Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hardcore on a Wednesday

Awesome? Oh yes. Real? Sadly no. Still awesome anyway? You betcha!

Here we have Mongolia and the legacy of Chinggis Khan rearing it's head on the pop culture interwebs, a rather rare occurrence. There are two more Historically Hardcore works of art by Jenny Burrows and Matt Kappler of Cargo Collective (whatever that is) that you can laugh at and appreciate here. I'm in Ulaanbaatar for a Volunteer Action Commuinity meeting so happy Wednesday from the big city!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wendy Left That Nursery

It has come to my attention recently how innocent many of my students are. Last week one of my older, more promising students who racks-up a healthy 16 years of age asked me "Teacher, do you like teddy bears? I love teddy bears!" I smiled sweetly and mumbled a reply in acquiescence, mildly confused by this comment, given the seemingly mature and articulate speaker. True, ain't nothing wrong with a good teddy but this seems to be a strong cultural current and a recurring theme in my life here. Visiting the house of three female students for Tsagaan Saar, I found myself sucked into playing with a tiny, pastel tea set. I don't remember the last time I touched a tea set if it wasn't to stow it away after an evening of babysitting. Honestly, I don't remember what exactly I was doing in my mid-teens but I know it involved a great deal of Shakespeare and possibly some Smirnoff Ice but nary a tea set. Even the older students from the local university who frequent the American Center are rather sweet in this same way. I strolled over to chat with one nineteen-year-old young woman to find her Google Imaging 'pure love'. I distinctly do remember what I was doing at 19 and rest assured that I and most of my generation were not cavorting through our first year of college with pure love on the brain. This blaring juxtaposition has made me ask the same age old question Carrie Bradshaw once famously pondered: "are we sluts?" While the man-eating television heroine was referring to her bevy of girlfriends and herself, I would like to extend the circle of the 'we' in question to mean Western culture and those who subscribe to it. I am pretty confident that unless you hang out with young ladies in Amish communities or FLDS teens, you would be hard pressed to find American youngsters who behave the way that many of my students do. The girls who play with tea sets also adore Disney princesses and all my students listen to slow, sappy pop songs with lyrics like "you've become the meaning of my life" over and over for hours. Even the women here have a definite penchant for glitter and shiny, pink clothes. So what gives? Is it better to love puppies and rainbows throughout your teenage life, a la many Mongolian teens? Or is a healthier upbringing one that leans toward the Western standard, when this is a time in which most teens learn to drive and rebel? Surely both are not without causalities. The young women here certainly have a rather inaccurate, rosy view of the world as a whole while on the other side of the pond fifteen-year-olds die of drug overdoses. I took for granted before I came here that all teenagers rebelled, at least a little. We were supposed to play our music loud and be misunderstood, right? But then I came to Mongolia and discovered the same demographic loving dolls and obediently cooking dinner for their whole family every night. This in turn begs the question, why do Western teens rebel and why don't Mongolian teens do it more? Is it expected of us Western kids, so we subconsciously fall into the pattern set for us by hundreds of disgruntled, angst-ridden high schoolers who went before? Or perhaps experimentation is the natural thing for young men and women to do but it is repressed in countries like this one where the stability of the family unit depends on the 16-year-old watching her younger siblings on Saturday night. I honestly don't have an answer and am convinced that I will continue to be astonished by the cultural differences as I have been for almost two years now. Honestly, it is pretty entertaining when the groups of older teenage boys who yell and laugh at me and my strange looks are listening to Justin Bieber's "Baby" on their phones and sitting on each other's laps.

I cannot go back and change my upbringing. I wouldn't want to. But that doesn't change the fact that I do get a twinge of feeling way too old for my years and frankly self-consciously feeling a little slutty, or perhaps overly-worldly is a better term, when my heart doesn't go pitter-patter when my students do things like give me stuffed animals for my birthday. Wendy left that nursery long ago. Teddy bears haven't really been my thing in over 15 years. I traded my innocence for what I would like to think is a rather well-grasped and balanced view of the world, not filled with pure love and puppies, but not all together terrible either. I hope that in my time here I manage to not upset too many innocent youths with the things I teach them. But I also hope that I open their eyes to things they would not normally know about, even if these things are hard lessons to learn like the life of MLK and the Holocaust. Regardless of our differences, I think the young ladies I interact with are sweet and hope they won't be too harshly kicked out of their mental nursery when the time comes for them to grow up, if it ever does.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dreams of a Deluge

Last night I dreamed of rain. I dreamed I was walking through the streets of a desert city, brown like Hovd, when the invisible sky above was rend apart and the storm began. As I walked though the downpour, the world around me began sliding downwards in swirls and shades of brown, as if existence had saturated itself to pieces. I turned my face upwards and let the drops fall upon my cheeks as everything else slid away.

