What does a typical day look like for a Peace Corps education volunteer in Liberia? While every volunteer’s experience is different, here’s what a normal weekday looks like for me…
My alarm goes off at 6:30, though I’m often awake sooner, hearing the roosters crowing and my neighbors at the well right outside my window, beginning their day as soon as the sun comes up.
I get up and get ready for school and around 7:00, I head outside to say hello to my neighbors and find some breakfast – either rice bread (which is made of rice and bananas so it tastes similar to banana bread) or shortbread. The two breads are sold by different women at nearby houses, so it varies which I get by day, depending less on my preference that day and more on which of the two baked their bread that morning!
I sit on my front porch, reading or finishing lessons for the day, while I eat and say hi to students and other neighbors passing by. Then by 7:45 I head to school.
The school is about a 15-minute walk away, and that’s accounting for stopping to say hello to everyone on the way! By this time, everyone is already outside and its expected that you greet everyone you pass by.
I get to school by 8:00 and the students are usually doing devotion, where they line up by class in the courtyard to sing the national anthem, recite the pledge of allegiance and listen to any new announcements.
I’m scheduled to teach math to 11th and 12th grade during 1st and 2nd period, so after checking in at the office, I start teaching as soon as devotion finishes. For more about teaching, see this post and this post.
The periods are 55 minutes each so I finish second period at 9:50 and according to the schedule I’m finished for the day. But usually I stick around for a while after that. Sometimes if one of my classes doesn’t have a teacher during a later period, I may do some extra math practice, bring LRLs (reading comprehension practice), or for the 12th grade, bring an extra topic that could come on the WASSCE, the national graduation exam.
I also go to “sit small” at some of the houses around the school. One is a shop owned by the mother of one of my 11th graders, where I can buy some of my essentials like eggs and bread, and also sit with her as she cooks or prepares “snaps” of homemade peanut butter or mayonnaise – snaps are single servings tied into the corner of a plastic bag. There’s also Ma Vivian who sells cold bag water and has an adorable one-year-old daughter who waves when she sees me coming. And the place where I spend the most time is the tea shop run by Ma Mamie and her two sons, where I buy shortbread for my mid-morning snack.
I stay nearby at least through the recess hour at 10:45 so that I can be available if students have questions that they want to ask. Once a week I stay until school ends at 2:30 (though depending on attendance, it often wraps up sooner), for a girls club meeting (hoping to share more on that in another post soon!). But otherwise, I usually leave after recess around 11:45.
On the walk home, I keep an eye out for food being sold on the way – whether for a meal like plantains or potatoes, or just a snack like fresh fruit of the season (right now bananas and cucumbers), corn bread (yes, more bread!) or plantain chips. Tuesday is market day so I always make a trip to the market where there’s much more selection than the rest of the week! Depending on what I find on the way home or at the market decides what I’ll eat that day!
Once I get home I usually spend the afternoon on my back porch. Most days I have some school work to do, like lesson planning and grading. Some days I have students come over for extra practice or tutoring or to make up a quiz or assignment.
Afternoons are also when my porch kids visit! Many of the neighborhood kids like to come by, sometimes just a quick stop to say hello and tell me what they learned at school that day, and other times to sit on the porch with me. I have several children’s books (thanks Mom!) so I’ll often spend some time reading to the younger kids or helping some of the older kids to practice reading the books themselves. Most of the children in my town don’t have a lot of exposure to reading – some of their parents can’t read and books are a luxury. So I try to give them an opportunity to practice reading and enjoy hearing a new story.
At some point in the afternoon, I have to eat! The main meal here is rice with soup (more like a thick sauce over the rice, than what we think of as soup in the US), often heavy with peppeh. However, most days I cook for myself but as I haven’t mastered any of the local dishes, it’s usually “American” foods, like eggs, spaghetti or potatoes, any of them with “sausage” (aka hotdogs) as that’s one easy source of protein here (they sell chicken in the market daily but I’m hesitant to buy it because by the time I get home from school, it’s been sitting out for several hours). About once a week, a friend will send over some soup and rice for me or I’ll eat at a cookshop to get some Liberian food.
In the evening, I often sit small on the porch with my friend Patience. She’s close to my age and her family lives a few houses down (though she’s started at the university in Kakata so spends half her time there). If the porch kids are still around, she’ll help me tutor them, or we’ll just sit and talk into the evening.
The sun goes down at 7:00pm and I don’t have current (electricity) so I try to do all the things I need daylight for by then. That includes washing my dishes and taking a bucket bath – much easier to do in the day light than by my small solar lights!
Once the sun goes down, I usually spend some time reading (so thankful for my kindle and its good battery life!) before getting ready for bed.
And that wraps up a typical day for me as a PCV here in Liberia!