Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Off the Steppe, and on With the Next Steps

Sitting in a comfortable bus from Brighton on the southern coast of England as we travel back to London, we now know that at least for the foreseeable future, our lives will be divided into two epochs: Pre-Mongolia and Post-Mongolia. Pre-Mongolia Leslie and Nathan experienced things much differently than Post-Mongolia Leslie and Nathan.

The 2 Epochs: Pre-Mongolia and Post Mongolia
The main areas we think we’ll be most affected are in travel and living conditions. For example, we flew for a whole day from Ulaanbaatar to Moscow to London, and since it was in a plane with a bathroom and a helpful staff, it was like a dream in a seat compared to the long, dusty bus trips in Mongolia. We didn’t have a complaint in the world. Also, for two years we mostly lived in one room of a small apartment that lacked a shower and was prone to electrical fires. Now, houses with dining rooms and living rooms that go unused most of the time, or complaining that the hot water is all used up seems a bit ridiculous. We know we can live without a great deal of things we’ve taken for granted – not that we necessarily prefer to live in squalor, mind you.

It will be those comparisons that dominate our conversations with each other for a while as we adjust to each place we travel around Europe until Christmas 2010. Hopefully by then the shock of soap in the restrooms, deliciously organized lines for things like the post office or bank, and feeling more like a guest than an nuisance at restaurants will have worn off so that we can spare our friends and families the annoyance of surprise at the site of potable water.

Mongolia was a wonderful place to visit, and we met a lot of wonderful new friends who are warm and caring. These friends enriched our lives with their smiles, hugs and generosity. When we needed help, they helped willingly and often without being asked. And we did the same. We will never forget them and wish them all the best in coming to visit us in the States.

Even still, we will probably reference our time in Mongolia as the benchmark for so many milestone trying moments and fish -out-of-water moments. Because we lived they way we did, where we did, for so long, we didn’t understand how incredibly stressful it was until we left. In many ways we’re more the same also because we hardly know what a Justin Bieber, we don't know what LiLo is up to is, and we’ve never seen a Kindle or an iPad.

We have changed in many fundamental ways we can’t really even put our fingers on yet. One thing we know for sure though is that we will always, always treat foreigners in America with more consideration because we know that some days just a helpful point in the right direction or a warm smile can change your whole life for the better. We hope you’ll do the same.

Future Resources Including our Forthcoming Book
So we close our Peace Corps blog and hope that if you want to travel to Mongolia or join the Peace Corps, you’ll look up these resources to help you on your way, especially the travel guide we’re writing with Andrew Cullen and Ashlee Christian, both former volunteers in Mongolia. Hopefully we’ve done the hard work for you already.

Other Places Publishing: Mongolia (February 2011)
Nathan Chamberlain, Leslie Ann Shaffer Chamberlain, Ashlee Christian, Andrew Cullen
Online with major retailers like and with most local retailers by order.

The Unofficial Guide to Peace Corps (NEW!)
Travis Hellstrom
"Peace Corps may be "the toughest job you'll ever love" but you don't always have to learn that the hard way. This is the handbook we wish someone would have given us, something no one has provided before..."

Ghengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (2004)
Jack Weatherford

Modern Mongolia (2005)
Morris Rossabi