Mongolia is a country full of friendly folks. A place where the summer green
steppes go on forever dotted with solid white yurts and grazing livestock. A
destination I never imagined myself, and certainly not hunting for a bathroom
And so it was in 1992 that I had the opportunity to stay with my Peace Corps
host family. I was in a 3-month training program with 29 other volunteers
who had decided to make a difference in the world and commit two years of
their lives to doing so. We were embracing the culture and language of the
people who had been so isolated from the west. And as part of our adventure,
I was placed in the home of a wonderful family to help me understand the way
of life in Mongolia.
While living just south of Siberia, it became quickly apparent that goods
were not readily available. Everything from flour to toilet paper was
difficult to come by. The recent collapse of the Soviet Union, which had
served as a major trading partner and provider of goods, had taken its
toll on the markets. While adjusting, I also discovered that Tuesday was my
"bad day". In fact, everyone in Mongolia has a day in which you must be more
cautious, a day of the week on which you are vulnerable to evils of the world.
And it was on a Tuesday that I was not careful enough. The basketball court
abrubtly pulled me to the floor after a turning of my ankle, providing me
with a sickening pain. My foot swelled to double in size in only a matter of
minutes with my stomach ready to release my last meal (most certainly
consisting of mutton).
Fortunately my host brother, Munkhnast, shared my burden by assisting me home
as I hobbled along grimacing and cursing. Upon arrival at my host family's
home after a 1.5 mile endless journey, my Mongolian mother reminded me that
Tuesday was in fact my "bad day". But she had in mind a special remedy for
my injury. Salted black tea to be consumed and then rubbed over my ankle and
wrapped in cloth would make me better in no time. It was not quite what the
doctor would have ordered stateside.
For three weeks I walked with crutches, bouncing on one foot without them.
My host family had an endless stream of helpfulness, catering to my every
need. At times it was a bit embarrasing to have them fetch my books, my
food, and even my underwear. I felt that they had taken on much more than
expected, but try as I might to do things on my own, they insisted on
On another early Tuesday morning, fate would make my life even more
interesting. I had jumped in the shower to get ready for training. After
doing the usual cleaning (even behind my ears) I had decided, as I had on
many routine occassions to grab for my towel. But somehow, on this early
Tuesday morn, my good foot slipped, causing me to land on my nearly healed
ankle and not without major pain. Of course during my naked, wet fall, I had
naturally grabbed for the nearest thing to latch onto, hoping to prevent
myself from hitting the ground at full speed. But on my speedy trip
downward, the only item I seemed to find was nothing less than the bathroom
sink which wasn't happy to brace my fall. Instead it ripped completely out
of the wall as I fell and shattered into what must have been a million
Of course lying naked in the bathroom with a throbbing ankle among broken
pieces of a sink in the middle of Mongolia in the home of your host family
was not my idea of a "good" day. And while my host family came rushing to my
rescue, checking to make sure that I had not killed myself in their home, I
could only think of how difficult I had just made their lives. They would
find no Home Depot or Payless Cashways around the corner to pick out their
new sink upgrade. They would be living with not only a highly demanding,
injured American guest, but now without their bathroom sink. But instead of
worrying about misfortune, my host mother only reminded me with certainty
that Tuesday was in fact my "bad day".
And many Tuesdays have passed since my days in Mongolia. I am grateful for
my experience and have not forgotten what we take for granted here in the
U.S. Today, I rest more peacefully knowing that my host family once again
can rinse their hands and have the sink to catch the water. Somehow, even in
the worst of times, they were able to find the needed utility.
And in our long-distance correspondence we now laugh at the trouble that
their American guest caused them. Friends for life undoubtedly, the real
value of my Peace Corps experience!
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I also discovered that Tuesday was my "bad day". In fact, everyone in Mongolia has a day in which you must be more cautious, a day of the week on which you are vulnerable to evils of the world.