So life has been going great here in Antsirabe. Antsirabe is a small city south of Antananarivo. It is a very clean city, with not very many cars. The modes of transportation are almost all bikes and Pouse-pouses. There are some cars but very few in relation to other places like Tana. Antsirabe right now is a district and is working very valiantly to become a stake. It looks like we have 5 very strong branches here in Antsirabe. My branch is Mahazoarivo and is like the northwest area of Antsirabe. We are a great branch it looks like, and both of the counselors of the District Presidency are from our branch.
Mom note: A Pouse-pouse is a rickshaw type mode of transportation where a person pulls the people inside as shown here:
My companion is Elder Connault from the Brittany area of France. It is on the west coast somewhere. He is very french, but he is pretty good at English. He was supposed to go into the MTC with my group, but got delayed due to visa problems, so he started his mission in France, and then went to the MTC, and then came here to Mada. This is his first area in Mada. He will either be seeing a change in 6 or 12 weeks most likely. I think that it is very possible that this is my first area in which I see more than one companion. All of my areas so far have been with one companion. We shall see though.
My language skills are during pretty well. I am able to converse everything that I want to say, and I understand almost all conversations. Every once in a while there are a few things I dont understand, but its going pretty well.
So this last week was interesting. After tansfers it was crazy saying goodbye and packing and all. It was a fast few days, but it happened. Attached are some pictures from a goodbye soiree i had with some of the members in Ivandry. I am really missing them all, they are great people.
Then on Wednesday night, I stayed at the APs apartment and left Thursday morning to Antsirabe with a driver from the church. The reason why, is the other Elders in my apartment now get a car, and so the driver took it down for them. I am in an apartment with Elder PAyne and Elder lambert. Elder Lambert has been in Tana though since I got here, because he has been very sick. So Elder Payne (my group) has been staying with us. We went out to his area once and his area is way nice. The Elders used to have to bike 45 minutes there and back each day, and then ride aroung their area. But now they have a car, and pack up the bikes in the morning, drive there, bike around all day, and then drive back home.
In other news, I found out that I am also the district leader down here. We have two districts down here. My district is Mahazoarivo (my area, mostly in the city of Antsirabe), Andranomanelatra (Elder Payne and Elder Lambert north of Anstirabe a little ways), and Manadona (Elders Rahamafandrona and Elder Babb, south of Anstirabe a little ways). That is the district, and the other district is the other two branches, Ambohimena and Antsirabe. They have two elders in each, and then 3 sisters in Ambohimena as well.
Riding a bike is fun..... but is so not for me. I am stuggling a bit right now, but I will get used to it. So Friday we worked in my area a little. Saturday we worked in Elder Payne's area, and Sunday we stayed home because Elder Payne was sick.
Mom you were talking about the plague. yeah, we have known about it for quite a while,I just never told you. This year there have been like 60 cases with like 39 people dead. No missionaries yet..... ;) There are worried about it breaking out from the prisons, because there is a rat infestation and overcrowded prisons. And here is what we got this week from Sister Shupe, our nurse.
BUBONIC PLAGUE update: We are going into plague season with the rains and humidity as the fleas that carry the plague thrive in humidity. Some press is being given to the fact that Madagascar had the highest number of plague cases reported in the world last year. BBC reports that an epidemic could start in the overcrowded prisons and spread to the general population. The fleas are carried on rats and transmit the disease to humans by biting them. It is easily treated with antibiotics if given within 24 hours of being bitten. It can kill in four days if not treated. Be aware of the symptoms that I reported in my message a few weeks ago. The most common symptom being large swelling in the groin, armpit or neck. If it gets into the bloodstream it can be taken to the extremities, where gangrene can occur, or the rarest type can infect the respiratory system, which is also the most fatal form and you can die in 24 hrs. Prevention is by taking Doxycycline every day and that is not 100% reliable. So if you think you may have a symptom, call me immediately. It only takes one bite from an infected flea. If bitten by a flea and experiencing symptoms CALL ME. It is not likely to happen, but it can. Better safe!
You also asked about the elections. Elections are also supposed to be this week on Friday. We will see what happens, there could be problems, there could not be, nobody knows. We have 72 hour kits ready and we were just warned this morning to stock an extra week supply of food in the house for now through the beginning of January. The mission stays on top of it all. There is a malagasy who works for the church, and from what i have heard, part of his responsibility is to read all the newspapers everyday and give an update on security issues. The US embassy also issues alerts when they hear about things. We are completely safe, and we have procedures. This morning they had an drill in Tana for the 72 hours kits to make sure everyone was ready. We are not expecting any problems, but we are ready if they arrive.
Ok thats life right now.