A Day in the Life… Of A Peace Corps Volunteer [an excerpt]

By | November 17, 2015

The following is an excerpt from the writing I’m doing this month for NaNoWriMo. It’s a continuation of my time in Peace Corps. Two years ago, I started writing an autobiography about my experience, and only got through the first year. This November I’m tackling Year 2. This excerpt is part of “a typical day” in Vardenis, Armenia.

My tiny kitchen in Armenia

My tiny kitchen in Armenia

[Begin Excerpt]

I went into my tiny kitchen, turned my faucet on, and filled my kettle with freezing cold water from my one-temperature tap. The important thing to note here is that I had to turn my faucet on. When I had moved in, the water had been permanently on. But after several months of living in my apartment, some workmen had come to replace the pipes to my sink and had also fixed it so that my water would turn off.

I grabbed my long lighter, turned the knob on the top of my 4-foot-tall propane cylinder, and while lighting the flame on my lighter, put the tip close to my stove and turned on the burner. The gas ignited first try, and I set the lighter aside as I adjusted the height of the flame.

I used to be so scared of this process. I remember when I used to go camping with Tom, and we would make all our food and hot beverages on a little cookstove burner top that screwed onto a tiny travel-size propane cylinder. It lit the same way, with a lighter, while opening up the gas knob. I was always so nervous about the little “pop!” that happened when the gas ignited. I was always afraid that something would explode or that the fire wouldn’t be contained.

But now, I lit my stove on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times per day, and it was no big deal.

I put the kettle on the burner.

As the water heated, I opened my balcony door and stepped outside to check out the day. To my left, the mountains were looking beautiful, the spring grass bathed in early morning sunrise. The street below me was not yet bustling, but there was a little bit of activity.

Balcony View Armenia Peace Corps Volunteer

Look at all the spring foliage!

As I watched, I saw my Armenian friend walking quickly down the sidewalk, headed to open up her little kiosk. She didn’t see me, although some mornings we would see each other and wave. I knew that she probably had a lot on her mind this morning. When I had stopped by to say hi yesterday, she had started telling me about her money troubles and how her kiosk profit had been short the last month, and her manager was on her about bringing in more money. Also, she’d been fighting with her daughter about some other personal issues.

I looked at the trees lining the street and was immensely happy to see the green buds almost turned into real leaves already. Birds were chirping and I saw a few flit from the phone wire to a tree branch. My regular bird-visitor that liked to sit on my clothesline wasn’t around yet, but I knew that when I went back inside, he was likely to show up.

I went back inside, but left the balcony door open for some fresh air. Not that it was much different closed than it was open. As far as well-sealed doors and windows went, mine were a two on a scale of ten. Not a day went by, cold or hot, windy or not, where I couldn’t feel a breeze coming in around the edges. The top portion of the door where the glass was, was broken, and I had taped it all back together with packaging tape in hopes of preventing the broken pieces from shattering off someday should I accidentally shut the door too quickly. And the bottom portion of the door, where Lenin’s picture used to be flapping off, had been sealed/fixed with two flimsy pieces of corrugated plastic nailed on.

Picture of Lenin on my balcony door

Picture of Lenin on my balcony door

The door jamb and the frame around the door were not square, straight, or in good condition. Quite the contrary, there were gouges where the wood had rotted, and other crumbling holes in the concrete that housed the wooden structure.

I knelt down to reach into my makeshift “cupboard”—actually an old metal shoe rack with a lace curtain over the cubby where the shoes were supposed to be kept, and grabbed my bag of ground coffee.

Food in the Kitchen

My food shelf, and floor food storage area (aka “Refrigerator”)

I reached into the glass jar where I kept my silverware, and took out a spoon. I turned 180 degrees and scooped a heaping spoonful of coffee grounds into my French press. Perfect timing. The kettle started whistling.

I poured the boiling hot water into my French press and let it sit. I put the kettle back, on the second burner, and grabbed my pan that was hanging on a nail pounded into the wall. I put it on the burner that was on and while the pan heated, I took two eggs from the cellophane bag of eggs that was sitting next to my stove.

I remembered that I had fresh green pepper and tomato, so I set the eggs back down while I took my meat cleaver—my favorite big sharp knive—and my cutting board from the tiny “drain rack” mat and brought them to my small breakfast nook kitchen/dining room table/desk. I set them down then reached on top my wardrobe closet for the produce.

Food on Wardrobe

On top my wardrobe is where I keep a lot of my food.

[End excerpt]


I’m trying to find the “hook” or the “theme” or the common thread that I can weave throughout my Peace Corps narrative to keep it interesting and give it a “point”, as I would really like to publish it as a book someday. Got any ideas? Send them my way!

P.S. The “excerpt” part of this post is 845 words. By the end of November I need at least 50,000.


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