My room is located directly off the living room with a window facing the back courtyard so I wake up each morning about when the umukoze begins chopping firewood or my host sister begins moving furniture so she can wash the floor. The means I wake up between 5:30 and 6:00.
The first task of the day is a bucket bath. I grab my towel, bucket and yesterday’s dirty socks and underwear and head out across the courtyard to the shower stall. Usually my host mom and dad are walking around in their towels, brushing their teeth and taking their shower. I take my “refreshing” (cold) shower and then wash my laundry in the remaining water and leave it to dry on a line in the shower. It’s considered inappropriate here to hang underwear to dry on the main clothes line so we do this instead.
Next is breakfast – tea and white sandwich bread with honey – and bath time. My host dad and I eat breakfast while my host mom gives the baby a bath. The baby loves bath time and is always very happy, smiling and talking and splashing the water.
At about 7:30, my two site-mates from the Peace Corps pick me up and we walk about fifteen minutes to class together. During the walk we debrief the events of the previous night (whose host family pressured them to eat more, whose family had visitors, who had rats/spiders/lizards in their room, etc.). We also greet passersby, fist-bump kids and see many chickens, goats and farmers.
From 8:00-12:00 we have language lessons. The 1:3 teacher-student ratio is a very effective way to learn and we all feel like we’re making quick progress. We have the lessons at our teacher’s house and neighbor kids often come to stare and say “hi.” One, a little 4-year-old named Wineza, is a character. He marches around militaristically with a stick, gives passionate, long-form renditions of church hymns and will often run and throw himself onto the ground to roll around in the dirt, apparently just for the fun of it.
At 12:00 we eat lunch together with six other trainees in a restaurant in a nearby town. The people who run the restaurant pass pots full of food through an open window from the kitchen out back and run down the road to buy cold drinks and bring them back when we order them.
The afternoon is usually a large group session with all 34 trainees. In these we have tech sessions were we learn about teaching (lesson planning! Classroom management!), cross-culture, health & safety, and other information sessions.
After class, a group will sometimes stop for “icyayi na amendazi” (tea and sweet bread) at a café. Otherwise, I walk back home with my site-mates. Every day, after I get home, I sit on the front porch for fifteen minutes or a half-hour and watch the sky change as the sun sets over the hills. This is one of my favorite parts of the day. It’s also a good opportunity to be seen by the neighborhood and to greet people walking by on the street in front of the house.
Nights here can feel very long. The sun sets at 6:15 and, most nights, my family doesn’t eat dinner until 9:00 or 9:30. With no electricity, options for ways to pass the time are limited. My family typically sits in the living room with the lantern on the coffee table and the radio going. I usually study Kinyarwanda, knit, sew or read. We’re all tired by the end of the day, though, and one family member or another will usually fall asleep on the couch before dinner. It’s hard to sit quietly in near pitch blackness for three hours without getting sleepy!
I go to sleep immediately after dinner. I also take advantage of a couple minutes of alone time before bed to use my computer, read some more or just decompress a little.
Then, usually by 10:00, I’ve tucked in the mosquito net, slid into my sleeping bag and I’m asleep!