Category Archives: Peace Corps

Laying the groundwork

All right. Time for a proper introduction.

Hi. I’m Renee. I write fantasy and like to teach people things. In nineteen days, I’ll be leaving my home, friends, and family to spend two years teaching Mongolian kids English with the U.S. Peace Corps.

It’s a fun bomb to drop into the middle of a conversation. “I’m going to Mongolia in June!” Cue the double-take, the blank look. “Mongolia?” The second dawning of emotion as the word sinks in, gains context, blooms within the framework of another’s worldview and vision of who I am.

At first, to be honest, I was terrifically nervous to share. I worried that it would be construed as rejection or abandonment of the things I’ve taken up at home. I worried that the blank look would preclude any possibility of shared excitement. And I did get a lot of comments that signaled incomprehension: “I would never do that!/The world is so dangerous, you won’t be safe!/What are you doing out there that you couldn’t do right here?”

But I’ve gotten a lot of support, too, from more corners than I expected. And virtually everyone I’ve spoken to has more questions than time to ask them. (I answer some of the most common ones here.) I was surprised — astonished really — by the number of people who asked extensively about where I was going, what I would do, how I would live, who I would meet. Even more by the number of people who told me they wanted updates. Around a month ago I made a rash promise to blog about my adventures. And then I said it again. And again, and again, until I was sort of obligated to create this thing due to the sheer number of times I’d told people it would someday exist.

The Second and Third Goals of the Peace Corps are to foster cultural exchange — to share my experience as a U.S. citizen with people whose idea of the USA is largely shaped by the big screen, and to convey (in my case) Mongolian customs and values with Americans in a way that builds meaningfulness and mutual respect. I am tremendously excited that people seem to be up for that.

My adventures in Mongolia are not the only purpose of this blog. As I said, I’m a fantasy writer, and I figure it’s about time I set up a platform for updates and writing thoughts. (Twitter is not especially conducive to in-depth rambles.) A significant portion of posts will be dedicated to writing craft, and those posts will continue after my Peace Corps service winds down.

Over the next week or so, I’ll be writing a series of posts about my application and pre-departure experiences. I’ll use that to gauge a potential post schedule: I hope to write at least one Peace Corps post a week, and writing updates/discussions biweekly or monthly, but I’m not sure whether that’s manageable — I’m new to structuring blog posts (and tbqh I have an instinctive aversion to writing nonfiction) and so far it’s proving a significant timesink.

Fellow PCVs: Care to share an interesting discussion that stemmed from your decision to volunteer? And to those of you remaining in the USA (or who call other countries home!) — what do you want to know about the Peace Corps or Mongolia? What experiences do you want me to share?