Week in the life of a volunteer

I’ve been struggling for over a year now to write a post about what my average day is like. This is partly because in the beginning I didn’t want anyone to know how much time I sat reading on my porch. Then it became difficult because there really wasn’t a typical day. Instead I’ve decided to give you an example of what a week looks like for me.

Monday – Spending the day in the rice fields is always an adventure. Around 7 my host mom and I pack up my host brother and food for the day and walk about 2 km to the fields. Depending on the time in the growing season we might be transplanting, weeding or harvesting. I have discovered I’m much more suited for babysitting than anything else. I tend to fall over a lot and am not particularly successful at separating the rice from the stalk. Lunch is eaten on the floor with banana leaves as a plate. Once the day is done we pack everything back up and trudge back home.

Tuesday – About once a week I decide that I should probably do laundry. I’m generally pretty good at picking the day that will instantly cloud over and rain the minute I put it out to dry.  If it’s not raining when I put my laundry up it will generally start the minute i’ve left my house and am hanging out with other people. I have to decide if it’s worth running back from my host family’s house to gather it up or just figure that it will dry eventually. I generally do the latter.

Wednesday – The morning holds the weekly market. This mainly consists of electronics, pots, bread, clothes and if you’re lucky a couple tomatoes. I thought that once people started getting their vanilla money that the market would pick up, but while there are more and more electronics to buy the food situation has not improved.

Thursday – In the morning I head 2 km to the next town over to oversee their communities Village Savings and Loans program. In the afternoon I do the same for my community. The purpose of this group is to teach people how to save money and to provide a community based lending program. My region has more income than a lot of Madagascar due to vanilla, but the money is often spent quickly and then isn’t available for emergencies in the leaner months.

Friday – Since my town is a bit of a food dessert I generally head to Andapa for the day to buy veggies. I hang out with the education volunteer who lives there and we hit the market, have steak for lunch and then watch The Big Bang Theory until I work up the effort to head back.

Saturday – Since it’s vanilla season most of people’s lives currently revolve around it. Theft is common during this time of year so some people spend their days sleeping in their fields to protect it. There are also stops between towns where people have to show what was in their bags to show they aren’t smuggling vanilla. I’ve been out to what I like to call vanilla mountain with my host dad and potential buyers. If it’s rained that day I look like an idiot trying not to fall going up or down the muddy trail. After the vanilla is picked, it’s put out to dry before being shipped off to be sold. I love it when everyone is drying the vanilla because it makes the town smell like a fresh baked cookie.

Sunday –  I take this day to be completely lazy. I spend the morning reading in my bed and avoiding going outside for fear I’ll be dragged into a three hour church service. I spend the afternoon with my host family and have my hair braided. This always leads to a spirited discussion between my host cousins about how much dandruff I have. I don’t feel like I have a dandruff problem. The dry skin on my scalp stays there and I’ve never feared that I shouldn’t be wearing a black shirt for fear of flakes. However, my host family does not agree and spend a great deal of time trying to rid my head of any extra skin cells.


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