Sunday, October 26, 2008

Every day is a journey

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.
- Matsuo Basho

I've been struggling a little bit in figuring out what to write on this blog, because although each and every day here is full of new and ridiculous and wonderful adventures, reducing the experiences to a few words that will mean something to anyone else is a little tricky. So today I'm going to try to describe something of my daily life here, though no two days are the same, hoping some of the wonder and novelty and randomness comes across.

Most days I wake up around 5:30 to the call to prayer from the Mosque across town, in time to see the incredible colors left over from the sunrise and bask in the 70° morning air which will heat to 90° or more over the next hour. The next 15 minutes or so are the closest thing I get to silence throughout the day, as the village is only beginning to wake up. By 6:00 life is happening at full speed as my brother and sisters wash themselves and the dishes in the courtyard and my father ushers the goats out into the street to begin their day of grazing around the neighborhood. By 6:45 I'm sitting down to a breakfast which alternates between fried dough, pain au chocolat and an omelet, all with hot, sugary tea. After breakfast it's off to the Peace Corps training center behind my brother and sisters headed to school. It's about a 10 minute walk from my house to the center, and one of the other volunteers made the really brilliant analogy that most days it feels like the opening scene of Beauty and the Beast as someone shouts, "Bonjour!" every 5 or 6 steps and little children run up to shake our hands.

Training consists of multiple hours of language class as well as technical skills training given by current Peace Corps Volunteers and cross-cultural and medical presentations from Peace Corps staff. Our new favorite person is the women who sits just outside the gate of the Peace Corps compound selling bags of peanuts the size of a fist for 25 FCFA, about $0.05. The little finds like this (they come in a sugar-roasted variety too!), or the cheese that doesn't have to be refrigerated, have become our big daily victories as we try to create a little bit of similarity to home away from home here in Africa.

After school we usually head out for bike rides, play soccer or grab a cold drink at one of the local bars before heading home to our families around 6, as the sun goes down and the bats the size of small dogs and the mosquitos start to come out. I eat a dinner of couscous and sauce and then watch spanish soap operas dubbed into French for a while before having a wonderfully cool bucket bath under the stars and going to bed to BBC World News at 9, tucked safely away under my mosquito net.

So that's the average day, though no day is really average, what with dying lizards falling out of trees onto my classmates heads, US presidential election absentee ballots being hand-delivered to us on a Sunday afternoon at a party to benefit Chadian refugees or motorcycles carrying three people and a bleating goat flying by. Life is never boring, and I hope reading about it hasn't been!

Thanks for all your messages and thoughts, it's wonderful to hear from friends and family around the world. You are all in my thoughts frequently, each step of this journey.


Colleen Farrell said...

KATIE! I miss you soo much! I've gotten both of your texts and have sent you texts back but I don't know if you've received them :(. Your blog is amazing and it definitely makes what the rest of us are doing back here seem trivial :). It sounds like you're having a great time. And what a completely different world! I'm sorry that I haven't written you another letter but I've been swamped here at school (I know that's no excuse, but at least you'd understand the feeling!) As soon as my crazy week is through and I have a minute, you're definitely on my list! I wish we could have a phone conversation but the 2 times we've tried so far it hasn't worked :-/. I guess snail mail (ironically) is the best way to communicate! Anywho, I won't bore you any longer with babble but I loved reading your most recent posts and hearing about your life. You're definitely inspiring and I miss you bunches and I can't wait to hear more!

Love always,

Jon said...

You're amazing! So often I hear people say, "make every day count", and I'm frustrated by how hard that is to do. You, on the other hand, are actually doing it. Just reading your blog is so inspiring, and puts a BIG smile on my face. I admire you so much - can't wait to read and hear more!
Lots of Love,
Jon Bates

Kristen said...


I absolutely LOVE reading your blog and your descriptions of life in Africa... and especially the Beauty and the Beast reference.


noregrets10 said...

I just got back from girls weekend in NY. It was so much fun being able to see everyone. I wish you could have been there. What a treat to be able to talk to you and hear such an awesome spirit in your voice. I love your blogs. You are such a wonderful writer. I felt I was there with you darting thru the streets and living among your new family. Thank you so much for sharing this incredible experience with us.
I am truly proud of you Katie. My heart swells with pride when I tell people about the sacrifice and commitment that you are making. You are touching so many lives - and not just the people you encounter over there. But people back here as well. You definitely make the world a better place, by just being a part of it. Thank you for being such an inspiration to me. I truly admire your courage, steadfastness, compassion and service to others. Please know that you are forever in my thoughts and prayers. Love you Katie !!!!!!! :)

Ellen said...

Katie!!! I had heard about your infamous blog, but it was not until Maggie played at Saint Rose that I was able to get the exact address. What a gift it has been to tap into this wonderful journey you are on. Your blogs have been so riveting. I draw such hope and inspiration from your words and know you are that difference that so many of us merely talk about. I think about you all the time and am so proud to tell others of your selfless endeavors. Your strength and courage is infectious. Keep us updated. Hugs and kisses from New York.
Love Always,