I don't know what the dream meant. I do think dreams come from somewhere; they aren't completely random. I am also a big believer in water imagery; Kate Chopin's The Awakening is by far one of my favorite novels in part because of the the way in which she weaves water throughout the story. The dream might have stemmed from the idea that a storm can mean baptism, a fresh start and the cleansing of the old. That would connect to the fact that I am beginning to contemplate my life post-Peace Corps as it nears with every passing day. The change that awaits me in less than five months is sure to be something of a tsunami of emotions and transitions. Or maybe it's the fact that I just really miss the rain. Having always lived in a rather wet environment, I grew to adore Southern summer storms, gray Mid-Atlantic days and drizzly English afternoons. A world without precipitation still seems wrong even after such a long time. Moreover, the fact that my Facebook News Feed is being devoured by photos of my college friends at the beach on Spring Break brings into sharp focus that most painful of emotions: self doubt. Via social networking water is being connected with the reservoir of emotions that brings me to so many reservations and regrets I have about being this far away, so isolated from my friends. But whatever this dream means, I know it is far from reality. There is absolutely no hope for rain until many months have passed from now. But even so I will continue to wake up and pray for ominous clouds, pregnant with liquid goodness that sprinkles the ground. Seeing the rain again might wash away my homesickness for my friends and my yearning for the sands of the Georgia coast. The sandy soil here feels parched after so much snow that never quenches it's thirst and I could use the deluge, as well.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Mighty Wave

I never really wanted to be a teacher. Upon my Peace Corps application, I felt that these two years were supposed to be idyllically spent in an African village somewhere coddling orphans and teaching the motherless to walk. But clearly the fed had other plans for me. As a teacher, having moments strait out of 'The King and I' on a regular basis has been an incredible learning process and there are many things that have greatly improved in my life upon this new undertaking at the head of the class. One of which is my singing cojones. In my former life in the theater, I knew good and well to keep my mouth shut. I had grown used to pitying, exhausted stares from auditioners and understood that I would never nab the most measly of chorus roles. Over time, I learned to keep my near tone-deafness under wraps with fun ditties like the Sesame Street Theme during auditions that both showcased my pizazz and distracted from my clear lack of singing abilities. Somehow my voice gets deeper and rougher when I sing, so I can pump out a very soulful lullaby but sadly not a whole lot else of worth. However, here in the classroom, things are different. Well some things are similar, like the fact that I have no shame. But I know that my audience here has to like me. They can't very well leave the class or refuse to cast me in the role of багш (teacher). This leaves me with a rapt, albeit probably pained, group on which to vent my singing voice while teaching them English songs.

Music is a cornerstone of Mongolian culture. People here aren't the most daring in improvisation and lack much of the imagination needed for theater as we know it, but they sure can sing. Handed down through generations of men and women sitting around a ger stove during a frigid night with not a lot to do after a long, hard day on the steppes, folk songs here are just as popular as top hits. Consequentially, people regularly break out into song as they preform mundane tasks and occasionally demand that I sing for them. They are also fantastically emphatic drunk singers. This boldness in song is rather catching. During the host family appreciation event, we had a Mongolian-American sing-off and it was the first time the joy of lustily singing with a group of friends was unfurled to me. It is really quite fun! But now group singing is behind me and my hands still grow clammy when I see 40 little eyes blinking at me as I gather the gumption to teach my students a new song. I don't sing often in class but the students really love learning new songs, so on days like Valentines Day and the most recent example, St. Patrick's Day, I know I have to bust out a tune. I've discovered that songs are a great way for them to feel good about English and a fun, unique way to learn. I am also really passionate about exposing them to new music; the teenage musical repertoire here is greatly limited compared to American standards.

