Year of the Snake, which is what I am

Sometimes, all I really need is for someone to tell me that it’s ok– that I’m not a bad person–if I don’t open my door to let my hashaa kids inside.  That I can take break every now and then for myself, to regain peace of mind, centeredness, clarity, patience.   But what if I do it all the time?

Earlier this week was New Year’s.  [For those of you still recovering from the shock of the Doomsday-that-never-happened to notice that 2013 is here.]  I was planning on spending it inside my hashaa, mostly (sadly) inside my ger.   Last year, while I spent it between a few people’s homes, I was so worried about my ger’s getting cold the whole time that I kept running back and forth between my ger and whatever home I was visiting at the time. (Thank goodness all the homes were close to where I lived.) This year, I didn’t even aspire to stay up until midnight.  I didn’t feel much in the mood to celebrate, so I didn’t do much planning.


The woman who had me stay till midnight at her home last year saw me walking on New Year’s Eve day this week and, inevitably, told me to visit her home that evening.  Hoping to make an appearance and dash, I wrapped a deck of Uno cards as a gift for her daughter, went over as early as I could, and left with the excuse I was visiting more homes.  Which wasn’t a complete lie.

I also had gifts for my hashaa kids, so I had to visit each of their gers to give them.  The gift I had for the girl in the farthest ger (who’s 6) was a big bag of a lot of little things that I was re-gifting.  I am pretty darn good at re-gifting, much to the chagrin, I’m sure, of anyone who’s ever given me a gift.  There was a toy mask in there, a bottle of face wash I didn’t like, some watercolors I had never used, and some fake nails that a friend had given me for Christmas.  Come to find out, the nails were her favorite thing.  That helped lessen the guilt for re-gifting them in the first place just one week after they were given to me.

The boys (7 and 4) got watercolors, too (I bought too much at one point for a project that went awry), but instead of re-gifting (people don’t tend to give me boy-friendly gifts, not that I’d want them to), I actually purchased gifts for them: two storybooks each from a local food store.  I knew the older boy just learned to read last year, and the younger one likes pictures, so I hoped that there’d be some redeemable quality for each of them, no matter how weak (unappreciated?) I though they might turn out to be.

I shouldn’t have worried.  Though I thought their mom was just being nice by exclaiming how nice the gifts were, the boys also took to them.  The young one held the books up and excitedly started telling how they were the same ones that so-and-so had or that his classroom had or that something else I couldn’t understand had coincidentally happened, too!  The older one was less expressive but immediately bent over one on the floor and started sounding out the words aloud.  After the young one finished ‘reading’ (making up stories while flipping the pages), he decided to use the watercolors I had given.   All of my gifts were being used right in front of me!  It was better than I had expected.  I felt like I had chosen well.

The solidifying moment for my ecstasy happened a little later:  I went into the far ger to spend a few more minutes before the big year-change, and the second ger’s family came in.  While the rest of the family brought only themselves, the older boy had brought one of the books I gave and was still reading amidst the chaos of celebrating.  I can’t describe exactly what I felt in that moment, but it was a mixture of pride, nostalgia, and something sweeter and more tender than I’ve felt in a long time.

I know that I don’t always have the energy to have kids in my ger or to engage with the people in my community, but rarely– maybe not all the time– I may do something pretty ok.

I can’t be that bad of a person, right?



7 thoughts on “Year of the Snake, which is what I am

  1. While others often judge us by our actions, we are not bad or good people based off our deeds. It’s a matter of the heart. Why do we do what we do? If out of reluctant obligation, it’s better not to do that thing. Love should be the driving force of all we do and say. Sure, we sometimes demonstrate love for ourselves more than we should, but we are good because we have a good God who suffered death so that we might enjoy freedom from guilt and shame. It’s nearly impossible to fathom the gift that this is.

    That being said, the stories of how well your gifts were received paint a beautiful picture of your influence in that place and in those lives. You are thoughtful, caring, well-thought of, and loved! What a joy to experience all of that!

    Love you

    • Thanks. That is true, what you said. Sometimes it’s easy to lose that perspective, and other things start getting to me, but I don’t have much longer here. I need to try to see what good can come of that time.

  2. Not sure I get the evidently large current question of the quality of your person A, but such come to us all from time to time. I’ve always thought that the best answer was reflected from those around us, who vote with their presence or absence, with their regard, every day. Your stories of you in your community suggest you’re doing great despite being from “not there” and “not of them”. These folks seem to get you pretty well, and while that might not be the complete answer to your questions, it’s a pretty damn good start. If you ask me.

    • I appreciate your comment. I think that because I sense my time here coming to its end, and because I’m stuck in winter, which keeps people inside and in hibernation mode rather than productive mode, I am more introspective and skeptical about my effect and my role. But the times that I see something as small as my hashaa boy happily reading a book that I gave him or that I have a good conversation with someone at my school, all of those thoughts get pushed away. I think it’s a mixture of things, but overall, I’m content where I am.

  3. When we look closely at ourselves, we see The Snake, and we hope that nobody else sees it. Thankfully, the more we allow God to fill our hearts, the less room for Snake and the more we are able to really love others.
    Your gifts, whether re-gifted or not, were apparently given in love because they were so well received. Thank you for this sweet picture!

    Alyse, I know that you will make your final months in Mongolia matter and you will leave an indelible mark on all the lives you touch. You’re special and …

    I love you.

    • Thanks, Mom. I like what you said about The Snake and space in our hearts. Part of why I [facetiously] titled my post how I did is because I was born in the year of the snake, so according to Mongolians, I am a snake by birth. 🙂

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