Monday, July 21, 2008


Wow! It seems as though I never have a chance to post updates on my time in Madagascar. Life has been a whirlwind of adventures. Sometimes it is hard to believe that a year has already flown by. Where does time go? Let me update you on what's been happening here on the Big Red Isle!

First… my first year of teaching came to a close at the beginning of June! Almost all of my students passed, which was a rewarding feeling. This year, I ended up teaching over 450 students at both the local CEG and Lycee (middle school and high school). Teaching definitely was quite challenging; however, it was rewarding as well. My students loved all my crazy antics, hands-on lessons, and pictures. It is so easy to entertain students here, as they are at such a loss for external stimuli.

In addition to teaching, I was able to execute some successful programs for my students. I started a middle-school girls club in February, which has been my pride and joy at site. Over fifty devoted girls show up weekly for our meetings, which are held on Wednesday afternoons. Each week we focus on a different topic— some serious and some recreation-oriented. One week we will talk about goal-setting and the consequences of our decisions. The next meeting we will learn how to cook an American meal; after, we will discuss safe-sex practices. When I started the club, I was hoping to create a safe-space for young girls as they face the challenges of adolescence. In addition to the routine changes that all middle-school girls face, girls in Ifanadiana are often pressured by older men. If they get pregnant, they are required to drop out of school. Further, gender equality and traditional gender roles create vast problems for intelligent girls who are willing to face the barriers to success. The "grand finale" to the club's program was a trip to nearby Ranomafana National Park for a picnic and swimming in the hot springs pool. I was amazed by the girls' sense of togetherness as we sang songs and danced during the outing. The trip was completely funded by your generous donations. For less than $150USD, I was able to buy a healthy lunch, pay for transportation, and fund the pool fees for fifty-five people. Money can go along way towards making a difference in the lives of people here.

Speaking of donations, many of you kindly donated to my leadership retreat, which was held May 1st-3rd. After teaching here for over six months, I had quickly realized that one of the biggest hurdles facing Malagasy youth is underexposure to the outside world. Even the most intelligent students are still amazed by a simple storybook, and a computer program would blow their minds. In addition, the education system is extremely trying for Malagasy students. Those that make it to lycee are both intelligent and privileged. Unfortunately, they are still extremely underexposed to the world. Thus, I got the idea to take twenty lycee students on a three-day trip to nearby Ambalavao, Anja Park, and Fianarantsoa. The focus of the trip was a look at possible career and/or higher-education options for students after they graduate. In order to participate, students were asked to write two essays—one in English and one in Malagasy— highlighting what qualities they would deem as characteristics of a leader. Over eighty students submitted essays, which made the selection process quite difficult, but after hours of essay reading, twenty students were selected.

On the morn of Thursday, May 1, twenty students, myself, and four other Peace Corps Volunteers headed for Ambalavao. Our first stop was to the Antimoro Paper Factory, which is a simple workshop that produces paper from a Malagasy plant. The trite tour was fascinating to my students, many of whom have never visited a museum. After the tour, we headed to Anja Park, which is a small, community-run park near Ambalavao. We spent the afternoon hiking, lemur-watching, and learning about various medicinal plants. The students asked countless questions and seemed captivated by the scenery. That night, we camped at the edge of the park. Watching the students sit by the camp fire singing traditional Malagasy songs warmed my heart and helped reassure me that the work I am doing here is worth all the struggles.

On day two, we returned to Fianarantsoa to learn about possible technical-school options, chatted with an NGO, and enjoyed a nice meal out. The last day, the kids were able to do some sightseeing in Fianarantsoa and enjoyed a "vazaha" meal at a western-style restaurant, where they studied etiquette. All in all, the trip was a great success and is something that I hope to repeat in the upcoming year.

Since summer vacation started, I have been quite busy. In mid-June, I was fortunate enough to have my sister Colleen and my best friend, Jason, come to visit. It was a great trip. Seeing their reactions to the country I have become so used to was quite interesting. After their visit, I trained the new education volunteers, who arrived in Madagascar on June 12th. Training was an enjoyable experience. It was interesting to observe their reactions to life in Madagascar.

