I'm at home, surrounded by freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I'm actually at my brother's house in Pittsburgh. I arrived back the night before last. The day I was travelling was the longest day I've ever had, and I say that literally. It was a 36 hour day. I saw the sun go down and come up, but it was still the same day in the morning. In fact, my plane from Korea left at 5pm on July 15th, it was a 10 hour flight. Then, after a 5 hour lay over in San Fran, my flight to Pittsburgh took off 4pm July 15th. Fun.

My brother with his wife and 3 kids met me at the airport. It was so strange seeing a familiar face. It was so...familiar. They've been showing me a really good time. My brother owns Prints Charming Photography
. It was cool to see his office and all the ways which it's grown. In many ways I'm glad I'm not involved in running a business, and yet in many ways I'm recognizing that owning your own company may be the most free way to live in this country. It's the only way not to have a boss, and the only ones who can fire you are you customers, but they seem to love him.

We spent a lot of time during our COS conference and a lot of time just talking in general about how hard it is to readjust when you get back. It's harder to come back to the states than it is to leave in the first place...much. It's true too. Sometimes I feel like my skin, language, accent, and all physical characteristics are American, but inside, I'm this cross-breed Ameri-Mongol. It's all coming back to me, but slowly. Everywhere I go in my peripheral hearing, people are speaking English. It's weird to understand every little thing that someone is saying. I haven't needed to block out other people's conversations for a long time because I never knew exactly what they were talking about, and if the person spoke English, I made it my business to figure our why they're in Mongolia. The other Americans I lived with all adopted Mongolian ways as well, so all manners of Americanisms are spinning my head.

I can, for the first time, sort of see how the rest of the world sees Americans. Even at the airport in Seoul, Korea the Americans were the ones making a big stink about how long the ticket check-in line was. I'm thinking to myself, we're all stuck in this terminal until the plane leaves anyway. What's the big deal if it's sitting down or waiting in a line? And in the place and time, another Americn couple kept yelling at their kid to come over to them, sit, and be quiet. The kid was being really quiet and looking out the window just 10 feet away, but the parents got crazy upset and snatched the kid up forcefully so that the kid started crying. This happened like 4 more times, and every time, when the kid wandered away, the two would talk to each other about how impossible this kid is. I couldn't take it. Why can't a kid wander off for 10 feet and look at the plane out the window? I never would have considered it before, but now I can't help but think that it came more from the parents obsessive need to control than from anything related to safety. Mongolian children are mainly ignored. Parents there teach their kids virtues like patience and peacefullness by showing them, consistantly, what it means to be patient and peacefull. They never raise their voices. And while it's hard to take at first, they never discipline their kids for not listneing. If the children are too rowdy, they calmly say, "That's enough". If the kid doesn't obey, they say it again in the same tone. This might continue, but they never get upset or even acknowledge the child's behavior. It seems crazy, but for the most part, by the time a kid is 7 or 8, he or she has adopted the parent's peace and mild manner. I'm just trying to say, kids aren't punished for being kids. They are severely punished for doing something actually wrong, but for not listening or being too active or other things that kids do naturally, they are left to be kids in the same way that a baby is never punished for crying or pooping or spitting up.

The first resturant I went to in the States was at the San Fran airport. We were in a group of 5 RPCVs. We all went straight to the counter to order our food, but the man at the counter directed us to please sit at a table if we didn't want to take the food to go. We sat down and a waitress came up pretty quick, just to let us know that she'd come again soon. When it came time to order, the first person in our party wanted a chicken sandwich. The waitress asked if he wanted cheese. Ok, he'll take cheese, he said. What kind of cheese, she asked, colby? american? swiss? cheddar? The five of us looked at eachother with our mouths open. In mongolia, food comes how it comes. Usually your first 2 choices off the menu are not availible, and then even when it is there, you can't be sure that you'll actually get the thing you asked for. Here, we were being confronted with MORE choice. It blew our minds. But then the very next question was, would you like potato salad, cole slaw, or french fries? It was almost too much, just give him a chicken sandwich. But that's the American way. I'm sure none of these things will bother me soon enough, but I'm know the bigger, more impacting, cultural differences are awaiting me.

I'm missing sorely some of the things and mostly the people I've left behind. Part of me wants to buy a plane ticket back, even if just for another week. But I know that I have to go through this sometime. I find myself thinking in Mongolian and wanting to speak it, but there's no one to speak with. And all of those little Mongolian expressions that I salted my English with constantly are useless here. Yanaa, ee chavaas, yamar sonin yum be, baihaa.

