My host mom called me yesterday. I just checked and it was under 4 minutes in duration. Each time we pretty much have the same conversation since my vocabulary hasn’t increased; indeed, I’ve probably forgotten quite a bit since our formal classes ended and I’ve yet to get a Mongolian-language tutor in my permanent site. She asks “what’s new?” and “how’s life?” and “is it cold?” and I tell her I made soup for dinner and I taught an English class at work.
For the purposes of this blog, and when talking to family at home, these were my host-family members. But here, they were my family. When talking to other PCTs or PCVs, they were my mom, my sister, my brothers. Sometimes, when telling a story for example, we would have to distinguish and then it would be “my Mongol mom” or “My American mom.”
I’ve mentioned before that my Mongol mom taught me how to hand-wash my clothes in my tumpun. We actually had a washing machine, but she took her job—teaching me how to live in Mongolia as the Mongolians do—seriously. And since they reserved the washing machine for the big jobs, more often than not, they were hand-washing in their own tumpun. She also taught me how to scrape a carrot with a knife—I didn’t know peelers were a superfluous kitchen tool. And, yes, my first night there—just as the “families” did in the skits during the last of Orientation Days, to prepare us on what to expect—she demonstrated how to use the squat outhouse.
She was my biggest champion: the day I answered her question completely (“that is because…”), after just having learned how to give a reason for something in language class, she gave me a big hug. And just as free-spirited as I: after our “Host-Family Appreciation” concert, she led me in the Mongolian waltz but I tumbled over my feet and collapsed into her arms and she held me up while we laughed away any notion of embarrassment.
Towards the end of the time with my host family, maybe even the last night, I witnessed a moment so genuinely affectionate between my host sister and host mom, I knew then that even though I referred to her as such, I could never really be this woman’s daughter: at the dinner table, long after dinner but where we spent most of our time together, my sister was tugging on her mom’s earlobe. It was a comforting, somewhat unconscious behavior that I’m sure I’ve done with my own mom, and maybe not that long ago. It was one more way that we are more alike than different. And at that particular time, just as I was readying to “leave the nest,” as it were, it was a necessary sight. I was their first PCT and they did right by me, but they were a family before I got there and they’d remain a family once I’d gone.
I’ll take the living-in-Mongolia skills they taught me, add the interpersonal skills of a Communication major and the professionalism garnered from my years of work experience, mix in my enjoyment of speaking English with non-native speakers, and pour all that into the Love-mould my family and friends helped to create. Chill (because I’m in Mongolia) for two years, continually adjusting the recipe. I feel the need to say a blanket “thank you” to everyone right now. Thank you.