Recently I taught them "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" for St. Patrick's Day. Yes, I know it's a Scottish song. But it fit so well with my lesson about the Irish and the consequences of their geographical location, plus I don't know any traditional Irish songs, so I couldn't resist. It's also such a beautiful song, espeically with the part about Bonnie dieing being edited out for a younger, very idealistically romantic audience. But when it came time in the lesson to start learning the song, I found myself stalling. Awkwardly trying to teach them lyrics they already understood, I caught myself in a haze of nervousness. So I turned from the white board and summoned the gumption and warbling power I've learned from 'Glee'. I channeled Rachel's belt and Puck's solo swagger. Then I took a deep breath and began to sing. I don't think I sounded terrible but I also don't think I'll be fielding phone calls for a spot on my favorite musical t.v. show anytime soon. But the kids learned the song line by line and seemed to enjoy it. The real payback came when they stood, at my behest, and sang the song back to me without any help. I was overcome by goosebumps as such a beautiful feeling washed over me, rolling in with the waves of the children's voices. It filled me to the very brim and gave me a feeling I've never had before. I'm not quite sure what that feeling it was, but it was powerful. Perhaps gratitude, maybe just the beauty of song, but it swept me and all my goosebumps along in it's current until the final "bring back my Bonnie to me" was sang. I applauded them obsequiously and they grinned with pride. As they left the classroom, peels of Bonnie rang through the halls. The mournful folk song from a soggy country so far away sounded beautiful on the lips of children used to a completely different kind of traditional melody. And it sounded so right. I smiled at the moment, was glad that I had maybe made a difference today and began preparing for the next class as a sometimes reluctant, but often joyous teacher.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Slow Loris Likes Wednesday

I think I'm in love! Best. Animal. Ever. My new discovery has possibly even reached spirit animal status. Sadly, further investigation proves that the situation of this little critter in his natural habitat is nothing short of a tragedy. Disgusting. So for about a week now I have been mourning the fact that it is both illegal and morally wrong to own an endangered species, even such a darn cute one. Therefore there will be no slow loris going to the store with me or chilling on my bed in the near future. Sigh. However, I continue to console myself by watching these adorable youtube videos. They will definitely make your Wednesday a little less gray (it's super cloudy here) and a whole lot cuter. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Monthly Montage: хоол mоол

Sunday brunch and Woman's Day dinner got me thinking about the way in which food can be a manifestation of love and caring. So this month's montage is about the way food brings people together. Note: In Mongolian adding 'm' in place of the first letter of a word means 'and stuff'. So хоол means 'food' and mоол means 'and stuff about food'.

This month's montage is something of a two-parter. The first half is about Cooking Club. Held at my apartment every other Saturday, it is one of my highlights of service thus far. Originally it was Mona's idea and started when she invited me to help teach her counterparts how to cook spaghetti with garlic bread. Over the weeks it snowballed and due to popular demand we ended up team teaching a booming Cooking Club. But sadly Mona was kicked out due to medical issues and I was rather determined not to continue without her; I never really cooked a lot before coming to Mongolia. However, because of incessant hounding from my Mongolian friends I reopened our little school in my apartment and it has been thriving ever since. It is only for women which lends a fun air of gossip and joking that can never be achieved with the menfolk around. Even though I constantly catch flack from the guys in the community, both local and PCV, I intend to keep it just for the ladies. Even better than the cooking part, I really love providing these women with a calm, quiet place they can drink tea and raise hell without husbands or children. (And raise hell they do, last week there was a fashion show and impromptu dance party!) It's also a great source of enjoyment for me and a constant challenge to find new, tasty things to make with so little is available. And it's a good way to make sure my house stays clean. So here are a few photo I've manage to snap of Cooking Club this year and last.
'Mama', Mona and I.
Cake is quite a delacy here. No one
knows how to make it but everyone loves it.
Amra batters onion rings like a champ.
Mac' n' Cheese with green beans. Horray!
Suvda approves of onion rings.
Making pizza dough. I'd never do this in America
but it's actually not hard at all.
Facinated by garlic bread.
Some lovely ladies in the kitchen.
Exploring the science of hamburger making.
In Mongolia, they're called 'gamburgers'.
Why? I have no idea.

Some of my favorite ladies: Suvda, Battsetseg
and a very blurry Roza.
Mama with her two loves:
foreigners and food.
Goofin' around in the kitchen.
Boiling gnocci. Quite an enigmatic food
for the Mongolians.
Tserenkhlam starting a poke war.

Bringing brunch to Mongolia.
This next part is just random photos of food in Mongolia and how we interact with it here. Because of the special situation in which we live, food takes on a different role in the lives of PCV's. So here's a little more хоол mоол.

