Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year Reflections and the Nine Nines

Mongolian New Years Eve
Happy New Years from Mongolia!
(This was taken about 20 min ago from my apartment window.)
At the time of writing, there's only about an hour and a half left of 2010. Then again, we'll be celebrating a whole 13 hours before the Eastern time zone. We had pizza this evening, and because of all the festivities that were happening this week, we decided to call it after a movie. Needless to say, it was less exciting than last year, ha!

I look back at this year, and it has gone SO fast. It was also one of the better ones... the first half of the year I had a well paying job (that I was awesome at!), was taking photography classes, etc. The second half has been such a learning experience being here, and I'm grateful for every moment. I'm amazed at even though I feel like I'm not making much of an impact at the moment- I actually am. I was thanked today during a nursing meeting for coming to Mongolia and teaching them. Huh. And this week when Nate and I had a meeting about a grant we wanted to write, one of his coworkers thanked us for thinking of them and having them help us write it. Of course! We can't do it alone. After the new year, we're really going to kick it into high gear with the grant stuff.
Fireworks RIGHT OUTSIDE MY APARTMENT! ... on Christmas Eve!

So there's only really two "resolutions" I have (even though I said previously that I wasn't gonna have any):
-Take more photographs!
-Get crap done.

That's pretty much it.

There's something else neat that I wanted to share. The winter in Mongolia is broken up into 81 days, counting nine sets of nine days each. It starts on the solstice (December 21st) and lasts until mid-March:

The First Nine: Milk vodka congeals/freezes
The Second Nine: Vodka congeals/freezes
The Third Nine: The tail of the three-year-old ox freezes (owch)
The Fourth Nine: The horns of the four-year-old ox freezes (double owch)
The Fifth Nine: Boiled rice no longer congeals/freezes (it's getting warmer now!)
The Sixth Nine: Roads blacken (roads...? what are these things you call roads?)
The Seventh Nine: Hilltops appear
The Eighth Nine: The ground becomes damp
The Ninth Nine: Warm days set in (hah, right)

Currently, we're in the second nine. Not sure if it's true, but all I know is that is freaking cold (-25F at the moment, that's why I'm NOT going to the square to see the fireworks. I can see it plenty from my warm apartment). :) I will never complain about the weather again.

Half an hour left of 2010! Sarah pointed out that 2010 was the shortest year of our lives- since we're 13 hours ahead of home. :)

Bonus picture! I took yesterday for a Mercy Corps new year card... that's my friend Nema on the right:
Happy New Year!
(The things in the tree are money- it's supposed to be good luck to stick money in Christmas trees, and collect it after the new year.)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Shin-Jil or Happy New Christmas!

CHRISTMAS TIME IS... PASSED
So Christmas has come and gone. Christmas itself was kind of sucky without the family, but the volunteers know how to do it right- beer pong, movies, food, and karaoke. It was nice to skype with the whole family for a couple hours, then Luke for a few, and then Ellen. :) I took Christmas Eve off of work, and instead of cleaning like I wanted to, I did the aforementioned activity and sat on my butt. I’ve been doing that a lot lately, perhaps the weather is to blame… the weather has constantly been in the negatives (for the highs as well) and like we were told previously, we’d probably not want to go anywhere in the winter months. Yep. OH but my wonderful mother and sister BOTH sent me packages! And they were AWESOME. I have enough Santa Pez dispensers to last me the next decade.
Outside the dance hall
Let's get the party started!
Speaking of which... New Year. 2011. Entering a new decade.... huh. After talking with Nate, I decided to not do any new year's resolutions. I'm just going to try my best and see how that goes.

Let's talk about Mongolian New Years, shall we?

Little known fact to Americans, and known to all Mongolians- Shin-Jil is a BIG FREAKING DEAL here. Shin-Jil, or literally translated- "New Year" (what does that mean again?), is the Mongolian celebration where you put out Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, and have a Mongolian Santa at extravagant company parties where you drink champagne, vodka, wine, and beer and dress up in prom dresses while dancing to waltzes, circle dancing, listen to speeches, and (if you’re lucky) receive awards.

Basically, it’s a Christmas party. I was told by a Mongolian friend recently that Mongolians think they’re the same thing. That’s ok!

Poses 4
Prom? Or New Years? I think the latter.
Edit: So I was just reading something interesting about how in the eastern Soviet states, the New Year is a huge deal and they even have “Grandfather Frost” who basically looks like Santa. Since Mongolia used to be under Russian rule, that makes total sense. Carry on!

