DAC Day Blues

Office Caravan

I ‘work’ at the District AIDS Coordinator’s office two days a week, that’s 104 days a year, 208 days throughout the course of my two year service and a grand total of 48 more left before COS (close of service)…but who’s counting? On DAC days it’s paramount that I arrive at exactly 7:30 in the morning, as the mountains of work don’t like to wait. After tracking down the key to our trailer, I sit and drink my coffee while listening to a podcast, usually Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me or Real Time with Bill Maher. Our three other employees trickle in and greet me with the usual, “Dumela mma, le kae?” I dutifully respond, “Dumela mma, re teng, le kae?” And that’s where the stimulating dialogue ends. Lest you sit in judgment and scold me for not interacting more, I’ve tried, it goes nowhere.

The next few hours pass with people coming and going to meetings that I’m either not invited to or would rather stick a rusty fork in my eye before attending. I’ve learned to be at peace with not being in the loop with regular office goings-on; if they need me, they ask. When there is something for me to do it’s usually computer or writing related. In those instances I troubleshoot a computer glitch or tighten up the English in a speech. I’m lucky that my supervisor is very generous with accolades. I can spend half an hour editing a report or fixing the printer and she acts like I fed starving children or found a cure for cancer. So, that’s the silver lining. I might not feel like I’m doing much but the office seems to benefit and if they are happy, I’m happy.

When the work runs out (and it always runs out), the spaghetti western card game BANG! is an entertaining pastime. I could write an essay on the rules and best strategies for this game, but will refrain as I realize you are likely not as bored as I am at the moment. In short there are four characters and I try to win the game with each character once a day, it’s a little like hitting for the cycle in baseball…no big deal. The days go by faster when we have internet. On these glorious days I can load rudimentary versions of Facebook and Gmail. I scroll through my newsfeed and read all of the previous day’s headlines only because the internet isn’t strong enough to load full articles. This is usually when the cycle of malaise and anxiety worsens because I learn about the latest idiotic and damaging thing that Trump has said, done or God forbid, legislated. I then gripe to my Peace Corps friends over messenger about said revolting headlines and the conversations usually end something like this, “This really makes me not want to go back to the States.” Other ways I pass the time are by writing grocery lists, planning future trips or writing self indulgent journal entries such as this one.

Now it’s lunchtime! Lunch is exciting. My house is about a 10 minute walk from the DAC office so it’s easy to walk back for a quick bite and a much needed chat with Chris. While choking down leftover lentils, we typically end up playing a verbal game of who has had the worst, weirdest or most boring morning. Hint — no one is a winner in this game. An alternative game that we like to throw in for variety is, “What would you rather be eating?” In this game we daydream of all the foods unavailable to us; again, no one wins. In all seriousness, these lunchtime reprieves are my saving grace and allow me to laugh off the previous morning’s frustrations and take on the rest of the day.

The afternoons are free of meetings, so I typically ask my supervisor if we should work on that report, speech, letter, etc… The typical response is “Eish Lorato, ke lapile…kamoso.” Translation: “Oh boy Rebecca, I’m tired…tomorrow.” The remainder of the afternoon passes slowly as most people sleep due to the exhaustion from the morning’s taxing duties. Being in the office ALL day is very important to people as it signifies that you are part of the team, so I sit and wait even though nothing is happening. When 4:30 arrives all of the sleeping bodies suddenly jump to life and with great speed and efficiency head for the exits.

Once again back at home, I workout, cook dinner and sit down to a couple of hours of Friends reruns with my love.

I write about my typical day not to complain about my Peace Corps service, but rather to offer up an alternative to the preconceived notion of what Peace Corps is like. Most days are some variation on the above narrative. Most days aren’t fulfilling, most days I question my purpose and most days are frankly, quite dull. But the thing is I keep up the long tedious slog because there are payoff days. They might be rare, but days when you have a meaningful conversation, days when you receive a grant, days when you can dispel a myth about sex or dating are truly inspiring. DAC days are typically the norm but payoff days make the lentils and endless BANG! games worth it, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

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