What is it that I do every day? Well, that is highly variable. Some days I’m at the office all day, some days I don’t go into the office at all, and some days I go to visit other volunteers in their towns. Even though there’s no standard day, here’s a little sample that I think is pretty indicative of what I do:
6:00 am: am woken up by a child…or a goat? Screaming. Decide to ignore and go back to sleep.
7:15 am: Wake up grumpily—children wake me up again 15 minutes before my alarm was going to go off. Quickly tell myself to have an attitude adjustment.
7:15-7:30: Cuddle with KuliKuli. He’s really affectionate first thing in the morning.
7:30-8:00: Sweep my house, wipe down some surfaces. Despair because I live in squalor no matter how much I clean.
8:00-8:05: Clean KuliKuli’s litter box
8:05-8:25: Do dishes from yesterday
8:25-8:45: Have tea with milk and some sort of breakfast, usually bread with peanut butter and bananas
8:45-10:30: Work on Peace Corps paperwork or a blog post. Things that I have to do in English I cannot do at my office where everyone is speaking French and local language.
10:30-11:45: Go off to some sort of meeting on my bike. Today it is with the Director of the local high school. I’m going to talk to him about young motherhood and how many young mothers are in his school. Will try to get their contact information as well. This is for a project that a visiting French volunteer is doing.
11:45-12:15: Run errands. Pick up powdered milk, tomatoes, and stop by the ATM.
12:15-1:30: Take a nap. Beninese people are serious about naps and so am I.
1:30-1:45: Cuddle with KuliKuli. He might not want to cuddle right now, but I am persuasive because I have sugar-coated peanuts and he wants them.
1:45-2:45: Make and eat some sort of lunch while reading a book. Often some fruit and a couple of pieces of tofu or a hardboiled egg. Share the protein with KuliKuli.
2:45-3:00: Bike to my office which is on the other side of town. Say a prayer before I leave to avoid getting hit by a north-bound bus, which pass through at about this hour. Wear helmet.
3:00-5:00: Try to be productive. Get distracted by the 6 people in the office who don’t even work there and keep asking me questions. As there is only one room in the office, have nowhere to run. Become annoyed because there are a couple of people who know how to push my buttons about gender issues and they are doing their best to get a rise out of me. Resist becoming agitated until one of them says that statutory rape isn’t real, even with 12 year old girls. Tell them that is a completely messed up point of view and luckily Benin’s laws agree with me. Am laughingly told that Benin’s laws are not enforced so they don’t really count. Luckily I do not have a fever and therefore do not cry. I do, however, remove myself from the situation by going to visit the rabbits.
5:00-5:15: Go pet some rabbits. Calm down. Then get a little upset because this rabbit raising project has been going on for 6 months and only one rabbit has been sold. Also because we had 80 rabbits and now we have 27 due to deaths from disease (from overcrowding??) Leave the rabbits.
5:15-6:30: Try to have a meeting with my work partner. Wait 20 minutes until he is free, during which I study my local language notes. Go into his office and try to create realistic goals and plans for the next week or two. Instead, talk about grandiose dreams for the organization. Struggle to communicate my concerns about feasibility of plans.
6:30-7:00: Bike home. Do not hit any goats on the way, and also do not get hit by a moto.
7:00-7:30: Sit outside with my neighbors. Let the kids pet KuliKuli. Tell them not to stick their fingers in his mouth. Go back inside, close screen door to keep kids out. Tell the kids to stop licking the screen door. (WHY?)
7:30-8:30: Make and eat dinner. Probably couscous with onions and tomatoes and an egg or tofu (whichever I didn’t have for lunch.) Dream of a salad.
8:30-9:00: Organize my house a little bit and make a mental list of the things to do tomorrow.
9:00-9:15: Shower. Right now it is chilly in the morning and at night so this is not particularly pleasant. Use a bucket of water with a cup to pour over myself. Don’t wash my hair because it isn’t a Sunday (don’t judge me.) Use specified foot toothbrush to try to get my feet clean. Think I have succeeded until I step into the brighter light of my house. Realize I will never have clean feet until I move back to America and the top layer of skin sloughs off.
9:15-11:00: Either skype with someone in the US, talk on the phone with a friend, read, or watch a movie.
11:00: Go to sleep with my mosquito net tucked in around me and KuliKuli sleeping in a cabinet by my head.