This week contained the American Holiday of Thanksgiving, and for the second time in a decade I find myself outside the US for this distinctly American holiday. I find myself feeling more grateful than I have in quite some time, thanks to the last few months living in Rwanda and its inevitable way it shifted the way in which I experience the world.
Why am I so full of gratitude lately?
I am thankful for my education.
Lord knows I have enough of it and sometimes it was a struggle to get and pay for, but never, not even once, did not think that I couldn’t finish high school or go to college. I may have been/be on the most circuitous path ever, but dropping out of school because I’m female has never crossed my mind.
I was a latchkey kid, got myself up and fixed my own breakfast from about 8 years onward, and caught the school bus until I could drive, but these struggles are nothing compared to what many students in Rwanda face. Many students walk up to six kilometers every morning to get to school, some without shoes over the hilly and rocky terrain. Some struggle to concentrate, because their growling stomachs compete for their mental attention. They sit snug as bug next to their classmates — three, sometimes four to a wooden desk — in the hot or cold classroom of up to 60 students. They rely one notebook and one pen with zero additional educational materials. Kids return home, make dinner for their families, sell food at the market, and take care of their younger siblings. And repeat it all, the next day.
Living in a place where so many students stop attending school after primary school… primary school! reminds me how much of a gift my education is. I am lucky for the teachers that challenged me and the resources made available to me, and while I can’t name every teacher I’ve ever had, I do remember some of the more special ones and am thankful for them on a regular basis.
I am thankful for the kindness in my life.
Rwanda is not an easy place to be a foreigner, and I’d guess it’s probably not that easy to move to a different area within the country. My guess for that is due to the genocide that occurred almost 25 years ago. Depending on their age, most adults in Rwanda were alive during that period either as babies, children, or young adults themselves. It doesn’t come easy or natural for Rwandans to trust outsiders. That being said, I have experienced kindness while I’m here. The people I work with who help me learn Kinyarwanda on a daily basis. The people who have helped me find my way when I’ve gotten turned around. Kindness comes in many forms here, but one usually has to prove his or her worthiness in order to receive it so it’s nice to experience true kindness with no strings attached.
I am thankful for life’s challenges and the values instilled by overcoming them.
It’s the hurdles I had to jump in the past that make me the driven, independent person that I am happy to be today. If it weren’t for the bumps along the way, I would not have had the opportunity to grow in ways that I did and continue to do.
As much as I have dealt with and overcome in my life, people in my community face an entirely different set of challenges than challenges I have faced and ever will face. Their resilience, perseverance, and unwavering hospitality in these times of difficulty, is admirable. Going through tough times in America, while still challenging, is not the same as going through tough times in Rwanda.
I am thankful for learning more about myself.
As noble as “saving the world” sounds, a majority of my Peace Corps experience thus far has been a heroic adventure of self-discovery. I have found the beauty in stepping outside of my comfort zone and saying “yes” to self-growth opportunities. I have practiced patience, continued to learn the value of making mistakes, and appreciate the importance of perseverance. I am becoming more sensitive to what makes me happy or sad, and making decisions based on those observations. Self-respect starts with making decisions with your happiness [among other things, of course] in mind.
I am so grateful that my time here has allowed me to grow in these ways.
I am thankful for my friends and family.
Though there are few places on Earth I could be where I would be physically farther from my peeps, my time away has made us closer in many ways. In order to join the Peace Corps, I had to quit a job, ‘alter’ a relationship, and give up my kitty cats to the care of another person. The support from my friends and family allowed me to start a new chapter of life in Rwanda.
Separation often acts as a test, whether it intentional or unintentional, and to my delight, I have a small little team of supporters cheering me on this adventure of mine. While I probably could have survived [ definitely not thrived] without them, it makes it a whole lot easier knowing that someone I know is watching Lucy and Molly, people are sending me little notes and gifts, letters and postcards, and people are generally interested in what I am doing.
I am thankful for a gained perspective on the world and its people.
