Monday, April 16, 2012

All in a day

A few people have requested that I share what a typical day looks like for me. So here it is, a basic (albeit very long) explanation from eyes open to close. Some things are the same as home, some things are similar (with a big influence of creativity on my part), and some things are very different… 

When I wake up, I un-tuck myself from my mosquito net on the right side of my bed… Then I make my bed so that bugs are less likely to find their way between my sheets during the day. Then I take off my socks, fold them, and place them at the foot of my bed. These are my “sleep socks” that protect me at night (don’t worry, I trade them out every 2 or 3 days)...Before I step out from under the mosquito net, I put on my flip-flops that I had set beside my bed the night before. Now I duck under my net and re-tuck it behind me (also to keep things out during the day). I usually go right to the bathroom—without being too descriptive, I will explain that after I “go” and before I wipe, I pour water from a 5L jug into a small wash basin. Then after I wipe, I wash my hands with the bar of soap sitting on my (useless) sink and the basin of water. I then pour the water into the toilet to rinse down my business.

Now I get dressed…usually involving a sports bra that I left hanging on a nail on the bathroom door a few days prior, a tank top, a short sleeved solid-color shirt, and a below-the-knee skirt.   I typically tuck in my shirt, because Ugandan’s think this looks “smarter.” Then I put on one of my two pairs of Keen sandals (I alternate these each day so they air out and prevent foot fungus.) I unlock my bedroom door (twisting the key two full turns)…If there is power, I will flip on the bedroom light, if not, I will make due without (usually by the time I wake up, there is enough sunlight to see)…I usually look in the mirror my friend Kelly gave me to assess my hair-status for the day. I tend to alternate days that I wash my hair, so if I washed it the night before, I will run my hands through the tangles and call it good…if I didn’t wash it, I will grab my baby powder and sprinkle a handful on my roots and near my neck to soak up the grease (thanks again Kate!) Usually I look less gross after this…but if it is still ridiculous, I will put my hair back in a bun and try to compensate with bobby pins and/or a headband.

Now my stomach is probably growling, so I go into my front room and open my window curtain and tie it in a knot. Sometimes, I unlock the padlock on my front door, but I rarely open it right away to give myself a few more peaceful-childless moments. However, if I am out of water, I will place my empty 5 gallon jerry-can at the edge of my veranda so the water man sees it when he does his morning bike-through. (When he comes, he takes a full jerry-can that he collected from the local water reservoir and dumps it via upside down water bottle funnel into mine. I pay him 500 shillings, say, “good morning, how are you?” in Luganda and lug the water back inside.) Now I can start breakfast. I pour water from my “drinkable” stash in to the tea kettle and I start the burner for my tea. Most mornings, I eat granola (kept in my air-tight food storage bin) and a splash of long life milk (kept in my cold-as-long-as-there-is-power fridge) and I like to drizzle locally made honey on top. Some days I make a pb&j sandwich, or I make something with eggs from the school. If I have bananas, I cut those up and make a banana, peanut butter, and honey sandwich. Yum.

I keep my aloe vera, deodorant, sunscreen, vitamins, and a devotions book directly in front of where I eat breakfast. While I allow my tea to finish boiling, I put on my deodorant, then aloe-vera (because I’m almost always sun burned) then sunscreen (obviously it isn’t that protective, but it’s good to make an effort!) then I place one multi-vitamin next to my breakfast to take when my stomach is full. Before I sit down, I pour myself tea. If there is power, I will grab my laptop from beside my bed and play iTunes while I eat. Sometimes I use this time to check my emails too. If no power, then I will eat my breakfast while reading my daily devotional and think about its meaning. Once I finish, I take my vitamin with my tea. Sometimes, when power has been on consecutively, I will place a water bottle with crystal lite powder in the fridge so I can have something cold in the morning. It’s a nice treat.

I take my dirty dishes to the “dirty dish basin” and put them in upside down (to reduce fruit flies). I take more drinkable water and pour it into a cup in the bedroom. I brush my teeth using this water, and when I’m done, I use the last of the water to rinse my toothbrush. When I finish, I put the lid back on the cup to…yep, keep the bugs out of it. At this point, I usually spend some time tidying the apartment (sweep, put dishes away, take out the trash to the nearby field used as a burn pile, etc.)

After this point, every morning differs. Sometimes the nurses arrive and we go do our work together. Sometimes George meets me at my apartment and we work on planning, writing, or discussing tasks. Some days I leave my apartment for meetings at one of the campuses. I have also had work days that involve me working alone in my apartment…those days I open my door and let the neighbor kids come sit in the doorway and watch me type.

There are two campuses for the school, my apartment is located approx. ½ a mile to each. Going in to town is a little over a ½ mile, and I really only do that when I need to buy something. If I am at one of the schools at break time (10:30am) I will eat porridge there. If I am there at 1:00, I will take lunch there, usually involving posho (flour and water solid thing) or matooke (mashed up flavor-less banana like plantains), and beans. Sometimes they serve salad (a coleslaw type dish sans the mayo) and sometimes they serve meat instead of beans. If I am at my apartment for lunch, I will either eat leftovers from the night before, a pb&j, or I’ll make a single serving of pasta.

