Today is my last day living in my first Peace Corps home. Tomorrow morning I’m handing off my keys to the next volunteer who will take it over and make it his own. In honor of my last day I thought I would give y’all a tour of the place I’ve called home for the past year.
I’ll admit it upfront: my house is big. I’ve got an enormous entry room, a bathroom, kitchen, and 3 other rooms — all for about $75 USD a month. Other utility costs, including water, electricity and wifi, cost around an additional $25 USD per month.
My apartment is located in the center of town, just minutes away from pretty much anything I could need — hanuts that sell food, the marche where I buy vegetables, a cybercafe to print class materials, etc. I use an exterior door from the street to enter an alley that leads to my building, so people on the street can’t just knock on my door or stop by. Sometimes I’ve loved this about my house, and sometimes I wished that I had more visitors. Many of my students and friends decide to just scream my name, “ABIR! ABIR!”, from the street until I pop my head out the window and ask what’s up.
My favorite room in my house is my bedroom. This is the first time I have ever lived alone, and this room just feels like “me.” It’s already really hot this time of year so from the photos you may notice my lack of blankets on the bed, a tarp over the window that blocks sunlight/heat, and my fan tucked away near my pillows. All of these things (and more) are necessary for battling the fierce Saharan sun.
This is my living room. I do most of my work while sitting in this room. I like to make big lists and goals and hang them from my walls as reminders. I also paint large calendars so I can keep my ever-changing work schedule straight. This room also serves as my guest room when other volunteers and friends come to visit!
The main entry room into my house is a large, awkwardly shaped space. It’s very long and large, resembling a rectangle that isn’t even on both sides and then randomly juts out to create a nook. In this room is my bookshelf, workout area, and an additional seating area.
Can you guess from looking at the bookshelf where I’m going on vacation this summer?
There are no windows here, so in the summer this is the coolest place to be. There is, however, a little skylight of sorts in the middle of the ceiling that is not, in fact, a skylight to the sky but rather a skylight into my upstairs neighbors’ apartment. At night I can see the little feet of my landlord’s daughters running across.
Here’s the kitchen. To prepare food I use a stovetop and oven that are hooked up to a buta gas tank. Using the buta gas to cook every day can be a little stressful (thanks Peace Corps for instilling the fear of CO poisoning and explosions in us) but thankfully I haven’t had any incidents. Not pictured in this photo is my minifridge (no freezer) and plastic shelves with my dishware and spices.
The color(s) of my kitchen is a pretty bad story. You can’t tell here but it’s actually painted four different colors. The original color of the kitchen is the light blue that you can see underneath the countertop. The volunteer before me decided to paint it yellow, but she never finished the job. Last year during Ramadan I decided I wanted to re-paint the kitchen, first trying the dark blue that I used to paint my entry room and bathroom. Then I decided to paint it green. Long story short the guy who owns the only paint store went out of town all summer and any time I’ve checked since (okay, only 2 times) he’s been out of the green. I always told myself that I’d finish the job but I guess now I never will. Oops! I wonder what color the new volunteer will add to it…
The final room on today’s house tour is my bathroom. The first thing most people back home notice is the toilet. Call it what you’d like — from a “Turkish toilet” to a “squatty potty” to a “hole in the ground” — but I’m tellin’ y’all that I don’t miss Western toilets at all. I’m pretty sure scientifically it’s better for your bowels, which is why some companies have even created a special step stool you can attach to your Western toilet to mimic the squatting strategy.
For bathing I take a shower using the shower head right near the toilet, which serves as the drain. I don’t have hot water so my showers are always cold (thankfully 8 months of the year I wouldn’t dream of taking a hot shower). During the winter when I want to bathe myself with warm water I will boil water over the stove and then pour it into one of the large buckets you can see under the sink. I then use a smaller cup to pour the water over myself while sitting on a stool. We like to call this activity “The Bucket Bath.”
I also do all of my laundry in the bathroom by soaking my clothes in soapy water (shown above) and then rinsing it in another bucket of cold water. The best part about living in the Sahara is that your clothes dry on the clothesline in about 30 minutes.
Even though I’m sad to leave this first place behind, I couldn’t be more excited about what’s to come. I’ve decided to move into a village at the edge of the town I live in, which is one of my favorites places in my site. It’s home to some of my favorite people in town, including the people I call my family, and I would say is also arguably one of the most beautiful places in town. Some external factors out of my control have kept me from securing my own house in the village yet, but I’m optimistic that it will happen soon! In the meantime I’ll be travelling for work and living with my adopted family in the village, who may or may not have planned these delays all along just so I would live with them… :) Just kidding.