Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. – Inigo Montoya
Editor’s note: This blog post was written on Friday, August 8. However, a Sukhbaatar-wide connectivity outage prevented its publication until Monday, August 11.
I’ll be honest. I stole the idea of using that quote from the movie The Princess Bride from another Peace Corps Mongolia volunteer. I read her blog a couple of months before coming here, and haven’t been able to get it out of my head. It’s the perfect snapshot of how I feel each and every day. So much to remember, so much to recount; I’m constantly having to choose between simply having the experience and documenting it. All that to say, apologies for the month that’s passed since my last dispatch.
When last we spoke, we’d just come off the Naadam holiday. After nearly a week of celebration and being out of our usual routines, we jumped headlong into the most intense period of our pre-service training: three weeks of practice teaching on top of our language studies, on top of a community needs assessment project, on top of our cultural immersion activities, on top of….well, the list goes on. It all culminated earlier this week as we prepared for and took our language proficiency exam, or LPI (Language Proficiency Interview).
And then suddenly, we looked up and realized that our time in Sukhbaatar was coming to an end. Two days from now, on Sunday, August 8, we leave our training sites and head back to the town of Darkhan, where our permanent site assignments will be revealed. We’ll finally find out where we’ll be living and working for the next two years.
It’s going to be incredibly hard to leave Sukhbaatar. In a matter of nine short weeks, it’s started to feel like home. I’ve fallen in love with my khashaa family, with my fellow trainees, with the kids we’ve been teaching, and, unexpectedly, with the town itself. There’s been a slow but steady letting go of my life in the States, and a settling into this Strange New Place. Things that once seemed surprising and new somehow already feel routine: a pig running through the town square in the rain, the grit in my shoes after a day of walking, the sound of the Mongolian ‘L.’ I don’t need to be online at every moment of every day and I’ve noticed that while it’s served to increase my attention span, I’m losing my ability to write numerous or lengthy e-mails in a single sitting (apologies to those of you to whom I still owe responses). I guess the muscle I built up after so many years at Microsoft is beginning to atrophy.
A friend called me the other day, and told me I sounded different, more present. I hadn’t realized how distracted I used to be, always doing several things at once even though I professed to hate the concept of multi-tasking—talking on the phone while driving, while cleaning my house, while surfing the Internet. Not really being present for any significant length of time. Now, when I have a conversation, that’s all I’m doing; there’s very little to distract me. I spent this morning fetching water and washing clothes out on the front porch, noticing the birds flying from rooftop to tree. I know—does the ‘simple life’ get any more cliché than that? So be it. There’s something wonderful about being cut off from civilization as I’ve known it. I’m starting to become the person I’ve wanted to be.
That said, it’s time to pick up and transition one more time, without the nine other Peace Corps trainees who’ve kept me company, kept my spirits up, and kept me sane for the past nine weeks. On August 16, training officially ends and we swear in as full-fledged Peace Corps Volunteers. And then, almost immediately, we head off to our new homes, each of us going it alone. It’s the end of the beginning….but the adventure continues. 🙂