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In previous columns, I mentioned that I have been in Madagascar for over a year now. It really only feels like yesterday that I arrived. I so vividly remember Malagasy Independence Day (June 26th) and am shocked to realize that it is my second independence day here. It’s also surreal to realize that by this time next year I will have completed my service and arrived back home.

The presence of Peace Corps in a given country is never permanent, nor should it be; but Peace Corps’ relationship with the host nation will of course, hopefully, last longer than the breadth of a volunteer’s service.

To keep the tradition going, new volunteers arrive every year. The volunteers that have already lived in Madagascar for a year train the new volunteers. The more experienced volunteers are called “zoky,” a gender-neutral Malagasy word for an older sibling. The new volunteers are called “zandry,” the word for a younger sibling.

I was invited to train the new volunteers recently. It was fun to see their excitement as well as their curiosity about everything to do with Madagascar. I remembered what it was like when I was in their position. I was so nervous but looked to my zokys as role models. Their status of having been in Madagascar for a year seemed so far away to me. Now, in what seemed like a blink of the eye, I am the zoky.

There is a saying common in the Peace Corps, “Volunteers rarely get a bask in the shade of the trees they’ve planted.” I realize that I won’t “solve” all the issues to do with agriculture in my community before I leave.

That’s fine. I just hope to have moved the needle in the right direction so the next zandry can build upon the foundation I laid.

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Stephan Laboy is an agricultural extension volunteer serving with the Peace Corps in Madagascar. His story can be followed at stephanlaboy.wordpress.com.

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