Our training group made a traditional Mognolian
feast last summer. We did vegetarian buuz which were
ultimately pretty ugly but very tasty.
We made quite a spread of American food for
host family appreciation day. Here everyone is sated as
one of our language teachers toasts us with
warm wishes, vodka and a song.
Ladies at brunch! We felt very cosmopolitan chatting over
our croissants and cappuccinos in UB.

On our first trip to the big city Mona and I
splurged on nachos, a salad and fancy drinks
while waiting for our haircuts. The normal culinary fair
for others is a rare treat for us.
Miss Alana pokes at a precious find from the market.
This was the fruit in question in the
November 2, 2009 entry.
Mongolish! Once a week the foreigners and locals get
together at a restaurant to discuss bilingually and hang out.
Roza's birthday! This is a typical dinner party in 
Hovd. Nothing fancy but still a lot if fun!
Due to a serious shortage of counter space, much
of the cooking takes place on the floor. This
turkey was later to be part of our Thanksgiving feast.
Celebrating the end of Laura's big seminar in
Olgii with spinach dip (gotta love those
care packages!) and beer in the sun.
My students came to my apartment for a party
and to teach me how to make buuz. I still suck at it...
Bunnies gotta eat, too!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Notes from a Lovely Sunday

Today has been a prefect example of why Sundays exist. It's been an excellent combination of all things relaxing and wonderful. Normally my weekends are filled with work or meetings but somehow, and I'm not quite sure how, today escaped any sort of obligations. Maybe it was the fact that there are also people visiting from the neighboring aimag which enhanced the relaxed vibe of the day.

It started out with one serious brunch. Since we had a rather raucous a party last night, brunch today was quite an affair. Starting at the early hour of 11, my kitchen was filled with chopping, sizzling and the mouth-watering smell of frying eggs. One of the visitors made heavenly American-style omelets to order while I whipped up a double batch of cinnamon rolls and collaborated with Aaron on a wok full of corned beef hash (this weekend was our St. Patty's Day celebration). Coffee flowed in a continuous stream to which knockoff Bailey's was added by the bold as Jack Johnson, Lauryn Hill and Bob Marley serenaded those reading magazines on my futon. After we had all eaten our fill, the whole room sank into a coma-like state. I'm pretty sure my apartment didn't look too unlike an opium den with people so relaxed they were just about to drool on themselves. Slumped and sated we listened to jazz while we digested, saturating in the freedom of a whole day with nothing special to do. Around 3:30, determined not to get sucked into the looming black hole that is the post-brunch nap, three of us decided to take a walk. The weather has been beyond beautiful lately; according to a friend Thursday was the first day above freezing in over 80 days. Even though it snowed on Friday night the warm sun today was so inviting we couldn't possibly stay inside. So we ventured to the local soccer pitch to take in part of a game and pick up a friend. As we walked, it was so refreshing to see the square and park filled with so many people. Benches that had sat alone all winter were now weighted down by families with chubby babies and packs of teenagers blaring hip hop from their phones. The town felt alive again, as if waking up from a long sleep to discover the renewed beauty of the world. After the final goal was scored, the four of us struck out towards the river. We strolled through the ger district and peered into the family compounds, soaking up the exoticism of an existence in rural Mongolia. Then, as the gers ended, we walked past the river, taking time to pelt the melting ice with rocks and cheer on the progressing thaw. We continued past the end of the concrete, heading towards the wishing tree, a structure of dead branches nailed together and covered with traditional Mongolian cloths. We approached the tree and reverently did the traditional ritual around the sacred pile of rocks sitting next to the tree. Throw one, preferably white rock on the pile and walk in a clockwise circle around it three times. We lingered at the tree, absorbing the towering, colorful structure with its cloth flapping gently in the breeze, and made our wishes. As the sun slowly started to sink towards the mountains in the West, we ambled home. Instead of taking the direct way we came, our route took us through a farm with sheep and goats. I'd never seen a wee little goat jump before, evidently they hop quite a bit, and giggled at the kids kicking the air. We threw snow at each other from the dusting that was still on the ground and laughed all the way home. Later I went to Tserenkhlam's house for a dinner of buuz where we drank tea and chatted with other volunteers. It was a great, lazy day and my only regret is that there aren't more days like it. Free Sundays are few and far between so I savored this one and will retreat into its soothing sights and smells during the coming busy week.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Feast of Love for the Ladies

Despite its bizarre poster precursor, Woman's Day, which was yesterday, was actually quite lovely. In fact, I firmly believe there should be more days like it: a holiday your counterpart tells you about the day before so you get a surprise day off to be showered with love via texts and vittles all day. Perfect holiday? I do believe so.