So what do they do for real New Years, you may ask? I’ve been told a couple things, ranging from spending it with the family, to drinking with friends, to doing nothing. I saw a sign in the square, though, that said something about a party in the square (? It’s freaking cold) on Friday at 7pm, so perhaps fireworks are in order! (Edit: it's not a party in a square I found out, but it is a party. Anyway) Speaking of which, various nights since Christmas Eve, there have been professional-grade fireworks going off right next to my apartment. Oi.

Christmas Dancers
Sort of like the Mongolian Rockettes!
Anyway, back to the Shin-Jil party. My first inclination that this stuff was gonna be serious was when my wonderful mommy sent me my “old” prom dress because I had seen pictures in PST of people at New Years parties dressed up like they were waiting for the next limo to take them to the after party in some swanky hotel room. The second was that the party cost each person 20,000 tugs (about 15 bucks). For my small PC allowance, that’s quite a bit. So I had come back from UB that Tuesday, and so work on Wednesday (the morning before the party) was… uh interesting. We learned in IST that they were probably going to have programs of some sort, and this was no exception. And then I saw it. My name, on the program… TWICE. Eek. An English song and a Mongolian song. In front of nearly 200 people. 

Double eek.
Toast 2
Shots shots shots shots shots shots
Basically that ended with me taking vodka shots with the kitchen workers (who are awesome, and since my office is right next to the kitchen, I get to see them every day), singing Jingle Bell Rock (TWICE) and not one, but TWO Mongolian songs. My coworkers know, however, to not ask me to sing more than two Mongolian songs, because those are the only two I know. Need to work on that. But now the whole hospital thinks I have a voice of a rock star. Whoo! That’s right world, watch out, Kate’s a-comin’. I had a really fun time dancing, singing, drinking, etc. All the hospital workers are amazing, vibrant people who know how to have a good time. I look forward to introducing them to my family and friends this summer! :)

I also got an award… neat, yeah? I got a cakes (the word for cake in Mongolian is English cake but plural) and a bottle of sparkling wine! I was half paying attention, when all I heard was “Peace Corps” (in Mongolian) and my name, and my table started shouting at me and pointing towards the stage. Hah. 
My Award!
CAKES! AND WINE!

Actually, a lot my introductions go like this (Mongolian in italics):

My Co-Worker: This… is [person], he/she is [does this job]   ((Her English is getting really good!))
Me: Ahh, how are you?
Mongolian (turns to my co-worker): Does she know Mongolian?
Me (to him): Yeah, a little.
Mongolian: Really? AHHH VERY GOOD!
Me (thinking): Please don’t ask me anything complicated.
Mongolian: blah blah blah where blah*
Me: Oh poops. I don’t know. :(

*in super fast speedy Mongolian!

Suvdaa and I going sledding at IST!
Usually, when they talk that fast, I can just understand that they’re talking about me. I’m usually also good at guessing what about, if something has happened that I did that they found funny, or otherwise.

Lately I’ve been getting called “Russian” more lately. I joked that I’m going to get "Би орос хүн биш" or, “I’m not Russian” tattooed somewhere in Mongolian script. Perhaps not a joke, though.

<---This hat must be at fault for some of the increase.

So, happy New Years, my friends. May the new year refresh your spirit, and may you avoid falling in open manholes.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Back to the UB- IST

Hey everyone! Long time, no post. I blame it on the weather. It's been in the constant negatives (even for the highs!), and it looks worse when I change my settings to C, so I'll stick with my F, thank you very much. It was a high of 2F today, which was pretty darn enjoyable.

Sitemate lovin'
Anyway, the main reason I didn't post much this month is because I was back in the U to the B again. And I got sick, again. For serious, that city is wack. I've been told it's the most polluted city in the world (most particles in the air), and is SHOWS. I wish I could have taken a picture of the view I had when I was coming back from training- there was a THICK cloud of gray over the entire city. Oi.

So- training. Our M21 training group had training at a hotel near UB (thankfully outside of the city some, but I was still stuffy the whole week), of which we bring one of our coworkers, usually the one that you work with the most. I brought Suvdaa, the head of nursing, and who I work with the most for sure. She's so motivated, and this week really helped our working relationship. The week was SO BUSY. Sessions all day, and meetings at night. We did manage to chill out, drink, and play cards almost every night though! So the sessions were pretty awesome... we went through the whole process of making a legit project, getting funding, etc. Suvdaa and I really got some good ideas for projects as well, and I think they'll be totally doable.
All the healthies and our CPs!