I’ve traveled a fair amount prior to joining the Peace Corps. I’ve even been outside the country for an extended period of time before. I always try to be a temporary local rather than a tourist whenever I go some place new. But staying in a neighborhood for a week or even a month at a time is not the same as staying in one place for a year [or two if I make it that long]. Being in the Peace Corps gives one the opportunity to truly immerse oneself in a community, and if that person is lucky, have the community accept them as one of their very own.
I often think to myself how lucky I am to be experiencing the world through a different lens while I spend each day immersed in a community on the other side of the world. With each culture brings unique values and it has been enlightening and refreshing to experience Rwandan values, and see how they take precedence over things that are often obsessed over in the American world, such as technology, material items, money and work. Life here has changed my perspective on my personal values and I am grateful for the lifelong lesson my neighbors has taught me.
I am thankful for my cohort.
We are now a group of 22 unique and individual souls having lost a member just a few weeks ago. [She went home; she didn’t die]. To be honest I would have never even crossed paths with a lot of my cohort, let alone entertained friendship. But at almost 6 months in, I now have a ‘brother’, and a handful of close friends in the cohort which makes sticking out through the tough times a little easier. Being together [however brief] during this last week has made me realize how much I miss those who don’t live so close to me.
My house is a two room brick structure surrounded by concrete with with a tin roof. It has intermittent electricity, and there’s no wi-fi to be found. So how do I manage to blog from my rural Rwandan village?
Here’s what I have in the way of technology:
Gone are the days of firing up the laptop, connecting wireless-ly to the cloud, and writing while also uploading and editing photos. Gone are the days of having 10 tabs open at once. After some months of trial and error, these are the steps I now take to produce one blog post:
I can, and have, written and published many posts entirely through my phone. I prefer to type on a computer for quantity and quality writing.
This set up works OK… Not great…Not perfect but it gets the job done. I for one will be glad to returning to the land of Starbucks and free wi-fi sooner rather than later.
One of the things I said before joining Peace Corps was ‘It’s not as if I am going to prison; I’m volunteering. I can leave if I decide to leave.”
Well, as a result of the Peace Corps’ sharing spirit, I was recently gifted Seasons 1-6 of Orange is the New Black. [In return, I contributed The Americans Seasons 1-6 to the vast share drive that is Health 10]. In case you are just as out of tuned with pop culture as I am, Orange is the New Black is a book [and Netflix series] about life in a women’s prison. [Also I now want to read the book]. Turns out Peace Corps service is a lot like prison. [For the record, I have never actually been to prison or even jail so my observations on similarities are solely based on my 5 months in the Peace Corps and a TV show].
How exactly are the Peace Corps and prison similar? Glad you asked…
Applying to the Peace Corps is an arduous process even with the ‘new’ system rolled out in 2014. My guess is they make the application process so difficult because serving is so difficult. If filling out the require paperwork makes you break into hives, then there’s no way you will be a successful volunteer. I’ve had a lot of questions about what the application process is like and what my specific timeline was so I thought I would write it down as best as I can remember according to my own memories and my “real’ memory, courtesy of gmail, which records every important incident in my life. Fair warning. This is long… and there’s no pictures.
I spent 1 year, 8 months trying to get in the Peace Corps and as of today, I have 1 year, 10 months remaining to serve… Barring natural disasters, or any other as of now unforeseen legitimate reason to leave Rwanda.
My absolute first experience with crepes occurred in 2010 during my South America sojourn when fellow traveler [and now friend] Emilie offered to make some. Emilie was a former pastry chef in France so if anyone would know anything about crepes, it would be her. As those memories are now fuzzy and clouded by copious alcohol consumption, I sure they were delicious. Everything she made was delicious.
Fast forward a couple years and I am back in America, living and working in a small town called Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina. One of my fellow co-workers and RNs, had decided along with her husband to take an abandoned building is said town on open a creperie. Before the restaurant actually open, Kristin brings several varieties of crepes to work to allow us hungry health care workers to sample and give feedback as to whether this particular rendition should make it on the menu. A few months later, Tandem opens and 4 years after opening, it’s still going strong.
