“I’m younger than that now…”
In danger of being predictable, the title is again courtesy of Bob Dylan. I did just turn 25 after all, and the “getting older” thing is starting to feel repetitive now at a quarter-century.
I’ve returned to Mongolia after a few weeks at home. The sensation is strange, not least because in some ways it’s life in the ger, in the middle of the desert, that seems most normal to me now. I’d hinted at it in my last post, but American life is a little strange. The scale of choice and variety tend to just leave me paralyzed and confused. How am I supposed to pick my restaurant of choice (let alone my entrée), when I’ve been satisfied with goat and potatoes for fourteen months. I’m not condemning the US for its variety of choice, I’m commending it—I just have to observe that it now overwhelms me. In nine months, when I come back for good, you all are just going to have to be a little patient with me.
I’ve had a little time to think about my return to the Land of Blue Sky. We all gathered in Ulaanbaatar for “Mid-Service Training,” which is a significant milestone in the service of any volunteer, marking our passage from junior members of the Peace Corps community to senior. All of a sudden, we’re supposed to know more than our newest volunteers, but in most cases I think we’re profoundly confused by our new status. The influx of new blood does a lot to reinvigorate us though. They are excited to be here, and we’re excited to have them, but it’s an interesting reminder of our service changing lenses—the end is in sight, and we’re looking at Mongolia knowing that the time we’ve been here is longer than the time we’ve got left.
Opening up the ger, I found everything where I’d left it, and all of it covered in a fine layer of dust and sand. My haasha’s grandmother kept an eye on everything while I was away—opening up the flap on top of my ger during hot weather, and closing it again for rain. The summer has been wet, I can tell because there’s still a healthy green tint to the land in the distance, scrubby grass and desert flowers still hanging onto the moisture in the ground. There’s a wealth of folk wisdom about what all the rain means for the winter, most of which suggests it will be mild. People around here have been weirdly prophetic about the weather before, so I don’t have a problem believing them this time; not least because I just want to believe them. Even as I’m posting this, I’ve lit my first fire in the stove this evening and my fellow volunteers up north have already seen their first snowfall. It’s September 7th.
I’m sorry for the long hiatus this summer, and it’s taken me a bit to get back into the routine of writing as often as I’d like. More is soon to come, including photos from the summer and the first few days of school.