A Day in the Life

26 09 2012

Most Peace Corps Volunteers write a “day in the life” post. This is mine. I thought now would be a good time to write one, as it’s the first stretch of time where I’ve felt like I’ve had something resembling a routine. It won’t last long, but here’s a look at my daily life in Cambodia looks like for now.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

6:20 – My alarm goes off. Normally, I’m quick to wake up, but I did not sleep well last night. It seemed as though there was a finely orchestrated, night-long chorus of alternating claps of thunders and mice squeals. When I was sleeping, I had weird dreams. Not ready to get up yet, I decide for the third day in a row that I’ll forgo breakfast.

6:45 – I drag myself out of bed, leering enviously at Tim, who gets to sleep for another hour today. I stumble to the bathroom, where I take a shower, which entails drawing water from a large basin and dumping it over my body a few times. I quickly try to find some clothes. The 10 straight days of rain we’ve had means I haven’t been able to do laundry. I grab a pair of wool pants and an ill-fitting button down top because they’re all I have.

7:00 – I hop on my bike. It’s got a flat, but no time to fill up the tires, as I’m running behind already. I, instead, head to the market to pick up bananas, which are my contribution to the feeding session I’m about to attend. From the market, I head to the session.

7:30 – I arrive at the house of one of the village health volunteers, Ibe. Ibe is there, cutting up the pumpkin that will go in the nutritious weaning porridge we’re making for the malnourished kids in the community. After twenty minutes or so, none of the other mothers show up with their contribution so Ibe sends me back to the market, which is about 2 kilometers away.

8:00 – I head to the market, wondering why no one has shown up yet. Today is the fifth feeding session, and usually by this time a handful of mothers have arrived with food or money in hand. “Oh well,” I think, pedaling through the slippery mud, “They’ve given so much more than I expected the past few days. I’m happy to help out today.” I buy 75 cents worth of pork, two carrots, a couple of duck eggs and some rice at the market and head back. When I get back to Ibe’s house, four mothers are there, chopping greens and chatting. I’m relieved.

8:30 – I sit with the women while they prepare the porridge. They won’t let me help make the food, so I instead try to keep the children happy and occupied. I feed each of them at least two or three small bananas while we wait. I play ball with the bigger kids. The mothers discuss everything including what foods make their kids sick, the man in the community who’s cheating on his wife, why learning English is so difficult, and how to get more women to attend the feeding sessions.

9:30 – The porridge is finally ready. I nervously get out my list of names. There are fourteen mothers who are supposed to come with their young children. Attendance was low the first few days, but yesterday we went house-to-house to talk with all the families about their reasons for not coming. I thought we had broken some ground with them, but only five of the target women are here, plus a few others who always come help even though their kids are healthy.

10:00 – The number is up to ten, but we’re still missing some so I scoop some porridge into a container and go to the kids’ houses to deliver the porridge and talk with their families again. I really enjoy this part. After listening to their reasons for not coming – some of which seem more legitimate than others –  I try to negotiate with them, and leave feeling positive about our conversations.

10:45 – I finish the home visits and ride back to my house, hoping to arrive before “the monsters” do. I beat them home, great news. As I enter the house and plop down on our rattan couch, I’m thankful that Tim’s mom recently sent us a package. I dig around in the box, and pull out a bag of almonds. As I throw a handful in my mouth and begin to open my laptop, the kids arrive, ready to study English. I’m hot and tired from the running around, but the kids are full of energy and need immediate supervision.

11:00 – Only six kids show up, so it’s an easier class to teach. We spend 15 minutes coloring in our health coloring books, then talk about words related to family, wash our hands and eat some fruit. By the time they leave, I’m happy for a break.

11:15 – Tim comes home from teaching his hospitality class. We sit on the couch for a few minutes, zoning out as we check our email, Facebook and the news. Then, I head to the small balcony attached to our kitchen. This is where I do dishes.

11:45 – Tim begins to make lunch. Today, we’re having scrambled egg sandwiches, a quick lunch option with a lot of protein.

12:30 – We sit down on the couch again, this time to eat. We stream the new episode of The Office, and relax for the next twenty minutes.

1:00 – Laundry time. I head back to the balcony with a large armful of dirty clothes covered in mud and dust. I hand wash each garment, wring it out, and hang it on a clothes line that’s strewn in front of a patch of fruit trees.


2:00 – Emails. Boring.

2:30 – I spend a few minutes lesson planning for the daily English class I teach at the health center. I write out a list of words for a dictation exercise and decide on a conversation activity so the students can practice speaking some more.

3:00 – I arrive at the health center to teach. The usual crew is seated, waiting for me to arrive. There are five students, all staff members at the health center. I’ve been teaching this class since last November, so it’s my longest lasting project. It’s a fun class to teach, and I feel close to this group. Today, the students ask me about “vacation,” “light” and “faded,” words they had seen earlier in the week.

4:00 – I go back home, stopping at a friend’s house for a few minutes to “neeyay lang” (chat). She apologizes for not coming to study with me today and tells me that a patient came to her house, looking for help. The patient has low blood sugar and was dizzy, according to my friend. I am supposed to have a Skype meeting with an NGO staff member in Siem Reap at 4 o’clock, but when I get home I see an email postponing it.

5:00 – It’s time to exercise, but it’s raining. I stare at the sky a while, but decide I need to go out anyway. By the time I leave, the rain has died down to a sprinkle, but there’s a cool breeze. It’s the perfect time for a run. When I head toward the south, I’m greeted with a clear, bright rainbow. On my way back, the fiery orange sun is setting over the palm trees. It’s an idyllic view I never get sick of.

6:00 – I take another bucket shower, just as Tim is finishing up the private class he teaches on our porch each night. I quickly wash the dishes for dinner, and head off to get some work done while he cooks. I work on a document about proposal writing that I plan to post on Peace Corps’ information sharing website. I don’t get much done before Tim brings out the food.

7:00 – It’s pasta! A treat purchased in Siem Reap last week when Tim was there for work. We watch The Daily Show and catch up on each other’s days. We spend some time talking about our own projects and schedules, then decide to start planning our upcoming vacation to the southern part of the country. We poke around on a few websites looking at guesthouses and restaurants.

8:30 – I am exhausted since I didn’t sleep well the night before. I spend a few minutes stretching, brush my teeth and head to bed. Lying in bed, I think about everything I need to do for tomorrow. I’m asleep before 9:30.




One response

22 10 2013
Our Favorites | TimKat's Travels

[…] A day in the life of a Community Health Volunteer […]

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