I was back in Laramie to make a few presentations. I spoke for the graduate Social Science Research class, graduate Social Workers course, and an open presentation about the Peace Corps with Jeremy Goldsmith (RPCV The Gambia, 2012-2013). Jeremy and I split time for me to talk about my experience in Mongolia and for him to talk about his experience in The Gambia. During his presentation he showed so many pictures of daily experiences, sights, and activities. I didn’t have so many photographs, but I was reminded that many of my illustrations depict so much with artistic impressions. So happy to have a creative outlet to capture what is going on in life.
Let’s start with two accomplishments:
The eight Georgie Sicking panels that were presented at the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering are now showing at the Berkshire Museum in Massachusetts! Thank you to Barbara Newman and Jason Verchot for coordinating the entry into the American West Exhibit!
The second recent accomplishment, I ran the Zion Traverse last Monday which was a physically, emotionally, and beautifully intense 54-mile run. It was led by my friends Kent Strauss and Amy Tice who inspired me to tag along and were gracious enough to let me share a bit of the adventure. We started at 5 am and for the first mile I was in serious doubt that I could run so far with only 2 months of training under my legs. Plus, I was worried about an IT band issue that has plagued my long distance runs. It was a remarkable experience to run with two seriously trained and ambitious runners and their confidence in going the distance was something that pulled me through the miles. We passed by tremendous overlooks where grassy plateaus were perched on top of towering mountains. These mountains were oftentimes islands in deep, woven gorges. The trail threaded through aspen laden valleys to pine forests. We ran up, up, up and then down, down, down in red rock canyons with towering vertical walls. We started in the dark running with trepidation, excitement, and energy. We finished in the dark walking in pain, emotional exhaustion, and a sense of an interminable experience. We were relieved when we finished and content with what we had overcome individually and as a team of friends.
I’ve only begun to feel my creativity coming back. Without a doubt, heartbreak and being in transition from the Peace Corps experience are two factors that have pushed me into a dark corner. Samantha and I ended our relationship after an enormously challenging long distance relationship. I think it is important that I name my immediate emotions to confront what I’m going through right now… darkness, heartbreak, and a sense of disconnection are things that I’m being challenged by.
The things that are helping me through are being physically challenged through running (which in the winter will turn into skate skiing) and fighting to find my grounding passion which is illustrating. They are two forms of meditation that are personally fulfilling and have the added benefit of tangible rewards.
Heartbreak is tough. TOUGH. But time, distance, and meditation are things to build on to eventually be seen and appreciated by someone else again. I’ll try to share some meditations to track the process of recovery and finding a more positive place to find footing.
Just to note: I’ll be speaking at the Teton Country Library in Jackson on September 17th at 6 pm about my Peace Corps experience in Mongolia.
I’m back in Wyoming and back in Laramie to finish up my graduate degree in NGO Administration from the Global and Area Studies Department at the University of Wyoming. The return has been an exciting, disorienting, and amazing experience. When you live abroad for such a long time you change things about yourself to fit into the local culture from the very explicit things like how you speak to people, how you move in crowds, and the pace you maintain through your day. Returning home brings all those things that became natural back in the open. For a while I still was a foot in Mongolia, using those behaviors and ways of thinking, while trying to negotiate with who I was before I left for Mongolia and who I am living in the States after having experience Mongolia.
I think getting thrown back into the mix and being challenged to reckon with different experiences has helped. I spent time in the ultimate of places and home with my Mom and Joe: Jackson Hole. I left and spent time with my family in Evanston where we make picture frames for my upcoming art show. Then I went to my brother’s bachelor party in South Lake Tahoe to celebrate with Ben and his troupe of jolly friends. I saw my grandparents and was treated so kindly and fed very well. Then I left for San Francisco for another friend reunion and explored the outdoors through trail running. Great to feel physically active after being pretty dormant for the past three-years. I returned to Jackson to celebrate my brother’s family and again reunite with more family and friends. Now I am back in Laramie in an academic world that is demanding on so many different levels. It is another language and culture to get reaccustomed to.
One of the goals of the Peace Corps is to share your experience when you get home. Throughout my Peace Corps service I was doing art and when I returned to Jackson I hung that art up at a local brew pub, Snake River Brewing Co.
I also want to thank the Jackson Hole News and Guide and writer Claudia Martin for working with me to put an article in the Stepping Out section of the local paper. It was great to connect with a born and raised local and see that she is telling stories about community members in the dynamic town of Jackson!
Check out the article:
At the tail end of my service I went on a 8-day trek with my counterpart, Sharkhuu Bayarsaikhan and another Peace Corps volunteer, Marcus Keely. We hiked in the Arkhangai region of Mongolia (think mountainous central) and investigated the aaruul making process of herders and their lifestyles. The journey started at the Chuulut River Gorge between Tsitserleg and Tariat, from there we hiked alongside the Chuulut River 90 km south to the small soum (town) of Chuulut. Throughout the trip we fished, saw beautiful scenery full of yaks and surging rain storms, and met wonderful families who lived the herding lifestyle. Marcus is a fantastic photographer, although he claims the magic is all in the camera, but his keen eye and charisma are talents that lead him to capturing perfect shots. Enjoy the photos by Marcus Keely from our trek!
I’ve been experimenting with storytelling forms with illustrations and I always find my way back to using comics! This time, I took a good amount of time trying to do the interviews correctly and working to fit the dialogue into an effective story form. Throughout the illustration process, which the black was done by hand, I was slow and careful. I decided to see what coloring in Photoshop might be like and I’m happy with the results. I enjoyed the hand drawing process the most and learned a lot through coloring in Photoshop.
This comic was another attempt at understanding how I can use the comic form to discuss an anthropological topic like the cultural heritage practice of making a national food. I’ll be using a similar method this upcoming summer to illuminate the aaruul making process of herdsmen living in Arkhangai!
Many thanks to Gerle for showing me how to cook this meal and her constant support!
Here are a few illustrations from the past weeks! I’ve been able to speed up a bit because new Moleskin drawing books arrived two weeks ago. Thanks Grandma and Grandpa!
This was an interesting experience. While I was in UB I hung out with my buddy Tucker and we found a shaaman ceremony to go to. It was in a huge ger near the downtown and there were about 7 shaamans and shaaman trainees who danced, sang, drummed, and spoke during the ceremony and about 15 guests including Tucker and I. We watched, drew, and wrote during the ceremony and then 15 minutes into the drumming and singing section we were given milk in small cups and drank those then received a tiny bill of money and candy and then we were encouraged to close our eyes and meditate for a bit. Then, after the rituals, we were able to stand and talk with the head shaaman. Usually he would offer a bit of advice, but because our Mongolian wasn’t good enough for that we just talked about where we were from and he thanked us for participating.