as i am.

"…but soil is a refuge for dispersed seeds."


The Routine

Posted on by chrissy

Before the first rays of sun ponder showing their face to the world, my village raises from its slumber to take advantage of the coolness of the morning. Roosters, guinea fowl, and other unidentified birds greet the day the only way they know how; their abrasive squawking sifts into my consciousness as I deny the reality of their message for a few more minutes of peaceful sleep. Soon the repetitive tok toking of millet pounding reassures me it is in fact morning, and with the rising sun, the heat urges me out of bed.

I unzip my mosquito tent and clumsily venture into the world. I fill a bucket with enough water and gather my shower things from inside my house. I wash away the sweat from the night, amazed at how wonderful it feels to be clean every morning, even if it only lasts a couple minutes before I’m covered again by dust and sweat and filth.

I get dressed, place my mattress and mosquito tent back in my house, and in an instant my courtyard is turned back from bedroom into living room again. I am now ready to start the day and I open my gate to the world. If done right, it should be around 6:45.

My breakfast arrives most mornings around the same time I open my gate, give or take ten minutes. I am greeted by Hawa or Shittan with a container of watery millet porridge called moni. The millet is pounded into a flour, formed into tiny balls, cooked into porridge, and drank with a blue plastic ladle-like spoon. While I drink my breakfast, a progression of villagers stop by to greet me. They ask if I slept peacefully, if my family did too, if ALL of them did? And I respond, assuring them my family had no problems, and ask in return about their families as well. Usually, after the formulaic greetings and an awkward silence, they say in essence, “Well, that was your morning greeting, see you later.” Multiple times, a middle-aged neighbor named Fatumata has stopped by with her two year old son Bakary as he bashfully hides behind her skirt. “Aren’t you going to greet Bougourie?” she asks him, laughing. “He asked if we could come tell Bougourie good morning. And now he’s scared to greet you,” she tells me. She shakes her head and steps back in laughter punctuated by a soft hand clap. Her motion exposes Bakary, clutching for the safety of her skirt. He looks up at me, his smile wide, but too nervous to actually speak to the toubab.

Most mornings, after breakfast I sweep my compound and head out for my morning yala, or wander. I make my way through village greeting those I pass, and seeing where I end up. Some days I have an agenda, some days I literally just wander until I don’t feel like wandering any longer. Upon returning home, I tend to enjoy a cup of chocolate powdered milk, and contemplate what to do next with my day.

From mid-morning until roughly four in the afternoon, my day can go in any number of directions. I try to cook lunch for myself, which can take a surprising amount of time. Some days I read, some days I write, some days I clean my house. Sometimes Seydou comes over and makes tea; sometimes Hawa stops by with La and I follow her back to her house while she does laundry or pounds millet or fonio; sometimes I entertain myself watching kids play in my yard; sometimes I nap. The possibilities are endless.

At four my schedule resumes and I venture to the pump on my bike to get water, which I enjoy because it makes me feel mildly productive. I return home, take my evening bucket bath, and go out for my evening yala, which invariably leads me to the susulike yoro (or place where the women of my family pound millet). I sit and chat and listen and watch and as the sun begins to set, I return home to remake my living room (or courtyard) into a bedroom in the last of the daylight. At dusk, I go next door to my host family’s house to hang out with them. I sit and chat or watch as the stars pop up across the darkening sky until my dinner arrives from ‘dugu kono’ or inside the village. I eat to and baobab leaf sauce around 8. After dinner, I sit for a while more, returning home around 9 for the night. I read or journal in my bug hut until I fall asleep, putting another day to rest, in anticipation of the next one to come in exactly the same fashion.


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  • About Me:

    I am a Peace Corps Volunteer working in Mali for two years promoting sustainable agriculture and environment development.

  • Address in Mali:

    Christina Scheller
    B.P. 02
    San, Mali

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  • What I’m Reading

    King Leopold's Ghost - Adam Hochschild
  • What I’ve Read

    High Tide in Tucsan - Barbara Kingsolver All the King's Men - Robert Penn Warren Half the Sky - Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn Prodigal Summer - Barbara Kingsolver Dirt: The Erosion of Civilization - David R. Montgomery Everything is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee The Education of Little Tree - Forrest Carter The Rodale Book of Composting Team of Rivals - Doris Kearns Goodwin The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver The History of the House of Representatives - Robert Remini East of Eden - John Steinbeck Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin The Imperial Cruise - James Bradley