I'll be in the groove soon. I start my new job in a month, and seeing my brother's kids has been worth all of this. From what they say, little Riley doesn't like any new people, especially men, but she is all over me and loves for me to carry her and to sit on my lap. How cool! She is adorable, as with all of his kids.

I've got to go eat some breakfast. I might have one more blog in me before I retire it along with this chapter in my life. Thanks for being a part of my journey.

Peace and love and faith, hope and love to you all

They asked for a blog...

To begin, as usual, a weather update:

In the last couple weeks, the weather has gone from snowing and uncomfortable, to really really nice, to hot as hades' underpants. But the forecast for tomorrow says...snow!

My keyboard is at the school. And as some of you know my laptop's keyboard has a few keys that don't work, including my spacebar. So I'm "CONTROL V" pasting every space. I hope you all can appriciate the time and energy that I'm putting into this blog. I assume that if you're still following this late in the game, you do.

School let out. It's so strange to be here in my town with absolutely nothing to do but walk around. I want to enjoy this last month, you know, be fully present, but it's sort of difficult. My mind is elsewhere in a far away land, where the morning bells ring with liberty. Kid's Day was on the first of june. It's the one day of the year when there are no drunk people wandering around, and kids don't go unnoticed. In fact, they get whatever they want. You'll see them everywhere, leading their parents around saying, "I want icecream or candy or pop or a toy," whatever, and the parent just buys them whatever It's a fun day to in Mongolia.

Our close of service confrence was actually really informative and surprisingly fun. It was good to see my M-nineteens one more time before I say goodbye to most of them for good. I'm sure I'll keep in touch with a couple of them, but as with the end of all of life's chapters, you leave behind friends that were there for a season.


You may have seen it already, but there is a rather amazing COS picture of our group on facebook.

Now is the time to cope with saying goodbye to my friends here, my ger / this amazingly beautiful town, and the end of my service as a peace corps. It's a lot. Plus, I'll be dealing with readjusting to freedom, ahem, I mean USAmerica. Some of it I'm looking forward to, but honestly I could die happy if I never saw another roadside billboard or got the latest pop tramp's song crammed down my throat. I would love to live in a world where money and business were not the bottom line or where people weren't looked at by those in charge as consumer slaves. But hey, I'm a dreamer, and it was nice to escape the heart of the beast for a little while. I got to see that there is a land where who you are is not defined by what you do. I saw a market economy where, for the most part, greed and competition are not the driving forces. I saw a people who aren't possesed by their possessions. And I saw a news system that didn't throw words like "terror" and "crisis" around to boost ratings. All in all, it was a two years well spent. Mongolia has it's problems and I'm glad to be headed home, but still I'm not looking forward to breathing the air of control and indebtedness that was so thick in america when i left. You can't really imagine how refreshing it is to live in a place for a while where the day isn't split up into 15 minute intervals until you've lived it yourself. I thank God that places like this still exist, and I'm praying that there will always be places with a different vision of the world. Because the possibility of the western way of life imperically taking over everywhere is a very real and frightening scenario.

This leads me to some final thoughts...things I've learned from my experience. Poverty is only a state of mind. Yes, some places are plagued by severe famine or water shortages, and we should do everything in our power, and a lot of things out of our power with God's help, to put an end to that kind of poverty. But in many places, poverty is only an idea given to us by people that can profit from such an idea being out there. We buy into the fear of not having enough, which in America means usually not having enough excess. This fear actually drives us into both debt and a sort enslavement to THINGS. We desire to be independant and own our own land, not because there is any inherent virture in land ownership, but because somewhere down the line we were told that it is important to own land, and we agreed. But land ownership is aristocratic territory, and we, the common man, will lose a game played on their home turf. This individualism and privitization in our blood drives us away from community. Even if we use our resources and possibly invite the homeless into our home{a noble thing indeed}, we're still stuck in that awful "I'm having THEM into MY home". Instead of the more accurate, "we are family, and this home belongs to you as much as it does to me." In Mongolia, you belong to the land, not the other way around.

In fact, Christians, would any of you say that you own your particular houses if Jesus walked in the door? Or would you readily offer Him the keys and say, all of mine is yours. But Jesus also said that the way you treat the worst off is how you are treating Him. In fact, by most any standard of definition, Jesus WAS homeless.

