Peace Corps year 1

daily life, may

These days, the roosters start at about 4:30AM, Deya’s alarm and Ceerno Jallo’s prayer call are at 5AM, and the sky begins to brighten around 6AM. That’s when my alarm goes off and I crawl out from under the mosquito net; I’ve got my bed set up in the backyard since it’s too hot to sleep in my hut. I head out for a jog, which sometimes becomes a walk since in addition to being light earlier, it’s also hot earlier. Breakfast and BBC in my hut—cereal and Network Africa, respectively.

By 8:30AM I’m out greeting the galle. I spend the next hour and a half pounding grain, shelling peanuts, sometimes greeting the rest of the village, always doing my fair share of sitting and staring at livestock. 10AM I go to the well for a bucket of water; I’ve started going in the morning partly because it’s not as insanely hot then and partly because that’s when the guys are there using a donkey to draw water for the animals, and they’ll give me some of their water. Head back to the hut, stick bissap out in the sun, then recommence migrating from shady spot to shady spot.

Time slows down as the day heats up. I help with lunch, I sit some more, sometimes I read books, write, or prepare ag-related work. Lunch is ready around noon. I eat in my hut then go sit in the batiment, where at over 100°F in the shade it’s a good bit more bearable than inside my hut, where the main entertainment is watching big yellow-headed lizards eat the ants that tunnel through my floor.

Saturday through Tuesday, most weeks, Pular alphabetization class is held from about 2PM until 4PM. I usually attend at least part of the class each day, but sometimes it’s hard to sit on a log for two hours listening to, say, addition and subtraction in Pular.

In the afternoon, the women go to the well to get water and do laundry, and I try to put myself in a happy place until the heat finally lets up around 5 or 5:30PM. Sometimes I take a walk then, often watched but unaccompanied by Bandi, who clearly thinks I’m nuts for walking anywhere in the sun—if he does join me, he runs from shade-patch to shade-patch, stopping in each to lie down, pant, and look at me as if to say, “Ok, are you done? Can we go back now?”

Bucket bath, BBC if it’s not just cricket news, sit in the galle some more or help with dinner while the family takes their baths, kids are scrubbed, and the compound is swept (we must have clean dirt!). It’s dark around 7:30PM, I sit on a plank bed, start using the nighttime greeting, and wait for dinner, which I eat by lamplight in the backyard. 8:30 or so, dinner’s done and I’m out in the galle again, lying on a bed watching for satellites and falling space junk until 9:30/10, when I say goodnight, set up the bed outside, and either read or surf the shortwave radio for American evangelical programming.

Lather, rinse, repeat. I’m excited that the rainy season will begin within the next month or so—I’ll have actual work to do once planting begins.

No word on well funding yet… digging may not start until the next dry season. Molly and Mariah came to my village Saturday for another meeting with the women’s groupement about selling the beaded jewelry that they make. We managed to communicate info both ways, despite the fact that I was serving as translator again. There were a few times when I’d finish an attempt at a question and the women would all continue to look at me expectantly… so I’d try again, then one of them would translate my Pular into actual Pular, and I’d do my best to follow their responses.

I’ve had the least luck with open-ended or abstract questions—I think it’s caused by a combination of my awful Pular and their social/educational conditioning, which makes contradiction (perhaps discussion in general) seem like an unacceptable challenge to authority. I want them to give me their own ideas, they want to agree with whatever options I list out for them. I’m hoping that will change with time and practice.

So yeah. New PCVs swear in at the end of the week—congratulations on surviving PST, y’all. Also, new photos, oh boy!

10 replies on “daily life, may”

On this front I had my Americorps interview today. I think it went pretty well considering at the end he was talking in terms of “WHEN I get the acceptance packet”, he also said he was going to recommend me although until it is for sure I still have a little nervous anticipation hanging over me :/

i’m with leslie. day-in-the-life postings are my favorite.

it’s 80 here and i’m dying. dying. i’ve been out of texas too long.

I know! I completely wimp out about heat now, and I’ve lived in paradise for under two years. But I still get to laugh derisively when anyone here claims it “gets hot” (which, in fairness, it does, about twice a year).

to speak like an English nerd, your authorial voice grows strong in these day-in-the-life posts, which i also quite enjoy. i think it is a classic combination of mastery of a manageable subject and understatement — long an essayist’s friend.

Hunh. And here I was thinking that this kind of post was a self-indulgent copout. Glad y’all liked it.

Ha ha—my friends are English nerds!

Hi there,
I really like your writings in this section too. I also love the photos. I’ve noticed that over the past few months it seems like the village folks are letting you snap more intimate shots (tattoo pics). When I was around that area I had a Polaroid which made it a bit easier to get permission to take photos (rationing out the film got to be a pain though). How did you go about it?
Also, I was wondering… you wrote that you collect your water in the morning and the women collect their in the afternoon. Is there a reason that you choose to go seperate? That came out in a wierd way, but I was wondering how you are being accepted by the women, as it seemed to me that they were the most stand-offish to me (unless they had a baby, then I immediately became the “Godmother”).

My family is definitely getting used to me taking pictures around the village. I’ve found that the novelty of immediately seeing their picture on my digital camera makes most people forget to demand prints.

I go to get water in the morning cause it’s not quite as hot then and also because before the rain started there were always guys there pulling water for the animals who would give me water instead of me having to pull it myself. So it’s more of a lazy thing than a non-acceptance thing.

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