1 June was Children’s Day in Mongolia, a national holiday.
With no school, children were outside playing and families were in the government square where there were toy cars for kids to drive around in, a swing set, and the museum had free admittance.
1 June is also another significant day for me.
I have been in Mongolia for one-year. I have completed one year of Peace Corps service.
When I looked back on what I have written during my service – (I have written more than 500 uncensored pages of my Peace Corps experiences) – it has been fascinating to see how I have transformed in this country.
Here’s brief one-year summary of my first year. Let us precede down memory lane.
- Arriving in Mongolia with 52 PCVs.
- My Peace Corps training site was in a small soum in northern Mongolia where I lived with a host family and 8 other PCVs.
- Peace Corps training was like a boot camp: early mornings, a nightly curfew, long hours of lessons, and if you screwed up, you were sent home.
- Being hit hard by homesickness, being sick for 3-weeks, and the long hours of language class.
- My first Mongolian sentence I learned was, “I eat egg.”
- I feared the outhouses because I thought I was going to fall through and learned the importance of emptying your pockets.
- Numerous ducky-showers in my blue tumpun.
- The “Where’s Nancy?” moment during ping pong.
- Driving to the Russian border.
- Thunder storms that took out the power.
- Our sacred wifi spot on the 2nd floor in the school hallway.
- Not being able to keep a straight face during mico-teaching or saying/hearing the word, “болох уу.” We were the worst.
- The hottest month of the year.
- Being given a Mongolian name, Анхмаа (Ankmaa).
- Celebrating Naadam in my new summer deel.
- Having our trainer saying she needs to buy somethings before visiting the Mother Tree and coming out with ice cream, “Does the Mother Tree also need some pizza?”
- River day!
- Being told that I didn’t have what it takes to live in Mongolia due to its “rough” nature: “Winters are tough. It’s not for everyone.”
- Getting food poisoning from ice cream.
- Obtaining a closer relationship with my host family.
- Having a mouse infestation in my home.
- Andy: “Everybody, I have an announcement. I’ve decided to resign myself from Peace Corps……Just kidding, tomorrow morning, we’re having a river cleanup day.”
- Karaoke night.
- Exploring Darkhan with Emma and her host sister.
- Host Family Appreciation Party by the river.
- My host mom’s farewell text message after saying goodbye: “Love you my family. Good luck. See you come back soon.”
- Getting my official site placement in western Mongolia.
- Waiting three hours for our food in a Korean restaurant:“This is like prison food.”
- Officially becoming 46 Peace Corps Volunteers during Mongolia’s 25th anniversary.
- Meeting my counterparts and having my first teacher party where they spoke in Mongolian. Not knowing the language, I found myself intensely watching a high jump competition on TV.
- The beginning of the school year.
- Moving Jenni into her new home and having to carry a mattress up the stairs: “Pivot!”
- Walking on the outskirts of the ger district with my site mates.
- Seeing a yellow Labrador.
- Pizza night with the Catholic nuns.
- Receiving the devastating news that Angelina divorced Brad.
- Weekend in Kharkhorin and visiting Erdene Zuu Monastery.
- 25 September was the first snowfall.
- Celebrating Teachers Day.
- Starting our Saturday speaking club, The Chatty Bunch.
- My friend Zulmka getting accepted to study abroad in Luxembourg.
- Buying a bottle of wine and figuring out later, as we took our first sips, that it was brandy.
- Celebrating Halloween with Bookbridge students.
- Celebrating Tuya’s birthday.
- Consolidation day drill: “Happy Drill Day. Hope nobody is illegally traveling.”
- The 20-hour drive to Khentii and the Bookbridge English Festival.
- Seeing the Genghis Khan statue in all its shiny glory.
- Celebrating Friendsgiving twice at home and in Bayanhongor.
- My radiator bursting and leaking water everywhere.
- Almost missing the bus that would take me to IST.
- Seeing everyone again at IST and finally having a hot shower.
- Finally getting internet.
- Walking in -20-degree weather to the Sunday Market.
- The Young Teachers Christmas Party.
- Having a crippling stomach inflammation that kept me bed-ridden for days.
- Having a sleepover on Christmas Eve.
- Having a low-key New Year’s celebration with two of my counterparts.
- Vising the horse statues and having a winter picnic on 1 January.
- Finally buying an oven. Best decision I’ve made.
- Turning 24 years old.
- Having my lowest point of my service when my CP made me cry.
- A three-day language seminar.
- Making my Peace Corps hospitality video.
- Perrin: “You want to eat at the vegetarian restaurant?” Simon: “Pizza chicken?!?!” Perrin: “No….”
- The Write On competition.
- Having Mongolian dance lessons.
- Finding and buying bags of frozen strawberries.
- Celebrating Tsagaan Sar, Mongolia’s New Year in my new winter deel.
- Watching Tuya rain hell on the woman who cheated me out of my internet data.
- Going on a run with Perrin and getting chased by some youths. “Piss off” probably wasn’t the best Peace Corps response to them.
- Telling Adiya I wanted to make some tsuvien but she mistakenly thought I said soybean so she was trying to look up what soybean was.
- Wear your deel to school day.
- Eating fish for the first time in months.
- A massive snow storm that hit us at the end of the month.
- Traveling to UB where I ate so much food and watched “Beauty and the Beast.”
- Having a three-day TedX workshop for 33 students.
- Making pizza with Adiya and her kids.
- Going to the hair salon and having six people watch me as I got my hair cut.
- Uuganaa: “I’m so proud you are here in Mongolia.”
- Teaching the best class all year with my 6th graders.
- Going hiking in the countryside and getting hit by a rain and wind storm.
- The last month of school.
- Arvaikheer’s trash cleanup day.
- Dust storms.
- Inviting all my English teachers to my home for dinner.
- Buying material for my new summer deel.
- Ted X Arvaikheer being a success with 3 students speaking in English.
- Having dinner with people from the US Embassy and Mongolia’s Fulbright candidates.
- Traveling 16 hours to Erdenet for Special Olympics.