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At Peace in Mongolia

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

David riding the camel at the ice festival

This adventurous alumnus lives in a Mongolian yurt with his hashaa parents and thrives on teaching English in the local village.

by Donna Parker

David Meeske ’13: B.A. International Studies; minor in Ancient Mediterranean Studies

Right now, life couldn’t get any better for David Meeske, who after 14 months in Mongolia as a Peace Corps volunteer still gets a kick out of the life he leads in this far corner of the world.

“I’ve become very attached to Mongolia,” says David, who lives in Mankhan located in a little valley surrounded by mountains in the province of Khovd.

“It’s a great feeling to take a walk literally in the middle of nowhere to enjoy the incredible nature of this place.”

David lives in a ger, a type of yurt, with his hashaa family on the same property.  They’re in a house and the ger is a circular white tent that is loved by herders and can be disassembled and reassembled in only three hours.  His ger is not as primitive as it sounds.  It has electricity and a well next door, a bed, a stove for fires, and a dry sink.  Because he is less nomadic than the herders, his ger has a linoleum floor and is carpeted.  

Adding to the pleasurable experience, his hashaa family is very supportive.  “My hashaa mom hugs me all the time, and my hashaa dad loves to play practical jokes and then laughs at them.”

Mankhan is a town of 4,000 where the children must learn English and start language classes in the 5th grade.  David team-teaches with a Mongolian English teacher in the same room.  “A lot of these kids have never even seen a foreigner, so it makes it very real for them,” he says.

At Trinity, David initially studied classics, but switched to international studies his junior year.  He says he entered Trinity with one plan, but remained open to the possibility of going in a totally different direction.

“The beautiful thing is that the professors were great—really supportive and knowledgeable—and I could walk into any of their offices and literally talk about anything.”

“Curtis Swope and Heather Sullivan (both professors in Modern Languages and Literatures) were big influences on my life and I always felt I could approach them to discuss any issues.  I talked with each of them about the possibilities post-graduation and both were really excited for me to join the Peace Corps.”

David has one more year in Mongolia and is thinking about applying for a third year in Mongolia.  Down the road, he is eyeing a master’s program in Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University and eventually would like to secure a job as a regional specialist for Central Asia.

Meanwhile, he is soaking up the culture, such as the recent ice festival on a big lake in his province.

“My friend and I were sitting on the ice and a herder approached us with a camel!  He took me around in a little circle, which was great fun.  The camel has to lower for you to get on and when it gets up, you thrust forward, which makes you feel like you’re going to fall off!  But, around here Mongolians say that riding a camel is like being close to God.”

“I just try now to let things happen and not freak out.  If you’d told me five years ago I’d be in Mongolia, I never would have believed it!”

You may contact David at: dmeeske [at]