On the Thursday night of IST, we had a free night, where we could pick what we wanted to do. Tim, being the ever-planner, asked the CPs (counterparts- our coworkers) what they wanted. Mongolians LOVE talent shows and competitions. Maybe a soviet throwback (there's a lot of that here), and of course, they wanted a talent show. The TEFLs had one during their IST, but there were twice as many of them as us, so that was feasible for them. We were all pretty weary about having a talent show but since we were going to have a dance as well, we conceded to make fools of ourselves.

Oh, and did I. In spades.

oh what the crap
Started normally enough- each sector (health, business, and youth development) had to do something and none of us wanted to. The business one ended up being pretty funny- Jon took one of the team and showcased his talent of downing 3 beers in succession. Good times! The CYDs (children and youth development) did a Jingle Bell Rock dance, which I was somehow tricked into coming into the middle of the dance and dancing with them, ending with jazz hands. Let that sink in a little bit.

Baby, it's creepy inside
And then it was the healthie's turn. Even more surprisingly, although all the boys were dragging their feet about the whole thing, we put together a show- "Baby it's Cold Outside" performed by yours truly, Matt, Leon, Ned, and Cody. We rehearsed it an hour before the show, and many drinks and one thrown-out shoulder later (sorry Leon!), it was ready. It was pretty darn hysterical, and personally I think it was the most entertaining.

The cutest performance, however, goes to the CPs. They each took the time to write out a poem for their volunteer, in Mongolian, and translate it. It was a little confusing at the beginning since they started in Mongolian, and I heard my name... twice! I turned to Justin, asking if he heard that, and I looked at Suvdaa, who nodded enthusiastically at me. This was my poem she wrote me:

The CPs doing the poems!
Dear Kate, kind and cheerful Kate,
She amazes people by singing 'motherland' song well,
She likes Kazakh handicrafts,
This became her big hobby.


I about DIED with happiness and laughing at how accurate/cute it was! It completely melted my heart and it was the talk of the town all the next day. Suvdaa hit the nail on the head, and I gave her a huge hug after everyone was done.

That was basically the IST. Good times, good food, good friends.

Suvdaa and I!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My lil Duu! Video!



So cute. He was trying to do the "flirty eye". Oh, and don't mind the meat, they just went and slaughtered a cow for the winter!

I've just seen a face...

Today, I've been in Mongolia 6 months. Wow. Half a year. Time has been flying, and I suspect that soon enough I'll be on that plane back to America to visit, and quickly after that my family and friends will be visiting. :) It's gonna be a good year already.

Thanksgiving was in a word… spectacular. I have to say, though, I really missed my family. It’s hard enough without dad around, and I have to imagine it was different for them as well since I wasn’t there. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite (I mean, next to Christmas)… baking, watching football, relaxing with some cheese and crackers and shrimp (mmm), and passing out or going to a movie afterwards. Basically just one whole day of nothing but family. Spending time away from my family makes me realize more that you have to keep them close. :) That’s probably why I call them all the time! They were super turkey-coma-ed when I did talk to them over Thanksgiving, however, haha :)

Ashley and I on our way to UB!


So my Thanksgiving- spend with over 100 ‘Mmerricans at the apartment complex that houses all the embassy workers. It all started last Wednesday when I traveled to Khentii to see my dearest healthie girl, Ashley… I don’t think we stopped talking the entire time! So much to catch up on! The next day we took the early bus (HOLY CRAP IT WAS COOOLD) to UB, where it was slightly warmer. I got a nice warm welcome from my healthie guys, and a nice clean bed (thankfully- they had told me it was trashed from the night before, but the lady who runs the hostel cleaned up… they said tried to clean up for me though, so that was nice). First order of business- burgers at AB&F. My first red meat in months. Oh so good.

Thanksgiving dinner. MMMM
Ok, I don’t really want to bore you with the extra details, but the rest of the weekend was spent spending a shit ton of money (UB, I swear just GRABS it from you… mostly because of food and drinks you haven’t been able to have… MMM pizza and SALAD!), drinking (anything but vodka, thanks!), dancing, catching up with “old” friends, and getting to know ones I hadn’t known too well before. Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful, and I was so geeked with seeing everyone that I didn't go get seconds... I miss that turkey already.

