February 2nd (an entry from my diary)
But I could not be happier!! I’ve got everything I need. In the morning I put on my sandals, sort out my greasy hair, I unscrew the gas cylinder and make black tea. I yell to the donkey: “Sabah ilhir Zatuna,” feed the animals, count the hens and start weeding beans. After a few hours I take a break, put on some music on my phone and cook the simplest lunch on the tainted water. Sweet potatoes, beans from a can, fresh parsley and soft feta cheese. No recipe, improvised, with ingredients made in Egypt. I put on the coffee pot and make instant coffee.
I am slowly forgetting the old reality in Slovenia and cherishing every moment here. I’m at my happiest, when the African sun is setting, birds are chirping, the wind sways the palm leaves and the call to evening prayer rings out in the distance.
When it becomes too comfortable in Slovenia and start to take it for granted that I have hot and drinkable water, electricity 24 hours a day, the internet, … I like to escape to countries where this is not a permanent thing. In general, I am more interested in countries that are less developed than Slovenia. I like going out of my comfort zone, where I have to work hard for everything. It puts me more in touch with nature, though. In this volunteer house water was scarce, we rarely took showers, washed dishes sparingly and washed our clothes by hand.
I will never forget the time I was looking a suitable spot to dry my underwear. First, I was boiling them on the gas stove. Then I let them hang on the tree stump in front of the volunteer house. They dried quickly in the wind, even without the sun, and were a feast for the eyes of those passing by.
The value of water
Water came twice per week and that was like its own little holiday! First, we watered all the crops. I was in charge of soaking the newly planted date palms. Then we filled up the water tank for the volunteer house. If we ever overdid it (e.g. to wash our hair quickly), we waited patiently for Sunday or Thursday. We always bought drinking water. There was no heating, so at night I always slept in my warmest clothes, covered with three woolen blankets. In Egypt I was surprised by winter and rain, even in the desert. I wondered if my sandals would even be of any use. The hens also had a hard battle with the cold at night. Every morning we sadly counted how many had died the night before.
Natasha from Russia
Until the arrival of other volunteers, I had my morning monologues and dates with the donkey Zatuna. Zatuna in Arabic means olive. The poor thing had to see her mother sold two weeks earlier, and she had been depressed ever since. I yelled each morning “Sabah ilhir Zatuna. Ki fek?” (Good morning Zatuna. How are you?) but she never paid attention to my pronunciation mistakes.
After a while, two more volunteers joined me. A Belgian guy my age and a sixty-year-old American. At first, I was annoyed that they might disturb my inner peace and my conversations with Zatuna. We bonded right away, however, and their sense of humour often brought me to tears.
And then there was my accent in English, which amused everybody. They named me Natasha (because apparently my english sounded as if I’m from Russia) and imagined that I was an actress in a russian mafia movie. I only had to sell them vodka and it would have been perfect. My host, who could not remember the greeting Živijo (hello), yelled every morning through the endless bean fields ZDRAVOOO NATASHA. He introduced me to the new Spanish volunteers as Natasha from Russia, and of course, everyone believed him. They kept asking me for days, how do you say certain words in your, Russian language?! “This was a joke. I am not from Russia!!”