
Dr. Wright discovered a new lemur species at Ranomafana, the golden bamboo lemur, and established the park to protect it. One of the amazing thing about bamboo lemurs is that they eat young bamboo, which contains toxic amounts of cyanide. So they process it somehow because they don’t die (at least not from cyanide—humans, on the other hand…). The current buildings of CVB were built later. They are a facility that hosts researchers, conducts study abroad, houses both, and provides lab and lecture facilities. They work with the local community to provide vocational training for Malagasy to work in or with the Centre and facilitate and develop cooperatives to promote economic and cultural sustainability, such as the aforementioned silk cooperative. My nature guide Rodan said, “Pat Wright is like a mother to us all, to the whole village of Ranomafana.”
Lova told me abut the MRMW project and the education efforts more generally. Those involve efforts to train teachers to provide conservation and science-related education in remote village and at “road” schools, or those reachable without too much difficulty by car and the main road.
By the next meeting with Pascal, I had a thought on how we could collaborate. I told them about our project and we arranged for them to send us their lessons which we will curate and share on our website. Their programs were developed in conjunction with American educators but are only being implemented in limited schools around the park. We will put them in a format that can be used by our teachers in the US, Greg’s class in Costa Rica (more on that later), and Eagles Wings in Tana, and other schools around Madagascar and the world (maybe yours?). We will link the material back to CVB to ensure credit but hopefully extend their reach of the material.
On the surface, these things don’t seem so complex they could not have been done by email. But it’s easy to send an email and just as easy to ignore. It’s equally easy to say yes in an email and not follow through. There are no stakes to an email. But taking the trip to Madagascar, to go to see how a partner is doing what they do means a lot, I hope. I intend it as a strong signal of commitment. It enables us all to vet each other using our senses and guts and to establish a rapport and trust.
Let me reiterate: There is nothing out there to give guidance for teaching 4-field anthropology at the primary school levels. There are things here and there, but what we are creating is a unique resource and testament to the value of and excitement for doing it.
Lova gave me a tour of CVB after my meetings. Then I rendezvoused with my guide for a night walk. I was pleased to be able to see and photograph several mouse lemurs and chameleons.
The chameleons were very very cooler—cooler than I expected—but LEMURS!