Those Pesky Grand Ambitions

I will tell you, dear reader the hard truth. I joined Peace Corps as a way to live in a far away land, learn a foreign language, and be thoroughly immersed in a culture as different from my own as possible. The notion of my presence benefiting a community seemed cool, but I didn’t assume that as a recent college graduate I could improve the world much. If a country, or even community for that matter, could really improve in education, health, or any other ways of development that easily, war, hunger and sickness would have disappeared long ago.

I assumed I would, after two years, make some friends, teach some English, and hopefully inspire a few kids in the process. I most definitely did not have any great ambitions to swoop in and save impoverished children from their surroundings. I was coming to Mongolia for myself, and if in the process I did some good, that was fine by me.

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And yet, now I find myself frustrated. I’m learning the language and making friends. I’m teaching English, and improving my teaching methods while doing so. Living in Mongolia as a volunteer is maturing me in ways no other experience could. The only problem? I find myself wanting “to do good”. And I mean that romanticized version, the one that many volunteers sign up for in the first place.

Not only do I crave the ability to change how my school teaches English, I also want to wipe out alcoholism, spousal abuse, and malnourished children. “It’s the small cultural exchanges that matter”, and “Remember, the changes you make in your community may not be visible at the time, so don’t allow yourself to become underwhelmed by how you view your time in Peace Corps”, along with bucket loads of other words of advice are flying out the window. All of the intents I have been warned against, and have warned others against, are finally appearing in my thoughts. But is that really so awful? I can live with small changes, but aspiring for more doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. It fact, it seems pretty great.

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