Fast forward again to 2018, and I’m in quite literally the middle of Africa, in southern Rwanda, and my closest stage-mate just happens to be a fantastic cook who just so happened to spend some time in France. Whether the two are related, I don’t know, but I digress. Anyway, said mate and I get together at regularly planned intervals for cooking and movie watching. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, can easily pass on chocolate and Nutella, but nearly go bananas for cinnamon apples, a recent addition into my food repertoire called Biscof cookie butter, and bananas foster. I also love savory crepes filled with bacon, eggs, and cheese. Needless to say I was excited to learn how to make this ‘fancy’ dish and was promised it was easy. It is. If I can do it, so can you.
What you will need [obviously adapt this to your surrounding. If you’re in America, you can probably find All-Purpose flour. In Rwanda, not so much]
Tools of the trade
See. Easy Peasy, and tasty AF.
1: Number of times I had pizza. Although advertised as ‘cheese pizza’ it certainly had a lot of onions on it. Also the number of kilograms of peanuts and sugar purchase since August.
2: Number of times I go to the market each week. Once to the Huye market and once to the Mbazi market. I absolutely hate the market and as much as I hate the grocery store, I’m looking forward to just having to deal with Publix instead of 10 different people for 10 different items. Also number of kilograms of rice and beans purchased since August
4: Number of new dishes I have learned to cook courtesy of my closest fellow volunteer who loves to cook
5: Number of times I have fixed spaghetti in the 2 months I’ve been at site. I went a couple of weeks without but now it’s my Friday night activity along with watching a movie—dinner and a movie… I’m leading a fancy life over here among the hills.
6: Number of Rice Krispies Treats eaten in one day [I received 8 in a care package; had self control on day 1 and 2, then….] 3 number of days said rice crispy treats lasted
8: The number of times I’ve eaten at the local Chinese restaurant. 4 number of different dishes I have tried at said restaurant.
12: Number of recipes in my current rotation. Other than the spaghetti, this ensures that I eat something different every day in a two week period. [soups, sandwiches, potatoes, eggs, and rice and beans make up the bulk of my diet]
15: KG the amount of gas I bought in August that I am hoping will last me until February [or longer]
23: The total number of pounds lost since my arrival in Rwanda; also the number of pounds of pizza the average American eats.
24: Number of Fanta Citrons consumed since my arrival to the South [This may or may not be a lot, but it is my only beverage other than water. And it’s much better for me than Dr. Pepper.
52 (out of 60): Number of times I have skipped ‘the most important meal of the day‘. Mornings and I are not friends. Even in Rwanda when everyone is up with the sun.
500 RWF: Cost on a 500ml Fanta in a restaurant. 1 or 2: Number of Fantas I drink per week.
1440: The number off calories my fitness pal says I am supposed to eat per day. 0: the number of times I have exceeded 1440 calories in one day; although one time I did exceed the number however the total was offset by the gratuitous amount of walking I did that day upping my calories to 2145 for the day… I came nowhere near 2145 calories.
3500 RWF: The average amount I spend at the market buying the following: Cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, red onions, green beans, green peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, mandarin oranges, apples, and bananas + bread and cake.
I received my nomination to Madagascar in July 2017, moved from the apartment I was living in to the house I now own in October/November 2017, didn’t board the plane to Madagascar in February 2018, re-evaluated the suitcase now headed for Rwanda in May 2018. The suitcase[s] were packed and re-pack 3 times before I even left the US, but the question is, did I do a good job packing? Did I pack the right things? Is there something I wish I had packed but didn’t? Is there enough clothing, or too much? Is my kitchen too ‘extra’ or just ‘extra enough? Let’s see
Let’s start with the bags. I have so.many.bags. It’s unreal. My big green duffel bag’s handle broke during one of the many transfers during PST. It’s now used as a bedside table. The main compartment has stuff left here by the previous volunteer [think mosquito net and some clothes] + clothes that no longer fit me nor can I make them work. I’m using the small pocket on the top at a drawer of sorts where I keep my Vaseline, nail maintenance tools, and my battery operated foot scrubber. I’ve used the larger outer pocket as sort of a trash collector. I gathered so many papers/books, ect during PST that I don’t/won’t use anymore, and I hate the idea of burning trash so I jsut put it there. Out of site, out of mind.