Don't get me wrong. There are a lot of attributes that are amazing and unique about the States. It's my home and I could never feel more at home anywhere on Earth. We have a standard of "niceness" common to most Americans that surpasses anyone else I've encountered, and we maintain that generous spirit even though it's the source of a lot of how other nations try to take advantage of us. The list could go on.

So...My mission for "readjusting" into the states will be to find a way to promote community and subverse individualism in every way I can. But the question is, can i resist the pressures of the American life? Will i fall into chasing the American dream? I've been thinking of how I will spend my six thousand dollars in readjustment, and most everything I've come up with has been ways to spend it on myself. I think I really need some sort of mentor to look to. Or someone willing to keep me in check.

I don't know how interested you all are about these things, but they are the things I'm most dealing with at the moment. Any other revolutionaries out there? Holla at me.

Love and peace brothers and sisters

Getting Warmer

Well it's May. For the last week it's been really warm and pretty during the day, and it's only gotten cold at night. But I learned, never turn your back on the Mongolian spring. It went from about 65 degrees to 20 degrees in the span of 30 minutes and then...blizzard. Everyone was freaking out.

Speaking of the Mongolian spring. I've learned a new expression/superstition. The expression is "Zun boloogui". It means, "It's not Summer Yet!". Mongolians personify the spring sky (for you late comers, the Sky is the number one god in their ancient shaman religion). The spring sky is content to give a warm day here and there. But he is a very moody, jealous, and irritable being. If you go around on a warm day in a short sleeve shirt, not wearing a hat and coat, the sky will look down and feel disrespected. It's like you don't fear him, and he gets mad. I never understood why you see Mongolians all bundled up even on really warm days. I always thought it was because, you never know. It IS that, but also, they are showing respect to the spring sky. Sort of, "I know you are a harsh spirit, I respect that you could send snow storms, dust storms, freezing winds, rain or whatever." So when they see someone (me) wearing short sleeves, they say "zun boloogui".

Tomorrow is my Trafficking In Persons (TIP) awareness seminar. I'm pretty nervous. It's impossible to expect everything to go well without a hitch, but I'm hoping my students show up, and that we have a PA, microphones, and a projector all working. Cross your fingers. It's important that these kids know about evil people who see young women and men as products to be sold into forced sex, labor, militia, marriage, etc. POP QUIZ, where is the American hub of the illegal transporting of females into prostitution? that's right...ATLANTA! Home of the largest, busiest airport in the US. Thanks Terrence for putting so much of the leg work into this project, from me and my school.

I have been offered a postion with Mission Year (one of those monastic things I was talking about) As I prayerfully consider it, I've also been applying to many other jobs, mostly in Atlanta, but also in D.C. I'm applying for a recruiter job with the Peace Corps in Atlanta. The pay is pretty good, and it's close to home. They wrote back and said I should expect someone to contact me soon, either for an interview or for more information. It's good to have options, but the more options that open, the more I stress. I'm sure I'd be stressing more if I have no options though. I feel like my dreams have all come true so far though. Peace Corps was a dream come true, not the orgaization exactly but the experience. It was worth putting myself through college just to have these last two years, as stressful as they've been.

I have less than a week left of work at my school. Specifically, I think I have 3 classes to teach, not including computer classes or clubs or other things like that, but 3 English, 40 minute lessons. Wow. Next week I leave for my close of service conference, final physical, and dental exam. I'm totally packed, that's inclluding the things that I'm just bringing with me to get them out of my ger (books, clothes, water distillers, etc). My bookself, which at one time was completely full and cluttered, is almost completely bare. I've been burning old clothes that I don't need and are way too nasty to give away. I'm getting a box together of things I'm leaving the volunteer who will take my place, and I'm sorting out which things to give away to M20s and which things to take home.

I was talking to my duu. That is my little mongolian brother. He's 9 years old, and we've been good friends for a long time. I mentioned how soon it is before I'll go back to America. He started bawling. We hugged, and he kept crying. It's was so sad. I looked around the ger for something to give him as a present. I gave him my frizbee. That helped, but he sniffled for a while still. It was my first encounter with really having to say goodbye to my friends here. And I'm realizing that it's going to be really hard. Yeah, certain people will stand out as the hardest, but I've depended on these people in so many crazy ways for the last couple years. They've made living in Mongolia tolerable and worth it. Not only that, but also my fellow M19s, I'm not sure you can imagine how close you get to be to people when they are your ONLY other foreigner contacts. And most of them are amazingly cool on top of that. Oh well, there's still some time before all that.

