Interviews

This week has fallen to interviews. Through the small camera built into the upper rim of my laptop, possible future employers observe my posture as I attempt to navigate a field of questions aimed at dissecting my background. I try to answer concisely, and find myself consistently failing. Instead my eyes float to a blank space overhead, and I am back in my village. Mainly to myself, I start answering an inquiry, peppering the reply with details that mean little to my audience.

In front of the white cabinets of my parents’ kitchen, my tenth grader hurries along the small pebbled path. She calls out for me to wait, and asks if our weekend study date is still on. I slip upon the ice, causing her hand to shoot out, hooking her elbow around mine. Now stopped, I admire the dipping sun, directing her to do the same. The remaining glow backlights the icy mountains.

My concentration is broken by a passing car outside, and I remember the question – “What experience do you have with teenagers?” My memory receding, I cut off my rambling and begin to list off the appropriate resume bullet points.

Smoke

Until now, smoke has conjured up notions of both bodily and environmental harm. The suffocating smell coating everything its spidery tendrils manage to grasp ahold of, only relinquishing its ownership after multiple washes in the washing machine or shower.

My sentiments have recently adapted to my current reality. Every night, against the soft black backdrop of sky, pipes and chimneys dot the horizon. They emerge from gers and wooden houses that emit a slight glow, indicating the presence of multiple bodies inside. Rusted old boxes shoved full of wood and coal exhale through their narrow tunnels of metal or brick, allowing a gracious path for the puffs of smoke created.

Once released, the smoke slowly twirls about, encircling itself. The malleable form offers itself to the elements, letting the wind and snow direct its short journey. Its particles begin to separate, drifting apart from each other, disappearing amidst a smattering of stars overhead.

Smoke now connotes warmth. It creates comfort.

It signifies the presence of life.

Just Another Night in Mongolia

It’s 10:30 at night, and I’m talking with another Peace Corps volunteer over the phone updating her on my day. I tell her how yet another teacher is pregnant (surprise!), and that I got roped into participating in a Mongolian dance for this year’s teachers’ concert. My phone beeps twice, signaling that another incoming call awaits my attention. I see it’s my host father and tell my friend I’ll talk to her later, pushing the green button twice.

Host father: “Ariel, my home.”

Me: “Odooiimo?” (Should I come now?)

Host father: “Odoo.” (Yes, now.)

Me: “Za…” (Okay…) Continue reading

Assumptions that Mongolia proved wrong

Upon receiving my invitation to Peace Corps Mongolia, a few assumptions popped into my head. Of course, it is a well known fact that assumptions are often false, and lead you to act like a… well you know. But it’s impossible not have some, at least it is for me. Here are a few that I had almost two years ago on the fateful day in Israel when I found out that I was going to be spending two full years in Mongolia.

  1. That my love of scarfs would finally pay off.

Once a Mongolian enters a building, the scarf comes off. Fashion scarves just aren’t a thing (aside from the silky little ones that are frequently patterned with animal print). Whenever you wear one, people ask you if you’re cold. And by people I mean EVERYONE. So after the fourteenth person asked me if I was cold within ten minutes of walking into the school, I gave up on introducing Mongolians to the concept of indoor scarves…sigh. Continue reading

Candles

Alright, I’ve finally come to terms with a hard reality. I have an addiction. Well actually, I have quite a few, most of which fall under the larger sub grouping of sugar. But that’s yesterday’s news. The newly emerged addiction is that of candles.

Last year my best friend of… what is it now? Well since third grade sent me an awesome birthday package full of delicious items, two pairs of the fuzziest socks that have ever graced this planet, and a spiced candle. I was ridiculously grateful and may have even leaked out a tear or two in joy. But, I did find it a little ridiculous that she had sent me a candle. I mean, I live in a tent. It’s slightly flammable to say the least. Continue reading

Clothes

At the end of last year, I made a choice. A decision applauded by some and mocked by others. I was no longer going to hand wash my clothes. All throughout last year I spent hours each week washing my clothes in a bowl. Blisters constantly appeared on my hands, as my skin doesn’t favor calluses. Every weekend I would groan at the knowledge that that big, pink bowl was watching me from its resting place between the dry sink and white shelves, waiting for me to pick it up, put some hot water and laundry detergent in it, and start the monotonous, painful task of washing. Continue reading