'Man in Mongolia' says goodbye

Thursday, July 9, 2009

It is with regret and understanding that today we say goodbye to our "Man In Mongolia" series authored by American Peace Corps volunteer Brett Campbell the past 13 months.

Little did we know more than a year ago that when we asked Brett to file periodic stories of his time spent teaching English in this Country of Magical Mystery, his writings would become a must-read for our entire staff and subscribers everywhere.

A Cherokee Washington High and Iowa State University graduate with a degree in Philosophy, we had no idea of Campbell's journalistic depth and perception he would weave throughout his stories. We had no idea the grasp of his passion.

Like so many college graduates before him and sure to follow, Brett got his degree, looked out his window on the world, and asked, "Now what?"

Influenced by a friend who was walking the Peace Corps walk in his own right, Brett then was assigned Peace Corps duties in Mongolia, where he would live in a portable tent called a ger in the middle of the Gobi Desert, and teach English in this poverty-stricken country.

And as he tried so desperately to adapt to their vastly different lifestyle, their vastly different foods and beverages, and their menial way of life in one of the harshest of climates and environments, Brett fell in love with the wonderful Mongolian people.

Even as his system slowly reacted to the sudden and decisive lifestyle changes, as his weight dropped more than 20 pounds off his already trim and lean athletic body, as stomach, throat, and sinus irritations and infections overwhelmed him, as pneumonia put him flat on his back for weeks, Brett Campbell persevered to stay the course because throughout his life he had always reached the finish line in all his endeavors and he didn't want to let the beloved Mongolian people down.

But soon, the writing on his ger wall was bigger than he was. All the combined illness had zapped his energy and fogged his mind, and giving partial effort at a job and cause he truly embraced and believed in was simply unacceptable.

So, after consulting with his parents Mark and Jane, and his siblings and friends, Brett Campbell admittedly made the hardest decision he had yet to face in his young life - leave these wonderful people and go home and get your health back; you're no good to anybody in this state.

So, with a heavy heart, Brett said his goodbyes, with many tears shed and countless hugs going into overtime, and he returned to Iowa.

All we can say is, Thank You Brett Campbell, for entertaining and informing us with your interesting, educational stories, always straight from the heart. Thank you Brett Campbell for being an incredible American ambassador and sharing your unique experiences with us.

Our Man in Mongolia has paid his dues in full. Our wish today is for him to heal and get on with his promising future.

After all, this pony's out of the barn. We must let the ponies run.