Often times, I find that many people don’t know much about the daily life of a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV). My mom thinks I’m saving the world. My friends think I live in a hut in the middle of the African bush. And the U.S. government thinks I’m putting off my student loans for two more years.
So what does a day in the life of a PCV actually look like?
Although I cannot speak for all PCVs in Senegal, much less in the rest of the world. This is what life looks like for this PCV:
In the morning, I wake up around 6 AM to go running before the sun gets too hot. After returning from the run (and stretching, of course), I do a few morning “chores:” sweeping the floor, cleaning my room, and pulling water for the day. When these chores are completed, I finally shower and get dressed for the day.
Breakfast is usually a bean and mayonnaise sandwich from a woman a few doors down from my compound. The sandwich is followed by American coffee and some reading of The Economist. By 9 or 10 AM, I’m ready to begin working.
Because I’m most productive in the morning, any work requiring a computer is done before my room becomes too unbearably hot. By noon, my room begins to resemble a sauna (without the massage, unfortunately). Around that time, I’ll head to the market. Although I eat lunch and dinner with my host family, I like to supplement my diet by including fruits, vegetables, and protein.
After visiting the market, I’ll stop by my counterpart’s office. Sometimes we work on projects together, sometimes I work at my own desk, and sometimes I just swing by to greet him. As the Vise President of the Red Cross in Velingara, he’s a very connected member of the community and a nice person to hang out and work with.
By 1 or 1:30 PM, it’s usually time to head back to my compound for lunch around 2 PM. If lunch isn’t ready, I hang out with my grandma in her room. Fanning ourselves, we lay on her bed and chat until it’s time to eat.
After lunch, everyone rests until 4 or 5 PM. During this time, I nap, read, or watch TV. When everyone begins to emerge from their rooms, I also come out. Any meetings, classes, or other activities usually begin around this time. I may meet with a work partner to discuss upcoming trainings, teach a class on entrepreneurship, or attend a function with my counterpart.
By 7:30 PM prayers, I’m back in my compound with my family. After prayers, we lay on mats, fanning ourselves, and hanging out until dinner. Dinner is usually around 8 or 8:30 PM. When I’ve eaten, I return to my room to shower and head to bed. Most nights I’m in bed by 9 PM, much to the amusement of my family who usually stays up until midnight or later.
Although it may not sound like my days are busy – and they are quite empty by American standards – I manage to find myself exhausted at the end of the day. Life, as well as work, happens much slower in Senegal. Projects take longer to implement and meetings can last all day. As such, busy days can yield small results, no small adjustment for an American used to productive work days.
Living life at a slower pace was one of the reasons I decided to dedicate two years of my life to serving in Senegal. Thanks to my less hectic schedule, I have time to think, read, write, and understand the people around me. It is often difficult to slow down in America, but I have learned to live an unhurried life.
I may not be saving the world or living in a hut (I am putting off my student loans), but I enjoy most days in Senegal. And, like in America, if I have a bad day… there’s always tomorrow!