365 days. It’s a long time.
On June 1st, 2014 a group of 91 strangers landed at Chinggis Khaan International Airport. Fresh off the boat, we were in an emotional no-mans land, torn between a deadly mixture of awe and sleep deprivation. A staff member ushered our exhausted bodies through the airport’s narrow double exit doors. Outside we discovered a man-made tunnel formed by unfamiliar faces. Stumbling through the tight passageway, the second years welcomed us with rambunctious high fives, shouting a rhythmic chant of “Welcome to Mongolia”, which increased in volume with each repetition. Exiting the tunnel (for the most part unscathed) we boarded our bus. Letting my legs buckle, I slid into the soft cushion of my seat. As I finally allowed my heavy eyelids to succumb to fatigue, I was vaguely aware of a slight vibration in the air surrounding me, inflected with a sense of nervous anticipation for the year to come.
Tomorrow, the 76 remaining M25s will advance into our second year as Peace Corps volunteers in Mongolia. We will become the older siblings who, after surviving one school year and winter apiece, are assumed to be knowledgeable creatures chalk full of wisdom and warnings. Now, notice my word choice. Assumed. I say this as my mind does not particularly feel to be all that wise. In fact, the more time I spend in this country the more questions arise. So, when the newbie volunteers who just today took their own initial steps onto Mongolian soil ask me for advice, I will try my best to answer by drawing on my year’s experience. But in truth, all that I care about is passing on the only concept that I know to be true, which a fellow PCV has so eloquently captured in the following words:
“In the end you will get to where you need to be. Will you get there on time? Probably not.”