The Osperey Backpack and REI backpack were solid choice which are now empty, hanging on the wall waiting patiently to be put to use again.
Another volunteer and I bought a Target suitcase set the day before leaving [and some clothes], and I have the carry-one size suitcase. The bag is fully packed waiting on its return trip to America in February. It will bring back a lot of things to America that I don’t need, and will bring to Rwanda a lot of things I do need [mainly food items]. I’m also taking home a few things for a fellow PCV that he will pick up upon his return to American.
My checkered tote bag served its purpose in getting my electronics here, but now sits lonely under a table. I almost always use my backpack for quick trips around town and going to the market for the sole reason that I can carry my backpack on my back.
My leather purse will be going back to America. It has literally been used once.
My daily backpack was packed in side another bag. I use this bag the most and honestly it probably won’t make it the two years. I also used this bag for my entire nursing program and paid less than $20 for it in 2014 so I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth out of it.
I have a small canvas bag that I use for my weekly market trips. I bought it at Primark for about 10 Euros in 2012/2013 that is serving it’s purpose well, and I won’t be taking it back to the US
I have acquired two more bags since arriving in Rwanda [I know. I have a problem] One’s a padded tote and the other is more like a small cross body purse. Currently they are serving as wall decoration. I bought them more for souvenirs than anything, but the padded tote will house my computer [if it survives that long] and my camera when I COS.
The green Osprey bag is going back to America and not returning to Rwanda. I plan to have my orange backpack + the padded tote and small fabric purse as the only bags when I leave. The rest are staying in Rwanda and I really don’t care what happens to them.
In the terms of every day life, I didn’t pack a ton of clothes. In PC-land, I have way too much clothing.
To revisit I had the following:
I didn’t pack a lot of house things since I knew I’d be living with a host family the first three months. Instead I packed a box, and shipped it to me the day before I left. In retrospect this was one of the better decisions I made concerning packing. Things inside the box included:
Each of these things was worth the space and cost of sending myself the box.
I am over all happy with the household things I have, and the only thing I wish I had was a water bottle. How I overlooked this is beyond me.
You will hear people say this, and if you are anything like me, you won’t believe it, but here goes anyway: Pack half the clothing and double the snacks of the original packing plan. I legitimately wear the same clothing All.The.Time. 4 pairs of pants would have been sufficient. Maybe 6 or 7 shirts. In a country like Rwanda, villagers wear the same clothing all the time so it’s not weird if you do to.
When I was preparing to go into Peace Corps|Madagascar, I read a lot of PC blogs from a lot of countries and I found that there are a plethora of “Day in the Life of a PCV” posts out there. At first, I read them with fascination, completely hooked on every activity.
5:30am – Wake up.
My thoughts: Wow! They get up so early! They must be so productive! I’d also like to point out that this was my usual bedtime for non-working days in the US. I am the epitome of a night owl.
6:00am – Start cooking breakfast.
My thoughts: Wow! I wonder what they’re eating? How do they cook? How long does it take? I’ve never really been one to eat breakfast… mostly because that’s my bedtime.
7:00am – Fetch water.
My thoughts: Wow! Fetching water! Just like Little House on the Prairie!
I know. I am a Peace Corps nerd.
Truth be told, my day-to-day life in the Peace Corps is, not unsurprisingly, much like day-to-day life in America. We get up, we do what it takes to eat,, and clean up. We work, we sweat, we come home, we bathe, eat again, and we relax. We have days off, we travel, we come home and panic about how much work we have to catch up on. See? Just like at home.
