How much do first impressions count for?
Yesterday, as my plane was descending into my new town, I took it all in from my window seat: the dusty landscape, the surrounding brown mountains, the sparse trees. So beautiful was my training site, Orkhon, with its greenery and roaming livestock—I’d say “hello, cows” ever a smile on my face—that maybe nowhere would measure up to its serenity, or at least the serenity I found within myself during those 10 weeks as a Peace Corps Trainee.
Last night was not only my first night in my first floor studio apartment but in a sense, it was also my first night alone. After 5 days of logistical sessions and my first work meetings with my counterpart in Darkhan, and another 5 days in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar (UB), essentially waiting for my flight and saying goodbyes to fellow Volunteers (we are now PCVs!), some I will not see for a year, I was exhausted all around. After a too-brief nap and some unpacking, my counterpart and her husband drove me to the black market for some house-hold supplies and groceries and I cooked my first dinner for myself in months. It was bland.
But as tired as I was, you know that my mind doesn’t stop during waking hours, so I sat in my you’d-think-it-was-plush-but-it’s-really-stiff-as-a-board non-reclining chair contemplating just what I’d gotten myself into, thinking that I’ll have the same view of a trash-burning dumpster outside my window for the next two years.
And at that moment, when I probably needed it most of all, the phone rang. I would have been happy to hear from anyone, of course, but I was overjoyed to speak with my host family, first my brother, then my mom, then my sister. In my limited Mongolian, I told them I had arrived that morning, that I was in my apartment, what I made for dinner, and that I had to begin work the next morning. And I listened to each of their familiar voices, comforting me not with words that I didn’t understand but with smiles that I knew existed on the other end.
There is a bigger picture forming here. The first impression will have two years worth of opportunities to be overwritten.