My mother has been asking me what a typical day is like for me in the village. I do not really feel like I have typical days, as each one seems to be different from those that came before. So, to appease her, I decided to share a specific day. This past Wednesday seemed perfect as it was internally dramatic and had moments of great frustration, entertainment, and gratefulness.
I first woke around 3:30am, which is pretty unusual for me. My entire side was covered in new bug bites—I am not sure what bugs are biting me, but it is a new problem. Since my house is anything but airtight, they could be mosquitos flying in through the gaps in the windows and doors or it could be something more nefarious like bed bugs. I am praying fervently it is mosquitoes. I am hot, itchy, and uncomfortable. I am reminded of my nights sailing on Harvey Gamage in the Caribbean when I would have to go on deck to cool off before falling back asleep. I sit up and open the window near my bed and grab my Kindle for an hour or so. Finally I fall back asleep as the sun and my host family rise.
With flies buzzing my face, I reawaken close to seven, the latest I have ever slept in my hut. It is not hot, but the humidity is oppressive. I'm grateful I managed to fall back asleep, but feel overwhelmed by grumpiness. As a morning person and optimist, this is an unusual sensation for me. Grumbling to myself, I slather my large bug bites in hydrocortisone cream and make my bed. I grab the bucket that holds late night bladder breaks and head out to my latrine. Despite my attempts to decrease the fly population there, I have to grab my latrine broom and chase them out before using the latrine or dumping my bucket.
When I return to my hut, I start reheating my bread and boiling water. I usually have instant coffee on weekdays, saving the real stuff for the weekends when I can savor it. Because I'm grumpy and need the pick-me-up, I decide to splurge on the real stuff. I grab my iPod and speaker and start my favorite mellow playlist. Still feeling really unsettled, I pull out my journal and start grumbling while eating my bread and peanut butter breakfast.
After breakfast, I tidy up the kitchen, sweep my hut, and pack my backpack for the day. Soon it is time to head to my organization's community hall. As I walk, I mentally curse the humidity while smiling and greeting everyone I see. Greetings are a critical part of Basotho culture and it is very important to do them, regardless of grumpiness.
When I get to the hall twenty minutes later, I am unsurprised to see I am the only one there. I am about five minutes late, which is still considered early. I pull out my solar charger and set it in the sun. Then, I grab my phone and start sending emails and messages to a number of people back home. I feel my mood starting to lift. After about thirty minutes, my supervisor and another woman from my organization arrive. I greet them and learn that the other woman is headed to the fields for the day. She and my supervisor talk for a while and then she leaves.
My supervisor and I chat about work for a while and she asks if I still have reports to write for Peace Corps. Since I do, she suggests I head home and work there for the day. She is headed out to visit some sick people in the village. I agree and we walk together to a nearby shop before splitting up. I walk in and chat with the shopkeeper. It is my first conversation in English for the day. She is Indian and I apologize profusely for not stopping by last Thursday during their holiday. I meant to, but it was a long day and I did not remember until after I was back at home and making dinner.
Soon I am on my way again, this time walking to another shop on the other side of the village. This shop has the mail from the post office box for the village. I have been waiting almost two months for a letter I know my sister sent on August 30th. I have not gotten very far before a man driving a government truck pulls up and offers me a lift. I hop in and we chat in a mixture of English and Sesotho. He asks about my work, life in Lesotho, and the usual things Basotho ask me when we first meet. I too ask about his work and the ministry he works for. He is involved in helping villagers plant trees to decrease soil erosion. We approach the other end of the village and I point out where I will hop out. As the truck stops, he looks at me and asks if I am a Me (Mrs.) or an Ausi (Miss). I smile and confess to being an Ausi. He then beams back at me and replies, “And me, I am an Abuti!!” After a few months here, I know that he is hoping we will be more than simply acquaintances or friends. I laugh and let him know that I have worked very hard to stay an ausi. His face falls as I hop out and thank him for the ride.
I turn towards the shop, and my face falls, as it is closed. I turn around and walk the ten minutes back to the house. I start planning out which Peace Corps homework assignments I will work on first. I get home and dig into my backpack to pull out my solar charger.
“Oh crap!” I realize that for the first time, I have abandoned it at the hall, in plain site of the main road where dozens of people pass in an hour. I grab my keys and sunglasses again and hightail it out of the house. I speekwalk, ignoring my sweat and praying materialistic prayers the entire walk, which takes only 2/3 of the time it had taken earlier. Thankfully, I only pass my host brother, so I do not have to stop and talk to people as I plow on. As I approach the hall, I see it still sitting where I left it. My pace slows and I am filled with an immense relief and gratefulness that my community left it sitting there. Before I duck into the fence, I greet my counterpart's mother, who is headed to the fields. She tells me my counterpart (and closest friend) is returning from South Africa this week.
I return home, set out the solar charger, start hot water for a second cup of real coffee and sit down to write assignments in Sesotho. This continues for four hours, with a brief break for lunch. I finish for the day and throw on some workout clothes. I am on day 27 of the 30-day HipHop Abs program. An hour later, I am covered in more sweat than during my race to recover my solar charger. I bath with a basin and about two cups of water. I then undo the goodness of my workout by eating the last four no-bake cookies I had made the other day.
Like everyday, I do my dishes and start thinking about dinner. My brother swings through to fetch water for me. I think again about how grateful I am for such an amazing host family. I hear thunder and the wind picking up. I cross my fingers for some rain to relieve the humidity as I lay on my bed to read for a bit. For dinner I make a lentil dish with papa. The day before, I rediscovered the incredible LED Luci light a friend gave me before I moved here. For some reason it was unwilling to charge when I tried it during training so I had put it away. Tuesday I had set it out in the sun for a while and was delighted to find it once again worked, so my cooking and eating is accompanied by LED light instead of my usual paraffin lamp. Given the heat that the lamp puts out, using the LUCI is a nice change.
By 7:30, I am back in bed, my light out. I play on my phone again-reading messages from friends, losing at chess to another PCV, and catching up with news on Twitter and Facebook. I eventually turn off the phone for the night and pull out the Kindle, once again appreciating self-lit electronics. I read for a short time before going to sleep by nine. As I fall asleep, I pray that I will wake up in a better mood and that I won't get bitten tonight.
And I do wake up happy!
And I do not have new bug bites!
My first conversation of the morning is with my brother, who tells me I have a letter waiting at the shop, but when I go to get it Thursday afternoon, the shop is closed because the shopkeeper went to town. I hope he is getting more letters for me!