Caitlyn Davis is a Practical English for Success (PES) volunteer serving in a pueblo in Bolívar, Colombia.
My Peace Corps experience has not been easy for me. I’ve had more than one major slump during my service and I often wonder what I’m doing here. The first two months at site were particularly ROUGH – like I’m hot and tired, and all the kids do is scream, and my counterpart never shows up, and I can’t leave the house after dark, and I have no friends, and my mattress is terrible, and I’m covered in bug bites, rough. I’m fortunate because I live close enough to Cartagena that I can hop on the bus and be at Juan Valdez, latte in hand, in about an hour. But I don’t live there. Cartagena is not my home. In the afternoon, I have to go to the bus stop, wait about 40 minutes for my bus to pass, and then go home to my tiny little room filled with chirping salamanders and, for one very distressing month, flying ants that emerged from my walls every time that it rained.
However, I have two things that always cheer me up. The first is the piglets. I’m OBSESSED with the piglets in my town. There have been at least three litters since I’ve lived in my site and they never fail to make me smile. One day while waiting at the bus stop I saw them and screamed, “ay que lindos, me encantan los bebecitos” when they ran across the street and everyone looked at me like I was crazy. But then one neighbor said, “sí, que preciosos los pequeños y que ricos los grandes.” We all burst out laughing. And she goes, “what? It’s true!”
The other thing that always cheers me up when everything is the worst, is when my little neighbors come to my house and want to color. They get very excited about it. They like to see what new crayons or coloring sheets I have. We’ve also had a few epic days drawing with colorful chalk in our little park by my house. A lot of the kids still haven’t quite grasped the difference between chalk and crayons and like to color with chalk on paper. At first I tried to correct them, but it didn’t stick, so now I just say whatever and let them have fun – even though it irks the American side of my brain to no end. I’ve had a lot of adults come up to us and say they’re glad to see the kids doing something productive, which makes me happy. The kids also have this weird habit of taking the stickers I give them and putting them on their foreheads. But again, whatever makes them happy. It’s also given me an opportunity to work with them on sharing and understanding responsibilities and consequences. For example, we can’t color on my porch anymore because they kept coloring on the floor. They all know this, but they never stop pushing to see if they can get back on the porch. But when I say no, we can’t color on the porch, many of them say “because we colored on the floor?” And I want to give them all lollipops and throw glitter on them because they actually understand that their actions have consequences! They’re just little moments, but they always seem to pop up right when I need them the most.