I recently got wifi installed in my apartment! It’s been five months since I’ve moved into my newer, second apartment and the only reason it’s taken me this long is because I thought it’d be a huge hassle. But my USB internet modem broke a few weeks ago and I had to make decisions. With the help of my counterpart, I had wifi installed and set up within two hours of inquiry. I’m such a happy bear!
And so the following Monday, I spent my evening downloading and updating my music library: John Legend’s new song “Love Me Now” and Ed Sheeran’s new release “Shape of You” among others. I did yoga, took a bath, scrubbed myself clean and sat down to journal. And that’s when I realized: as much as I complain and wish Peace Corps was over, I had to admit that I had a nice little thing going for myself here.
I’ve been counting down the months from the very start. At first, the countdown was out of awe – “I can’t believe I’ve been here for six months already!” – but then it slowly turned into impatience – “I can’t wait to go back to America in x months and finally be able to do x!” It’s one of my favorite conversations to have with my boyfriend. We can’t wait to get in the car and drive ourselves to an ice cream shop or fast-food joint.Or sit at a bookstore all day with a cup of joe. Decide on a whim to hike or backpack in the mountains. Start a specialty tea & coffee hobby. The list grows as we get closer and closer to the end.
But that Monday evening after my bath, I recounted the months I had left in Mongolia (six) and started to feel a mild panic. Life in America looks good from far away (see above), but zooming in, I realize how much freedom and power I’ll have to leave behind with my service. It makes me sad and reflective and actually start to wish away the end of my service.
But here are the reasons why I don’t want my service to end:
- People think I’m important and I have sway in my work. As a native speaker who was educated under a Western curriculum, my input is valuable and sought out. I’m asked to lead seminars, present at conferences, develop methodologies and trainings, and start up clubs. It feels good to have people respect what I can do even though I’m way younger than them. And it’s such a rush of self-confidence that I can have this kind of responsibility and not mess it all up.
- I work way less hours and get so much more done. I don’t waste my time just to be seen. Instead, I get things DONE.
- I have free reign in my work and my project ideas. The volunteer’s job description is “anything and everything.” TEFL volunteers are teachers but we’re also community organizers. That means if I want to start a speaking club or organize a TEDx talk, I can do that. Nobody is going to tell me that because it’s not part of my job description, I need to sit down and stop making waves.
- The support I get for my ideas has been so amazing. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my service to work with such supportive colleagues. Whether its for education (like a phonics seminar) or for my community (Write On!), the people around me have shown their full support and often times have wanted to help.
- My own apartment with a two minute commute. I dread the days when I’m going to have to search for apartments with roommates on craigslist. Or spend a huge chunk of my income to live in a nice or hip neighborhood and then spend hours every day commuting in traffic.
- A break in monotony. My life has stabilized but not so much that I feel the drone of monotony every day. I can break up my routine with 8-hour trips to Ulaanbaatar for joyous reunions and good food. Or maybe I’ll see something on the street that leaves me puzzled or amused or wonder if it’s just part of Mongolian culture. The holidays feel new. Vacation timing and options have changed up. You see what I mean?
You might notice that the things I look forward to in America have mostly to do with what I can do on my free time. And the things I love most about Mongolia have to do with my work. When I finish my service in six months, I’m trading work status for play options. It’ll be back to being the assistant of the assistant and having no say because I’m young and inexperienced. Back to windowless office spaces, cubicles and nuking leftovers for lunch, crowded commutes …
What is giveth is taketh away.