Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"This is a place where I don't feel alone. This is a place where I feel at home."

Everything in Mongolia can be bought individually.

Packages are broken and items are sold piece-by-piece.

I can buy a single sponge, one roll of toilet paper, one battery, one fork, one egg, one piece of gum.

And I do.

The ladies who run the store I frequent are aware that I live alone. That I look different than everyone in my town. That I buy two eggs, one pepper, three onions. I have no use for more.

But they also know my age. My phone number. Where I am from. Where I live and work. Where my closest American friends live. They know my opinions about the weather. My inability to dress properly for the winter. They suggest my favorite bag of boov, which I will not be able to finish by myself before it becomes rock hard. Because I live alone.

I moved here expecting to equate living alone with loneliness. But I cannot go outside without being noticed. This fact used to frustrate me. I thought back to the anonymity I possessed in the US. How I could go an entire day without speaking to anyone, even though everyone around me spoke the same language I did. Yet here, where I still struggle to be understood, I cannot cross the schoolyard without shouts of “Hello, Sara teacher.” Without kids running to hold my hand from gate to gate. I am greeted daily by faces and a language that were entirely unfamiliar to me 9 months ago. And in knowing this I realize: I am just as unfamiliar to them. But despite our differences, they still talk to me. Laugh with me. Open their homes to me.

I am here individually, but I am not alone.