I’m back in America, and it’s been a strange process of reintegrating back into American culture. Looking back, trying to process everything, there were many subjects I started drafts on, or contemplating writing about, but never got around to doing. There were cutesy things, like the best and worst list I had planned to compose. The best buuz, of course, were at the vegan restaurant in the second district of Erdenet. The worst place in Mongolia, undoubtedly, being Dragon Center (a large transportation hub) in Ulaanbaatar.
There is also Mongolian music. I touched upon it briefly in this post, but never got into the more traditional long and short songs. I never touched upon the traditional instruments, particularly the murin khuur, or horse head fiddle, that I attempted to study but failed spectacularly at. There’s a menagerie of flutes, stringed instruments, and drums I never learned about.
Speaking of drums, I never got to visit a shaman, or learn much about shamanism on a practical level. Sure, you hear the stories about city shaman and the most powerful shaman in the taiga, but I never got to visit one to see the ceremony with my own eyes. I also never got to visit the much adored Bayan-ulgii, where the largest group of Kazakhs in Mongolia dwell. A unique culture all its own is to be had out there.
There were also many negative things I never expounded upon here. I felt many, many days, that Mongolians were racist and bigoted. I was harassed verbally nearly every day for two weeks for simply walking down the street to buy vegetables. I was threatened and intimidated. At one point, I had to calm myself down and prepare myself mentally for the harassment I was going to face before leaving my apartment. They were dark times, indeed.
There were also many positive, personal interactions that I never wrote about. One of my teachers participated in a young teachers’ teaching competition. She asked me for help, and I gave my opinions, not expecting them to be heeded (they seldom were), but to my surprise, they took them in earnest. She won first place. I took a few nice trips to the countryside where I sat with a family and friends in a ger, eating soup, and listening quietly, responding when I could. Sometimes, my Mongolian friends would go out to a restaurant or dancing, and we’d have a great time together. I met the nicest man in Mongolia in Erdenet, and many more worthy of the runner-up title. I am eternally thankful for them and their hospitality, and for keeping my negativity in check.
There were also many failures in my work. Development work is a strange, curious thing. I’ll never know if my teachers paid attention long enough to use the methods I taught them, nor if they will ever have the time, energy, or enthusiasm to implement them. I regret not having more time with the students, for they were the ones who will truly change things in Mongolia. They all seemed appreciative of my efforts, regardless, even if the culture doesn’t show overt appreciation often. It’s hard to remember that the development work is only 1/3 of your Peace Corps duties: You are also to expand your host country’s understanding of Americans, and vice-versa. I hope I helped to dispel myths that all Americans are rich, white, and that all volunteers are secretly spies.
I also hope that my blog has helped anyone reading it understand about Mongolia and Mongolians a little bit more than they did before taking 5 or 10 minutes to skim my articles. It’s a large land with few people and a big history. I’m not sure where I will go next with this blog, or with my life, but I hope to keep writing. It has proven therapeutic, and often times a saving grace when stress and depression gain a hold. I might do one or two more posts on Mongolia, transition to transitions, and then who knows?
Thank you all who have followed my Peace Corps adventure these past two years. You all have helped me in ways you can’t imagine.