I just emerged from our final Close of Service conference. It was a fun three days during which our trainers advised us on how to begin coping with the process of psychically and emotionally leaving our towns and dropped upon us the load of paperwork that must be surmounted before we can leave Mongolia. It was also a great time to reconnect and reflect with friends. We played kickball and I made a face-plant snow angel in the massive amounts of fluffy flakes that fell on our last day. All of us, both Volunteers and staff, stayed in gers, a mite bit chilly but a fun adventure nevertheless. Here are two little gems that emerged from the sessions and chats I had with my wonderful, wacky, wise friends at training:
Dubbed 'The Bare Knuckle Brawler' my friend Katie has a beautiful story from a much more tropical clime that is no less valid here, especially given our work, than it is by the surf. One night, a huge storm blows over a beach and washes millions and millions of starfish ashore. In the morning, a man walking along the beach sees a boy picking up stranded starfish and casting them back into the sea. The man shakes his head and tells the boy that he is never going to save all the starfish. The boy looks at him, picks up another starfish and throws it back into the ocean. He looks toward the splash and says "it made a difference to that one" and continues on his way.
My friend John lives in a tiny, remote town in the Gobi. He has no site-mates or internet access and very little to do to pass the time. Whether this chart is accurate or not, I think the below diagram exemplifies the really wonderful sense of humor that Peace Corps Volunteers have about their jobs and time here. Apparently 2004 was the year in which his life somehow veered towards where he is today. And the smallest section that has text reads 'Penance'.