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Every morning and every evening in the life of a Zambia Volunteer

zambia sunset

In the mornings, I wake up between 5 and 6 a.m. to swiftly roll up my sleeping bag (it’s cold season), hammock, and mosquito net, and roll out the yoga mat for some stretching.

Zambia Day in life Vol
Laini enjoying her morning in Zambia

Back from the borehole, it’s time to sweep, light some incense, and listen to wake-up music. The process of sweeping prompts me to tidy up the whole hut by getting everything of the floor and shaking out the mats – and yes, there’s somehow a pile of dust and dirt that’s accumulated from the day before. I also sweep out the latrine (chim) and the outdoor kitchen (nsaka). Now that the rains are over, the dry season winds make the compound dusty, so the dirt around my hut must also be well-groomed. I hated sweeping a year ago, now it’s like that satisfying feeling you get from vacuuming a carpet.

It is then time to hand wash my dishes. I purposefully have few dishes because accumulating many dirty dishes invites vermin and my own laziness. So dishes happen daily or else I don’t eat. I might at this point in the routine decide to pump out some laundry, which involves two wash basins, a makeshift washboard, soap and water, and my hands.

Zambia Laundry
Wash basins for doing laundry


As the sun is setting, it’s time for a shower. This means standing in my kitchen and splashing cold soap water on myself. Manually heating bath water is not worth the effort, in my opinion. I don’t even bother trying to wash my hair in the village – I’ll just do that next time I visit the provincial house in town. But I always end my cleansing routine by placing the wash basin on the floor and stepping in it. I suds up a nailbrush and scrub my feet clean, although they’re usually dirty again by hammock time.

I swing by one of my neighbor’s huts and ask for some live coals to light my brazier or stove. While that’s heating up, I’ll start washing and chopping vegetables, folding clean laundry out on the clothesline, or tidying up from the day’s work. I’ve grown much more comfortable with cooking, especially now that I have acquired a wok. And with such a small hut, cleaning my space is simple but necessary.

Fresh vegatables
Fresh vegetables and bread

The day usually ends at my desk. It’s where I journal, study Bemba, review technical manuals, study for the GMAT, draft blog posts, and consult my planner. It’s a nice place to unwind with herbal tea, a candle, or a locally made ceramic bowl filled with bushfruit. Or I’ll sit out on the stoop and try to identify some constellations in the southern and western night sky. 

When it’s time for bed, I visit the latrine one last time, lock up my door and windows, and brush my teeth and rinse with my homemade mouthwash. Between 9 and 10 p.m. I unroll the sleeping bag, hammock, and mosquito net and fall fast asleep.