To celebrate the final stretch of this school year, I wanted to write a blog post about what it’s like to live and work here in St. Vincent as a Peace Corps volunteer. My daily experience sometimes feels like Groundhog Day, but it can also be completely surprising. It’s hard to decide whether I should choose an eventful day to talk about, or a quiet, more “typical day”. In an attempt to authentically represent a little of both, I’m going to give two accounts, one from a work day in the village, and one from a day where I went to town. For each of these, I took note of what I thought, felt, and did. For the record, I realize that I’m a little crazy. I estimated the times as close as possible. Since these are rather lengthy, I will separate them into two separate posts. This is the first, and the next will come at a later date. So, without any more lead up, here is my “Day in the life…”
“Typical Work Day”
6:00 am: Alarm goes off. The cat hears me moving around and immediately starts to try and beat down the door to get in. I let him in and stare at the ceiling for a while.
6:30 am: I peel myself out of bed and go turn on my kettle and get some water. I make my favourite Lady Grey tea, and take it back to bed with me.
6:45 am: I drink my tea and organize my planner for the day. I listen to the New York Times read aloud on the Audible app.
7:00 am: I basically lay around, listening to the NYT and looking at social media for an hour. I keep meaning to use this time to workout, but I’ve been feelin REAL lazy lately.
8:00 am: I finally start getting ready for work. I always have my outfits put together on hangers about a week ahead of time, so I just pick whatever is next in the rotation. I wash my work clothes about every 3 wears, so I might spray a little febreeze on them if they don’t smell great. I have to hand-wash clothes, and I’m not about to be washing clothes every other day. The beauty routine consists of putting on eyebrow powder, mascara, and some sunscreen. Then, I usually put my hair up in a messy bun or pony tail. The whole process takes about 10 minutes tops.
8:15 am: I take my lunch and dinner out of the freezer to defrost. I pre-make almost all my meals on the weekend to save on gas and effort. I fill up 2 liter sized Nalgene bottles with filtered water and pack it in my backpack to bring to school. I pack my lunch (a strawberry/ mango/ banana/ yogurt/ flax seed smoothie today) and a straw.
8:30 am I get my laptop, some construction paper from my stash, and my headphones to bring with me to school and pack everything in my backpack.
8:40 am I bid adieu to the gato and head down the hill to the school.
8:42 am A first grader catches up with me and walks with me to school, cheerfully telling me about how she is going to win the athletic award next year because she is actually faster than this years winner but got pushed by the “fat girl” during the race.
8:45 am We pass the rum shops on the road. Some men “psssst” at me. I ignore. Some people I know say, “good morning”, I happily return that greeting.
8:47 am: I cross the river via stepping-stones to get to the school.
8:50 am: The bell rings, calling everyone to “prayers”, aka morning assembly. It is a Tuesday, so the lower grades will meet downstairs, and the upper, upstairs. I go put my smoothie and water in the fridge and open up the library. Then, I go to the lower grades prayers to help supervise.
9:00 am Prayers start, they have memorized their prayers and recite them easily. There is NO separation of church and state here; so all the students are required to participate (not that anyone objects on the grounds of religious freedom). Christianity is the dogma du jour in this country, and it’s hard to find anything else (aside from some Syrian Muslims who mainly live closer to town). They usually also get a Bible story and are allowed to report any news that they might have heard. This could be anything from village gossip to global events, but usually they just talk about car crashes on the island.
9:30 am Prayers are over and everyone heads to their appropriate classes. I doink around on my computer for a while, answering emails, doing a survey for Peace Corps, etc.
10:00 am I pull out four second graders to work with me on literacy. Today we play a card game with sight words. They try to read more words than their opponents. We play this game frequently, and it’s nice to see them read the words faster and faster.
10:30 am The bell rings for break and I let them go. I take notes on what words they have down, and which ones we need to work with more. Village women and farmers come to the school to sell a variety of fruits and snacks to the kids. Today I buy a bag of 10 mangoes from a farmer for the equivalent of about $1 US. Usually they would cost more, but this farmer and I are cool, so he usually undercharges me. I repay him by being a loyal customer.
10:50 am The bell rings, calling the kids back to class. I go back into the library and put in my headphones to listen to NPR podcasts. I start my Sisyphean task of cleaning up books and organizing.
11:50 am The lunch bell rings. The kids say their prayers. Some kids walk home to get lunch, some buy from the “Tuk Shop” or kitchen. Today they eat pileau, which is rice and all kinds of veggies and meat all mixed up in a bowl. Kind of like jambalaya.
