So, I encounter confusion from both Americans and Ugandans when it comes to how I spend free time. Work schedules for Peace Corps Volunteers are by no means an American 9-5, so some days you may work 4 hours, some days 2, some days 6, etc. So how do you fill the time? What do you DO?
I’m a little high on the housing hierarchy for PCVs, in that I have running water in my house as well as fairly consistent electricity. I also have extremely slow but useable internet. So, some of my hobbies are the same as they were in America. This is not necessarily what I do in ‘free time’, but just time when not working at my primary Peace Corps project.
Things many volunteers do when they’re not working:
- Binge watch the latest TV series
- Binge watch an old TV series that you’ve already seen but have nothing else to watch so you’re watching it again
- watch movies
- Listen to music or podcasts
- Play a musical instrument (guitar and ukulele are popular, but there’s also a surprisingly large amount of harmonicas)
- Craft (bracelets, sewing, origami, painting, etc)
- Write – journaling, poetry, fiction, letters home
- Read – books, ebooks, news, newspapers, magazines (usually from care packages)
- Hang out with neighborhood kids (depending on level of patience and extroversion)
- Sit and talk with neighbors
- Exercise (inside, because you attract too much attention outside)
- Attempt to make your care package last as long as humanly possible, then after a bad day eat half of it because hey, you only live once
- Write blog posts (see what I did there?)
- Travel as cheaply as possible
- Facebook/other social media as internet allows
- Play with pets (dogs and cats are common)
So how might this differ from how Ugandans in my community spend their time? (Note: please resist from assuming EVERY SINGLE UGANDAN does these things. For more clarity, please see Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk titled – The danger of a single story
Things Ugandans in my community might do when not at their day job:
- Dig in their gardens (‘Dig’ is the local colloquialism for gardening, and whatever you are picturing for garden, multiply the size by about 10)
- Listen to the radio with friends/family
- Sing/dance to the radio
- Sit and talk with neighbors, with or without beer
- Watch soccer (football!), mostly with beer
- Watch TV with friends/family if you can find one, and power is there
- Rubberneck at traffic accidents – seriously though, if there is an accident, people flock to the road and generally just stand around blocking traffic
- Kids – sit and watch cars go by, buy small bits of candy when money is there, dig through rubbish (trash) pits for anything to play with/make toys out of, help make meals, help clean the house
- Women – fetch water, laundry, cook, sweep, mop
As an observation, I feel like a lot of my hobbies do not include other people, and are more individualistic. Whereas my neighbors and community members have a lot of hobbies that include other people, and don’t do many things on their own. Reading culture is basically non-existent in much of the country, except for maybe some newspapers. Writing is even less common.
Culturally Ugandans are much more communalistic than the Americans I know. As I tell my neighbors here, back in America I don’t really know my neighbors at all. We wave at each other when we pass on the street or see each other sitting on the porch, but don’t hang out or have conversations. That’s one thing I like about Ugandan culture and something I want to search for when I go back to the US. I know that there are communities where everyone knows everyone, but I didn’t really grow up like that. I think you can live in diverse neighborhoods and have close ties with your neighbors while still living the life you want to live.