Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Best Day of My Service!: Dangerous words

It seems to be a trend that at some point during one's service a loud proclamation is made:

"This is the Best Day of my service!" 

Sometimes that's followed up with a "so far" in general acknowledgment that the best day can't be decided upon 3 weeks into service. But more often it's followed with an epic decline back to the mundane that makes up most of being a Volunteer. 

These "Best Days" are usually when major projects finally come to pass. You feel accomplished. You take pictures. THIS is why you came here. But inevitably next week you are once again wondering what the hell you're doing, as you chase contacts to set stuff up and animals out of your yard. But that's ok, it's the way it goes. 

So there are a lot of good days I can think of in the past two years, but I'm gonna say yesterday was my best day. And I'm declaring it thus, because of it's mundane nature with a few seemingly small, but in reality, huge wins. There are no pictures. It wasn't even that exciting, but damn, it felt good. 

Last week I was supposed to work the snack bar at a high school soccer tournament. Rain canceled the event. That's to be expected but the following is not. 

Three days later, my contact texted me with the new time and date of the event, making sure I could still make it. SHE TEXTED ME NEW INFORMATION! For non-PCVs this may seem like normal behavior but for any PCV who has shown up to an empty room only to be told later the time of the event was changed, you know what I'm talking about. I don't know why we don't get these updates. It seems everyone else does. Maybe people figure we'll find out somehow like everyone else. Or they don't want to bother us. Or maybe we don't ask the right questions. I'm not suggesting the lack of information is malicious, only that it is what it is. But yesterday this was not the case. My contact used her phone credits to text me information. Huge start to the day. 

I then showed up at the appropriate time. Another huge cultural integration win. Hora Parguaya can mean anywhere between on time, to 2 hours late. I was told to be at the event at 6, I showed at 6:30 and my contact had just arrived and was beginning to set up. Showing up 30 minutes "late" is sometimes painful for me, but I put on an episode of Community and it wasn't so bad. Seriously the only people on earth who are habitually on time are Americans, and the Swiss. 

Next I was actually given responsibility.Ok, so with my contact I generally get to participate but this is not always the case. Because we don't always know the local way to do things, we are sometimes just not given jobs or tasks. I have a friend who asked her host mom to help with the cooking, and she was delegated turning on the oven. -True story.- But last night, throughout the evening I had real work. Food prep; Handling money; Making hot dogs; Taking orders; I had at least as much responsibility as the 11 year old. All that and I was able to handle myself pretty well with only a few extra instructions. (How am I supposed know to cut hot dog buns down the top? They come pre-sliced down the side in the U.S.) I actually didn't screw things up too much. One might even say I was helpful. 

I knew the songs that were played, and the jokes that were told. And we finished cleaning up, the teachers who worked the event invited me to share a beer with them. I wasn't the sole topic of conversation. They spoke in Guarani mostly, and it felt nice to not be some sideshow around which conversation had to be tailored. So I laughed when I understood a few words, and kindly asked them to repeat themselves in spanish a few times. 

On top of all this I was hanging with many of my favorite people in town. My contact, Cynthia is always a treat, and her three kids are perhaps the first kids I've actually liked on either side of the equator. They each had big nights themselves. The snack bar helped raised a several hundred dollars for the schools Cynthia works in. Carlitos proved himself a solid bar back, even if we only served soda. And Monsey got hit in the face with a soccer ball by her brother and didn't cry. (Sulked, but no tears. Huge win.)

I didn't take pictures because I didn't think to bring a camera. It was a High School sporting event. It wasn't "Development." It was me doing a favor to people who have been nice to me, and thought to include me. And I think that's why I found myself smiling all night. I had been included and I knew what was going on. For maybe the first time since showing up, I felt like I kinda fit in. And to think, it only took 1 year and 8 months. 

Maybe it's a dull "Best Day." But I think I like it better that way. It wasn't a remarkable day. I just had a good day. A best day. 

*There was also a full fledged girl fight, with punching and hair pulling. That added a little something to the whole evneing.*