January 7, 2011

From Home to Home

This trip home to America was very different from my first one. A year and a half ago I visited home to be in my wonderful sister’s wedding, back in May of 2009. That was one full year into my Peace Corps service, when I had an amazing woman I loved and a job that I loved awaiting me upon my return to Mongolia. Five weeks in America was wonderful then, I had incredible conversations with people that I love, great memories and long drives, short trips and even shorter visits with people I missed a great deal.

This trip home to America, which just ended yesterday, comes two and a half years into my Peace Corps service. As a third year Volunteer I’ve had the unique opportunity to watch my Peace Corps service end twice and the chance to visit America in between each one.

My first trip was filled with certain answers, how much longer I’d be gone, why I love Mongolia so much, what I do, what I hope to do, my five year plan. I was eager to return to Mongolia and continue building on an incredible adventure that had exceeded all of my expectations. This second trip had much more open-ended answers, I’m not quite sure, why don’t we ask Tunga, I do a lot of different things, I’ve got several plans, but a five year plan isn’t one of them. I’m much more comfortable with uncertainty now than I used to be, but it’s still a funny feeling. I think sometimes we prefer certain answers from ourselves and others, even if we know they aren’t completely true. Uncertainty can be hard, but it can also be very fun.

This second trip back home to America was Tunga’s first trip anywhere outside Mongolia. It was her first time in an airplane, over an ocean, through customs and onto interstates, into crazy restaurants, surrounded by English speakers, thousands of miles away from family, immersed in a new culture and hugged around every corner by my friends and family. Uncertainty surrounded our trip, how she would like it, how it would feel, what she would think, who we would see, what we would do, but throughout everything it was always very fun. A lot of my open-ended answers were finished by Tunga - my smile would give way to her smile, her laugh to my laugh, and her hugs to my hugs. America is a lot to take in all at once, but I think Tunga did wonderfully. She has shared lots of her favorite pictures (america + christmas + campbell + charlotte), talked with her family and friends back in Mongolia almost everyday during the trip, and now has weeks and months to share her experiences with people in-person now that we are back in Mongolia. Maybe that’s kind of like Goal 2½ of the Peace Corps: help the world’s people better understand each other by introducing them and helping them bring the world home themselves.

More than ever I feel like I have two homes - two places I love to be, filled with people that my heart aches for every time I leave them. Some people say the Third Goal of Peace Corps is “bringing the world home” and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to do that with Tunga while still serving as a Volunteer. I feel very proud to be with Peace Corps, to be surrounded by incredible people who I love and love me back, and to be doing even the smallest things which help promote friendship and (I hope) world peace one person at a time. Thank you for being on this journey with me, as uncertain as it may be at times, because the very best journeys can always be judged by who you were able to share them with.

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