The Smiles of Children

Paraguay RiverIt’s the smiles and waves of the children in my community that remind me what I’m doing here is worthwhile. I’m still learning these kids’ names and I’ve been to their class maybe once, but they are already happy to see me. They yell “hello” across the street, wave and smile vigorously, and ask me when I’m coming back to the school. They may be little terrors when I’m actually in their classroom trying to teach, but their smiles give my work meaning.

It’s easy to wonder why I’m here. My work doesn’t have a clear product, or a clear direction for that matter. It’s not like I have sales that I can track to measure my success. I’m dabbling in diplomacy and public health—terms that don’t even have a clear definition. And to tell you the truth, up until recently I haven’t even been doing those things…I’ve been setting up to do those things.

The first 3 months in site—yep, I’ve been in my site 3 months already—are supposed to be about building relationships. For me, building relationships included going on walks, hanging out at the health post, visiting houses in my community, baking at the bakery, and helping my site mate teach in the school. I watched a lot of soccer. I’ve helped some people study English. I helped a child with his math and Spanish homework.

I tell myself time and time again that sitting for hours, drinking terere or watching the soccer game, is actually part of my job. Peace Corps service is like building a house—you need a good foundation before you can build the walls and roof. But, I’m the one building and evaluating the foundation. I guess I’ll know how I did somewhere down the road when my projects start falling into place. I start teaching at the school regularly at the end of July. I can’t wait to have a “set” schedule.