After weeks on the go, I returned to Ifanadiana for a two-week summer camp that I organized with two other Peace Corps volunteers. Camp was held from 9 o'clock each morning until 2:30 in the afternoon. The first week, sixty 6-8 year-old children participated. The second week, we hosted ninety 9-12 year-old kids. Each day, there were six sessions. The kids studied art, English vocabulary, health, environment, songs and games, and outdoor recreation. A well-balanced lunch was also served. Art sessions included mixing colors, decorating nametags, doing body tracings, making festive crowns, and painting handprints. English sessions taught students basic colors, numbers, greetings, foods, and animals. Health sessions focused on hand-washing, a healthy diet, the importance of tooth brushing, and the five senses. Other activities included yoga, soccer, kickball, duck-duck-goose, the hokey pokey, and the limbo. The final day was a myriad of "field day" activities, which included potato sack and three-legged races, "egg" races, and a water balloon fight. The kids seemed to have a blast. It was remarkable to us how even a simple task like placing stickers on paper was new to the children. I can only hope that the experience is something that the children will remember for years to come. Hosting the summer camp was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had in my life, as well as the most exhausting. The whole camp would not have been possible without the generous help of fellow Peace Corps volunteers Casey and Emily Woodling, Kateri VanDamme, Mitch Morey, Alex Blute, and Haddy Creie. Alex's friend Kirsa, also participated and was an asset to our counselor "staff." Once again, the camp could not have happened without your generous contributions and support for my projects as well. For under $400USD, we were able to pay for all food, craft supplies, and other project-related items. In addition, all students received a notebook, a toothbrush, and a bar of soap.

Now, as I take a few days to relax, catch up on sleep, and take a hot shower, I have had time to reflect on the year that has breezed by. Sure, it has had ups and downs, but overall, it has been a great year. Some of the challenges I have faced have included constant battles with microbes, malaria, violent dog bites, and having my house ransacked and robbed. Yet, despite the hurdles, I would not take back the past year for anything. I have learned so much about life, ascertained a real understanding of what is important. In addition, I have learned how to live alone, find friends in any situation, and cope with any challenge that comes my way. I have discovered that although everyone comes from different backgrounds, we, as people, are not that different. We all want the same things out of life— health, education, love, and family. I have seen lemurs, hiked through rainforests and mountains, and gone weeks only speaking Malagasy. I have danced and sang in traditional Malagasy clothes, given a speech to my entire town, and traveled for hours by bush taxi. It has been an amazing year. I can only hope that year two is just as good.

Once again, thank you so much for your support, generosity, and constant letters and packages. I am so fortunate to have such loving, supportive family and friends. Please continue to write. I will try my best to keep you updated on my adventures.

All my love from Madagascar,


Friday, February 8, 2008

Eight Months in Madagascar and I Still Love It Here!!

