I just returned from a 4-day stay with my host family. Though nearly a full year had passed since we said our farewells, at no point was I nervous about our reunion. I was eager to talk to them and see if they understood me, as a way to gauge my improvement in the language. I was looking forward to the quiet times between conversation, just being silent in the kitchen but not feeling awkward about it. I was longing for the greenery and the roaming sheep and goats of Orkhon that redefine free-range. I was not disappointed.

We readily fell into our old routines. They gave me my old room with the bed while they all slept on the floor in the big room. My mom cooked nearly all the meals and I took over the washing up after. They asked about my apartment, my job, my aimag, and my visit with my American Mom in December. I showed them pictures and told stories… they laughed about me wearing the Mongolian boots underneath the pink dress, so I know they understood. Mom showed me the new garden and I asked what crops she was growing and she told me: cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and beets. I told them about my upcoming train trip to Russia with Will (whom they know from PST), and that we will stay with “internet friends” which is how I explained couchsurfing to them. My Dad showed me pictures from his time in Moscow and “Leningrad” in about 1985 and I told him I was surprised that they were black-and-white photos.

On my last day, my Mom had cooked my favorite meal and we went to the river. We spread out a picnic blanket and had potato huushuur and sang songs. My Dad had called a friend and spoke enthusiastically: I understood “Boston” and “shar ohun” which translates to “yellow daughter” and I just laughed about that and slugged him on the shoulder.

It was only in hindsight that I thought about the fact that they are no longer obligated to cook for me, or give me a place to stay, or be patient with my minimal (still) Mongolian-language skills; that the Peace Corps contract that we’d signed was what brought us together, but that bond we have is genuine and endures.

I’ll spend a few more days with them after the Russia trip, sharing all the stories from the next three weeks, before I head back to site and begin the next nearly full-year without seeing them.

3 Responses to reunion

  1. Priscilla A. Arsenault says:

    1. Why does your Mongolian Dad call you, “Yellow Daughter”?
    2. What was your “favorite meal” that your Mongolian Mom cooked for you?
    3. You mention at the end of your posting that you’re beginning the “next nearly full-year w/out seeing them;” does that mean you’ll get to see them again next year before you come home to the US?

    Love the comment about them laughing and so you knew they understood or “got it” when showing them pics & telling them about when you wore your Mongolian boots w/a beautiful, elegant pink dress! I personally loved those pics, too!

    • eelevol says:

      1. I hadn’t known, and wouldn’t have guessed, that he would call me that. Mongolians, especially those who work outside as my Dad does (he’s a herdsman), tend to have darker skin. I suppose “yellow” is about as accurate as “white” when it comes to describing skin color.
      2. Huushuur is one of the classic Mongolian foods: meat and fat, whithin a homemade dough, that is then deep fried. (Sort of like an empanada, maybe.) But, my Mom made a vegetarian version for me: potatoes and carrots.
      3. I definitely plan to visit them at the end of my service!

  2. Kathy Willis says:

    Oh Love, once again you have brought tears to my eyes – you are such a terrific story teller. I’m so happy that you had a wonderful visit with your “there” family.
    Have a fantastic train journey. Looking forward to hearing all about it & seeing the great pics you’ll post.
    Much love,
    Auntie ❤

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