Written February 2, 2011
Many of you have requested details of my daily life. I have been a little slow to write on this subject because…well, life is slow. I thought by waiting something would happen to spice up my narrative. Then I remembered I live in an African village…of course daily lfe is going to be slow!
Life without Electricity
Not having electricity affects your day from beginning to end. Typical village culture dictates the day begins at sunrise and ends not long after sunset. There is even a different way of telling time based on having 12 hours of sun and 12 hours of dark almost year-round. Our 6 a.m. is their 12 asabuhi (morning), similar to midnight. At our 6 p.m., they start over with 12 usiku (night). It can be confusing, especially when planning meetings!
My house borders a main walking path and my neighbor has a hydrant from which others fetch water. So I am usually woken up by 6:30 a.m. by villagers yelling greetings to each other. It’s also not uncommon to be woken that early by my neighbors hammering on their tools in preparation of going to their field. After all, the sun is up so should I be!
(I am leaving out meals and cooking because that all deserves a blog entry of its own! Coming soon!)
The Daily Grind
One aspect I personally really enjoy about village life is every day is different. I teach an environment class at the primary school every Monday and Tuesday morning. This is usually a highlight of my week!
At least one morning a week I wash my clothes with a bucket of soapy water, a bucket of rinsing water and a bar of soap. Many volunteers pay to have someone wash their clothes, but I don’t really mind it…least not yet. I turn on my iPod and usually Kelly Clarkson has the beat and attitude to give my clothes a good scrub.
Other mornings may consist of helping in coffee fields, translating lesson plans or what I want to say at an upcoming meeting into Swahili, or cleaning house. Three-four mornings a week I go to the market and walk around the village visiting.
Relationships are very important to the local culture. You may be walking along without seeing anyone when all of a sudden a greeting is yelled at you. And you are expected to ask several questions about their life, which all have a standard answer. This is similar to how Americans ask how you are and you are expected to say “good” even if you have a cold, the heel on your shoe just broke and your cat just died. Here’s an example of a typical passing translated into English:
Villager: How is your morning?
Me: Good. And you?
Villager: eh, good. How did you wake?
Me: Peaceful. And you?
Villager: eh, peaceful. How is your home?
Me: Good. And you?
Villager: eh, good. How is your work?
Me: Good. And you?
Villager: Good. What have you ate today?
Me: I ate eggs, bread, mango and chia. (For some reason, they love to hear what I eat. I’ve learned to add things I didn’t eat because they never think I eat enough. Also, never forget to mention having tea.)
Me: How is your family?
Villager: eh, nzuri.
Ok, this could go on but you get the point!
Afternoons are usually a time of rest. During the dry season, it was too hot to work. Now it’s the rain season and afternoons are too wet or hot for work- though rainy days can be surprisingly cool. I usually spend this time reading, writing, playing cards, choreographing dances to songs on my iPod, re-writing words to songs…
Late afternoon/evenings tend to be when I get visitors. Most families eat late because it takes so long to cook a whole meal for several people. So I prefer to cook at my house so I can eat earlier and healthier. I usually start cooking about 5 p.m. so I am done by 6:30 p.m. Then I can get a bucket bath before it gets too dark.
Once it gets dark, I close up my house. I feel safe in my village, but I do not want to be out or have visitors after dark. I figure it is better safe than sorry but I may change once I am here longer. There is a disco that plays music and movies from a generator that some younger villagers go to at night.
I have solar and battery-operated lanterns so I am able to read most nights. If my computer has power, I may watch a movie or tv show I have saved to my hard drive. Sometimes I am even able to get wi-fi and check Facebook!
That’s it…a day in my life!