I love you all with a great passion. Everyone congratulate Wes on completing his PreService Training in Paraguay!!! He's starting his journey as a sworn-in PCV. Good luck.

I hope to see you guys soon. I haven't forgotten any of you. (and a couple of you I haven't met)

PEACE LOVE GRACE HOPE FAITH All the blessings of heaven. Be fruitful and multiply!

Keeping Up

The word spring means something totally different in Mongolia. Sping here is like a person that fell asleep watching The Shining and then proceeds to have bad dream after bad dream, waking up occasionally and thinking, "Oh, I hope that's the last bad dream." What can I compare you to, Mongolain spring? You are like a man who bits his tongue and then every time he thinks it's getting better, he bites it again, and it all starts over.

Every once in a while, it gets warm (keep in mind, after a year here your definition of the word "warm" will include a temp in which you can still see your breath). The sun will shine, and all of the snow will melt and make a flood out of your town. Then it will get dry, and the wind picks up and you get crazy dust storms. With the wind comes colder weather and clouds, which gets everything cold, like bitter freezing cold, and then it snows for a while and the cycle starts again. This can happen over the course of a week, or it can happen twice in just a few hours. you can never know what to wear. It's time for a tank top, and then you need a wnter coat. You wear your tennis shoes, but by the end of the day the ground in the entire town has become mud. forget to bring a hat to work, and your ears might get frost bit on the walk home. Wear long underwear in the morning, and by lunch time your sweating in them. The joy of spring. Mongolians say, "The spring sky is a moody person", at least that's the official translation. My translation would use a little different wording.

I just started my last quarter of school. It's really exciting. My movie club is going great. And I've decided to teach with all of the teachers for these last few weeks. The truth is, I really only have about 5 weeks of teaching left. My close of service conference is in Mid-May, and by the time I get back from that, it'll be graduation time. Then, in the first week of June the M-21's fly in to start their journey in the steppe. I'm hoping to make the most of the time I have left.

But still, I do care less and less for being culturaly sensitive. Sure, I still use my right hand, pull my sleeve down when I recieve things, make sure my liquid containers are always pointing north, shake a person's hand if we happen to touch feet, and a whole list of other things that have become second nature, but a Mongolian recently told me (at a government sponsered shool event where kids were all around and people were drinking vodka) that I had to drink three shots because that's Mongolian custom. I said, "I don't care." And that's been my MO for the last while. I don't let people show up to meetings late and just pass it off as culture anymore. I don't let people come into my ger and just take whatever they want, nor do I any longer ignore it when the teachers and staff steal my things from my classroom. they don't call it stealing, but it's stealing. No, some things can't be overlooked and passed off as "culture". refusing to show up on time and constantly reschelduling meetings that you don't really plan on attending, lying to someone about your intentions just because it's easier to disappoint them then tell them the truth, borrowing money (or anything) that you don't plan to pay back, showing up to school at 10:00am too drunk to teach, or never putting in your contribution to a project that would have gotten resources for your school and students, these things are not merely cultural differences. They are flaws that don't do anyone any good. And I wish someone had let me know that it's not my job to allow and enable this behavior. The way we're taught is that you can't change these things, so just try to work around it. I've decided I can't take that view anymore. It's not that I'm going to be able to change anything, but I can at least voice my disapproval and refuse to participate. And when something harms me personally, emotionally, or monatarilly, I can certainly stand up and say that I'm not going to take it anymore. Oh well, too little too late I suppose. But the point is, I'm not too worried about burning bridges anymore, especailly those bridges that I now see were never important. Trust me, this is a very different stance from the one I've had for the last couple years.

Easter has happened! I spent it with some American friends. We had a pot luck lunch. Everyone spent a lot of money on their food. And in the end we had a feast of pizza, hamburgers, fries, pie, cookies, biscuits, scrambled eggs, yogurt, soda, and deep fried peanuts (Yeah, that last one was me). We played charades, and got so stuffed that I didn't eat again until dinner the next day.

I have an official close of service date. It's July 15th. Somehow, I was able to get myself on the first flight out of Mongolia. I hope my family's happy about that. I originaly wanted to stay until the very end, August 13th, but family and other plans have had me push this up. It feels so weird. I can mark a day on the calendar of when I'll be on a plane out of here.

All of my extra money has been going to buying gifts for people. From the looks or it, most of my luggage on the way back will be gifts. Some people are going to be pleased I think. I'm not totally done yet, but I've got something for most of my family and a couple friends. Living like this has made me super duper poor, but that's to be expected at the end of a "wild adventure". And I have lots of little things for people I've overlooked. Anyway, I hope I'm not forgetting anyone important.

