a long journey tomorrow

June 3, 2011 wheelerinmongolia


Today was a special day. I had the opportunity to meet the other 65 people about to live in Mongolia for Peace Corps service. These are individuals who I’m certain I will form close bonds with as we find ourselves going through similar joys, struggles, and perhaps drinking fermented mare’s milk together. At orientations with new communities, I think it’s often a challenge to push beyond the more routine and slightly superficial questions like “where are you from?” and “what’s your major?” Those questions are of course necessary, but sometimes it’s fun to really try to delve into people’s consciousnesses right off the bat. “What are you passionate about?” is a fun question to ask.

Tomorrow morning at 5:30 a.m., I check out of my hotel and fly into Seoul, Korea. My group, the M22s (the 22nd group to go to Mongolia) is going to spend one night in Korea before flying into Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, the next day. That night, we get to stay in a “ger” (the Mongolian word for yurt) camp as a group of 66 for several more days of orientation. I am definitely looking forward to what I’m hoping will be a romantic aesthetic of the ger camp. This is the type of adventure that as a kid I’ve dreamt about, remaining awake at late hours wondering what types of twists and turns my life will take.

After our stay at the ger camp, we will be splitting up into our different sectors (I will be with the other English teachers) and moving in with our different host families. My host family will likely not speak very much English, which I’m looking forward to because it will help me pick up the language. There will probably be a lot of awkward moments, but at least smiling and laughing are universal ways to connect with people. While I’m in my host family, I’m not sure how often I’ll have access to the internet. The Peace Corps has told us that we should be prepared to have very little access. So, blog entries might only happen every once in a while.

I have to go to bed soon because, unfortunately, I picked up a sore throat and cough, and I’d like to rid myself of these symptoms ASAP so that I can fully enjoy my introduction into Mongolia. But, there are a few sentiments I’d like to share.

For one, I would like to say thank you to all of the people in my life who have been so supportive of me. I have been blown away by how many of my friends have told me that they will be eagerly following the blog. The level of love that people have shown me is making it hard to leave my home. But, being gone for 27 months will hopefully make my connections even more rich when I return. If you have shown support to me or said a kind word about my decision to do the Peace Corps, I cannot thank you enough.

Before going to bed, I’d like to pass along one additional sentiment. Yesterday, one of my best friends Elan Lavie said something simple, yet profound. We were sitting along Land’s End in San Francisco, staring at the Pacific Ocean, admiring the energy of the waves, the retraction of the foam, the stoicism of seagulls perched on protruding rocks, and talking about our goals and hopes for the next 2+ years. Elan said, “My goal is to always believe in myself. It’s as simple as that.” This is an inspiring mentality. And, this is a mentality that I hope to carry with me throughout my experience in Mongolia. Whenever anyone asks me to sing a song, I will sing that best song that I possibly can. Whenever anyone asks me to tell a joke, I will tell the funniest joke I can. When someone asks me to ride a horse with a trained eagle on my shoulder, I will say, “I have no idea how to do that. But I can learn.” Always gotta believe.

Love to all,



Entry Filed under: Uncategorized

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Corina&hellip  | 

    good luck joe!!!

  • 2. Aaron&hellip  | 

    Joe, just wanted to let you know that I’m all about this blog, can’t wait to read about your adventures. I was recently walking with an 81 year-old Jewish philanthropist who has given away nearly 100 million dollars. He asked me what my philosophy was and I couldn’t really answer to my, or his, liking so it’s really cool to read Elan’s words and to know you guys were having that conversation.

  • 3. Jonas Myers&hellip  | 


    Your ability to articulate your thoughts and feelings is a rare gift, and you use it so well! I am thrilled to read this post and, in some small way, to get to participate in your excitement for this unbelievable adventure which stands so openly before you. I have no doubt that you will learn much, that you will continue to captivate those you meet with your warmth and generosity, and that you will encounter all you come across with the eagerness, open-mindedness and humility that make you so much fun to be with, to talk to, to learn from. Bon voyage, safe travels, and many blessings. I will voraciously read all you have time to write. Your pal,


  • 4. Jenna&hellip  | 

    Joe, you are so amazing and I’m so happy for you. I know you are going to take complete and utter advantage of this experience and I can’t wait to hear about it on the blog and when you get back!
    Much love.

  • 5. Sammy Peeps&hellip  | 

    You inspire so much good

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