Kellie Mahoney is a Practical English for Success (PES) volunteer serving in a pueblo in Atlántico, Colombia
When I applied for the Peace Corps I knew that it entailed future failures.
Whether I liked it or not, it would happen. I knew that I would be stressed, have my patience tested, face work challenges, and say stupid things in Spanish. These have all been incredibly true. Ideas and projects sometimes don’t work out the way I want and sometimes my host family eats all of my Reese’s peanut butter cups (even though I think I hide them well).
Half of Peace Corps service is being present wholeheartedly in your community: showing up for work and accepting your failures like a champ. For me, my fellow PCVs have been a source of support when I am facing these up and down moments. When my Peace Corps phone actually does work, I am proud to say that I am a frequent writer for a WhatsApp group called *Screams Internally*.
Let me start by explaining that this group is what keeps me going when I have a bad day. One day I was complaining a bit in a previous WhatsApp chat called Positive Vibes (may it rest in peace). A friend of mine saw my messages and she texted me privately. The conversation más o menos was like this:
J: Girl, you good? I saw your messages in Positive Vibes and they aren’t positive.
K: Nope, today sucks and I hate everything.
J: You know that we have a WhatsApp group for your crap day right?
K: WTF add me now.
J: *Adds me* Ok done. Happy complaining.
Before I share with you some of my deepest, most embarrassing, and negative comments, you should be aware that with most of these failures comes a day of positivity, a moment of clarity, or a delicious Reese’s peanut butter cup. Peace Corps service always has a way of balancing out and the ride is always interesting. Without further ado, here are some of my submissions to *Screams Internally*:
- If it makes you feel any better, one time at the beach in Santa Marta we went on this hotdog ride that was a float and we got thrown off. Someone kneed me in the face, mid being airborne, and my cheek was green and purple for a week. My real mom happened to be visiting me in country and saw the whole thing happen. When I got back to site my host dad thought that I got beat up and tried to fight the other person.
- My host mom just called me six eyes because I have my glasses on and two zits on my face.
- A male profe who knows like five words in English tried to talk to me today in English. He asked me if I had a husband and then proceeded to tell me that I’m beautiful and that I should have his children. I said no thanks and that I would rather die. He stopped talking to me.
- My host mom offered to help me with my laundry, but 30 minutes after hooking up the machine I realized that she didn’t connect the hose with water for it so I just lost 30 productive minutes of my life. She also took my sweet potato without asking, but then turned it into some soup for me, which is nice, but also no.
- My morning at the corregimiento so far…I missed the bus to get there, my banana got demolished in the bottom of my backpack, I got stung by a bee, and just saw some second graders whoop each other’s asses. It’s not even 10 AM yet.
- I am still on the bus back from Barranquilla and the kid next to me puked and it got on my foot.
- When your PC phone lets you make calls, but the other person can’t hear you. It’s also taped together because the back won’t stay attached, leaving the battery exposed. I’m about to throw it under my vecino’s horse and let him stomp all over it.
- This morning I got up at 5 AM to get the boat to the bus station and then we ended up getting stranded on the Magdalena River. I missed the first two busses.
- Got to the community space I use 3 nights out of the week and I arrived to set up for my meeting and there’s a bunch of old ladies here decorating cakes, and I was worried that we wouldn’t have power again or that it was gonna rain.
- YOU GUYS! I just sh!t myself a little. What had happened was my host mom was in the bathroom for 45 minutes and I really had to go. I finished my coffee and I went outside to wash my coffee mug to kill time and I STEPPED ON AN IGUANA. I screamed so loud and then I literally sh!t myself a little bit.
- Just asked my host family if there was a notary in town and they freaked out and asked me if I was getting married…I just need to get my visa renewed.
- I f-ed up at the notary earlier today. I paid and got my receipt and the dude was like ok ya gracias and the lady behind me was in such a hurry that I didn’t even get my papers back after getting them notarized. I didn’t even notice until I got home and then I had to travel out of site back to the notary and explain to them how much of an idiot I am…. the papers were sitting on the desk over there the whole damn day.
- I’m at the clinic to get an IUD and the lady at the front desk yelled in the waiting room in front of everyone “¿ESTAS AQUI PARA LA INSERCION DEL IUD KELLIE??!” Then while I was waiting to get called back a kid spilled her smoothie all over my leg.
Some of these messages were straight up face palms and the inability to control emotions and/or bowels. However, I was able to share these with others in the midst of my emotional, yet humorous, daily struggle of being a Peace Corps Volunteer. If you can’t handle me at my emotional, 6 eyed, forgetful worst then you don’t deserve me at my best. I’m incredibly thankful for friends who welcomed me into this weird and accepting group chat. Sometimes as PCVs we just want someone to listen to us vent so that we can let it all out and move on. When it comes to failures, we all have them. Just become a member of Screams Internally and you’ll have a support system for life.