I know you all are busy with stuff. Still, it'd be good to hear from you. I have an interview soon via skype with Mission Year. Wish me luck.

I love you all.


Stuff and Happenings

Wow, it's the end of March. It's snowing everyday, and the wind just gets stronger and stronger. Not to mention it's still about 20 degrees in the day and 0 degrees at night (F). But enough of a weather update.

Work at school is going. We are in the middle of a 2 week break. That means, just one more quarter to go . But I'm still going to work everyday because I have a student and a teacher going to the English Olympics competition, and I care a lot that he does well. At night, I'm writing emails, filling out applications, researching things, and basically getting ready to dive back into it in America. I've got some amazing leads, back to that in a minute. Anyway. I'm so tired lately cause I've been email corresponding with america at night and teaching in the day. So, I don't have time to sleep. Ug. I've even been passing out randomly while at home.

BTW I'm borrowing a keyboard from the computer lab at my school during this break. That's how I'm able to write this blog here.

So....I've decided I'm going to try to join a Christian monastic society when I get home. I'm in the application process now. What that means is, I'd live in a common home with other Christians, we'd all have part time jobs (or not depending on the orders) and pool all of our money together, spend everyday in contemplative prayer, and use the rest of our time on community projects. The one I really want to get in with is called The Simple Way in Philladelpha. Those people are known for all sorts of antics, including getting arrested on occasion while protesting unjust laws that marginalize the poor (no sleeping in public, no begging, no peeing in public, etc.) I'm really excited about this next chapter. The other monastic society I'm applying to is called Mission Year, they are in 8 cities in the States. I have a good feeling about that one. I've applied, had references sent, traded emails, and I've even hand written a letter to Shane Claiborne, telling him about my intentinos of applying for his apprenticeship. I feel the same way about this stuff as I did when I applied for Peace Corps. As soon as I got on the right track, the rest has just followed and keeping on it has not been difficult. I hope one day to maybe even start a monastic society in Atlanta or even maybe just help people who are looking to shed the single-home family and take on a multiple-family home setting, give counciling to some of the issues involved, etc. This time, this next year, I hope will be the time I can learn and grow in that area.

Intereting note, the book I read that eventually led me to join Peace Corps was called "The Only Road North" a gift from a very amazing friend, I'm talking about Melanie here. Anyway, the book I read that got me started on this path was "Jesus for President" and from there "The Irresistible Revolution", both by Shane Claiborne, but this too was a suggestion from a friend, Tysen. They were both of the "Brandon, you need to read this book" variety. God bless pushy friends.

I've been very isolated lately. It might just be the time of year, but I haven't been out of town in a while. And I haven't been back to my resupply site in well over a month. It;s pretty difficult, but as the weather slowly gets better (despite the flippin' snow and wind), I feel like I can take on anything.

I know that I've grown so much. At the beginning of this second school year, I said that I didn't think I had a lot more personal growth to go through. That was so wrong. I've changed how I feel about food and nutrition, theology, pacifism, my reputation, and so much more. And I know I have this time to thank for a lot of the strides I've made.

I'm always happy to hear from you guys in the states. Please, send an email this month if you've got the time, or give me a call if you can afford it. If you don't know, my email is luc_duchien@yahoo.com . That's the one I still use for friendly correspondance.

Love ya'll

Bending the last Around

I'm back to having to go out to blog. Sorry mom, your right, I didn't break my keyboard by blogging too much. If you want an update, you might just have to call. Before I get into how much fun I'm having, I just want to say, when will this cold end? We're still getting -15c days and -25c nights. Oh well.

I've been working really hard lately. I don't wake up super early like I ought, but I'm at school all day from the time I get there. The english olympics are coming up. This means that that my kids are being pulled from all of their classes to study in the English room. I've been making tests, assigning essays, tutoring listening and speaking, etc. until the sun goes down. Also, after Tsagaan sar, the lunar new year, there seems to be an endless string of mini-holidays to occupy all of our time. Today was the big Women's Day celebration. I cut out early because they werer getting to be too rowdy. Before, I'd care a lot about wanting to be friendly in the Mongolilan way, but as my service draws to an end, I feel less and less of a need to be culturally sensitive. On the other hand, more and more, I just want to sream and shout at my coworkers about the obsesive need to have copious amounts of vodka for any and every social gathering. I mean, drinking some sometimes is a good, and I can see people wanting to go overboard for a special occasion, but it's unheard of to get people together without buying at least 4 or 5 bottles of vodka and/or 3 or 4 2-liter bottles of beer. It's exhausting. On top of that, often there's the Mongolian alcohol made from milk, no not the milk stuff, the 50 proof clear death drink.

