What do you do in your free time (July 2011)

The most frequent, and probably the most genuine, question I receive is what I do at night or in my free time. The absence of electricity leaves many of you wondering if I spend my time doing rain dances in the moonlight or maybe I just spend my time reading by candlelight. The answer may not be as interesting as you might think and is honestly not that different from my normal recreational activities in America.

I often have a lot of free time in the day because many people go to farm. I will spend a lot of my days either preparing for meetings or devising workplans but if I am all caught up on that I will read and play guitar. If I am feeling stir crazy I may choose to accompany my friends to farm or sit with my good friend at her shop. My friend has a very central location so people will frequently stop in and chat and she has a healthy amount of kids that keep me company. Usually the only people who do not go to farm are lazy men and women who have just given birth. I enjoy hanging out with both groups and this is the time I tend to learn random stuff like how to roast peanuts, make a broom out of palm leaves, expand my knowledge of the language, learn to cook local dishes and other random stuff like that. You guys all should know that I tend to be pretty social so much of my time here can be described as hanging out with friends.
As I mentioned before, a lot of my meetings take place in the evenings. If i do not have any meetings to attend then I will most certainly play football which starts around 5 o’clock. Football goes till dusk, at which point I will go to the river to bathe (shower would be inaccurate word use) and then join my friends for dinner. I will always have to pick up my flashlight before venturing out to avoid stumbling over rocky ground or stepping in a pile of kid poo. By the time I am done eating it is nearly 8:30 and I will either hang out on the main road and chat with people or head back to my house. Some of the bigger shops have generators and at night they play music and people come out to dance and hang out. There is also a large amount of people selling kerosene (think lanterns) and they advertise with a kerosene fueled candle dotting the street with improvised street lights. If I hang out on the road I will usually only be out until 10 or so. If I go back home I will usually read or play guitar but either way I am genrally in bed by 10ish. The bustle of activity wakes me up at 6 and I rarely sleep past 7 so getting to bed at a reasonable time is important. Also, very annoyingly there is someone who rings a town alarm clock at 4AM every morning. This alarm clock consists of a metal rod striking an old rusty hubcap that apparently can cut through the entire village. I mean, 5AM I can live with but 4?
So as I said, my recreation is pretty much the same as it ever was with the exception of wasting time browsing the internet. The only things I really miss are two things: loud music through a stereo (music of my choice) and playing the keyboard. I do have access to a generator but especially since my computer is out of commission, it does not make sense to use it. And I think if I had a sound system it would cause me to be less annoyed with the constant noise of the village, you know, kids screaming, roosters crowing, people pounding food in mortars.
I will say, the choice to bring five different flashlights and batteries was a very wise investment. Batteries here are crap and tend to burn out quickly and most explode and ruin the device. I gave my friend batteries for his flashlight and it lasted three months. I asked how long the batteries usually last and he said two weeks!
If you have any book recommendations, please post them! The combination of my kindle and afternoon reading time has really brought me back to my love of reading. It also keeps me sharp as most of my conversations with my friends here are not really stimulating a certain area of my brain so it is good to read fresh ideas.
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