Woman's Day started the night before with an opening for a local branch of the Mongolian chain World Wines. I was glad to be leaving work; I had been fighting for over two hours to be heard teaching above the din of drunk librarians singing. I set off at 6:00 for the fancy, new restaurant in town where my Mongolian friend had invited me to her gala-esque opening of World Wines. It's incredible how fast Mongolia is growing and changing. When I first got here there's no way there would be a wine store in town, and with so many people in attendance. Though I was late, once I reached the venue it was a lovely evening. Rather impressive with lots of wine-food pairings (who knew huushuur went so well with a robust red?), there was dancing, a wine lecture and even a recognition of all the mothers present after some pot-bellied fellow decided to sing a song for his mom. A little blushed and very happy, I took up dancing with a group of emes and we boogied until the party closed down.

The next morning was a slow one. At noon-ish I finally got around to making whole wheat buttermilk pancakes with walnuts topped with cinnamon-peach compote alongside a big ole mug of fresh coffee for myself and a friend who was starved after early morning ice skating. Then all the foreigners met up for a walk out to the river. It was a beautiful day, albeit a bit cold with the wind blowing off the steppe. The wind rippled the little rivulets flowing over the frozen river which made for a beautiful site. The sun warmed my face, reflecting off the ice, slush and snow and I welcomed its rays with my chin lifted upwards. My friends and I played on the ice, tossed the frisbee around and lounged on the little foot bridge in the sun. It's moments like those, ones when I am among friends with the sun warming my skin and surrounded by breathtaking scenery, that I know I will miss Mongolia dearly. Those moments don't exist anywhere else. But though the sun is warm again, it still sets early and the boys had plans for the night. Next, us ladies reclined and joked while our male homies bustled about cooking dinner for us. We went to Tserenkhlam's house where all the male PCV's, our Swiss dudes and Tserenkhlam's sons labored over a feast of spaghetti, tuna pasta salad, homemade bread and a green salad accompanied by appetizers, fancy wine, cupcakes and brownies to honor the ladies. Half ironically and half in earnest, the boys didn't let us lift a single finger, eagerly filling our glasses and serving us first. I even managed to finagle an end-of-the-night belly rub out of Ned. And even though a typical Mongolian stir-fry with potatoes and cabbage was the base of our spaghetti sauce, it was a truly wonderful meal cooked with love.

Compared to it's American equivalent Mother's Day, Woman's Day has relatively low requirements as to who gets accolades. But I'm ok with that. I put relatively little effort into being a woman here, certainly much less time and energy than I put into being lady-like in America, but it was wonderful to be honored anyway. I got texts literally all day from friends and students and went to bed feeling really special after starting out the holiday somewhat skeptical. So happy Woman's Day, ladies. Embrace it! I hope you have wonderful men in your life to make you 6 different kinds of carbs and rub your belly after you've eaten them all.

The Bear Who Lived

Suck it, Darwin! Sometimes there is a fluke in the system. Perhaps it's divine providence taking a hand. Or maybe it's sheer luck. But some puppies, though not many, survive the winter.
I have taken it upon myself to feed the puppies and cats who hang out in the sun outside of my apartment building at lunch time. The courtyard in front of my building is always rather awash with animals. I live close to a trash dump where many a critter can find snacks. Primarily cows and dogs, but also with the occasional trash donkey or cat there is no shortage of furry friends. Most of the dogs are bigger, full grown animals used to fighting for survival in brutal conditions.

