26 October 2008
A few people have asked me to describe a typical day in our life here. After thinking about it, I thought it would make for a good story, and if nothing else, bring a smile and a laugh to your heart wherever you are in your busy routine today. I had a pretty good day today, so let me tell you about it…

It all starts at about 4:30am with the loudest rooster ever known to man perching himself right outside my window and screaming into my ear. I roll over in bed and try to ignore the fire engine-like noise outside my window. At 5:30am, I finally roll out of bed and stroll into the “kitchen area.” I pour some water out of the large container of washing water I draw from a nearby well into a kettle and turn on the gas burner that rests on the dirt floor to boil the water for a “bath.” While I’m waiting for the water to boil, I try to do my little morning workout routine so that I don’t evolve into a fat slob while I’m here. Finally, the water is ready, and I head outside to the “bathing area/ outhouse” wearing a headlamp because it’s still dark out. First a trip to the “squatty potty” – yeah, I know – gross, but if you have never had the pleasure of using one of these babies, you are really missing out…oh the joy. Next for a bath. I hang up my headlamp on a rusty nail in the outhouse structure so that I can actually see my surroundings and make sure that I’m washing myself with soap and not toothpaste. I have carried the water out in a small plastic basin. Next, I squat down and just kind of begin throwing water on myself to get wet, scrub down with a bar of soap, and then try to rinse off with the remaining water in the basin (I’ve learned the hard way to make sure that I have enough water to rinse off all the soap before I leave the house). After drying off with my little REI camp towel, I stroll back into the house, get dressed, and apply the daily amount of sunscreen to avoid severe sunburn which can be caused by the malaria medication we’re taking (a lot of good that medication has done me by the way). Now I’m ready for the morning chores.

It has begun to be daylight outside, so I grab my two ten-liter water containers and head outside for my morning trek to the spring to get drinking water. The process to get a glass of clean, safe water to drink here is a bit of a hassel. First, I make this walk to the spring every morning – 10 minutes down to the spring, and 10-15 minutes back. There’s usually a line at the spring of mamas and their kids getting their morning supply of drinking water. They get a real kick out of watching this big clumsy white dude lumber down the goat path every morning to fetch water with them. These ladies are incredible. Most of them carry at least a 5 gallon bucket full of water on their heads for much, much farther than I have to – sometimes as much as 30 minutes – to get back to their house. After I fill up, I attempt to kill the 50 mosquitoes that have been swarming around my head at the spring, pick up the water, and start the trek back up the long hill. Once I get back to the house, I pour the water into this giant plastic container we keep on the dirt floor in the corner. Next, I boil a whole crapload of the water to kill parasites, bacteria, krypto, and other nasty stuff that can kill you or make you miserable. Then I pour the boiling water into a bunch of pots I set around the floor. You see, I have to wait for the water to cool before the next step. After the water cools, I pour the water into this water filter canister that filters out mud, grass, and other goodies. Lucky for me, it only takes a mere 24 HOURS to filter about 3 gallons of water. So, 24 hours later, I can open the spigot on the filter and drink a safe glass of water.

After the spring water is collected, boiled, and left to cool, the next chore is collecting washing water – water for “baths”, dishes, laundry, shaving, washing hands, etc. That water comes out of a 34 foot well behind our house. So, next I grab another 10 liter container tied to a 35 foot rope and head out back. I repeatedly lower the bucket into the well, draw out the water, and pour it into a large plastic bucket until the bucket is full. When it’s full, I carry it inside and pour it into a MUCH larger container inside that we draw from and use in the house. It usually takes four or five trips to fill it up daily (you’d be shocked at how much water the four of us use in one day).

After a yummy breakfast of toast and Nescafe instant coffee mix (mmmmmm), I’m ready to start work for the day. A lot of times there are meetings to do first, but I will skip that for now because that’s boring stuff. I grab my notes, GPS, and water, and head out the door on a little walk to the field. It takes approximately one and a half hours to walk up and down hills over busted up dirt roads and goat paths to get to the community area where we are working. The walk is great – it gives me a chance to plan out the day and sort through things in my life. I get a lot of thinking done on these morning strolls. A lot of those thoughts are ones that you end up reading about in these blog postings.

