Cositas para los niños (Snaps for the Children)

I never thought of myself as a child-lover. Sure, children are delightful (from a distance and when you can return them back to their rightful guardians by the end of the day). Sooo maybe when I accepted a position to serve as a Primary Literacy Promoter with the Peace Corps I should have thought about how the whole “on the job 24/7” would most likely include lots of time with the lil’ rascals.

My initial motivations for applying to the Peace Corps include:

1) Using my privilege to do some good in the world, no matter how small it may be

2) Living out my professional and personal passion of empowering and connecting people across boundaries (geographical, political, economic & social)

3) Developing a deeper understanding for international development by working with an assigned community for 2 years

4) And selfishly, but honestly, to spend some time in a slower-paced environment reflecting on my purpose in hopes of finding clarity for what I want in life

So how the heck am I accomplishing any of the above by spending my days drinking sugary coffee in plastic chairs, teaching the Macarena, and following my loquitos (kids in my site) on escapades to find exotic fruits? With a lot of help from my little friends.

The weight of entering a foreign community alone with subpar Spanish didn’t really sink in until I was literally doing the damn thing. Luckily, I was greeted with 44 handmade welcome signs, one from each child in my multi-grade school. Despite their difficulty understanding me and my purpose, the kids accepted me with sweaty hugs and sweet smiles.

After one month in my community, their loyalty has proven relentless. When an adult crinkles their nose, indicating they’re having trouble deciphering my poor Spanish pronunciation, the kids eloquently repeat my phrase to clarify. When I’m confused by a game we’re playing, they’re patiently repeating the instructions time after time. When I want to explore a new area, they’re leading the expedition.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows being surrounded by children constantly. It’s difficult to improve my Spanish when the kids correct my statement before I’m able to realize my errors. It’s exhausting to go from 8 hours in the school to 5 hours of impromptu extracurricular activities. It’s draining to have your every move monitored and questioned without any personal time. But without them and their undying energy, there’d be no magic.

Thanks to the children, I’m slowly, but surely beginning to learn the ins and outs of my community. Thanks to the children and their bluntness, I’m getting what I need despite being too afraid to ask for it. Thanks to the children, every doña knows I love fritos and drink my coffee amargo. Thanks to the children, I’m appreciating the power and possibilities that come with literacy. And thanks to the children, I’m rediscovering childhood and the exhilaration that comes with the unknown.

The kids are always finding me mangos maduros (ripe mangos).

After corralling, politely saying cállate, and attempting to read a book in Spanish, my inicial munchkins and I decided it would be easier to just take a silly selfie.

The 4th and 5th grade girls assisted me in my community diagnostic by making a community map, illustrating their perspective of our campo.

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