Did I say I was going to get to how awesome my life is and how much fun I'm having? I know that all the crap is going to disolve once the temperature gets and stays above freezing. And I can't describe it, but this has been an amazing couple months for me. It's just good. But here's the hitch, it's good, but in the way that I know it's gonna be awesome soon. It's gonna get warm, our close of service conference is in 9 weeks, and I'll be heading home in August. It's like I'm engulfed in hope.

We're in the middle of Lent. That's going well. I'm reading a book called "Jesus for President" and despite its terrible title, it's a pretty good book. It's by Shane Claiborne, who reminds me a lot of Rob Bell. Before this book, I got deep into the history of Christian theology for a while, and just wanted to bit my own head off by the time I got to Vatican II. While it's really interesting, it's not my bag.

I'm looking for jobs now. I don't know exactly what I'll be doing. I hope I'll be working at all. But I'm ready to settle down. I want to have one job and do it well, have one community and be a part of it, have one woman and love her right, and dig my roots deep. Who knows, you don't always get what you want. (And to be fair, I could see myself doing some other crazy thing and living in some other crazy place, but it's not the way I'm feeling now.)

Send me your questions if you have them.

Have fun guys. See you soon. Stay strong and shine bright.

(no subject)

2010, wooo.

SO much has happened in the last month. Christmas and New Year's, the worst of the cold season, mandatory flu shots, dates, and much more. Now that January is almost over, the extreem -40 degree weather is slowly becoming more and more tolerable. In fact, every day we get 3 or so more minutes of sunlight. There's always rumors that this week or next week will be really bad, but those are things you have to deal with when they come up. The winter this year was bad though. My town in particular had a lot of livestock die from the cold and starvation. This winter was much worse than last year for exactly one reason. There weren't any mid-minter warm day like last year. Last year we had one or two days a month that wasn't bitterly cold. It gave the ground a little time to melt a bit of the snow away, but I don't think even the first snow ever melted. This way, the snow doesn't water the ground, it becomes icy hard, and the animals don't have any way of getting grass. Plus, the constant cold eventually kills them.

Cruddy news out of the way, Christmas and New Year's were pretty good, considering I'm away from home for the second year in a row. I was able to make it to a Catholic mass on Christmas. It made it feel that much more Christmassy. A friend went with me. It just reminded me again how much I miss my congregation at home. I spent the New Year's countdown with some friends in my aimag center. It still makes me crack up how different Mongolians do it. Last year, they didn't count down at all. This year, they did a count down over and over and over again from, like, 25 seconds. They did it starting about 5 before midnight til a little after. Priceless.

A lot of my friends are going home. We have a terrible early termination rate. It's like 30% that have gone home now. One of the ones who went home was my friend that I went to Cambodia with. Another was asked to leave for medical reasons. It feels like our close of service gathering is gonna be sadly unpopulated.

I got in trouble with the M-20s for calling them newbies. Those noobs can just go get stuck in the hodoo with nothing but their useless signal-less phones. I say that because I know now that they read my blog. Sorry.

Teacher's day is Friday, which means competitions, a lack of focus on work, and of course a party. I don't know if I'll make it to mine. As I recall, last year I won some sort of award, I never figured out what it was for or if I was supposed to get a certificate. I do remember them calling my name. After this, everything will center around the English olympics. At least I'll have more direction. As it is, every time I get on a schedule, something happens and I get thrown off again. First it was swine flu, then it was Christmas, then it was flu shots, now it's gonna be planning this English seminar.

Personally, I'm realizing that I've changed more than I can even say. I feel so much less crazy (after spending so much time in crazy mode here) than when I left. I mean, my head is on straight in a way it hasn't been in a while. At the same time, I'm totally lost as far as what I'll be doing in about 7 months. I'm in constant prayer about it. And it's not just that, I'm here, there, and everywhere about what to do in the present as well. It's strange that I relate feeling sane with being confused like that.

My good friend Tysen is going to come by this weekend. It'll be really good to see him. He was coming just to visit my site, but we rethought the plan and now I'm gonna meet him in between. The two of us already spend enough money calling one another on our cell phones. I'm pretty excited.