Well, almost. Peace Corps life, while much like life at home in some ways, also has its dramatic differences. I think a lot of people really wonder: just what are you doing over there aside from your assigned job? Today, instead of the hour-by-hour breakdown of my daily routine, I want to give you a glimpse of what fills my days.
I’ve never been one for routine, but in rural Rwanda it’s all about the routine. Here, I rarely use an alarm clock. Instead, the roosters go off around 4:30am, and continue pretty steadily and increasing incremental volume until around 5:30am when I am awake and just procrastinating getting out of bed. I usually get up around 7 or so depsite the roosters cockle-doodle-ing for hours[In Ecuador, it was the monkeys howling, here roosters. At least the monkeys are cute. I threaten the roosters with my soup pot]
First order of the day: eating. Like many volunteers, I try to organize meals around what will involve the least amount of dish washing and water consumption. For me, this is generally a piece of bread and a fruit, usually a banana or sometimes an apple. I don’t drink coffee or tea so it’s usually just 500ml of water to go with it. On the mornings when I have a wild hair to do something crazy and have extra time or Saturday or Sunday, I may whip up a batch of pancakes complete with hot chocolate. [<—–This does not happen often].
After eating, it’s usually time to haul water. I use about 80-90 liters of water a week, all of which must be hauled by hand or head from about 150m away. I usually haul water 2x/week. 50L at a time. [of course during the frequent water shortages, this chore become infinitely easier as there is no water to haul] Then, I have to treat and filter my drinking water. Next, I may glance around and find dead insects or any number of other deceased night invaders. Sometimes I find a dead mouse head if SadieMae [the friendly compound cat] has been a good cat instead of a lazy cat.
Finally, it’s time to dress myself for work and head out to the clinic. Or maybe someone has given birth overnight and I’m doing baby measurements. Or maybe I’m going to the market to buy some vegetables. Maybe I have a meeting, and everyone is likely to be two hours late. Either way, these work related activities can take up a good chunk of the day, and as a rule it’s always longer than I expected it to take.
By mid-afternoon, if it’s not raining, the sun is hot and it’s time to ‘rest’ or in my case get some chores done and cook my big meal of the day. This means dishes, laundry if I’m getting desperate for underwear, taking a bath if I’m feeling extra ambitious, and hauling the water to go with those activities. Laundry must be hung to dry, and it can take a few hours to hand scrub sweat stains out of T-shirt sleeves.
As the sun creeps lower in the sky, I might fire up my the stove. I’m still wary of cooking with gas. I have a somewhat not-so-irrational fear of blowing myself up. Then, cooking. I never know what I want so often I boil water and cook vegetables or something easy. Finally, just as the mosquitoes are coming out, I’m headed under the bed net. I use this time to edit pictures, blog, write letters,talk to my US peeps, or read. Sometimes I read for fun; other times I’ve got my nose stuck in medical books. I’m usually in bed no later than 9pm, but often don’t actually try for sleep until 11p or 12a. (Once a night owl, always a night owl).
So there’s a day in the life of a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Rwanda. And this is just a village day. Conference days are really different.[Breakfast at the ungodly hour of 7a; meetings all day] Travel days are different in that they involve a whole lot more sitting and gnashing of teeth [get to bus station, buy ticket, wait for bus, sit on bus, arrive to Kigali. change buses,ect] . Each of us do the same chores and daily routine activities that we did back in America, but here, these things can take half the day instead of a few minutes. Take laundry for example: instead of wadding up my dirty clothes, tossing them in the machine, pouring in soap, and walking away and doing something else for a bit, laundry here can take hours. I have to first haul the water, get the clothes soaked and soaped, scrub until my knuckles are raw, do a whole rinse cycle in a different bucket, then wring everything and hang it to dry. While you learn little tricks to cut down on the time consuming nature of these activities [like soaking your clothes in a bucket of water and soap overnight], maintaining ourselves at our sites takes a lot of our time and energy.
