Davis, Matthew*: When Things Get Dark: A Mongolian Winter’s Tale (2010)
* RPCV Mongolia (2000-2002)
Our discussion took place: November 2010
Review: © Booklist: In 2000, at the age of 23, Davis leaves Chicago, his hometown, to travel to Mongolia to work as a teacher for the Peace Corps. Once he arrives in the small town of Tsetserleg, Davis moves into a ger, the circular tent that will be his home for the next two years, and gets to know the family whose land he is living on. He finds his students difficult to motivate, and a romance with a beautiful Mongolian teacher is heated but brief. After enduring a brutal Mongolian winter and a plague-induced quarantine, Davis finds himself falling into the trap he sees so many Mongolian men around him succumbing to: drinking constantly and giving into violent tendencies. The longer he’s in Mongolia, the deeper he falls into depression and ennui, until a violent encounter shakes him into realizing his life has to change. Both a raw personal examination and an insightful look at Mongolian history and culture, Davis’ illuminating memoir sheds light on a remote region.