Finding Peace

The tiny frustrations have percolated into one big giant realization: It just never works out the way you want it to.

Offering a speech in Mongolian at our swearing-in ceremony in August.
Offering a speech in Mongolian at our swearing-in ceremony in August. Credit: Kyra Lindstrom

That old, cliché saying— Expect the worse, hope for the best—its been ringing in my ears this past week.

I am eerily American in the fact that I subconsciously acknowledge that productiveness is key and that “time is money” and the best bet at success or happiness comes from action. My background in journalism led me to understand that I have to work all the time. I feel like a flustered pigeon that accidentally flew into a room after starting school at the beginning of this month. I’m not always exactly sure what I should be doing to pass the hours.

The frustration is the fact that I don’t know. I never know—the obvious manifestation of that idea is the ability to grasp the language. Every action is fleeting: I have the concrete basis of what I want to say or do, but if I can get maybe 30% of that idea expressed, its basically a success. I was given a vague job description and a desk, and the rest lies on the Peace Corps’ confidence in me.

I’m not sure if I should feel like I should trust my old instincts in understanding what’s fairs fair, because in all developing countries, nothing’s “fair” whatever the fuck that means. I haven’t been physically or emotionally comfortable in the last three months, and I work on my personal happiness daily to keep myself balanced. I supposedly suffer because the obvious is apparent: I’m going without a lot of aesthetic, material things that contributed to my security in who I am as it pertains to both my work and my identity.

During Pre Service Training, I was disgruntled, angry even, at the Peace Corps’ approach when it came to scheduling. I enjoyed waking up without an alarm, lazily wincing into the day’s first hours of sun. I felt like I was being realigned, being forced into adulthood by showing up everyday at 9 a.m. and wearing clothes that covered my tattoos, knees, and elbows. The anger boiled up after I had a heat stroke, and I showed up to training the next week with my tattoos bared unabashed with a scowl on my face. Take that. But that was petty.

My suffering, as maybe others would perceive it, is not really suffering. I used to tell myself over and over again while I lived in my hometown that comfort is dangerous, that if I let it get the best of me, I’d succumb to the secretary’s ass of personal integrity. I’m knee deep in puzzle pieces I’m trying to put together, and its not always pretty. There’s a developed and tasteful beauty in finding peace in accepting our world’s harsh realities.

I’ve just made acquaintance with that peace.


  1. Hey sweet Sanne, just read your complete Mongolia-blog and got the feeling after an exciting start trying to process all the new impressions you got a bit grounded (hope I explained it well – sometimes have the feeling I can express only half of what I want top say ;-). I really love what you do – I love your interest for other ways of life and cultures, I love your travelling all over the world and am happy to take part a little bit (via fb and your blog – this morning I showed Karl and Ruth your Mongolia-pictures … they were amazed and ecpecially Ruth is still talking a lot of you). Hopefully you feel allright meanwhile, dont suffer from life circumstances in your new home of time so much anymore and brought enough warm clothes ;-).
    I just read a book from Peter Scholl-Latour (you can get some of his books in englisch, too) – well he made me think – and right now I try to read all his books. You probably heard about whats going on in europe right now. Because of wars all over (Syrien, Eritrea, Irak …), the so called arabic spring (that started in Tunesia) and ended in chaos … and poornes in the Balkans … thousands of refugees arrive daily in Germany … its going since summer and wont stop. … its unbelievable but this author wrote in his books that this will happen … (If you want I could get you his books and send them to your yurt – do you have an post adress we can write you to?).