One day at noon, I was walking home from work for lunch and discovered from afar a little puppy whimpering next to my apartment door. As I neared, a group of boys picked it up and started shaking it and pretending to throw it at each other, laughing the puppies distressed yelps. I yelled at them to stop when I reached the pack of cackling preteens and they ambled off, disgruntled that I'd ruined their fun. I stood and looked down at the dusty, forlorn furball. I wanted to feed it but I don't ever have meat. There is enough meat in the Mongolian diet that I don't feel the need to go anywhere near the stuff when I'm not visiting houses or local restaurants. Making up my mind to nourish it somehow, I willed the puppy to stay where it was and dashed inside. Rummaging around in my fridge I found some leftover quinoa. Knowing that it's actually the only grain that is a complete source of protein, I figured a meal like that would be good for a puppy. I dissolved some beef bullion into the bowl of Whole Foods-bought goodness and gingerly presented it to my new friend. The animal lapped it up ravenously until the broth froze, making the whole thing inedible. He lolled happily against my knee, probably the most fed and watered he'd been in his life, as I gave him a healthy scratching behind his ears. However I only get an hour for lunch. Children need educating and I had to eat still, too. So off I went to hurry through the rest of my day. But sure enough, the next day the puppy was there for lunch, his tail wagging as he devoured my makeshift puppy feast. And again the next day he appeared. I kept fixing him the same bowl, adding hot water and scraps to the frozen puppy food from the day before and we carried on this way for a couple of weeks. Once Suzanne came home with me for lunch and I proudly showed her my growing friend, the survivor puppy who had outlasted the hard winter. She said we should name him because he was sure to live. We settled on Bear because he looks like one with his rolls of baby fat that makes his fur stick out and his little pointy ears. Bear seemed to like his new name. But the next day he wasn't there for lunch. And the next day he was absent again. I worried for weeks, always thoroughly scanning the courtyard every time I came or went from home. There was a serious chance that something had happened to him. The weather isn't yet warm enough for an animal not to freeze to death like so many do every winter. What if another dog had brutalized him and he'd died from battle wounds? That is also very common among the dogs here, both homeless and hashaa bound. But yesterday, as I padded back from my local store in slippers, I caught a glance of him. Bear! He'd grown. Bigger but still rather rolly-polly, happy and alive. I grabbed the bowl of scraps I had been saving for him since the quinoa was long gone. I had bought him proper dog food or at least meat this time and rushed out to him. When I bent down to pet him he winced as if terrified of getting hit. Though didn't seem to remember me, he pranced over happily when I gently set the bowl down in front of him. He lapped up the meal with gusto and passersbys remarked about how cute he was. Part of me hopes that locals see me treating a street puppy with love and rethink the way they abuse animals so freely. After he'd finished eating we frolicked in the dust a little until he wandered off to sniff some teenage boys. He returned to me for another ear scratching and without so much as a sniff goodbye he ran off down the street, his chubby body wiggling through the dust.

Watching him go, I marveled at how tiny he is. There is still a good chance he will die. I've seen many a full grown dog lifeless on the ground, their puppyhood long behind them but somehow Mongolia choked the life out of them anyway. There is no guarantee Bear will even live to see tomorrow. Sometimes I don't know why I bother rooting for life in a country in which so many animals are born to die. Tellingly, bones scatter the landscape no matter where you walk in Mongolia. Caring can get exhausting after seeing so many dead and dieing animals. But here and now the weather is warming and I have hope for this little one. Perhaps he was the crying puppy that got kicked out of the Norwegian Lutheran Mission I wrote about on November 14, 2010. I'm not sure. Regardless, I love the little Bear who lived and will give him affection and warm meals for as long as I can. Long live puppies!
Bear gets his grub on.

Doin' a happy dance.
Soaking up the attention.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Over the Hump with Peace Corps, Charlie Sheen and Muammar Gaddafi

This kind of made me want to cry. Ok, if it weren't loading so slowly and played so haltingly because of my internet, I definitely would have cried. It is another video in the parade of digital material marking the celebration of Peace Corps' 50th anniversary. Every once in a while I'll see something like this and my chest will swell to an impossible volume. I'm painfully proud to be a part of something so historic and magnificent; being a member of an organization with such a tradition of kindness is something I can stand by with every fiber of my being. It's also neat to know that somehow I'm distantly connected with the phenomenal people that are interviewed in this video. I truly admire the older generations who came to Peace Corps before me without any technology. They were forced to rely on their willpower and spirit of adventure to get them through their two years, as opposed to plugging into cell phones and blogs. I know both experiences are valid, but sometimes I want to wish away all the things connecting me to the outside world and retreat into the life captured in the black and white images of the first volunteers. At any rate, enjoy! Hope this helps you over the hump- the images in this video are simply stunning, perfect for a lunch hour escape. Be sure to check out Mongolia at 3:19 (holler!). And try to figure out how I can get my hands on a koala like the girl at 2:03 stat!

*Also, if you have a few more minutes, this this is probably the funniest and most terrifying thing you can do. The game? Charlie Sheen v Muammar Gaddafi: Whose Line Is It Anyway? I only got 4 right out of 10. Good Lord!