Wow, it's hard to believe that I've lived in Madagascar for almost eight full months. This is the longest that I've ever lived abroad, and I'm quickly learning that the "expat life" is for me. Sure, I've faced a roller coaster of emotions and a cyclone of challenges, but I am loving every minute of my life here. I don't often have the opportunity to update my blog due to limited internet access; thus, I'll try to fill you in on my life on the big Red Island.
So..... I celebrated the holidays in Ile Sainte Marie, which is practically paradise on earth. I was fortunate enough to be with ten fellow Peace Corps volunteers, lounging on a beach while sipping coconut punch on Christmas day. It was glorious. Yet, the white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and soft rustle of the palm trees, was still not the same as Christmas in the United States. (Translation: I missed everyone state side dearly.)
After Christmas, we headed back to Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar for New Years. I had a pleasant time at a fellow PCVs house eating "vazaha" (foreign) food and drinking champagne as the New Year approached. It really sounds like I'm struggling, doesn't it?
A few highlights and adventures from my trip:
1) On Christmas day, I hiked around a tiny island located next to Ile Sainte Marie. As we were hiking, the sun blaring down, high tide arrived, and we were forced to swim around part of the isle, avoiding sharp rocks and sea urchins as we swam. The sun was so strong that one of my friends got burned through his T-shirt!!
2) I rode in a taxi brousse with a dying man. Normally, taxi brousses are literally hell on earth. For those of you that don't know, a taxi brousse is translated as a "bush taxi." They are the main form of transportation in Madagascar. It's basically a large van with incredibly uncomfortable seats. Usually it looks like it's about to die or blow up. You ride in the brousse with screaming children, cats, chickens, geese, country folk with machetes, etc. The goal is basically to cram as many creatures into the brousse as humanly possible, and then some. It takes forever to get from point A to point B. However, with a dying man on board, we were able to fly to our destination!!! It was an experience.
Due to the fact that I am a Peace Corps volunteer and thus have a limited income, I am forced to stay in cheap hotels. In Tamatave, we accidently boarded in a pay-by-the-hour brothel!!!!! It was an experience to say the least! ....
Life in the hills of Ifanadiana is going really well. I LOVE my town. Everyday I spend at least two hours just walking around chatting with people. Everyone is quite nice, and I've started to make some really good friends. Every Friday I cook with a bunch of older women, which allows me to catch up on all the new gossip-- who's dating whom, who had yet another baby, who had his/her chickens stolen, etc. It's great.
Teaching is also going really well. I love my students, and they seem to enjoy me as well. It's so easy to entertain them with my dancing and crazy antics. Plus, they are quite diligent and seem to really want to learn English. In addition to teaching, I have an English Club at the high school and am starting a Girl's Club at the local CEG (middle school). I am also working on an educational field trip for my students with the goals of A) showing them a place outside of Ifanadiana and B) allowing them to explore some of their career options if they make it through school. Hopefully that will work out too!
Several people have been inquiring as to what exactly I do in a given day. So... here's a basic rundown.
5:30-6AM: Wake up (you can't stay asleep anyways due to the roosters) I've taken up jogging, so I start my morning with an hour jog into the countryside.
7AM: Cook breakfast, clean my house, prepare for the day, etc.
Three days a week a woman comes to my house and brings me buckets of water, which I use for cooking, bathing, etc.
Morning: Teach at the CEG or Lycee, depending on the day
Noon- 2pm: This is the alloted lunch time in Madagascar. Everything shuts down-- businesses, schools, stores. I usually cook lunch, read, play with kids, etc.
Afternoon: teach again, prepare lessons, walk around my community, play with kids, etc.
Evening: Our electricity has been going out a lot, which really cuts the evenings short. I tutor stuents in English at night, read a TON, write, etc.
On the weekends, there are sometimes dances at the community meeting room. You can also see movies for 200 ariary at someone's house. There are also a couple of bars where you can go for drinks.
It sounds like a pretty exciting life, doesn't it?! HAHAHA..... I seriously love it.
Other random stuff.....
So I should probably mention that I got malaria a few weeks ago. That was an experience that I'll never forget. I woke up with a really high fever and a terrible headache. My fever continued to rise. For those who have never experienced the joys of malaria, it feels like someone is squeezing your brain. At one point I couldn't speak clearly, creating sentences in a melange of French, English, and Malagasy. Thus, I came to Fianar, got some medicine, and VOILA-- good as new!
Well.... other than that, life continues to go well. Thank you very much to everyone who has sent letters and packages. They are really appreciated. I try to write back, but please keep in mind that postage is more expensive that two day's worth of food, and I am poor!!!
Some closing thoughts:
Not to lecture, but please keep in mind how lucky you are to live the lives that you live. We as Americans are so priveliged to have so many opportunities and amenities. People here have very little.... and yet they are happy. It often reminds me of what's really important in life and what's not. Material possessions do not buy happiness. :-) Just a little something I think about a lot here.....
Finally, for those of you that enjoy sending packages, here are some supplies/ goodies that I'd enjoy: (Mom uses flat rate boxes that she gets at the post office because any other method of shipping is way too expensive!!)
For my students:
construcion paper
glue sticks
friendship bracelet thread
jump ropes
balls (soccer, etc.)
For me:
candy (chocolate!!)
trail mix
nuts (other than peanuts)
granola bars
oatmeal....single packs
All my love from across the ocean,

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

January in Madagascar

It has been a while since I have been living and teaching in Ifanadiana. I traveled to Tana, the capital city in the middle of December for a week of Peace Corps trainings and meetings, followed by a few weeks of R & R with some of my Peace Corps friends. We celebrated Christmas on Isle St. Marie, a tropical island which literally was like paradise. When I talked briefly to my Mom on Christmas day via cell phone I was actually standing in the Indian Ocean!!
It was warm and sunny and really didn't even seem like Christmastime at all! It was wonderful to see my Peace Corps friends again, most of whom I hadn't seen since last August. We enjoyed exchanging stories about each of our various teaching assignments since we are scattered throughout the country and communication is not always easy to accomplish.

