December 24, 2010

Notes from the Road, Week Four

This week marks us being in America for more than a month! It's been a lot of fun seeing so many wonderful people (you can see weeks one, two and three here) and we've still got a few more weeks to go!

This past week was filled with some great Peace Corps discussions with friends both new and old. First Tunga, Jonathan and I were able to visit our close friend Michael Lee who teaches at Riverbend Middle School and Bunker Hill High School. There we met with dozens of ESL (English as a Second Language) students who had great questions about Mongolia's foods, culture, people, landscape, and animals, Peace Corps' history, purpose and my experiences learning another language, living in another culture and much more. 

Since Jonathan will be coming back with us to Mongolia, the students also asked him to do things for them that they wished they could do like help build a Mongolian ger, help prepare an animal for dinner, visit the Gobi desert, visit a ghost town like in the movie Paranormal Activity and of course take lots of pictures. We had a lot of fun and it brought back a lot of memories walking through the hallways, eating cafeteria food and remembering what it was like to be in school.

Last week I also had a chance to talk with Hal Rowe for an hour on WHKY, which was great! You can read a little more about that interview here. All three experiences were very rewarding and inspiring and I look forward to upcoming opportunities to share more including on Monday Night Radio in two weeks. I really love Peace Corps and feel very grateful to be part of this amazing organization.

Tunga and I also had a lot of fun this week by organizing the house together and visiting Boone in the North Carolina Mountains for my mom's birthday, driving to McAdenville with my brother and sister to see an entire town covered in Christmas lights, visiting the Art Museum,  playing plenty of video games with Elias and the boys, visiting with our good friend Amy Lee for dinner, doing lots of shopping, and even watching a few movies at the theater including Harry Potter yesterday.

It's certainly been a packed week for us, as I'm sure it has been for everyone else as well. I hope you each have a wonderful holiday and enjoy being with people that you love!

December 21, 2010

WHKY Interview

This morning Tunga and I had a great visit with Susie and Hal Rowe on WHKY, the radio station in my hometown of Hickory, North Carolina. Hal is a good friend who I visited before I left for Peace Corps almost three years ago. It was great to visit with him again today and also share a little bit about the Peace Corps with my friends and fellow citizens. We talked about everything from Peace Corps training to Mongolia's healthcare system, with quite a few laughs in-between.

Also during commercial breaks and after the show we had a lot of great conversation. I feel very lucky to know Hal and Susie (his producer) and to have had the chance to visit with them. Thank you both for such a great time and thank you Mandy Pitts as well, for introducing us so long ago. If you would like you can also listen to or download the audio of the interview. Here is a short video clip of the interview compliments of Tunga, who was there with us the whole time!

December 18, 2010

Notes from the Road, Week Three

Tunga and I have been back home in Hickory for a week now, which has been a nice change from jumping from place to place. Though those awesome places did include Disney World, Gainesville, St. Augustine, Live Oak and much more! 

Slowing down here at home has given us the chance to relax, play basketball together every morning, take the dogs out for walks, meet with old friends, cook Mongolian huushur for our family, help my dad with construction at home, take lots of pictures and even do some shopping for family back in Mongolia (which Tunga loves to do).

I'm really glad we've had that chance this trip: to highlight people rather than places. I feel very grateful to Peace Corps for allowing me such a long vacation and for Tunga being so excited to spend time with family and friends. I think the best things in America aren't things, they're people - people I'm very glad to be seeing again.

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December 10, 2010

Notes from the Road, Week Two

Tunga and I had a wonderful time this past week. We were able to visit with all of my grandparents all around North Florida, and Tunga even got to have her first driving experience (on a tractor) which she loved!

We arrived back in Hickory, North Carolina over the weekend and already had a chance to pick up a Christmas tree in the snow-covered Appalachian Mountains. As much as Tunga enjoyed seeing sights like the beach and Disney World, she said she really loves being home and relaxing with family and friends. Talking face-to-face, making breakfast as a family, spending slow afternoons and evenings together, driving on long country roads and having great conversations are certainly my favorite part of America. We're really looking forward to the Christmas season, listening to Christmas music, looking at houses covered in lights and spending time with people we love.

Last week I posted the article by Leo Babuatu, "The Case Against Buying Christmas Presents" and it really hit home with a lot of people. I think that's because the holidays aren't a special time because we buy a lot of stuff, they are special because of the people in our lives. We all have a chance to care about each other and give something every day - time, effort, help, and love. I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season with people you love, wherever you are.

December 1, 2010

Notes from the Road, Week One

Greetings from Gainesville, Florida where Tunga and I just celebrated Thanksgiving last week with a whole lot of family! We've been here in America for a little over a week and we've already had a ton of firsts: Tunga's first time on an airplane, flight airports (Beijing, Chicago, Atlanta), first time on a highway, and on and on. You can check out our pictures here.

So far we've seen beautiful autumn leaves falling in Hickory, North Carolina, President Obama singing autotunes, the ridiculousness called the Shake Weight, super 300+ Cracker Barrel menus, washers and dryers, and tasted Krispy Kreme donuts which Tunga preferred to pick the icing off. We visited the ocean twice (once in Savannah, Georgia and once in St. Augustine, Florida), had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner and even visited Disney World with wonderful family and friends!

Today we are speaking at the University of Florida and meeting with future Peace Corps Volunteers who want to learn about this wonderful organization. We will also meet with Amy for the first time, even after working for more than a year together to help release the Unofficial Handbook this past fall. After we meet a few more family and friends we will be headed back up north to the crisp winter, wonderful mountains, and houses covered in Christmas lights in North Carolina.

We hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! Enjoy all of your time with family, friends, tasty food and occasional snowflakes!