Last week, I came home from work earlier than usual in tears—a somewhat normal occurrence in my first few months at site. I’ve gotten pretty good at avoiding triggers, but I felt pushed into a situation I couldn’t avoid. I was attempting to share the information with the rest of teachers that we learned at my seminar in Ulaanbaatar together with my counterpart, the school social worker. An hour before we were meant to start, he told me he had basketball practice and that he couldn’t go. “Wait, don’t you have a job?” I asked. “Sorry, Sanne!” and out the door he goes.
In all honesty, I was less than surprised, but disappointed that my pessimistic expectations had met reality. But everyone was expecting me, and I had a presentation prepared. I went on to teach the hour and a half seminar alone to twenty-seven Mongolian teachers. We can only imagine how that went. I struggled to explain game rules, slides, and theories in Mongolian, but I kept my head above water; even though the next time I see my school social worker, I’ll struggle to not passive aggressively encourage him to get another stupid tattoo on his ankle. I wouldn’t have ever chose to work with him, but my training managers and supervisors have been encouraging me to train him to be a better social worker, and I try, but I cannot ever push. I have a feeling they hired him because they needed a good player for their teacher’s team.
Some people are hospitable and sweet. Some people are humorous and lively. Some people are assholes. We cannot avoid the assholes in our lives, but we can tolerate them to some degree. I come from a place that is wildly positive in their thinking, and I admire optimism because it’s always the harder option. Especially in a place like this—I’ve seen domestic violence in public places, I’ve seen a man get hit by a speeding car in Ulaanbaatar where traffic rules are ignored, I’ve seen children who are meant to raise their younger siblings in gers all alone; life and survival can be far from romantic.
Part of the Peace Corps is going with the flow, and sometimes going with the flow is personally
challenging. And it is extremely challenging for me to work for people who have high expectations of a 22-year-old who spends his entire workday on Facebook. So I had a good cry and I got over it. I can’t barrel through my Peace Corps service getting people to do things they don’t want to, and I can’t expect them to because then it won’t ever be sustainable after I leave. I mean, hell, if I were into basketball and into binge drinking I’m sure my counterpart and I would have a great time. But I’m way past the stage in my life where I’m struggling to be something I’m not.
I think I still have symptoms of not trusting my initial instincts around people, but the longer I live here, the better I am at calling bullshit on people’s actions and words. I’ve encountered so many people in the last seven months that there isn’t enough time to simply “get used to them.” I’ve been striving to share my friendship, my love, and who I am right now because that’s all I’ve got.
This week has not been a great one, but dealing with the blows has gotten significantly easier.
I recently found out that the apartment that I just moved into only has a lease that will last until the end of the school year. I’m happy in my new apartment, and my neighbors have been forthcoming and sweet, but I’m forcing myself to see it as an opportunity to request to live in a ger, like what I originally wanted when I knew I’d be moving to Mongolia. So we’ll see how that pans out.