It was about one a.m. on a Friday night when I lay awake, staring intently at the small piece of my roof that was making its way down my wall and onto my thinly cemented floor. Outside the wind slammed my tin door open, shut and then open again as rain pounded against the ground, turning my front yard into what can only be described as “gooey.”

I live in a sandcastle. Technically, my two rooms are made of mud, millet and manure but “sandcastle” seems to explain a whole lot more. Like why hundreds of children are forever trying to come into my sandbox (read: “yard”) and play with all the sand toys (read: “everything I own”) and appropiate them as their own. Like why everything I cook in the sandcastle is well-spiced with sand, no matter how much I clean. Like why sometimes, I just go into that sandcastle and pray that some big wave (read: “the world”) doesn’t wash me away.

My roof wasn’t the only thing that fell apart this week. First my body gave way, decorating my cement toilet with everything I’d eaten for the past couple days. Next, my faith in Nigerien men erodedwhen an older, married man who I thought was my friend hit on me and tried to show me porn in front of his entire family. Finally, my heart fell apart with the news that a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer had unexpectedly passed away, due to unknown causes. I, along with my 29 training classmates, rushed to the capitol city for the funeral service, hardly believing that such a strong, healthy 26 year-old could suddenly die. We recieved counseling and comforted each other to the best of our abilities, becoming even closer as we realized just how precious each of our lives are.

It is far too easy to destroy a sandcastle. At the same time, it is possible to rebuild, though it will never be quite the same. My body, at least for now, is fixed. My faith in Nigerien men will surely heal in time. My roof, inshallah (“God Willing”) will be fixed soon. My heart, well, Stephanie Chance, you’ll always be there, a guardian of my newly rebuilt sandcastle.