After I arrive at the link-up point (usually the local “clinic”), I settle in for the wait. Most of the people I’m meeting with are either really late or really early. Most of them don’t have watches, so they just do their best to judge the sun’s position in the sky and arrive on time. Once I meet up with my guys, we begin our work for the day. Work in the field usually involves a lot of walking. We are currently collecting data to establish a baseline from which to measure our performance here using our metrics. Basically that means that we need to meet a lot of farmers and ask them a lot of questions. We walk all over the sub-location (like a county back home) collecting data on the need of the community and loading GPS waypoints that we’re using to construct a map of the area. As I walk with my guys, we talk. We talk about their individual struggles, their ideas for development in the community, and their hopes for their families. These guys are all volunteers by the way…never asking for a single shilling even though I take them away from the farm work they need to do. They are selflessly committed to seeing their community come out of poverty. We are currently working with them in a trial period to see if they will make good candidates for the Community Development Committee. If they are chosen, they will begin receiving a meager salary from the program to enable them to work full time and still provide for their families. After we finish up (usually walking about 6-10 miles around all the various farms to talk to the farmers), I say my goodbyes and start the trek home.

Once I make it home, I log all the data from the day, do some planning and emailing to try and take care of the administrative stuff (like fundraising, bookkeeping, budgeting and financial planning, managing expat and local staff, recruiting and interviewing to maintain forward thinking and planning, strategic planning, networking with other organizations to establish partnerships, analysis of data, researching and brainstorming to develop solutions, project management, etc.) that can’t just be thrown aside unfortunately. Lucky for me, I have an incredible team that helps so much. Then it’s time to make dinner. Yes for those of you who really know me well and think that I misspoke there, I am actually the cook for the household – and miraculously no one has died.

I am not claiming that I am remotely decent, but I have a pretty sweet portfolio of dishes that I can whip up now…including beef stew, ugali, pasta with spaghetti sauce (made from scratch no less), greens, and my favorite – eggs incognito – which is basically a “mystery dish” where I just throw in a bunch of stuff with the eggs to make a sweet omelet-type dish. The cooking process is pretty funny and usually takes between one and one and a half hours because we have to make everything from scratch. Doug is an excellent sue chef. He helps me cut up everything, and his task is always making the ugali. The cool thing is everything is fresh – all the veggies straight from the field – the meat cut from the cow that day – not kidding. We bend over this little two burner “stove” that sits on the floor and is hooked up to a propane tank to cook. It’s a really awesome feeling in your lower back – I know…I’m being a baby.

We usually eat dinner by the light of a kerosene lantern. As we eat, we are continually attacked by these evil ninja bugs that we have affectionately named “dive-bombers.” The dive-bomber is an interesting (and by interesting I mean evil) bug/bee/moth thing that is similar to a wasp with a long dragon tail. These things come out at night and circle overhead endlessly as we try and eat. They wait until our guard is down, and then they literally dive headfirst into us as we are eating…bouncing off and landing on the floor. I mean these bugs are extraordinarily stupid. They just make a sport out of smashing into you and then falling onto the floor – only to be stepped on by us. I hate dive-bombers.

After dinner, Janine does the dishes – which involves a series of buckets of cold water on the dirt floor which she routinely switches out when the water gets too gross. I think she has the worst job. Then, to end the day, we usually sit down with a cup of sweet Nescafe and watch an episode of The West Wing on Doug’s Mac…a fine end to a fine day.

And that’s my typical day in a nutshell. In the process of doing the work here, I have been privileged to get to know these incredible people and their daily struggles. I’m telling you about a day in my life here, but I wish I could share one of their days with you. They are nothing short of amazing, resourceful, innovative, brave and, above all…tough. They are the reason I am here, and they continue to inspire me every day. Today was a good day. I hope you’re having a fine day as well wherever you are.