Close your eyes. You're at the beach. Aaah... The sun is hot, but the breeze is blowing sweetly.
Now. Take away the ocean. In its place, add 60 goats, 15 longhorn cattle, a handful of donkeys & chickens, 1 skittish dog, 1 skittish cat, 5 cement-and-tin-roof buildings (3 two-rooms and 2 singles), and 12 straw huts. Welcome to PK7. This is my life:
7:30am. Wake up inside my mosquito net tent. Realize AGAIN that I am actually living in Africa. Congratulate self on braving another night of wild malaria-pill-induced dreams.
7:45am. Put on a long skirt so I can head to the open air latrine without offending anyone. Once inside, happily remove clothing and enjoy my solar shower. Attempt to clean body, though never entirely successfully.
8:15am. Get greeted at my door by my mother Houley (my namesake), who brings me oatmeal-esque millet porridge. Shortly after, a child brings me Mauritanian tea (with fresh mint and LOTS of sugar, specially poured to give tons of foam, served in tiny shot glasses).
8:55am. Walk the 100 yards to the thatched-roof hangar in my language facilitator's courtyard, where I have Pulaar class with Teresa, Ryan, and Matt. Baila teaches us on a blackboard in the sand, and we copy everything into our notebooks. Tea magically shows up about every half hour.
2:00pm. Eat lunch with my mom, grandmother, 2 aunts, 15-year-old married cousin, and 11 children under the age of 13. The women toss me the best pieces of meat. Even as food is in my hand, I will inevitably be encouraged to "Eat, eat."
3:00pm. Lounge around under the big tent with all my family. Take tea, again. Sweat. Fall asleep.
5:30pm. Evening language class.
7:30pm. Play cards with the toubabs (universal term for non-Africans). We gamble with drink mix and Vache Qui Rit (heavenly processed cheese).
9:00pm. Head back to my room. Avoid the camels who meander across our village at dusk. Fall asleep waiting to be called to eat.
9:30pm (or 10:00, or 10:30). Dinner. It is now dark. The cruel fate is that a bright, unnecessarily illuminated power plant overlooks PK7, but we do not have electricity ourselves. The faint glow is enough to fumble around with as we eat in the dark. The ladies keenly prepare night-friendly food (think macaroni instead of boney fish). Sit and chat with the fam for at least half an hour. By "chat" I mean listen to endless Pulaar and try to pick out vocab from time to time. Intermittently they will all say, "Houley, Houley!" and try to get me to understand something. I occasionally succeed, and we all laugh a lot. It's a good game.
11:00pm. In the haven of my closed room, change into SHORTS and a tank top. Rejoice at finally being able to lay prostrate on my back (not acceptable for women in public because it's "suggestive"). Drift to sleep listening to critters scurry across my floor. Smile because I am safe in my precious net tent.