A Day in the Life of a (quasi) Peace Corps Volunteer
I'm not sure why I decided to do this seeing as I've been a volunteer for less than two weeks, but today seemed like a weird day/a day that a recruiter would tell you about when you were considering applying. So here goes...
2-3 am – I'm not exactly sure when this was because it was the middle of the night, but sometime between 2 and 3 in the morning I was awakened by a woman who was screaming at the top of her lungs just behind my house. Soon after more women came and they began singing in Ewe. At this point I know enough Ewe to greet people (ndi, ndo, woale), welcome them (woezon loo), tell them my name (nkonye enye Andre), tell them where I'm from (metso Ohio le Amerika), say what I do (see previous post), and say goodbye (miagadogo), but I can gather from the wailing and singing that someone has died. I go back to bed and dream that I am the brakeman on the first coed Olympic bobsled team.
Ps – Africa gives you weird dreams
Pps – Our sled won the gold
5 am – Daily rooster alarm clock
6:30 am – Actual alarm clock. Followed by breakfast, shower, and seizing the day.
8 am – Get things together at the Dispensaire (local health clinic) to start the day's work of vaccinating children between 6 and 18 months as well as pregnant women, health workers and local authorities (police, gendarmes, teachers, chiefs, gongoners, etc) against H1N1 flu. I talk to my homologue's younger brother who had been charged with ferrying the vaccines between us and another dispensaire 20 km away because our butane powered refrigerator had broken. He tells me that the death was an 8 year old boy. Chances are that I saw the kid running around the village or saw his mother at a baby weighing or at one of the vaccination sessions over the past two day. I don't go over to pay my respects because I still feel like an outsider, even though most of the village knows my name. No one I ask can tell me the cause of death, but I feel bad that I wasn't able to do anything about it especially being a community health volunteer. During training we were told that the first death in village would be a very sad and somber experience, but apart from the immediate family and a steady stream of people paying their condolences, everyone else in the village went about their business as usual.
I ended up meeting the boy's father the next day at the market and he seemed in surprisingly good spirits, either that or he was just in a state of shock. Either way, he still showed up (along with the rest of the village) to watch me get whupped at soccer.
8:45 am – The nurse and I arrive at the primary school of Alati-Marche after a fun-filled moto ride through the fresh mud (don't worry Mom/PC Bureau – I wore my helmet) and set up shop in one of the classrooms.
9 am – Vaccinations begin. I'm starting to get used to the sound of lots of crying babies after spending a good amount of time at the dispensaire, but I still find it weird when 30 year old pregnant women are wincing at the prospect of a small flu shot. I now that its because they are not as familiar with shots as we are stateside, but it still seems odd to me. As we are doing the vaccinations, I see a small motorcade of about 5 or 6 motorcycles each with three people riding on them headed to Notse for the funeral.
11 am – The intermittent rain showers, as well as the need to tend to the fields, means that not many people have shown up so one of the ASC's (Agent de Sante Communautaire = Community Health Worker) goes off to tell more women to come and get vaccinated with their babies. When he returns, his breath smells like sodabi (a local alcohol made from fermented palm wine). In my region of Togo, “The Sodabi Belt,” most meetings and meals don't start without a shot or two of the “boisson locale”. La vie est toujours comme ça...
12:30 – We finish up the vaccinations in Alati-Marhe and return to Tsinigan, where I return all the vaccines and finish up paperwork.
1 pm – I make lunch. Spaghetti bolognese/togolais, made by sprucing up tomato paste with garlic, onion, fresh tomato and a healthy amount of local spices. I make sure to save enough leftovers for dinner because I hate cooking.
2 pm – Do dishes, straighten up my house, and clean my water filter, followed by an afternoon nap.
4 pm – Go to the dispensaire to fetch some water. On the way there I have to turn around no less than seven times to wave to all the kids who are screaming my name. Maybe its because I'm the first white person they've seen, or maybe its because I'm not named Komi or Kossi, but those kids sure love screaming “Andre!!” over and over. On the way back, several kids offer to help me carry the 55 pound jug back to my house, but I am determined to do it myself. Everyone in village is laughing at me, and rightfully so, I look ridiculous. But even the four grown men riding on one tiny moto laugh at me – I guess it takes one to know one. I make it back with the 55 lbs on my head (I'm a real African now!), but I make a mental note to find someone to fetch me water when the cistern dries up and I have to walk a lot farther to the pump.
4:30 – I was planning on spending the rest of the afternoon at the dispensaire, but they had closed up shop after doing vaccinations all morning, so I decide to do some reading. I started out reading an Anthropology and Public Health textbook, but then I switched to Michael Crichton's Pirate Latitudes, because, c'mon... pirates!!
6:30 – Reheat the pasta from earlier and actually read about Public Health this time.
8 pm – Start typing this up before going to bed.