Regarding what became of Mr. Barrett on his return to Africa - the land of his birth - and providing certain details as to his whereabouts, the status of his health, whether physical or mental, and lastly describing various events & happenings the editor finds appropriate to reveal in promoting the honorable cause of his client.

Mr. Barrett is a Master's International Student at Michigan Technological University. His Peace Corps service in Madagascar will contribute to a degree in Environmental Engineering. The contents of this site are Mr. Barrett's alone and do not reflect the views of Michigan Tech, Peace Corps, or the United States government.

Monday, September 3

Lines Composed In a Small Shop

I had a great time in Maroantsetra and Masoala and you can get a feel for it here. We had excellent weather which is rare up there. We crossed the Bay of Antongil passing Nosy Mangabe and seeing quite a few whales breaking the surface and flapping their tails etc. Massive creatures! Spent several days on the beaches of Tampolo peninsula observing whale, kayaking and relaxing, then began our trek north following the coastline back to Maroantsetra. The trail snaked into the forest then back out along the beach and this lasted three days. We crossed some coves by canoe to save time and slept in small villages along the way. Great trip.

Here's a quick look into a project I helped work on in Tolongoina. As part of Madagascar's initiative to increase rural-electrification, several micro hydro schemes will be installed in the district of Ikongo. One of the challenges in the design of these systems is obtaining an accurate measurement of dry-season flow in the streams and rivers under consideration. The stream at Tolongoina comes directly from the forest corridor and is strewn w/ bolders and waterfalls and standing pools. This makes streamflow measurement almost impossible.

One method we've been using is the conductivity meter method. By adding a salt solution to the water upstream one can measure the salinity downstream after proper mixing. A stream w/ low flow doesn't dilute the salt as much so the electrical conductivity will be high. The flow rate is inversely proportional to the degree of conductivity of the salt mix passing the probe and the time it takes for this mix to pass. Because we were unsure of the accuracy of this method in our stream (it works best w/ larger flows), we decided to also use the weir method. This requires a relatively straight channel of water, something non-existant in our stream. However, by creating conditions at the weir similar to those already tested in a lab (fully contracted flow, sharp crested v-notch, and free flowing nape) we can measure the head on the weir and find the flow using an empirical equation. Take a look at the video to get an idea of how we solved this problem. You'll also get an idea of the kind of environment we work in.

Lastly, I leave you with a touch of entertainment from my village. This took place on the 26th of June during the independance day festivities. I thought about entering my name to the roster but remember experiencing a strange pain in my ankle at the time (similar to the reoccuring pain I experience at weddings or dance parties when asked to prove my talents).

Sunday, April 1

In Lands Beyond the Sea

Three forms of transport now- bike, boat and foot. Three elements- the road, the river, the forest. These I have pushed through, I have sliced through. These I have crawled over. And along the way there are faces and there are sounds and the hum of the rural landscape and I am witness to it all, I am also humming. We ride, we row, we follow the contours or push up and over the mountain slopes and there is always the opposing flow; the women with their children pass, the moonshine sellers with their burdens, fresh from the forest and the high plateau, they pass too with tired legs and the elders lean on canes with almost a century in their eyes. The waters too, high from cyclonic surges pass by; the flooded fields of rice, the matted canopy above our heads. Rugged green gives way to the well trodden path and I am witness to it all. And we are witness to it all.

Tuesday, February 27

Sing Family

Every day or so the mail sets out from Fianarantsoa, traveling south on route national 7 to Tulear. From the rocky highlands of the Betsileo down through Bara country and herds of Zebu and rolling grasslands and the baobabs to Tulear and the home of the Vezo, masters of the sea. A pleasant drive in any manner but more so if you stop in Ambalavao at the home of Francois d’Assise, Professor of the lycee at Tsiroanomandidy.

Some road trips can be just right can’t they; the sun high in a vast and blue sky radiating a certain warmth, every window open to a cool breeze, the hills and mountains rolling by as if just for you. A stop in Ambalavao to deliver a few packages and then we're joined by the professor and his family on route to Tulear and the ocean and memories to come of children splashing and the sway of palm fronds and salt on skin. But now it's singing and riding and feeling the depth of it in your heart and knowing that it's something unique and to be shared.

Sometimes a moment is all that can be asked for. I am thankful for having one of these moments on RN 7 with the family of Francois d’Assise. I try to capture it for you now.

Friday, September 29

I’m thinking about the idea of using low-quality video as a tool to inform potential funders of the needs in and around my region. Here, I have put together something along these lines. It was shot with my small pentax (the one in the mint tin), Optio s5i, and edited with Adobe Premier Elements. There was no planning involved. I was taking some photos and decided some video would be good too. I set up an impromptu interview to convey the main points. The file is small enough for quick online viewing (highspeed). It will also play on an MP3 player and I’m thinking of taking the videos back into the field for feedback. Any thoughts on this from your end? Something like this would of course be accompanied by a proper project proposal. The idea here is to communicate a little of the heart of it all as well. Potential funder on this particular project: British Embassy.

Sunday, August 20

South to Toliara

What was it that Longfellow said? Ultima Thule! Utmost Isle! The ancient mariners set their sails for it, a land of rugged beauty and dreams just realized. I have found my Ultima Thule for a while friends. I have sailed to her o’er sunlit seas, found her on the horizon and set a course for her, That land of fiction and of truth, The lost Atlantis of our youth! She does not harbor the Moslem dhows I remember of yesteryear, nor the glass bottom boats of my youth. No, she is not the same as my Mombasa but perhaps better. How far since then the ocean streams Have swept us from the land of dreams. But we must not stop dreaming friends. Ultima Thule! And we sailed for Anakao.

Monday, July 17

Twice now I’ve sat on a stage. Twice I’ve followed the procession, up the cobbled road and through the thick’ning crowd, past the dusty vendors and the butcher’s crimson slabs; all the while the gendarmes, clad in olive green, beat back the crowd with sticks and whistles loud. I am clearly set apart – my skin, my clothes, my countenance – yet I take my place on the stage with the Antanala, men old in rimmed hats, women strong and beautiful; village leaders, families, kings and vagabonds. We are here to listen to a kabary or a few lines of verse, to watch the fokontanys at their dance or sit in awe of the youth and their raw talents. Twice I’ve felt the beat of the African drum; once in my youth at the potter’s hands; once in the fires of the kiln.

Thursday, June 22

To those of you out there engaged in the frenzy surrounding the World Cup, I dedicate this photo. A two hour hike west from Ambatofotsy brings you to the village of Tsaratanana and the edge of the Ranomafana-Andringitra forest corridor. The photo shows a hilltop that has apparently been cleared to allow a soccer field. At a time when everyone is talking about the sport and how the world unites around it and how one can glimse the new world order through it and so on, I don’t know what to make of this puzzling scene. If you took a vote today – rainforest or soccer field – what, I wonder, would people say? Let’s let the enthusiasm die off a little before we do anything rash.