At most schools in Mongolia, I am told, there is a very special room that holds in it the history of the school.
Inside they host an array of artifacts: Trophies earned, medals won, citations garnered, newspaper reports, and so forth.
Last December, I was introduced to this room by my supervisor. We were having a celebration for the coming New Year, and prior to the concerts and gift giving, the nice door on the first floor was finally opened for me.
Camera crews were inside, interviewing teachers, administrators, and the school’s original founder, a stately older gentleman in a grey suit. Students stood outside the doorway to greet their teachers, and young women handed out fermented mare’s milk and an assortment of milk-based treats. The impeccable carpets and colored accent lighting seemed a far-cry from the broken windows, dim halls, and panoply of potted plants that adorned the rest of the school. It felt as though I was transported to a different world.
There were new portraits on the walls: collections of individual shots to celebrate the current members of each department. Imagine my surprise when I saw the photo of the foreign language department, with my smiling face smack-dab in the center of 20 women.
Without even knowing it, I have become, even if but for a brief moment, a worthy part of this school’s history. It’s sometimes difficult to see the grander scale, having yourself bogged in the mire of the everyday. In that moment, I saw just how appreciative they were to have me here. It’s nice to feel appreciated.
The Ugly Side of Nationalism (Prose)