On a busy compound with animals and gardens there is a round hut made with bricks and straw roof. It is my safe haven.
My home sits on the land of a family of three children, a wife who raises chickens and a husband who teaches in the next village over. They have several sheep, pigs, cows and dogs and are one of 10 families in the village with electricity. I am the newest addition to their world.
The space I occupy is set off from the main home but less than 50 yards away. The brick siding gives it a hobbit-like feel and the bright blue entry, or makeshift porch, can be spotted from the room. It looks nothing like any home I’ve lived in before, but the inside is doused in my personality.
The volunteer before me departed a year ago December but left a few wall hangings – a map of this part of the country, a world map, a picture of a Yellowstone tree in National Geographic and covers of TIME and Newsweek magazine that include the faces of Ted Kennedy, FDR and Obama. I don’t know him and he doesn’t know me, but our choices in wall décor are similar.
I’ve spent a good chunk of my first week in village making this small round room mine. It’s the place I lay my head and where I can seek refuge when the unfamiliarity of everything else is too much. When choosing rugs and a comforter, I instinctively chose earth tones, a blue and green blanket with a beige rug. My family has hooked up a light for me, but I often use candles to light my meals and evening reading and writing. There is a radio, handed down from another volunteer with it’s dials locked on the BBC, and a iPod speaker my mother sent me for Christmas in Niger that made it across the Atlantic twice. Hanging from strings of hemp are pictures of friends and family as well as memories of my first two months in country. At night, with all three candles lit, it reminds me of the cabin I longed to run away to so that I could lock myself up for days and write only stopping to breath in the majestic view. As it turns out, there is a majestic view of mountains and a valley right outside my door.
This rondaval isn’t much, it’s smaller than my studio in downtown Sioux Falls, but it’s home to me. I picture myself grading papers or planning lessons here. I can see myself falling into bed with a giant smile or wetting the pillow with fallen tears. This is where I’ll go for peace or to cook a satisfying meal. This my residence for the next two years and each time I walk through its door I feel the way you should about any structure with a bed and a stove – at home.