Welcome to Mongolia, leave your coffee at the border

So those two suitcases? They are full. Much fuller than my fantasy minimalist self would like them to be. I brought a hammock and a travel yoga mat for goodness’ sake.

We  littered the floor of the living room with piles, trying to stay “organized” and I vacillated hourly between “there is literally nothing I can forget that will result in my death, so I’m chill” and “buuuuut some things still are really important”. In the end I walked away knowing that whatever I chose would probably be the wrong decision anyway, so I might as well get some sleep.

The journey begins
The journey begins or a portrait of belongings

James and I are part of the M27 class, M for Mongolia, 27 for the 27th group to be sent.
We met the rest of the M27 class, all 52 of them, at staging on the West coast where we spent two days going over Peace Corps’ core principles and expectations.

From there, we all got on a plane to Seoul, South Korea, where we boarded another flight to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. After twenty-three hours of travel, we landed at two in the morning, where Peace Corps staff was waiting to herd us onto buses that took us to a hotel/campus outside the city.

Which is where we are now.

We are in Mongolia.

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We have been here two days and the jet-lag has been brutal, especially since we began classes the very next morning after arrival, cup of instant coffee in hand. Brewed coffee is not really a thing here (apparently you can buy some in nice shops in the capital), so I have been experimenting in the delicate art of making instant coffee. You know, that granular powder that dissolves in hot water and tastes like bitter dirt? That’s instant coffee. The results so far are this: the more watered down the better.

The valley looking to Ulaanbaatar.
The valley looking to Ulaanbaatar.
Mongolian cows.
Mongolian cows.

Arriving here means the 11 weeks of Pre-Service Training (or PST) have begun. I have been told to think of it like Peace Corps boot camp. We will be on this campus for a week, completing even more paperwork (if I ever questioned whether the Peace Corps was really a government organization, I am now sure), getting more medical examinations, receiving more shots, and starting cultural training. Next week, we are all separated into small groups, placed in host-families, and begin intensive language training.

I don’t know where I will placed next week and I don’t know where I will be placed for the coming two years either, but that is part of the fun of Peace Corps: the ambiguity. I really have no other option than to be flexible, but I have the advantage of being in very good company. The rest of the volunteers are all interesting, intelligent, and fun people that have a been a blast to get to know and experiencing the ambiguity with. This should be a grand adventure.

A very silly group.
A very silly group.