A Day in the Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer

How many times have you heard the phrase, “We take so many things for granted”? While growing up I’ve heard this phrase more times than I can remember. However, it never really quite fully sank in until I moved to West Africa back in 2012 to do my Peace Corps service. That’s when all of those things that I was taking for granted were no longer a part of my life. At first it took some adjusting, but eventually I reached a point where having so little became normal. And I was able to establish a good day-to-day routine while living in my Gambian village, Baja Kunda.

During one of my days in the Baja Kunda I took note of how the day unfolded. The events of that particular day were pretty typical during my time there. Though some things, not so much! The day’s events went as follows:

Morning

0600 – The morning prayers blast from the mosque’s megaphones, resonating throughout the entire village. My alarm is not set to go off for another half hour, but I just turn it off. The sound is so loud that it sounds like someone placed a boom box on my front porch. Might as well just get up and around.

0715 – I finish a small load of laundry. They should be well dried by the time I come back. Since I have to wash my clothes by hand I tend to wash small loads very frequently. This way I don’t have to wash an entire pile. After I’m finished I use the water in the tubs to water my banana trees (yes, I have two banana trees in my back yard. How cool is that?!). Then my host father knocks on my door to deliver a loaf of bread so I can make my breakfast. I make myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

0815 – I get myself signed in at my school. The students make their way to their respective classrooms. I’m sweating from the bike ride here. The school is about one kilometer away from my house. I passed my usual morning traffic of children playing, donkey carts, and women balancing heavy objects on their heads while carrying babies on their backs.

1030 – I have an interesting conversation with another teacher about polygamous marriages in The Gambia.

1145 – I sit with some of the other teachers around the food bowl to eat lunch. We have fish with white rice and onion sauce.  I try to not eat too much for I know I’ll be eating with my host family later.

 

Afternoon

1400 – I make it back to my compound. The children all run over to greet me. I give each one of them a high-five and a fist bump. Next I go inside my house to top off my water filter and bring my clothes in off the line. I also sweep the floor. This I do constantly, for small things on the floor bring in ants.

1430 – My younger host brother comes to my door to tell me that lunch is ready. I go into my host father’s house and join him and my host brothers around the food bowl. Today we’re having domoda, which is white rice with groundnut (peanut) paste. It’s one of my favorite Gambian dishes!

1530 – I usually commit time after lunch to do some reading. I never really had much time to read back home, but here I read a lot. I’ve read eight novels since I arrived in my village a little over two months ago. Right now I’m reading Life of Pi.

1600 – I try to exercise regularly. I’ve found a couple of good running routes around my village. But today I decided to do yoga and stretching.

1730 – I carry the bucket of water that I filled up at the community pump to my latrine area to get ready for my bucket bath.  This involves filling a cup with water from a bucket and pouring it over my head. I actually kind of like bathing this way.

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Evening

1900 – Night falls on the village. I turn on my lantern and look around the inside of my house. I’m paranoid about finding another bat. I’ve already had to kill one earlier in the week when it found its way into my house and I couldn’t get it out. Didn’t see one tonight though, so that’s good.

1930 – I join my host father and brother outside for dinner. Tonight we’re having rice and sweet potatoes. I’m definitely getting plenty of carbs today! My host father takes his leave early to do his evening prayers. So I finish eating with my host brother. After dinner I help him with his numbers. He can now successfully write to ten. He also helps me with my Sarahule.

2015 – I take my toothbrush and a water bottle out into my backyard to brush my teeth. I have become very used to doing all my daily hygienic practices without having running water.

2100 – After reading a little bit more of Life of Pi I get myself settled in to bed. I say my prayers and then try to make myself as comfortable as I can on the cheap foam mattress that is my bed. As I lay there trying to fall asleep I think about my family and friends back home. I hope all is well with them.

I hope you enjoyed this post and reading about what life is like for an expatriate living in a developing country. Though I was reduced to a more basic way of living, I was able to establish my routine and live fairly well in The Gambia. My experience there also lead me to pursue a simpler life when I returned home to the United States. But I’ll cover that more in-depth in a later post! Thank you for visiting my blog, have a great day!