I don't think that actually missing Christmas with my family sank in until I returned to my village and received about 15 Christmas cards. Thanks to all of you who sent them to me! The mail comes to our town every Tuesday and it is such a treat to have letters to read from everyone back in the USA!! Now I am back in the routine of teaching my classes again and things are getting back to "normal".

It has been hot here...I mean REALLY hot!! but now it seems to be getting a bit cooler. It's the rainy season, so we are getting lots and lots of rain. Every day it is hot in the morning and then in the afternoon it rains which cools everything down a bit. In December, I would sweat when I tried to sleep but now it is comfortable enough to use a sheet at night.

One thing that I miss is staying up on world news. I have a short wave radio but it doesn't always work as well as I want it to. A few days ago, I decided to climb to the top of a mountain with my radio. The radio worked great at the top and I enjoyed sitting and listening to BBC radio for a while. I am hoping to maybe get a satellite radio that is supposed to work in Madagascar. One of my Peace Corps friends has one so I am going to wait and see how his works before purchasing one.

Thank you also for the packages. I can't put into words how much receiving them means to me. I am trying to support the local economy in my village, so there are certain items that I can purchase here or in Fianarantsoa, a large city that I travel to about once a month.

So, I am requesting that you please do NOT send the following items:
tape, glue, paper clips, scissors, rubber bands, pens, pencils, rice products, jelly, peanut butter

If you DO want to SEND some items, here are some suggestions:
markers, construction paper, stickers, books, kids toys (small balls, jump ropes, jacks, marbles)

Thank you for continuing to think of me.
I feel so blessed to have such a great support system of friends and family!


**Note: This information was obtained from a conversation with Maribeth on January 13, 2007 and has been posted by her mother.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Photos of My House in Madagascar

Here are some photos of my house. It has banana trees and mango trees in the yard. Yum! The outhouse and building for my bucket showers is in the back. My house does not have running water, so I have pay someone to carry water to my house several times a week. The water is stored in a big barrel. I have to chlorinate some of the water, boil some of it, and then mix the two together before using any water at all. It is a routine that I have gotten used to now.

The photos of the inside of my house were taken when I visited my site in August. I was still in training then so that's why the house looks a bit empty. I sleep underneath the mosquito net that hangs from the ceiling above my bed. The malaria-carrying mosquitoes bite only at night. you know what my "Home Sweet Home" looks like. Want to come for a visit?

School in Madagascar

Here are some photos of my school. Students are required to pay to go to school. They have to buy notebooks, too. They must wear uniforms which their mothers make for them. There are no teaching supplies or textbooks to use in the classroom. Some students travel a long distance to attend the high school, so they have to live with relatives in town during the week while they go to school.

The students in these photos have become pen pals with my Mom's students in West Virginia. They are very excited about corresponding with them in English. They recently received our first letters so hopefully their letters will be reaching us by January. We are all hoping to learn from this international "World Wise Schools" project.

Photos of Ifanadiana

My house sits up on a hill behind the market in Ifanadiana. On the left (far side of the street) is what a typical general store looks like. The metal roof on the right covers the home to the butchers, vegetable sellers, etc.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Ifanadiana is a Great Place to Live

Greetings from Madagascar!

My mother has been updating my blog for me, but I thought I'd take this opportunity to write for myself for a change. I'm rather sick with Lord knows what, probably some sort of microbe; thus, I'm staying in the Regional Capital, Fianarantsoa, for a few days until I recover.

So…. Life in Madagascar- where even to begin?!? I officially became a volunteer on August 28th and moved to Ifanadiana, my site and permanent home for the next two years, on September 1st, 2007. Ifanadiana is a great little city, the perfect size for me. It has between 8,000 and 10,000 people. However, only a couple thousand live in the actual town, which gives it that quaint, small-town feel. Many people live in the countryside and walk several kilometers to get to Ifanadiana for market days, etc. Ifanadiana is nestled in some small hills. The climate is best described as a temperate rainforest. Thus, there are tons of interesting trees, a little river/stream that runs through town, and beautiful flowers. There's also one paved road, the Route Nationale 25, which runs through the center of town. Subsequently, all of the stores, buildings, and the market line this road. You can walk the whole main street in a matter of minutes, which is nice, because I've really had the opportunity to meet people.

