"We were not supposed to leave. We have to go back [to the island]!"

-Jack Shepard

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Everyday

Less than one month left in Fort Dauphin!  I’m so excited and so stressed out.  Sadness hasn’t really entered the mixture yet.  The time constraint in trying to get my English Center functioning is driving me a little insane, so my community better darn well appreciate it.  (And by appreciate it, I mean I expect them all to be fluent in English by Summer 2013.)  Classes are ending pretty soon.  They’re not really a source of stress, but they do take up time I’d rather spend mentally preparing myself for shopping centers and supermarkets.  I’ll miss all my students though…whether they think ozone layer depletion is actually relevant to their lives or not.  My sister, Courtney, arrives the day after Christmas, so I fully intend on doing absolutely nothing for the week she’s here (which will also be my last week at site) except going to the beach, being a tourist, and rediscovering the novelty in all the things I now find so familiar and dull.  My goal is to shed at least one tear of longing for the life I’ve had over the past 2.25 in my isolated, nothing-too-special-about-it beach town.  Hmm, that sounds too negative.  Probably just the stress talking.

I realize that I’ve very rarely blogged about my day-to-day life in Fort Dauphin but instead have spewed out all my more pensive and analytic thoughts whenever I was feeling particularly angry, frustrated, bewildered, or philosophical.  So here are some glimpses into my Posh Corps life:

On  a Work Day:
·         Wake up around 6 or 7, depending on class time. 
·         Find some breakfast – perhaps cold leftovers from the day before, eggs, fruit, or maybe Haja will wake up early enough to make me pancakes or balls of fried bread.
·         Get changed into professor-worthy clothes, get myself ready, brush teeth, prepare stuff for class, and maybe read a little if I’ve still got some time.
·         Walk either 20-100ft across the compound to my classroom.  Prepare stuff for class.  (I’ve been incorporating more technology into my classes this year like using my computer to play recorded conversations or my ipod to play songs for listening practice.)
·         Teach for 2 hours.  Sometimes they’re quiet, sometimes they’re studious, sometimes they’re too tired and hung over to function.  I rank their level of “naughtiness” by the number of times I have to tell them to be quiet and/or the number of times they make fun of my voice.
·         Go home and have a snack.  Sometimes I teach immediately after, but usually my next class is in the afternoon. 
·         Plan for the next day’s class, do work on my computer, clean the kitchen, read, whatever fills the time before lunch.  I rarely leave my house between classes because 1. It’s hot. 2. I have to walk down and up two steep, sandy hills to get anywhere. 3. Eating lunch in town is expensive.  (Recently I’ve been spending all my free time going to work on the English Center – about 12 minutes walk.)
·         Cook lunch using my gas stove.  I don’t usually go all out if I’m working in the afternoon – maybe heat up some leftovers or fry some meat.
·         Teach another two hours of class.
·         Make dinner or ask Haja to make it for me.  Watch a movie on my computer, read, or finish some work.
·         Go to bed around 9.

On a “Free” Day:
·         Wake up around 7 or 8.
·         Throw together a breakfast.  Sometimes Haja will make pancakes, crepes, or omelets if we have the ingredients.
·         Gather dirty laundry, fill the buckets, and wash/hang my clothes in the backyard.
·         Walk into town (20 – 45 minutes).  Buy some fresh food or supplies at the market, take care of in-town work (going to the bank, visiting offices, etc.), talk to friends at their houses or on the road, pass by the hotel with wifi to get some internet work done…
·         Return home and fire up the charcoal stove to save gas.  Easy but time consuming, this involves cutting sticks of wood into kindling, building a small fire, piling charcoal around it, and waiting for the charcoal to heat up.  We’ll usually make lunch from scratch, perhaps combining vegetables and meat in a sauce and of course cooking rice, cassava, or sometimes taro as the main dish.  Whenever Haja’s out of town, I usually just eat beans, meat, and/or veggies without the staple carb.
·         Catch up on housework or other work.  Be lazy and read a book.  Go to the beach.  Nap.  Whatever I feel like doing.
·         Eat dinner – sometimes lunch heated up, sometimes something new.
·         If I don’t have work the next morning, we might go to a bar in town to have drinks with friends.
·         Go to bed at 9 or whenever I get home.

Obviously this varies day-to-day, but I’ve rarely ever felt the “Peace Corps boredom” that so many other volunteers (especially the ones in small villages) feel.  They often go days or even weeks with absolutely nothing to do except walk around and chat with people or read books in their houses.  I go a little crazy if I’m not being productive for extended periods of time, so I’ve managed to keep myself pretty busy over the years with schoolwork and outside projects, exploring town, household chores, applying for grad school, etc.  I’ve actually found that I haven’t had nearly enough time to do the things I’d planned to do with my free Peace Corps time like reading the books on my list, drawing/painting things, and studying for the MCATs (whether I actually decide to take them or not).  I’m actually looking forward to having nothing [much] to do when I arrive home and perhaps even feeling bored again before I start grad school in September.


  1. I love "I rank their level of “naughtiness” by the number of times I have to tell them to be quiet and/or the number of times they make fun of my voice."
    You could be a "data scientist".
    It's great to hear that you made them (your students) listen to actual conversations in English (since listening skills is not part of the curriculum in public school in Madagascar due to lack of technology, I guess).

    A Malagasy Reader.

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