It never occurred me to me that I should sweep sand.
I have a two-room mud house with concrete floors that I sweep on occasion. My concession area, or front year, is just sand. It’s enclosed with mud walls and parts of a shady tree overlap into my invisible property lines. The leaves fall into my space but who cleans up leaves? (Only now does it the term raking come to mind.)
A few days after I moved it, the wife and daughters of my host family asked me if I have a broom. They haven’t been into my house so I thought this was an odd question but I reassured them that I do own one. After the third or forth time, I picked up on the hint — my concession needed to be swept. Most women sweep every day, but I wasn’t bothered by the leaves so I just left them strewn about as if the sand-leaf mixture was a fashionable tile or carpet.
When I returned to my village from my week in Niamey, my sister flat out demanded I sweep.
“Gobe” or tomorrow she said to me while motioning to the leaves.
The next morning, when I saw the leaves in the daylight, I realized she was right. It’s like the bachelor with one working light bulb, a sink full of empty pizza boxes and dirty clothes for drapery who suddenly realized these are not the furnishings for attracting a wife.
I’m among the Nigeriens now so I must do what they do.
As I was sweeping, I tried to think of a similar practice in the States (again, raking didn’t come to mind until writing this) and decided it was like shoveling snow or mowing the lawn, activities one has to do to keep up with social norms.
Shoveling and mowing are two of the main reasons I have and will be an apartment dweller. Growing up, I was good at pawning these activities on my brothers when my parents needed help and, once on my own, apartments were more suitable for my constantly-moving schedule.
As I was using my straw broom to rid my concession of these leaves I realized that this is my first home.
OK, so I don’t own it and Peace Corps pays the rent, but it’s the first roof that is only mine.
It’s a comfortable space and I’m sure I would’ve pictured this type of space when I was a little girl if I ever thought I would live in West Africa. One of my rooms houses a gas stove and food while the other has my suitcase and trunk that act as dressers. I have intentions of paint, fabric and lots of photos.
My deck is a straw hut that acts as a good nap cave during the hot part of the day when all that you can do and that is expected of you is to rest.
The latrine is brand new and sparkled as much as a latrine can when I first moved in.
It’s a sweet home in a good neighborhood. This home will be my longest place of residence since leaving my parent’s house. I never spent two Christmases with the same four walls that I pay for.
It’s not my dream home in the mountains but it’s mine for two years. I’ll have good and bad days. Some days I will love it and some days I will hate it. My Peace Corps experience will be known in these walls and I will never forget my life here.
All that is to come. I’m thankful for it, even enough to seep on a somewhat regular basis.