Wednesday, May 26, 2010
...And Sometimes You're the Pigeon
As a follow-up from my sad birthday post a few months ago, I'd like to highlight some really wonderful things that have gone on lately. I am leaving Hovd until August on vacation and to do some work in the capitol heckling Embassies for money. So on Saturday I had a field day with all of my Access kids, both new and old, as a final outing before the summer. It was something quite interesting trying to explain the rules of baseball by myself to 25 children who have a rather limited understanding of the English language and all want to bat. But they seemed to enjoy our little tailor-made version of the game and we played around by the river for about 3 hours. Just before we left, I gave them a wee motivational speech, did he circle-sit activity and told them how great I think they all are. Then, as I collected my stuff off the field, they yelled in unison 'THANK YOU, TEACHER! WE LOVE YOU!'. I was taken aback. Just those few words made so many recent struggles and stresses vanish. And in the theme of final fetes, last night I had a little dinner with some friends to say goodbye to everyone before I leave for vacation. In the middle of the evening, an older Swiss woman came over. She is here for a short time teaching English at the University and we have had some nice chats; she has also come to my cooking club a few times. I said hello and wandered down the hall. Behind me she said 'I came here for you.' I turned around, curious and flattered. She was clutching a tan pencil with a multi-colored tip. 'I think you're just great' she started. She went on to tell me how much she admired my being here and the way I do so many wonderful things, but so quietly. She told me how much the university students talk about me. I blushed deeply. She went on for such a time that I started sweating I was blushing so hard for so long. She gently scolded me for my red cheeks- and at this point, my pink ears down to my crimson toes. I didn't need to be embarrassed, she said. Then she extended the pencil to me. 'I think you are like this pencil. So colorful' she smiled. She explained that I will figure prominently in the way she describes her experience here in Mongolia to people at home. It was possibly the nicest thing anyone has ever said. Not only because it was so kind and genuine, but also because I thought that no one saw me, how much I try to help and the amount that I work. Apparently my efforts have not escaped her notice. Being here is a process of trial and error, stabbing around in the dark attempting to find what works. And when someone like that gives you such a speech of love, encouragement and even admiration, your heart fairly bursts with deepest gratitude. In a special program for college leaders last year, I was made to give a speech about how I saw leadership and how I would carry it out in the future. I spoke about the idea of leadership as a colorful quilt, various patches sewn together from different places. At the end I remarked on the stark Mongolian landscape. Awash with browns and grays, I would have to take my leadership, my color, with me to this place. And here, exactly a year later after I stood at the podium and gave that speech, this woman was giving me color. Unknowingly presenting me with the idea I had had floated into the world many months ago. Confirming my almost prayer from college, she was telling me that I had fulfilled my hope to bring color via leadership to this place. It was profound. But she had to leave due to test writing in preparation for the next morning and the night marched on. Next a friend brought the party to a halt and proposed a toast to me and my travels. I was overwhelmed with the kindness. The evening wound down and I went home with my friend to get some rest. In the morning, he made coffee and ushered me back into his room. 'I have something for you!' he said. I grinned and folded myself onto the bed. He sat on a stool facing me, took up his guitar and proceeded to sing. He serenaded me with 'Sympathique' by Pink Martini, an upbeat French song about losing love. I smiled through my tears and soaked up every moment of it. He grinned and told me it was my birthday present. I had forgotten that he promised me a present and it hadn't occurred to me that he'd surprise me on our last morning together. That is where the birthday connection came from. I had a rather sad birthday, but people's actions this week have been overwhelmingly touching. I think I like that better. Not being nice when you feel you have to, rather reaching out in genuine kindness at a time that feels right. After the general outpouring of kind words and actions recently, I think I can look back on this last year and feel good about it. Hold my head high, I can know my vacation is well deserved and look forward to yet another year in the most challenging yet most rewarding job I will ever have.