A Day in the Life

I’ve had a few requests for a blog entry on my typical workday here at the Centre, so I figured I’d give it a go. It might be a bit tricky because each day is generally quite different, though there a few patterns have emerged over the months. And since I’ve taken on a new role I’ve been spending a bit more time in the office, though I do try to fit in some outdoor work everyday.

But here we go, a typical day in the life of me (in military time!):

6:00-6:30: Wake up, prop open my mosquito net and make my (double!) bed. Put on the clothes that I’ve probably been wearing for the past few days. Wash my face and brush my teeth.

6:30-7:30: Head up to the stables (my hut is about 25 meters downhill from the intern rooms, office, and kitchen which are all housed in converted stables). Make coffee and oatmeal. Sometimes I put bananas in my oatmeal, sometimes dried apples. Have I ever mentioned I’m a creature of habit? Check email if there’s time.

What a beautiful compost pile!

7:30-8:30ish: Chore time. For at least one hour in the morning all staff and interns have to do chores around the Centre. Lately I’ve been in charge of the fertility team – making, turning, and watering compost piles, collecting manure, making nitrogen teas with comfrey, manure, or compost, among other things. Chores can also include pest management, feeding chickens, weeding the staple field, topdressing and mulching in the woodlot, etc. While some complain about this time, I generally enjoy working with different people and doing some mindless (or not so mindless) labor.

Mixing compost into the beds in the commercial garden. Yes, that’s me using a hoe.

9:00-12:00: This is where every day starts to have its own personality. Some mornings I spend in the office emailing prospective interns/volunteers and dealing with garden customers. Others I’m out helping the gardeners – preparing the beds before a planting, seeding and transplanting, weeding, etc. Most days it’s a bit of both.

12:00-13:00: Lunchtime. The Centre provides lunch for everyone during the workweek. Mondays it’s spaghetti and soya pieces; Tuesdays and Thursdays are cooked greens and nsima – the staple food here, it’s a maize porridge that Malawians (and Zambians!) can’t live without – these are the Malawian staff’s favorite days and the interns least favorite; Wednesdays and Fridays are rice, beans, and, occasionally, salad. The last Friday of the month the Centre splurges on a nicer lunch with soda and chicken or some other fancier food and all the staff take a longer lunch to eat together.

For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of eating nsima. One of these is a girl’s portion and one is a boy’s. Guess which is which!

13:00-15:00: More office work to escape the heat in the afternoons. This generally includes planning for the garden – deciding what will be planted where, sorting through what seeds we need, preparing that week’s veg boxes, managing customers – or project work – proposal writing, report writing, discussing plans with the management team… basically we spend the afternoons deciding what needs to be done and then attempting to do it.

15:00-16:30: The Malawian staff all knock off at 15:00. This is also when it’s cooled down a bit and I’ve had enough of being inside. I’ll often spend this time in the residential garden; we rotate days for watering the garden so once a week I spend this time lugging the hose from bed to bed. The other days I go out I just wander around for a bit, mulching, weeding, staking, or doing whatever else needs to be done.

Transplanting green peppers. We do this late in the day so the little plants don’t have to sit through the afternoon sun after such a big shock to their roots.

16:30-19:00: This is when I get a bit of down time. Even though we are on the top of a hill, I’ve found a nice little loop that’s relatively flat that I like to run a few days a week. After that I usually sit out in yard my yard, drink some tea, read a book, and watch the sunset. All the residents also take turn cooking dinner and doing the dishes, which I generally do around this time when it’s my turn. I also try to get a bucket bath in before it gets dark, especially now that the cold season has hit outdoor, nighttime showers are not ideal.

19:00-20:30: Dinner! All the residents eat dinner together, and boy do we eat well. It’s pretty impressive that, in my time here, everyone that’s come through has known how to cook. I guess if you’re interested in growing good food you’re also probably interested in eating good food. A lack of ingredients has taught us all to be very creative – my cooking repertoire has definitely expanded over the past months. On Thursdays we have “communal dinner” where the Malawian staff are also invited to come and eat at the Centre. Only a couple of them ever come, but everyone contributes a dish and it’s always a massive feast. Last night we have a 4 course dessert which included ice cream, cookies, mundazi (deep fried balls of dough) with chocolate sauce, and pumpkin pie (which I made from scratch!).

20:30+: We go to bed very early on the Farm. Occasionally we’ll have the energy to watch a TV show after dinner – lately we’ve been addicted to the Wire – but just as often we chat for a while and then all decide to go to bed. The occasional evening we hear the sounds of yipping hyenas, crying bushbabies, or howling dogs. And the occasional evening I carry a machete when I walk back to my hut – though don’t worry, I haven’t had to use it yet.

The Centre staff… the whole crew in action.

Deviations from the regularly scheduled programming:

Fridays: Morning chores are harvesting for and preparing the veg boxes. I then deliver them in town and do the weekly grocery shopping. It can be a bit hectic, driving in Lilongwe is no picnic, though I do enjoy getting out for a bit. Plus driving the Centre truck reminds me of the Trooper, so I always love that!

Weekends: The first two items on the list are about the same, just pushed back an hour or so. After that it’s a lot of reading, crosswords, sitting and chatting in the courtyard, movie watching, personal emailing, some work, and the occasional outing into town.

Special shout out to Lizzie Lee, the Centre’s official photographer, who provided me with proof that I actually live here!

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2 Responses to A Day in the Life

  1. Jeremy Jacobs says:

    Awesome post, Cat. Sounds amazing.

  2. Blythe says:

    Great post. Paints a good picture.

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