Today I was thinking about how I wish I could film and show what a day in my life here looks like… I mean maybe not the whole thing, cause no one wants to watch that shit, but like a highlight reel of what a day looks like here. Then I thought, well maybe it doesn’t always have to be about showing it, perhaps I could write about it.
I wake up at 5:20am, early I know, but we like to get an early start to our day. I drink my coffee, eat a croissant, check my social media, and figure out what dress I should wear, I chose a cute Modcloth blue one today, FYI. Nothing too abnormal about that. That’s pretty similar to life anywhere. At 20 past 6, we are usually out the door and on our way to work. In order to leave the house, our guard usually unlocks and opens the gate door to our fenced in house. Sometimes he is sleeping and gets woken up by us trying to open the door.
This is where things get more interesting. What do you see on your walk to work? Well first of all, my walk to work is along sandy ‘roads’, and through the parking lot of the US Embassy. Every morning I walk by a multitude of goats, begging my boyfriend to let me steal a baby one, but alas, he just laughs at me. Usually we see at least 5 armed guards outside the gated houses, as well as a few more outside the embassies we pass by. For some reason every morning there is a woman outside the gate of a house with a little fire going. Still haven’t figured out what she’s burning or why.
Then along the walk, we usually encounter at least one person, usually female, walking while balancing something on their head. I still don’t understand how they do it. Sometimes I have seen huge buckets full of things, or massive burlap sacks of things. As soon as we turn onto the road our school is on, along with bunch of different embassies, lately there have been 18-wheelers parked outside the US Embassy, as there is lots of construction going on. When you walk by the trucks parked on the side of the road, early in the morning you will notice men have created beds underneath the trucks on the under carriage area. Not sure if they are the truck drivers, workers, or who they are, but it does not look very comfortable to say the least.
As we approach our gate to our school, the guards greet us and let us in. Exchanging formalities in French, “Bonjour” and “ça va?”, I am trying to get better at my conversational French. We spend some time in the teacher’s lounge (as we get to work about an hour before school actually begins), usually preparing for the day ahead.
Most of the day is spent teaching, which has been a complete change to my previous experiences in the field. I only have 6 students in my Grade 4/5 class, and I am teaching a couple high school art classes. It has been interesting, to say the least.
After school, we leave at different times, depending on the day, and what after school activities we have planned. I am currently in charge of Yearbook as my extracurricular activity that I run, meaning I am also in charge of doing school photos, which I am super psyched about. On our way home, we once again go through the gate, exchange formalities with the guards, “Bon Soir”.
On our walk home we encounter men sleeping under the truck again, completely wrapped from head to toe in blankets, to block the sun I assume. And I even saw a man washing his clothes under one today, in a bucket full of soapy water. I exchange formalities with the guards at the American Embassy, to be sure they are cool with us walking through the parking lot. Which they have only ever not been okay with it once. And then we carry on our way, usually stopping at the store along the way.
The “corner” store has pretty much everything we need to get by, though we do make trips on the weekend to bigger stores. Today we only bought produce, picking up a half kilo of tomatoes, two cucumbers, 3 green peppers, a red onion, half kilo of bananas, 3 avocado, and a bag of peeled garlic (about an average palm full), which I ordered from the produce guy in my best French (I am doing so good with). Basically the store has a produce stand out front and you order from the guy and he will get it, weigh it and give you a price. I still don’t understand how much things actually cost each, but for all that we got today it was only 3500CFA (XOF aka francs) which is the equivalent to $5.94US ($7.85 CAD, it sure it hard thinking in 3 currencies). That is pretty good for all that produce, at least compared to Marshall Islands, I can’t even remember grocery prices in Canada.
From there, we journey on home. Usually with me stopping to take photos of goats, donkeys or camels. Cause we see at least two of the three every time we walk home. We sometimes have children ask us for some of our food, if not at least say ‘bon soir’ to us. I’d say at least 70% of the people we walk by stare at us for a little while. Then we approach our gate, where sometimes the guard is outside and lets us in, or sometimes we have to tap on the door and our guard comes and opens it to let us in.
After that, I usually grudgingly work out on the roof with my boyfriend. I hate working out, but since we don’t walk much here (only 20 minutes to work, 20 minutes back) and spend a lot of time inactive, I don’t want to get unhealthy. A typical meal cooked here for us is all those fresh veggies I just said we bought, mixed with couscous (cold), hard boiled egg, chickpeas and a balsamic and oil dressing I whip up. It’s delicious.
Then night time is usually fairly boring, with some school work, eating, watching a movie and going to sleep fairly early, all to start the process over again in the morning.
And that’s a day in my life, in Niamey.