Most of my “formal” working days end around 5:00. I usually take a couple hours to unwind with a book or my journal and some tea on the veranda. During this time, the kids from the SAC Family visit me and (try to) teach me Luganda , take pictures with my camera, and draw pictures in one of my journals. The girls from next door also like to join me on my veranda to play with my hair, sing & dance for--and if my mood is right, with--me, or just snuggle up while I read. Around 6:30-7:00 the sun starts to fade and the mosquitos start visiting. I always make sure the kids from SAC have left by now, so they don’t cross the busy highway after dusk. I will usually go inside at this point and apply mosquito repellant. If there is power, I play my iTunes and let the girls dance in my apartment while I start dinner. (The reason for only playing music if there is power, is that I can never know if it is out for a few hours, for the night, or for the next 48 hours to a week…best to error on the side of conservation, so I don’t waste battery on music that could be used for work.)If there is no power then I make sure either my candles or lantern are within reach, because once the sun drops down, it is pitch black. I also try to cook dinner faster when we don’t have power, so it is one less thing I have to do by dim light. During the power-less nights, I like to eat dinner by the light of 2 or 3 candles instead of a lantern because it gives the illusion that I’m at a nice restaurant. 

After dinner, with or without power, I was dishes. This involves spreading three basins on the floor, one has my dirty dishes (if it is overflowing, I will stack a few to the side) then two have water in them. I pour a little water in the dish basin and a drizzle of dish soap over them. At this point, I put some water in the tea kettle to start boiling. Then I wash the dishes, and place them into the second basin. One by one, I splash-rinse the dishes in the second basin to remove the soap… When the soap is gone I place them one by one into the third basin of water and let them sit until the water is boiled. I repeat this process until my dishes are washed. Then I dry my hands, put on my oven mitt, grab the tea kettle and individually rinse each of my dishes with hot water, setting them aside on the dish strainer to dry. When I finish, I pour more water into the tea kettle to heat for my bath. Then I take the soapy dish basin to the toilet and pour it out. I then rinse the remaining soap with water from the second basin and pour it out again, I repeat for the third basin. Sometimes, the basins need to be washed too, or the sponge needs to be sanitized, so I will pour more boiling water on them again. I have inevitably made a mess of the floor, so I grab my scrub brush and mop up the puddles of water.

At this point, I’m almost always sweating so I may as well exercise, right?! I try to spend about 30-45 minutes working out. By the end, I make sure the water starts heating for my bath, and I take one of my 5L jugs (if they are all empty, I will put one empty jug into a wash basin and place another basin in front of it (this is to catch the water I’m about to spill all over to reduce waste) then I place a bottomless water bottle upside down into the jug as a funnel, I bend at the knees and lift my jerry-can to re-fill the jug…now I take the spilled water I knew would come and pour it in to the wash basin in the bathroom) I pour about an inch of water into the big wash basin in the bathroom, about ½ an inch into the small basin, and I fill my solar shower bag about half way. By now, the water is boiling, so I put the glove back on and fill both basins with this water. After returning the tea kettle to the front room, I make sure my window and door are shut and locked. I take my laptop and cell phone into the bedroom and set them on the plastic stool that I use as a bedside table. Now I make sure the light is off (or the candles blown out) in the front room and I lock myself into my room with my keys. Whether or not my power is on, I always make sure the lantern is placed at the doorway of the bathroom (it only takes one mid-bath blackout to ensure this step is in place.)

Then I pull my hair into a bun, and put on my headband (since I bathe bending over, this makes my life easier. If I don’t wash my hair that night, I will not have to worry about semi-wet dirty hair) I make sure my towel is hanging on a nail on the inside of the door and my flip flops are on. I add a splash of anti-bacterial rinse to the tub these days because I was getting gross pustules all over my body from bacteria in my bathing water! Ew. I always wash my arms, then torso/back, lady parts, then feet. Then I dip my hair into the water to get it wet, and I take down my hair and was it with shampoo. I rinse my hair with the nozzle of the solar shower, and squirt the rest of me for good measure. Once I’m rinsed, I put my hair back in a bun and wash my face in the small basin. I’d like to mention that all this takes place in a squatted position on my bathroom floor, so the splash factor makes a big mess. I pour out the big basin in the toilet; move my toilet-allotted jug and water basins from the floor; return my soap container and shampoo to their place in the doorway; and I squeegee the water towards the drain in the floor. I’ve learned there is no sense getting dried off and dressed before this step because it always makes my feet wet and body sweaty again (I know, why bathe, right?!)  When the floor is cleaned, I will return the basins and water jug to the floor, always directly over the drain to prevent cockroaches from crawling through (ew, I know, so incredibly ewww!) I wash my hands in the little basin (which I purposefully left water in for this reason) and pour this out in…yep, the toilet.

Now I finally get to dry off (although, usually by now I have air dried since it’s so hot) and I put on my pjs. I brush my teeth like I did this morning. I grab the lantern and flick it on, turn off the light (if it was on) and place the lantern on my “bedside table,” I lift the edge of my mosquito net, set my flip flops leaning up against my bed, crawl under the net, put on my socks, un-tuck my sheets (after inspecting the top and under my pillow for…bugs) and I turn on my head lamp. I turn off the lantern, and put my cell phone by my pillow. I re-tuck the net securely, before getting under the sheets, experience has taught me to shine the head-lamp under to search for bugs. If the coast is clear, I will get in and lie down. Now I am probably sweating again, because I have had a long day full of work! Sometimes, I read by headlamp, or watch a tv show or movie in bed (warranting power). That’s also usually a good time to call the bf if it’s our talk-day. Many days, I am too tired to do any of that and I just go to sleep. There you have it. 

I can’t believe you read all the way to the end!  Gyebale! [Well done!]

With love,

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