Life at Honko, more than just science!

Written by Lissy, Mangrove Monitoring volunteer

I came to live among the mangroves with ambitions of immersing myself in science. I was drawn into the program mostly by its promise of research opportunity, and I was determined to fully dedicate myself to that facet of life here. But, as I might have suspected, there is a lot more going on at Honko than the work we do in the mangrove.
On my first day, I found myself in a crowd of rascally children with markers and coloring pages.

Lissy (R) coloring with children from Ambondrolava.

Coloring mangrove pictures with children from Ambondrolava

This was more an attempt at community outreach than artistic expression, but I have since found or been given several chances to get involved in artistic activities through Honko. We’ve made plans to paint murals on schools in nearby villages, we will be designing a new Honko t-shirt, and soon we’ll be painting a new sign for the Mamelo Honko Women’s Association–an artistic organization itself. The group of local women weave baskets and other products from reeds growing around our home, and we are also encouraged to help them design new items.

What’s more surprising than finding all of this in what I intended to be an academic, research-focused gig, is how fun and exciting it’s turning out to be. So drastically different from the rigid scientific methods we apply in the field, these expressive projects are an absorbing and refreshing way to fill the long, relaxing days here.

Furthermore, we’ve been able to participate in the building of fish cages for the fish-farming initiative in Ambondrolava, plant seeds for the alternative fuel wood project, teach multiple English classes both to Honko’s Malagasy staff and to our neighbors in Belalanda, learn bits of Malagasy from the local kids, and kayak through the mangrove.

Lissy helping community members and IHSM students to assemble cages for tilapia farming

Helping community members and IHSM students to assemble cages for tilapia farming

It may be that I’m not as focused on the research side of Honko as I intended to be, but I’m certain that I’m having a much more full experience because of this square meal of varied activities and tasks. It is rare that a big foreign endeavor turns out exactly as expected–all we can hope is that the surprises always turn out to be as positive and enriching as the ones here at Honko.

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