Just over three months ago I stepped foot onto Mongolian soil for the first time. Just two weeks ago I moved to my permanent site. It’s crazy to think about all of the things that I’ve done and experienced since leaving America and even crazier to think that none of it really feels crazy at all. If you had told me before I arrived that I wouldn’t bat an eye at four year olds riding bare back through town, walking through herds of cows and horses on my way to school, or going 9 weeks without a sit down toilet (trust me, it’s better this way, squatters for everyone!) I wouldn’t have believed you. And yet during PST, in the small soum of Khushaat, that became my new normal. Casually shooing random farm animals out of my khashaa yard while maintaining a phone conversation, having a favorite internal organ – the taste and texture combination of the lung are where it’s at – and conversing in a language I knew nothing about when I arrived seemed so unremarkable that I’d have to stop and remind myself that I am in Mongolia; that what is happening all around me and what I’m doing everyday are incredible.
What I’m experiencing now is a different Mongolia, a departure from the rural, small soum. Now I live in an aimag center. I no longer walk through herds of animals. In fact, I rarely see animals, although evidence of them is scattered here and there throughout town. Children don’t tie their horses up at the basketball courts when they stop for a game and gangs of teenage boys with questionable haircuts don’t race by my house on their way to pasture to collect their herds. That isn’t to say that there aren’t gangs of teenage boys with questionable haircuts here. They just spend their time doing something other than galloping by me in a cloud of dust. Most people in the center of town live in apartments, although there is a sizable ger district to the south. I can get pretty much anything I desire, apart from a french press apparently, at the market or in the stores. So this is my new, new normal, still quite distinct from anything I’ve experienced up until Peace Corps, and I’m really excited about it.