Well it finally happened. Last night, at around midnight, marked the time of my arrival in Mongolia a year ago. Its been a year, and there is a reflexive need to reflect on what I have learned and how the next year will go. There is also the intense sense of change, as sitemates leave and new incoming trainees are flying in. When I woke up this morning back at site I could feel a disturbance of the force as 90 some new volunteers arrived in UB last night. I myself just got back from ToT or Training of Trainers, where we organized lessons and trainings for the new prospective volunteers. Which further helped me realize… I have learned so much, even in the terms of how things work and how to navigate this crazy wild country, just in the past year.
For some more news, I will actually be a cross culture trainer this summer, which means I will be teaching the ‘fun stuff’ , leading sessions about cultural values , geography and travel in Mongolia. I also (kinda) helped plan a culture fair where current volunteers will lead introductory lessons on foods, music, and the “Suprises” room, full of things that are surprising to the new trainees. When I looked at the past years lessons plans, and saw the list of topics that would be surprising to people, I thought ” I once thought all of this would be weird!?!?”. Stuff like the breast feeding ( for those wondering, its everywhere all the time. I’m honestly surprised when I see a baby being bottle fed here, which has only been once this entire year), the lack of a personal bubble and the alcohol culture just to name a few. Also, I have to say, I have never before created a budget proposal where some of the items included animal heads, empty vodka bottles, snuff bottles and boiled animal innards before. This culture fair will be very fun 🙂
While it was a crazy two weeks of planning and logistics, it helped me realize that I have learned a lot while being here. Like I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did yesterday, a year ago. Mainly getting a taxi from the hostel, negotiating a fare to the airport, and then asking the girl sitting next to me on the plane for a ride to Uliastai. Never could have happened a year ago. It was also neat to hang out with people of my cohort that I haven’t had the opportunity to really talk to before. Mongolia is a huge country, and there are some people that I will only encounter a couple times before this is over, so the opportunity to socialize with them is precious. To rephrase my sitemate, you find your tribes in life, and the bonds you form during this experience are strong. I can say that I belong to many different tribes, but I like this new one. We are 40 something good eggs. I enjoy my time with everyone of them.
Reflecting on all that I have learned this past year , also makes me think about what is to come. It really does make sense to me now, why Peace Corps is two years. You spend a year just barely treading water, learning how to navigate an alien planet as an infant. Now, being able to understand how and why things work here (or sometimes don’t work) really makes me confident for this upcoming year. Not to say that I have become more shrewd, but there is a sense of feeling more confident in my own abilities and the projects that I feel will benefit my counterparts and community.
On that note, I will also try to post more on this blog in the upcoming year. Part of my Peace Corps job is supposed to be sharing Mongolian culture with friends and family back home, which actually is served by keeping a blog and writing on it. I have actually been sitting on some future blog posts for a while, but I will get better about posting those with a quickness this next year. You have my permission to bug me if I don’t.
As for this summer – things will be very exciting. My parents and some family friends will arrive in T- 10 days, and I’m excited to show them this wild place, and see some new places that I haven’t had the opportunity to visit before. I will also be organizing a camp (hopefully) for the couple days before Naadam. I will also be trying to visit my host family that I lived with this past summer, before going to train the newbies for their second half. This summer will be busy, but was we often joke, summer is the one nice time to be in Mongolia, so I’m going to milk it for all its worth.
With that , I will leave you with a proverb that came up during ToT:
Ганц мод гал болохгүй
Ганц хүн айл болохгүй.
Which translates into :
One piece of wood can`t make a fire
One person doesn’t make a family.
I appreciate all of you, and till next time, which will be soon I promise 🙂 – V.