08.09.2019 - 28.09.2019 15 °C
Who you spend your time with greatly changes your experiences. I find that to be so true for myself. I have always been a bit of an empath, a mirror, mimic maybe, but I tend to greatly vary my personality based on who is around me at any give time. It’s not always something I control, it’s just something I do. It’s part of what makes it easy for me to learn languages and kung fu. If I can see it or hear it, I can copy it. It takes time, but it never seems like learning these things is out of reach.
When I arrived on the farm in Orkhon, there was one group of people. A variety of countries, accents, and personalities were represented, but mostly outgoing, high energy, and one guy who could easily have been my brother. I got along with them well enough, we talked and laughed a lot, but when the one I really connected with was gone, I felt the difference.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t connect with the others, but the cultural connection wasn’t there. Having someone around who I didn’t have to explain the random quotes and stupid voices to is something I have missed for a long time, but I didn’t really know it. Most of the people in Peace Corps were a generation behind me and from cultures spread across the world, and there is a big difference between my generation, no great wars, no great depression, and those who came after 9/11.
It’s not just that day, but all that came after that changed who we were. Not just the problems, but the culture, the humor, technology, and everything else. There was a ten-year void for my generation where the problems were mostly solved before they began and the fears of the Cold War were becoming myth. I didn’t really know there was that much of a difference until I met someone so much like myself, laughing at movies and shows that would never survive today.
Connection. That is the problem. I can talk to almost anyone, and there is usually some common ground, something to connect over, but finding that again makes me miss home more than I knew I could. And not just the place, but the time. So much has changed since I lived in San Diego, and the same goes for every place that I have lived. The world moves on when we leave, and that more than anything makes it hard to go back. That no one is important enough to stop the world from turning.
When I left the farm, it was an entirely different group. Mostly French and Germans. A woman from the Czech Republic with a smile that lit up like a pinball machine came and went while I was there. They were still younger than me, but somehow different, more relaxed, more easy going. There was talk of travel, food, philosophy, and there was laughter. There were comments I had to keep to myself, simply because I didn’t want to try and explain the cultural references for them, but it was a good time.
The work was background for me. I helped take out a bathroom, replumb it, then build an office with a bed in it. I replaced the water heater for the shower after failing to fix the one that would only heat to warm. I shoveled horse shit to be dried and burned over the long winter coming up and I helped build haystacks to feed the cows. I cooked well enough, and shared some of the wonderful things you can make in a rice cooker like slow cooked beef and soup. I spent more time than I would like looking for tools and materials to do the work, and I really missed my DeWalt power tools and having a Home Depot down the street.
One day I walked off into the steppe and headed for a mountain nearby. It took me longer than I would like to climb it, but I camped on top and saw the sunrise and sunset. The moon went down and I could see the Milky Way and stars stretching to the horizons. At times I thought it would never end, and at times I felt it went by far too fast. It’s one more place that I could live forever, but there is still so much to see in the world.
Even now, the pain fades and only the joy of the memories remains. Beautiful people, laughter, amazing food that tasted better for the hunger after a long day working. I’m glad I was able to build something there, something that will last and help them in the winter to come. I’m glad I met Gary, the old cow who loved scratches. But in a few days I will be off to the Reindeer Tribe, six days heading north past Khuvsgul Lake to see something I can’t really imagine yet. And then I will remember without pain.