I cannot believe it has been over one year since I came to Mongolia. (Side note: I meant to write this on my one year anniversary . . . but that didn't happen!) So much has happened to me and changed me over the last year. I want to share some of these changes and thoughts with you.
1. Peace Corps
I still love the Peace Corps. It is a fantastic organization that allows willing volunteers to share their talents, time and dedication with others. Being a government organization, there are many rules and a lot of paperwork but it is SO worth it all. At the end of the day, they are there to help assist volunteers to be as productive and creative as possible.
Being in a country that has around 140 volunteers, I have met many people from all different walks of life. I consider them all friends and colleagues. They have taught me a lot about themselves and have taught me about me. I have a few VERY close friends in Peace Corps and I am honored and so very happy to have them in my life.
Mongolia has changed me in ways I didn't know possible. One year ago I came here having never eaten a boiled sheep's head. I have now eaten that more times than I can count. Before coming to Mongolia I didn't know much about it. I knew it was cold, the land of Chingis Khan and a wide open country. It is all of those things but I have found so much beauty in the country and in its people.
Mongolia, in places, can look like Nebraska. It is wide open, full of fields and has farmers and fabulous sunsets. It makes me happy when I see the canvas of the eternal blue sky painted with vibrant purples, pinks and oranges. It also has rolling, verdant hills called steppe and looming ancient mountains. Everything here is just gorgeous.
The Mongolian people are so kind, giving and genuine. Their hospitality is amazing. I am so honored to have many Mongolian friends who help teach me about this country, themselves and where they want Mongolia to go in the future.
A little over one year ago I spent many hours each day practicing and perfecting the art of playing the pipe organ. I haven't seen or touched an organ during the last year and I miss it SO much! But . . . I have immersed myself in Mongolian music. I studied the morin khuur (horse-headed fiddle) at the School of Dance and Music. It is fascinating learning about that instrument and learning a musical instrument in a foreign language was challenging and rewarding. Recently, I have studied the art of throat singing (or hoomii in Mongolian). Thank goodness I am not a professional singer . . . I am pretty sure my vocal chords have bled since I began practicing.
The music on my iPod has also changed immensely. I still have an unhealthy amount of organ and choral music on it but it has been enhanced by a lot of Indie music. This is due, in large part, to the gathering of volunteers to swap media. I have learned of many new artists like: Of Monsters and Men, Ingrid Michaelson, William Fitzsimmons and Sufjan Stevens. Each artist has had one song resonate with me at a particular time to help me deal with an emotion. I am eager to explore these artists more.
Perhaps I have learned more about myself than I have anything else over the last year! I am a much more patient person now. Waiting outside in the -30 F weather for a bus taught me that good things come to those who wait. While teaching English, I was frustrated with the slow progress that seemed to be happening but I waited and suddenly the progress was so evident and I was so proud of each student with whom I worked.
I have been reminded that love is stronger than hate. Being a part of the LGBT community in this country and working at the LGBT Centre has showed me that being surrounded by love allows you to overcome hardship and come together to work for equality. I am so honored and proud of everyone at the centre and those who are working so hard for human rights and equality.
I have come to the realization that there is something inside all of us that connects us as human beings and brings us together. It is underneath our shame, sorrow and pain.
And so I have another year in Mongolia. I am ecstatic about being given the opportunity to work here again with great people and fabulous friends. Of course, I miss my family and friends back home but it is their love and support that allows me to continue my work here.
To you all in America, keep being cool by planting your gardens, finding joy in life, pursuing your passions and loving one another unconditionally. I will see you all in under one year!
With love and respect,
P.S. I PROMISE I will blog next week about "ghetto gardening" Peace Corps style.