    … Most of these countries were supported by the rich, developed countries (germany included) (with weapons too) to overthrow there governments and dictators … all under the cover of bringing them peace, democracy and lifes like ours. But it all broke down and the worst – after we sow this chaos we left them allone because of – what I think – the realization that you cant change cultures in only one decade. Now minorities are persecuted and people fom different religions are slaughtering each other … there is no government at all ore military ones … its a bit like Orwells “animal farm”. Fucked up and makes me sad an feel helpless … I pray to god for peace and people to open up there hearts … german people and government in my eyes are totally overstrained by this situation … they built walls in europe to prevent refugees “walking” through to germany (most of them want to come here, to sweden and austria because of good social networks) …

    It always sounds right to bring our culture, ways of life, democracy, emanzipation, progress, consumer behavior … to “poorer” countries. But those are cultures and structures grown over thousands of years and it might not always be right to think you can change and need to change those ways of lifes, they are proud people and they might even think there ways of life are allright … if not Im sure they are aible to change (slowly) by themselves with maybe a little help and support (not with weapons and war). It takes time and it goes slowly … and sorry for saying but maybe you agree … sometimes I got the feeling its all about money. Mongolia is – as you know – very rich in mineral resources, what might be one reason for the US to “develop” this country.

    Now that you are in “your family” what are your daily tasks. Do you feel good?
    I miss you and wish you power and open eyes. Big hugs and greetings from all.

    1. Hi Yvonne, I’m sorry it took me months to respond to your comment. I guess I agree with you in a lot of way about why it would be any modern first world’s place to work towrads “developing” a country. I empathize so much with Mongolia, because Mongolia was basically taken advantage of by countries like Australia and America for their natural resources via the mining industry. Mongolia is struggling since it has come out of Soviet control because they are waning on independence. Part of my job with teaching life skills and about postive youth development is working towards creating a more sustainable future workforce..

      Mongolia unfortunately is one of many countries that has had a lot of influence from other countries, for many years China, and then Russia. Only in the early nineties were they able to find independence, and many locals describe their political officials as “Lost” and “corrupt” because they are still trying to figure out what sets of skills their population needs in order to capitalize on their own national workforce. Mongolia is sort of disconnected because Ulaanbaatar has a giant workforce filled with foreigners, but not many jobs are offered elsewhere in the country, which has led to a sense of bitterness and isolation. Mongolians have long been nation that find refuge in the countryside, often not sure of the political climate, which is fine for them… Peace Corps Mongolia used to have a Community and Economic Development sector which was dropped for whatever reason. My job is more on the youth development front, where I teach students practical “soft” skills that will improve the quality of their lives as well as others. This includes empathy, critical thinking, communication, etc….

      Anyway, this is a good idea for a blog post! Thanks for commenting and reading. (There is a link to a page with my address under “Mongolia” on the headline toolbar.) I wish you and the family lots of love! Miss you xoxoxo

      1. Oh Sanne, its so nice to hear from you – I already checked that you fb account is online again so you probably have access to www? How is winter in Mongolia? I saw a picture of Kyra Clarke on fb – it does not seem to be to snowy? Here its pretty mild weather, we had a little snow last week what made the kids very happy – and accept new snow end of this week.
        So are you informed whats going on all over the world or are you kind a isolated? Its still pretty crazy here. Refugees are coming and there is no end in sight … meanwhile some of them (especially young single man) cause trouble by drinking and acting with no respect for our lifes (especially against woman). Luckily we live in a little village where nothing happens 😉 Its so sad and it was so sure that this will happen one day. People all over the world are connected and know about ways of live all over … so its nearly clear that, woever can takes a chance trying to start a new life somewhere nicer. Globalisation and taking advantage of other countries made a big gap between poor and rich … and all of us just took it for given … forgot to ask if that was right. Now we have to pay a high bill and I think it will take a very long time to kind a get settled.
        Well besides these crazy times the four of us are doing fine. Ruth still loves her horses, Karl is the keeper in his soccer team, Stephan has a new music project and dissappears in his studio 😉 very often and I do love my horses and Yoga a lot … not so much my job (I applied for a Refugee-Program too but so far I didnt receive an answer … who knows … there are lots of new jobs “created” right know 😉 what is crazy, too but offers new possibilities).
        Big hugs from all of us! Stay strong! We love you!

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