I remember, when I was in the middle of the application process to join the Peace Corps, receiving a message from my friend Kari on Facebook.
Kari is a PCV in Africa, and despite us working for the same organization and both being teachers, our Peace Corps experiences are very different.
Her message said that she had a “super peace corps day,” I didn’t know what she meant, but I read the message.
Hey! I thought of you because I had a super peace corps day today.
After classes I rode a Jankey bike a total of 14k to read books for 30 minutes with children in a church with a dirt floor. Then I stopped by a friend’s house on the way home and we ate corn on the cob, cooked over an open fire and she taught me songs in Portuguese.
I laugh because this type of day seems so typical PC but it’s actually more unusual than you would think.
I’ve also spent my fair share of days laying in my bed, missing my family, detoxing from teaching unruly teenagers and hiding from men who want to marry me and kids who want my things and women who want to micromanage me. But it’s days like today that make it worth it.
I went back and read that message after yesterday because now I think I understand it.
Yesterday I had a “super peace corps day” too. Keep in mind that a peace corps day looks different in Africa than it does in Ukraine.
I woke up and started my day by boiling water for my breakfast. I went to get ready for school, ate breakfast, argued with my host mom about doing my own dishes, bundled up in socks, boots, yak-trax, a scarf, hat, sweater, coat and gloves. And yes, I was still cold.
I walked the half-mile or so that it takes me to get to school for my first lesson. I helped teach that lesson then walked across the street to one of the stores in our village and bought water, then went upstairs to try and buy a cardboard box. (I ended up getting the box for free, score!)
Then I carried my giant water jugs (I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in my village who regularly buys flat water) and my cardboard box home, walked back to school, taught two more lessons and ate lunch in between with my 4th graders.
The last class of the day was my other 5th form. They’re great. We talked about holidays and they invited me to go to church with them on Easter. I got a few hugs after school.
I had my English club for teachers which was so fun! The teachers are all incredibly excited to learn and were very talkative. I was really nervous for it, but I’m really excited for the next lesson.
I bundled up and walked home, wary of the stray dogs that eye me on my way home and then used the aforementioned cardboard box to make giant dice for my kiddos.*
My “super peace corps day” is a lot different from Kari’s, but it’s one that I’ll remember for a long time. I think it’s because it’s one of the first days that I realize I belong here.
I don’t spend every day ‘saving the world’ and it would be naïve to think so, but every now and then I have these moments where I can look around and smile because this place is good, I am happy to be here and any impact I can have is going to affect me probably much more than any of the people here in Mamalyga.