Claire Nutter is a Practical English for Success (PES) volunteer serving in a pueblo in Atlántico, Colombia.
Happy moments during service with the Peace Corps can be like rain during the dry season here on the coast of Colombia: desperately needed and can sometimes not happen for weeks on end. I’ll be honest, I was really feeling down after coming back from visiting home for the holidays. I felt unmotivated, sad, and lonely. My site is small and traditional, with just a church and a school. There’s not much to do and nowhere to really go. It’s easy to feel misunderstood by host country nationals, and some days I really felt like the odd one out.
I came home one afternoon feeling like I had really been kicked while I was down, trying to teach a classroom full of thirty 16-year-old Colombian kids when all I wanted to do was call my real mom and cry. I felt like a storm cloud was hanging over my head. I opened the front gate to my house and my ten year old host sister slammed into my body with her tiny one, squeezing me as hard as she could. I laughed as much as was possible, seeing as she was trying to crush my rib cage with her skinny little arms. I hugged her back and my grumpy little storm cloud started to evaporate. She asked me if we could watch Coco and paint together, which sounded like exactly what I needed.
I try not to cry in front of her, but when I do, she always brings me this ratty old blanket she has and wipes my face with it. She shimmies up the neighbors tree and gets us mangoes during mango season. She defends me when she can hear someone gossiping about me. She’s 10, tiny, and sassy. Sometimes we argue and stop talking for a little while, but we always make up and play together afterwards. When I feel like I’m really slumping and I’m not sure why I’m here, she pops out of nowhere, singing a Disney song in Spanish while carrying a baby duck. I think one of the reasons I’m here is to be kind of a big sister to her, like the one I never really had. And that’s enough to turn any of my grumpy moods into a not so grumpy mood.
Yesterday, I tried to have my first GLOW meeting. I had all of my stuff with me and I was totally ready! My host sister wanted to come with me but had to finish her homework first. As I was walking to school, I saw a very large and suspicious looking cloud. I tried to ignore it, thinking that it couldn’t possibly rain during dry season. Right?
I stepped one foot into my classroom and it started raining. A little at first, and then absolutely pouring. The power went out, I was getting bitten by mosquitos, and nobody was going to show up. I opened my bag and started throwing things into it, feeling very huffy. Then I heard little flip flops hitting the pavement quickly, kind of like their own rain drops. I looked up and there was my host sister, sprinting through the rain towards my room, screaming and laughing. Instead of being upset that things hadn’t worked out like I wanted them to, I just played hangman with her until the rain let up. Then we walked home together, her little hand in mine. To me, that’s what my happiness is while I’m here. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.