As you walk the main street, you'll find a small post office that receives only letters every Tuesday, several small
stores that sell a variety of things from buckets and brooms to eggs and candy, some small restaurants (called 'hotely' in Malagasy) that typically serve one-two dishes a day, the central market place full of stands selling fresh vegetables and beans, and some butchers. There are three bigger 'general store'-esque places in town, where I can purchase cheese (Laughing Cow…), yogurt, pasta, etc. They are sort of your all-purpose type places. The families that run these stores are extremely nice and have been quite helpful to me thus far. There's also two little computer places, where I can type documents, a store that sells radios and other electronic gadgets, and a few churches (the three main ones being a Catholic, Protestant, and Seventh-Day Adventist Church). There are two private schools affiliated with the Catholic and Protestant Churches, a public elementary school (called E.P.P), a middle school (C.E.G) and a high school (lycee) in town as well.

Everyday there are people lining the streets selling food at little stands or on the ground. Right now there isn't a lot to eat, because it's spring and things simply are not ripe yet. Thus, you can purchase tomatoes, spinach, a strange crushed leaf called Rav-toto, beans, onions, garlic, peppers, green beans, etc. There are some bananas, but other than that fruit is pretty sparse at the moment. In December and January, my town is apparently flooded with fruit, which will be really exciting. The fruit I have had thus far is absolutely amazing. We, as Americans, have never tasted such amazing fruit! In December, the market will come alive with jackfruits, mangoes, leeches, papayas, oranges, and the list continues! I have a feeling that I will be eating a TON of fruit salad! Every Thursday is market day in my town. It is an exciting day, because people come from other towns to attend; the streets are bursting with people; and there are usually tons of interesting things for sale. People set up stands that sell used clothing (called Frip); a woman sells shoes, you can buy cloth, pots, dishes, etc. Plus, there's usually an ample supply of foods for sale as well. Most of the clothes are extremely outdated, but it's a lot of fun to search through them for interesting finds or good laughs!

My house: I have my own cute little house that sits up on a hill above the market place. It's made of cement and attached to a town meeting room and a center for Sports et Jeuneuse, where three young guys around my age live. My house is basically one big room with two windows. A previous volunteer built a divider wall made of 4X4s and a tarp to separate the bedroom from the kitchen. Now, when I say kitchen, I really mean a gas camping stove and a huge bucket filled with water! I have a lovely kitchen table with four chairs, a set of shelves for food and dishes, a double bed, dresser, and desk! I DO have electricity, which is really exciting, but I do not have running water. Thus, I have a large garbage can in my kitchen that I pay someone to fill with water three times a week. There are public water pumps in my town, but they only work from 7-10am. Thus, as you can imagine, there are usually several women and children waiting with their buckets. Outside of my house, I have a little cement front porch area, a shower stall for my bucket baths, and an outhouse (kabonet in Malagasy). I have a little fenced yard that's home to some nice trees that keep my house shaded and cool. My house is located near the Bureau de District (sort of like the Town Hall…), a few other houses, and an empty stadium-like spot that's used for town events. It's never quiet, because the neighbor kids love to come over and play. I've slowly been collecting toys for them to use. They're really great about playing with the toys and then cleaning up and returning them when they're finished. I've taught them to wash their hands when they're finished as well. I taught them how to play "War" with cards, and they play for hours. I also have some sidewalk chalk, a pack of crayons, and a Frisbee, that they absolutely love. If you wish to send anything, games or children's toys would be great! My "best friend" is a little girl that comes over daily. (I should probably mention that she is six-years-old!) She comes over just to talk, helps me cook, listens to music, etc. Although she's young, I can tell that she's really smart, because she recognizes that I do not always understand Malagasy. Thus, she's great about rewording things for me.

Teaching: I teach 15 hours a week at both the C.E.G. (middle school) and lycee (high school). My two schools are located in opposite directions, about a 15 minute walk to each. It's nice to walk there, because I usually see several of my students along the way. I teach 5eme (sort of like 7th grade) and 2nde (like 10th or 11th grade). My middle school classes are pretty big, with approximately 50-55 students per class, whereas my lycee classes are very small, between 20-30 students. Teaching can be frustrating at times, but I do really enjoy it! There is definitely a different work ethnic here. Thus, sometimes it's like pulling teeth to get the kids to do things, but slowly we're making progress. I have some really bright students, and all of them seem to enjoy class with the crazy, foreign teacher. I've been using a lot of gestures in class, dancing, singing, etc. From what I can tell thus far, and I definitely do not want to generalize, the Malagasy teachers have more of a lecture-style approach to teaching. Thus, when the student's crazy American teacher is standing on a table to make a point, the kids are extremely excited. I am also starting an adult class that will meet every Wednesday evening. The goal of this class is to help shop owners and other interested people learn English that they could possibly use—mainly business and tourism English. I'm also starting an English club in two weeks, with a few goals: 1) I want those students who are extremely passionate about learning English to have an extra opportunity to practice, 2) I want to gear the club towards different messages about diversity, cultural differences, etc. 3) I want to expose kids to pop culture and motivate them to learn about the outside world as a way to better appreciate their own culture! Hopefully it will be successful! The kids seem really excited about it.