Work, which can vary with the day of the week, takes up the other large bulk of our time. Babies come when they want whether a meeting is scheduled or not. Screenings can take all day. For example, if a mom/baby doesn’t show up to a scheduled meeting, we have to chase them down. Is the baby OK? Are they eating? Is mom OK? If it rains or there’s a funeral, your whole daily plan might fly out the window and you have to start rescheduling things all over again.
Day to day life here is full of little joys, little disappointments, and lots of the regular things we did back home, but now we do them Africa-style. In Peace Corps, no one day is quite like the next, and if you ask me, that’s the best kind of daily routine.
Welcome to my first post in the series called Cooking in the Corps. By the end of the series, there will be [hopefully] a collection of 27 [see what I did there] recipes that I personally cooked in my kitchen either on the gas stove or the imbabura. A couple of these are of my own creation, but most are modified versions of dishes my fellow PCV Taylor taught me to cook.
Spaghetti with tomato sauce was my first meal at site. We were installed on a Thursday and this was Thursday night’s dinner [and Friday’s lunch]. Once the gas stove was set-up and tested, and once Peace Corps’ left, the first order of business, even before unpacking suitcases, making my bed, or any other essential task, was to fetch water and set about making the spaghetti sauce. I’d planned this meal from Kigali and acquired the vegetables needed while there so that there would be no difficulty in finding what I need. A hungry Michelle is not a happy Michelle and hungry Michelle makes snap decisions/judgments that a satiated Michelle would not make.
Turn gas on and pour water in pot. Dice all vegetables and add to water. Add 2/3 of the garlic to vegetables. Add tomato paste to pot. Stir. Add about a tablespoon of salt and a teaspoon each of pepper, oregano, and rosemary. [Add more if the flavor isn’t to your liking]. Bring sauce to boil and reduce heat. Allow sauce to simmer for 15-20 minutes until water cooks out.
While sauce is simmering, add water to another pot. Break spaghetti in half and add to boiling water. Cook approximately 7-10 minutes until noodles are done. Drain water.
Pour noodles on plate.
Take one loaf of bread and cut lengthwise. Slather in butter and add garlic.
Put face down in fry
Super easy and super tasty.
This is the last post in my series From Trainee to Volunteer relating the trials and tribulations transitioning from Peace Corps’ Trainee to Peace Corps’ Volunteer [See the others here: Swearing In, Site, Goals, and Expectations]
The first time I cried during Peace Corps service was Monday during site visit. We arrived on Saturday, and that Saturday morning had been last meal. Also keys to the latrine and shower were missing and I was told to ‘just use what the others are using’. There are a lot of things I can deal with but sharing bathroom facilities with 20 or so others isn’t one of them. And so I didn’t. I only went to the bathroom at the health center and didn’t bathe for the entire week [yeah, by Friday, I was pretty disgusted by myself].
I brought snacks—peanuts, eggs, chips, a couple of bananas and 8L of water smuggled out of St Agnes—I didn’t realize that these snacks would be my only food for three days. I went to work that Monday morning—really in a state of shock—came back at lunch, went in the room that is now the kitchen, sat on the floor and cried. Big, giant ugly tears. I was hungry. I didn’t know where anything was to even get food. Other volunteers were staying with host families and current volunteers. I was in a two room house with no electricity [let me clarify that the house has electricity; I just had no way to access it during site visit] by myself. I called a friend and said ‘I have to get out of here now’, and to his credit, he didn’t say ‘just tell me when to pick you up.’ He probed around for the cause of my mini-mental breakdown, and we created a plan for getting me food which would lead to a better head space—one that was more equipped to deal with the challenges of serving in the Peace Corps.
