I live in a ger. I chop coal and firewood. I speak (or at least try to) with my coworkers and friends in a language far different than English. Yet, it’s becoming easy to forget that my life here once felt strange. Somewhere along the line, the unfamiliar became normal. My ger feels just as much my home as my previous apartment. Building a fire has become so second nature that as it becomes warmer, I am shocked when I don’t have to make one. Washing my hair in a bucket is a simple, easy task. This acclimation to my surroundings is great, but it also holds a negative aspect.
When I was in college, an acquaintance of mine chose to study abroad in Mongolia. At the time, I was a bit jealous. Mongolia, to me, appeared the most exotic country that one could travel to. Nomadic Asians on horseback carrying all of their possessions behind them in a wooden wagon filled my imagination.
Now that I have become accustomed to this way of life, the exotic has become the ordinary. I no longer marvel at the intricate designs painted upon the poles holding up my home or am shocked that my khashaa parents purposefully encourage their infant son to pee on the floor (seriously though, they make waterfall noises and everything). Even while writing this I have to really think about what, in my current life, would appear weird to someone that has never experienced it.
This makes me sad. Two years has always seemed like a humongously long stretch of time. But now that my service is creeping closer to the halfway mark, I realize there’s a choice to be made. I can either let time pass me by, sedentary in my new found comfort, or I can make it a point to explore everything that this culture, language, and people have to offer. It’s great that I have made this place my home, but the standard, comfortable routine has the ability to get in the way of discovery. So I am now making it a point to remember where I am, and how unique this time is, because I am in a land of nomadic Asians on horseback, and when next year is finished, it’s over, and the time for relishing in the unusual will be over too.