Teacher's day, Tsagaan Sar, English Olympics, one more quarter, and I'm done. That's how I'm counting time, and I know I'm not alone in that.

Good luck Wes in Paraguay. I'm sure you'll do awesome. I want to hear all about it.

Good luck everyone else.
Peace be with you all.

In it

First, thanks to everyone who sent christmas cards my way. I've recieved 12, mostly from the Northlake family. At this time of year, when the days are short and cold, it's really hard to get my head in the game. Lonliness is so real sometimes. Thanks for the reminder that I'm not as alone as it seems.

Thanksgiving was fun. We had an embassy party again. There was turkey and all the goodies volunteers brought. I didn't stuff myself like last year. I had a pleasant time though. I was able to see some people that I will not see again until we do our close of service. There were the parties and craziness you might expect from volunteers when they get together. I bought another gallon of hot sauce at the store that let's you do that. I went through a gallon in the last year. We'll see if I can do it again. I'm well on my way. Hot sauce gives Mongolian food that extra tolerability needed for my happiness and a successful completion of my service here.

Work is back. My school gave me a new system to use in counterpart development. The old system was working until the school closings, and we all know how hard it is to get things going again that have been halted for some reason. The new method requires a lot of motivation on the Mongolian's part. It's one of those things where the more they give, the more they'll get. I'm fine with it, but when they are too busy or unwilling to work, it makes me look all the more unbusy. I'm hoping the rest of the month will turn out better than the first part.

I just want to do a good job in these last months. The end is just about in sight. Not quite, but just over the horizon. I am starting to think about what things I'll bring back, give away, or throw away (burn). I'm remembering the struggle I was having last year, trying to stay focused on work with winter pulling me down.

I know I'm seeming distant from people in the states lately. I've had a couple people tell me I'm being way too withdrawn. I'm really sorry. Know that I think about you all everyday. I just hate to communicate when I'm not feeling so great. Don't get me wrong, I'm alright a lot of the time. It just takes a lot of energy to stay up. Your prayers have helped a lot. I've gone through this part of the winter before, and I'm sure I'll get through it again.

Ahhhh. So let's just take a breath and remember that we are in Advent. Christmas is coming! I really hope I'll be able to spend it with others and not have to be here alone on that day. I'm sure I won't be sticking around if I can help it. Like I mentioned last year, Christmas is an empty word to Mongolians. Most believe that it's just another word for new year, and they are generally unimpressed when I explain that Christmas and New Year's are two different holidays.

So, life is good but tough. I'm looking forward to having a good Christmas, but mostly I'm wishing I could just teleport home for a minute and come back after. Hopefuly, this'll be the last Christmas away from home though.

I wish there were more to share, but it's a lot of the same. I miss you all. And I hope your holidays are full of love and family.





One thing before I get started. The other night it was –11C. It’s supposed to drop lower this next week. Hahaha. IT HAS BEGUN!

All the schools in the country are out for a month. That’s the last two weeks and the next two weeks. They haven’t been able to stop the rapid spread of swine flu, so they’re taking all the precautions they can. All travel to and from the city is prohibited. The students are learning from home via television broadcast. I feel weird cause soon enough the Americans will be inoculated. But a lot of people are freaking out. Surgical masks aren’t uncommon in Asia to begin with, but everyone seems to be wearing one now.


So I’ve got this time to do what I want, except the higher ups have decided to restrict all traveling for volunteers until the vaccines are in. I’m left in my small corner of the world to read, reflect, etc. 


It would be a crime (against my mother mainly) to not use this time to update y’all as much as possible. My home church has been really supportive lately, sending emails and the like. It’s coming at a really needed time. It’s odd. My work is going great. Socially, I’m thriving here. I feel prepared for whatever the winter might throw at me. I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time. Yet, some days I still feel like I’m not going to make it. I get this voice in my head that tells me that the gamble I took coming out here, all that self-motivation I gave myself about throwing myself to the wolves and seeing what comes of it, that it wasn’t worth the risk. Odd right? Perhaps it’s that everyone hears right before the finish line, the final attempt by your inner demons to distract you because their cause is almost lost. Here’s to hopeful thinking because there’s no way I’m turning back now. 


I had a visit by some PC managers. Talk about validation. They talked with my director and counterparts at the school to hear their thoughts on my work. They said they were very happy with me and my work, and they hope the next volunteer continues in my footsteps. Now, Mongolians are not the type to talk down on anyone, especially the guest American, but it felt sincere. I just hope I can some through with some of the promises and plans I’ve made. That being the week long teacher’s camp I’ve proposed and the English lounge that they’ve asked me to help build. If I can just get those two things completed before I go, I’ll feel like that and the work I’ve done/am doing will make my work there a success. 


