Three June 7ths

I spent three birthdays in Mongolia. I flew to staging as a 24-year-old and flew back as a 27-year-old. I know I lived my mid-twenties well, but it still feels like they somehow disappeared. How did I become 27 so quickly?

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My first birthday in Mongolia was uneventful because I’d only been in country for a week. My cohort didn’t really knew who I was yet and it was the day after we’d been introduced to our host families. A few people managed to call and wish me a happy birthday and my host family made me Mongolian-style kimbap and gave me a bar of chocolate. It was simple but endearing.

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I was in a similar situation the following year. I was at another site for training and the new group had just arrived. My boyfriend reached out to the only trainee he recognized and asked if she could organize a little something. The group, despite having only known me for a couple of days, were thoughtful enough to chip in on some fruit, chocolate and a cheery song. Later that evening, my colleagues made me birthday kimbap and chicken.

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Then, without expecting too much, my 27th birthday became one of my favorite memories. School responsibilities had dwindled, the weather was warm and sunny, and all my friends were still in town. You could see miles and miles across the green pastures so I organized a picnic potluck by the river. We found a nice clean spot with a good view of the mountains and nomadic goats. Perrin brought sangria and cupcakes. Deegi brought a Korean pork/yak dish I taught her how to make. Anna brought garlic bread and I baked pumpkin bread. We had veggies, hyam (salami), fruit and candy. It was a mishmash of foods but it was a delicious spread.

After first lunch, we took naps in the car shade. We laid by the river and giggled like school girls. We collected dried dung to make a smoky insect repellent fire. We took photos, danced, and stalked untamed horses. We went for second lunch. By sunset, we’d been outside for hours. We didn’t have our cellphones to distract us and we didn’t have any vodka to make it hazy. We just had one another’s lovely, unfiltered, easy company.

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She’s so happy with her dung collection 🙂

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