When Will and I were first nominated for the Peace Corps in June 2011, we were told we were nominated to teach English in Asia leaving June 2012. Based on the Peace Corps Wiki website, we guessed that we’d be going to Mongolia. We read about, thought about and wondered about Mongolia for six months. We got long-johns and a book about Gingis Khan for Christmas, even though we knew that our nomination could change at any point.
In January we got an e-mail from the Peace Corps Placement office telling us about an opportunity to go to Asia to teach English in April. Since it is an early generation program (which I mentioned in a previous post) and that holds a number of additional challenges, they wanted to give us the option of saying yes to the opportunity or sticking with our original nomination. Again thanks to the power of the Internet, we guessed that we were choosing between Indonesia and Mongolia.
So here’s a little of what went into our though process. I give you Indonesia vs. Mongolia.
Indonesia = Really freaking hot
Mongolia = Really freaking cold
Winner: Probably a wash, but I can handle 90 degrees and humid—we are Kentuckians and DC residents…what do you even do with -40F?
Indonesia = We will live with a host family for the entire two year service. Wipe with our left hands.
Mongolia = We would live by ourselves for the entire two years either in an apartment or in a yurt with an outhouse (with toilet paper).
Winner: Mongolia. While Indonesia is certainly beautiful, and the people are very hospitable, if we could live on our own I think it would be maybe the best Peace Corps assignment in the world. Moving in with someone else’s parents after you are married is a commitment, folks.
Indonesia = Fresh fruits and vegetables year round, tempe, tofu, spicy and sweet sauces, rice with every meal, and fried chicken—it’s not just for breakfast anymore.
Mongolia = Fresh vegetables about three months out of the year, meat, carbs.
Winner: Indonesia, hands down.
Indonesia = STMJ—abbreviation for a hot drink of milk, egg, honey and ginger (Hi Stu!), fresh juices, coconut water, coffee and tea so sweet it’s like drinking candy (but you can make it without and the coffee on it’s own is incredible). Not acceptable to drink alcohol in the villages due to the majority Muslim population…it’s cool in Bali though.
Mongolia = Not sure…yak milk? Coffee? Who cares, you can drink beer whenever you want.
Winner: Mongolia. Sorry Indo…you try hard to make up for it though.
Flora and Fauna:
Indonesia = Half-tailed feral cats, lizards called cicoks, crazy bugs, palm trees, orchids, gardens, and beautiful flowers.
Mongolia = Yaks, horses, plants during the very short summer.
Indonesia = Once we are at our permanent site for at least three months we are allowed to travel. Indonesia is a vacation destination in itself with around 17,000 islands including Bali, Lombok, the Gilis, Sulawesi, etc. Nearby countries include Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Australia and New Zealand. We expect visitors too!
Mongolia = More Mongolia!
Winner: Indonesia. We can’t wait until we can travel!
As you can see our choice was clear. We know we made the right decision, and at times it doesn’t even feel like the Peace Corps with the stunning natural surroundings and pretty comfortable lifestyle we are living compared with many of our fellow volunteers or trainees serving in the Peace Corps around the world. Of course we felt lucky to have a choice to begin with as that is not usually the case.
Don’t get too jealous though…we still don’t use toilet paper.