12:00 pm I get my smoothie from the fridge and position myself by the library door. I put my legs up like a turnstile and only allow the kids in who are supposed to be there. Today is grade 2’s turn, so they come to check out books, play games, read, and have me read to them. Some stray 4th graders try to force their way in, but luckily I am stronger than most 4th graders (I say most because one fourth grader did beat me in an arm wrestling contest. I have no idea how she is so strong). Anyway, I keep them out and the sassier ones stick around to chat with me and tell me how unfair I’m being (like they haven’t had the same library schedule for 2 terms). I don’t mind. They’re entertaining and remind me of myself at that age.
12:50 pm: The bell rings to end lunch. I have the grade 2 students clean up the messes they made in the library, then release them back to class. All the kids run around, trying to get a few more minutes of play in before returning to class.
1:00 pm: My co teacher comes into the library and asks for some help on an assignment. She is getting her bachelor’s degree and I frequently help her with her papers. We sit and I help her write an outline, and timeline for her research paper. Usually I go home for lunch at this time, for an hour, but not today.
1:45 pm: I get my lesson plan and materials ready for my afternoon pull out and shoot the shit with my library “helper”.
2:00 pm: Four grade 3 students come for their pull out. I read them a book called Tortilla Cat and ask them all kinds of reading comprehension questions. Mostly trying to get them to recognize setting, plot, characters, etc. They kind of stay on task, but I have to continually ask they to listen quietly as I read. One of them seems like he’s physically not capable of doing that.
2:50 pm: The bell rings for the kids to go home. They say prayers again and pack up. I lock up the library and leave at the same time. The four grade one students that usually walk home with me fight about who will hold my hand until I make them take turns.
3:00 pm: We cross the river again and chat while we walk up the hill to our homes. Some of them stop to buy snacks at the rum shops. More “pssssts” and “hey sexys” as I walk by. More ignoring by me. No one too aggressive today though, which is nice.
3:05 pm: I stop by my host mom’s house to drop off some postcards and money for postage. She works in the post office a few days a week. We chat for a while in her kitchen about this and that, then I head home.
3:20 pm: I reach home and am greeted by a joyful cat. I immediately jump in the shower. I like to shower right when I get home because I am hot and sweaty, and the cold water feels great.
3:30 pm: I put some laundry in the sink and start soaking it. I also turn on the stove and make some popcorn to have for a snack. I don’t have a microwave, so I make it in a pot with a little oil. I see that I’m almost out and add it to my grocery list for Saturday’s trip to town. I make some green tea.
3:45 pm: I eat my popcorn, drink my tea, and turn on some more NPR. I also look at what the interwebs has to offer.
4:30 pm: I hand wash the laundry soaking in my sink. It takes about an hour. I have to scrub each piece and rinse it multiple times to get the soap out. I hang it out to dry on the wire on my balcony. People greet me as they walk by on the street below.
5:30 pm: I like the Early Bird Special, so I start making my dinner. Tonight it is baked chicken breast, salsa, rice, and veggies. “Making it” consists of me throwing it in a pan to heat up with a little water.
5:45 pm: I eat my dinner and some chocolate chips for dessert. Not the best thing I’ve had, not the worst either.
6:00 pm: I do some Rosetta Stone Spanish lessons online. I try to do this every day. This meme changed my life, and I realized I needed to do something productive on the computer at least once a day instead of Facebook and Netflix.
7:00 pm: I do dishes, make some tea, and straighten up the house. I refill my water filter, feed the cat, clean out the litter box, and sweep out the kitchen.
7:30 pm I Skype with one of my best friends back home. She catches me up on her life, and I catch her up on mine. I like to Skype with someone back home at least twice a week if I can. It keeps me from going crazy missing everyone.
8:45 pm: I write in my journal for a while. I write about all kinds of things. Some days I write about what happened with me, some days I write about what happened that day, stuff I’m happy about, stuff I’m mad about, stuff I read about, what I believe, what I learned, etc. It’s like a combination captain’s log, diary, manifesto, and burn book. Today I write about what my friend and I talked about on Skype.
9:30 pm: I brush my teeth, floss, and put on some lotion.
9:45 pm: I read my book on my kindle.
10:30 pm: I shut it down and go to bed. I always sleep like a baby, one of my gifts.
So, congratulations if you made it to the end of this. This really was a typical workday for me. Nothing really happened that doesn’t happen on most other days. To me this was kind of a boring day, but also it was good because noting went too drastically wrong. Some days have curveballs that make my life really difficult, some make it more fun. I wake up every day with a general plan, but I’m never quite sure it will work out. Sample curveballs include: surprise guests, losing power, water, aggressive men, angry parents, surprise parties, torrential rain, various farm animal shenanigans, me being in a foul mood, me being in a great mood, and so many more. They always spice things up, which is probably good for me in the long run.