So… other than that, life here in Madagascar is progressing. I cannot believe that I've already been here for four months! It's amazing how quickly time flies. Most of you know how difficult it was for me to decide what to do with my life post-college, and I really feel confident that I made the right decision for myself. I've learned so much about life and myself in the last four months. Plus, it's really refreshing to be reminded of what is really important in life. I think that we, as Americans, often get consumed in the material world. I am definitely guilty of wanting one too many pairs of designer jeans or the newest clothes. However, here, people are happy with the smallest things. The neighbor kids use my trash to build toys and one small piece of candy lights up a kid's face. Plus, people are able to find beauty in nature and the 'simple things' in life.

In closing, here are some funny anecdotes that do not fit into any part of my letter:

Three weeks ago, I met Madagascar's biggest pop-star! His name is Lola (feel free to Google him and download a song!) He came to my town for a propaganda concert! Since I was the only foreigner in the audience, I got to meet and chat with him after the show! It was a lot of fun!

2) I attended the above-mentioned concert with one of my closest friends at site. We were dancing like fools throughout the whole thing and just having a general good time. Little did I know that they were video taping the concert. That evening, they set up a HUGE drive-in movie-esque screen in town and replayed the footage of the concert. As I was watching with my friends, all of a sudden the screen was filled with an image of just ME dancing for a good four minutes! I could have died!!!

3) I was offered fried grasshoppers at a party I attended last week with the Ministre d'Environment for all of Madagascar. I guess it's a good source of protein.

4) I saw SIX lemurs last month in the rainforest!! It was extremely exciting!!

5) VAZAHA is the word for foreigner in Malagasy, and I hear this word daily… over and over and over again. It is usually coupled with some word talking about my size. It used to bother me to be called fat all the time, but I guess that I've sort of embraced who I am!

6) Every time you see someone in my town, you greet them as follows:

~Akoriaby (How's your health?)

~Tsara be fa misaotra (It's good, thanks.)

OR…. Salama (Hello)

7) I speak Malagasy every day, which is both exciting and exhausting. There are some days when I simply feel as though I cannot say another word. Then there are others when I could talk for others! My vocabulary is still extremely limited, but it is improving daily. I carry around a little notebook and write down every word I hear!

8) My closest friends are a girl who just graduated from high school last year. She's really smart and actually very good at English. We hang out a lot, and she's been really helpful with helping me figure out vocabulary. I also have a really close guy friend who comes over a few nights a week. We play cards or just chat.

9) I'm taking a Malagasy class at the local elementary school every Tuesday morning. It's with kids that are 8-9 years old! Hahaha…. It's interesting and about at my level of Malagasy.

Well… I hope that this paints at least a vague picture of what my life is like in Ifanadiana. Thank you so very much to everyone who has sent letters or packages. Letters are seriously one of the biggest treats ever! It really brightens my day to receive mail! If anyone is interested in sending packages (although letters are more than enough), here are a few things that I would like:

· Construction paper and craft supplies for my classes (I'd like to do some stuff at Christmas)

· Packs of tuna fish or chicken in those little bags

· Toys for the kids to play with at my house

· Note cards (the big ones to make flashcards)

· Christmas decorations

· M&Ms (peanut… a personal favorite! )

· Pictures of America to use in class

· Children's books.. (perhaps a Christmas book or two for my classes?!? They need to be a very EASY level!!)

· Pasta sauce packs

· Dried strawberries

· Magazines (The Economist, People, etc. I receive Newsweek from Peace Corps every month)

I hope life in the United States is going well! I've been trying to follow some of the news, but it's definitely a challenge! Please continue to write, and if anyone stumbles upon a large sum of money or wins the lottery, fly over and see me!

Lots of love,