September 4, 2002
A Typical Day
I had sort of a "typical" day today. I'll tell you about it so you can know what I consider normal in Africa. Brace yourselves...a typical day is not very productive!!
There's no post office in Taabo, and I wrote about 12 letters last week that I wanted to get out. Usually I mail them all to my mom and she re-mails them in the US. It's much cheaper that way on my end. I went to the Taabo taxi station, which is not a station or a building, but a place in the center of town under a big tree where the taxis gather and leave for nearby villages and towns. Just as I got there, a taxi to the town with the post office (Toumodi) was pulling away. My luck! I bought the first ticket for the next taxi and sat down to wait. Taxis don't leave on any particular schedule; they leave when they are full.
The taxis to Toumodi are old station wagons that hold eight customers plus the driver (plus usually a couple children and a couple chickens). Of course I had a book with me. I sat on a bench and read. Since the taxis are in the center of town, I also got to say good morning to about a million people. I waited an hour for the taxi to fill. Then the trip takes about an hour to Toumodi. It's not all that far - perhaps 30 miles - but you end up stopping a lot to drop people off and pick new people up.
We got to Toumodi at 9:30. I mailed my letters (no line at the post office!) and returned to the taxi station in Toumodi. Guess what? I bought the first ticket for the taxi on the way back! I waited over an hour this time. Loading the taxi was complicated due to the fact that we had more baggage than the taxi could hold. After we solved that one, we went for gas and found the first station was out of gas, so we had to go to a second gas station. No wonder things take so long in Africa. Can't they fill the taxis with gas before they fill them with people??
I had decided to walk the last 4 or 5km back, just for the exercise, since I was carrying only a book and my wallet. You should have seen the driver's face when I told him I wanted to get out - we were in the middle of nowhere!! But we've already established that the American is kind of weird, so I convinced him to let me out. I walked about an hour home. It felt good to move my legs after several hours sitting in and waiting for taxis.
I got home, ate lunch, and took a nap. I love the afternoon sieste we have here! Around 2:30pm I got up and opened my back door. This is a neighborly thing that everyone does. It sort of says, "I'm home! If you need anything, stop by!" One of the neighbor kids (not quite 5 years old) popped in announcing that his mother was sick and he needed to find something to do. I looked outside - sure enough, her door was shut. And there were no other kids around, so I knew Ariel was going to be my best friend until some other kids were up from their naps.
Rather than let Ariel touch everything in my house, I went outside with him. My yard had been cut (think machete, not lawn mower) while I was in Toumodi, so we started raking up. An older kid (12ish?) joined us and even burned the grass piles for me. Playing with fire is always good when there are kids around, right? I brought out some animal crackers to thank them for their hard work.
Fortunately, other doors were starting to open and Ariel had others to visit. I went inside and made some Kool-Aid for the kids and tea for me. I repaired some dresses that were losing their seams. I chatted with my neighbors. The kid who cut the grass came by for his money (around a dollar and a half). I did the dishes. Around 6pm the kids were driving me crazy asking for candy, so I brought out the Kool-Aid. That kept them occupied a short while.
It gets dark here every night around 6:30pm (all year round) so I shut my door to keep the bugs out. I stretched, showered, wrote a letter, and made some spaghetti. All the while I listened to BBC radio to see the status of the war with Iraq. Around 9pm I curled up in bed with a book. Oh - I also washed out the three dresses that I repaired (in a bucket). Ariel's mom usually does my laundry, but I didn't think she'd be all that excited to see me bringing laundry over if she's sick. On the other hand, when she sees that I washed the dresses myself, she'll insist on doing them over again. She's seen me do my own wash, and I'm not good at it! I admit it - I prefer a washing machine!!
So that is a typical day for me. Some days I actually work on my projects, but other days all I do is wait for taxis, take a walk, and keep the neighbor kids occupied with yard work. Toughest job I'll ever love.