The Mongolian who I visited in Korea is here, visiting his brother, my counterpart. It’s good to see him again. I’m definitely planning to stop back in Seoul on my way home. I just don’t know what I’ll do with all my luggage and whatnot. The plan so far is to go to Korea, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and then home to Atlanta. But who can see that far in the future. I really wondering how much it would cost to send home some of the things I won’t need on the way. I’m guessing a couple hundred dollars. Yanaa! That’s a lot of tugriks.


Thanksgiving is coming on us fast. I hope the travel ban is lifted before then, cause we’re supposed to have a party with TURKEY on the Saturday after. It might just be the last time I’ll see some people before I close service. Many people I won’t see before then. 


The newbies are already starting to complain. It’s funny because it was this time last year that we started to as well. It is nice being on the other side of that equation, listening to what their schools are making them do or how they can’t get things done like in America, and then telling them what’s what. They’re losing that blind optimism that we all had coming in. I just try to let them know that it’ll be hard but it’ll be fine. Blind optimism turns to frustration, but eventually it becomes a vision for the future.


Again, I miss all of you. I’ve been inspired as far as what I’d like to do with the rest of my life. The epiphany also came at a good time. It’s given me some new energy. I’ll talk about that later. It’s too early to report on now. If you’re interested you can call me or email me. I’d like to discuss things with someone. Which reminds me, I need to email my bro Carson.


I’ll hit you up again soon…Internet…


Love, Love, Love, Love. In a word, it’s love.

Online Online

Apologies. Seriously.

Part of the reason, i think, that I haven't updated is that now, in the second year, it's a little difficult to find interesting things to write about.  Either I have to worry about repeating myself, or I have to take things that have become normal and treat them like they are special enough to write about.  I'm not sure how many of you want to read, "I continue to eat with Mongolians everyday.  They still rotate making the same three dishes continually.  or   Wow, I was in a bus today for 6 hours even though the trip should only take 1.5 hours.  It was crammed with 17 people, even though the max capacity is 11."

I think about writing a lot.  But I don't know what to say.

Here's my attempt at just giving some sort of update.  The school year is up and running.  Right now I'm in a near by town with some other volunteers.  The week break between quarters was supposed to be the second week in November, but the minister of education pushed it forward to this week because of the bird flu "epidemic", hoping that sepatating the kids will slow the spread.  I had work to do across the country during that week, and now I won't be able to go do it because I'll need to teach.

I started up the computer class again.  We put a certain program on the computers to replace the defunct DynedLab that we had last year.  Still, no internet, but the kids love this new program.  It's very user friendly.  We have 3 classes a day of 20 kids each.  that's 300 kids that volunteer to come in and do an hour a week of extra english work.  I'm loving the succes of this one.  So many of the things I've tried to do have fallen apart for one reason or another.  It seems that I've finally gotten the hang of working here.  This year is seriously easier, less stressful, and much more productive than last year.  It's unreal.  I think both the lessons I learned from my first year and my vacation to Cambodia and Korea contributed to how great things are going.

I miss home a lot.  It's come up quite a bit in my mind in the last couple weeks.  I was recently able to speak with one of the returned volunteers from the group before me, a good friend.  She's also from Atlanta.  It just drove the point home in me.  I'm now 96% sure I will not try for a 3rd year.  In fact, I'm gonna try to leave a bit early to make it to my cousin's wedding next year.  Missing home isn't causing any doubts as to whether I'll make it to a solid close of service.  I'm just realizing that a lot of what I like about myself comes out from being around friends and family.  There's a spiritual dimention to my journey that has diminished.  I know it's waiting for me in the States to come back to, and I'm finding new ways to remain headstrong, but at the moment I really miss the feeling of being engulfed in a large crowd of hamonizing singers.  I miss hearing a sermon in person...in english.  I miss communion.

I'm pretty tired at present.  Sorry if some of this blog reads oddly.  What else?  Oh, I'm going with my school to an english compitition in the Gobi next month.  That's gonna be rad.  I haven't made it down there yet.  I'll make sure to take pictures.

To my nieces and nephews.  I'll be back soon.  Please don't grow too much too fast.  Just wait another 9 months or so.  Ok?

I'll try to post again soon guys.  Really.