All this to say that it was not love at first sight at my site. I arrived late in the afternoon on Thursday and the first thing I did was set up a basic kitchen. We’d missed lunch and St. Cristus’ breakfast was not nearly as complete as St. Agnes’ breakfast was and I knew that the last thing I wanted was to have another meltdown due to lack of food since I still did not know where anything was. I had my pots and pans and a special bag of food I’d gotten in Kigali in preparation for making this meal easily accessible, and set about making my first meal.
Later on a full belly, I set about unpacking and settling in. I hung my US Flag, SC flag, US map and UT flag on the walls. I hung two large ikitenge fabrics on the walls. I made my bed then sat on the couch and opened up my first care package [from me]. While eating a Heath Bar [that amazingly didn’t melt] and reading going away cards/letters, I formulated a plan to turn the two rooms on the corner into something of a home.
My bedroom has these amazing brown curtains that have hung in every place I’ve lived since 2009. My bed has two pillows [from home], a nice weight quilt [from Target] and a fuzzy blanket [from T-2000]. Next to the bed, my large duffel bag now serves as an end table. I keep all my electronic cords here since it’s near the outlet and I use electronics in bed anyway. [I know…I know…bad sleep hygiene]. The large green bucket has many uses but most of the time it serves as my dirty clothes container. I have a small trash can that I put trash in. On the floor I have my small rug [purchased in Rwamagana] that allows me to walk around barefoot. The accordion wall hanger, an over the door hanger and about 15 nails make this room ‘homey’. Lastly I’ve hung a few photos up on one side of over my bed, and cards, notes, and motivational sayings on the other side.
I had a local carpenter make a table that I sit my two metal chests on. [The smaller chest contains socks, underwear, tank tops, ect and the larger one tops and pants.
My living room is more generic with the sofa, two chairs, and coffee tables all belonging to the landlord. In this room, I just moved the furniture to a different location than where the previous volunteer had it. I hung up the flags, added some glow in the dark stars, another accordion wall hanger, and a hook for my moto helmet. I have a small stool and two basins by the front door for no other reason than I don’t know where else to put them and that space looks empty.
The curtains hanging over the two windows and front door I made myself from a panel of ikitenge fabric I’d bought because I liked it, but had no idea what to do with it. I also like that it’s black, and although not black-out does a decent job of keeping it dark. I keep the windows open nearly 24/7 [I know…. I know… bad example for preventing malaria], and most of the time the breeze coming in keeps it pretty cool in here.
The latrine is your basic squatty potty, but instead of just having a hole directly underneath, this one has a concrete step and is built at an angle. So I have to pour water in after I use it to ensure the products end up in the intended destination. I have to ‘flush’ my latrine.
I’m most impressed with my little shower room. I still don’t shower every day [for example, I’m not getting naked outside when it’s cold out], but this room makes is a lot nicer when I do. I keep all my supplies together so it’s a ‘just add water’ situation when I do shower. It still smells like shit but what can you expect when it’s located next to the cow stalls and has ‘open-air ventilation.’
Finally on the tour of my little house on the corner is the kitchen. I spend more daylight hours in this room than any other, and not because I’m in there cooking all the time. Twenty five nails in the wall have made this kitchen a home. I have a place for the pots and pans, the hand towels, the oven mitts, coffee mugs, and kitchen utensils.
One table, courtesy of the health center, holds my gas stove, PC-issued water filter, and a dish drain. I had a table similar to the one in my bedroom made and keep it in the kitchen. I use this one for food prep and dry goods storage. The 4 tier plastic shelf holds fruits and vegetables as well as plates and plastic storage. The chair in the corner was relocated from the house. I moved it from the bedroom to the kitchen. It gives me a place to sit ‘outside’ but still inside. I also have a small stool and two basins that are put into use when I’m doing dishes or laundry. My favorite pieces are the two shelves I made from scrap wood. I’ve got one hanging in the kitchen as a spice rack of sorts, and the other in the shower room holding toiletries.
I still miss my little house in the country, and the two kitties that live there, but over the last month, taking the time to make this a little space a little more like me, makes it easier to be away from my ‘real’ home.