My host family! (Minus my dad)
On Sunday I traveled down to Zuunmod to see my host family, which was an adventure in itself. I’m so proud of myself for getting down there and back safely… not gonna lie, I was a bit nervous, but my crappy Mongolian skills win again! I first met up with Oogii, and we talked and walked to my host family’s apartment. It was strange, yet… not, being in Zuunmod. It was so nice to see someplace so familiar, like going home after college, yet it seemed so in the past that I had forgotten it somehow. Walking up the stairwell seemed so natural, even though it had been over 3 months since I had last done it… I even remembered to avoid the hole in the 2nd set of stairs. And my host family- they’ve changed too- my littlest duu had his ceremonial hair cut a couple of months prior and could TALK (!!), my older duu was getting taller, my host mom’s hair was much longer, and my host dad looked a lot better than he did before (he had a major surgery not that long before I got to Mongolia). It was such a nice visit. They kept saying how thin I was getting (hah), how I should wear more clothes because it’s cold, how I should eat more meat (I got the 3rd degree on that one), and how my Mongolian has gotten a lot better (that’s a bit surprising, really, doesn’t seem like it). I miss them all, and I told them I’ll come back in January for a weekend or so. Jugi (older duu) was sad I couldn’t stay a couple days to go ice skating with him… next time!
Oogii and Ochiko!

At this time of writing, I’m listening to my coworker listen to “Jingle Bell Rock” through her headphones and sing along with the words I typed out for her. I’m going to be teaching some Christmas carols to my classes, which should be a fun time… I love carols! Suvdaa said that maybe if we practice, we’ll do a song for the Shin-Jil (New Year) party at the hospital! Who knows... I’ll keep you updated on that one.

In less than a week and a half, we do it all again… back to UB for PC training. I’m just recovering from the smog there… UGH… we described it as being in permanent bon-fire smoke that you can’t get away from. My throat is not doing too well, and I’m coughing, but other than that, I’m doing well. Hopefully it’ll clear up before I have to go back. I hope Mika will be ok… I’m either going to take him with me to get him sniped-sniped, or I’ll do it in January when I go back to visit my host family.

Karaokeing it up.
Some other stuff cool that’s going on: 1) I’m going to be doing nursing lectures at one of the hospitals in UB where a PCV is now. My first one is going to be after training, and I’m quite nervous, but I think it’ll be a great experience since I want to maybe be a nursing instructor one day. 2) Currently in my 4th year of internet secret santa… I got a dude from the UK, so hopefully he’ll be cheaper to ship to! I hope I get something good too : ) 3) My Christmas tree is up! Ok, so it’s not mine, it’s Alex’s, but he’s going home for Christmas and he said I could borrow it! It really makes things look more festive. 4) I got Mika this cute blue collar… he is turning into such a fattie though. Oi. I’m not even feeding him that much!

Finer Things Club: Mongolia.
I really need to start taking more pictures, I am lazing about for serious. I’m a little paranoid about taking my nice camera out into the cold of Mongolia, but after seeing some of my fellow photographer friends do it, I think I’ll do a walk after it snows sometime. If it ever snows, I mean… it has, just hasn’t melted since it’s been consistently running around ZERO degrees F for the past month. Alex said the average temp in Mongolia is zero degrees C (freezing) because of the huge range… we were at nearly 100 F this summer, and now we’ll be at -40 F in the winter. Crazy, huh? Apparently when you get down to those cold temperatures, it just feels freaking cold and doesn’t differentiate itself, like being in the negatives and the single digits can feel different.

So for today, I’m gonna be super productive (I love Sundays, they are MY DAY and I usually spend them cleaning and/or doing nothing) and do my laundry, and write Christmas cards. ^^ Watch for those in the mail people! Also I wouldn’t mind getting some as well. :) Love to ya’all and happy holidays!


Also bonus pic of Mika and his new collar... he's getting so big!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving!

I'm headed off to U to the B (Ulaanbaatar) today with the other volunteers to celebrate Thanksgiving! I'm stopping off half way to stay with Ashley, which I'm super excited about since I haven't seen her wonderful face in THREE WHOLE MONTHS! Not to mention my other wonderful healthies, who I will see soon on Thursday!

I miss and love you all at home very much! I'm thinking about you guys all the time! Have a happy Thanksgiving :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's already November, we've been driving all night

Frustrated today. Not really sure what the exact issue is, really. I think it started yesterday when I didn’t have power at my apartment. It really wouldn’t have been a big deal, except for the fact that it was probably the 4th time that week that it had happened. I think it’s the “locus of control” thing we talked about during training- I have a lot less control over a number of factors than I did in the US, and I think my apartment I feel is something I CAN control, at least in the way of taking care of it, so when it's something seemingly simple as electricity, it makes me frustrated. The weekend was so incredibly busy which was just as busy as the week before and so I only got a few hours to myself on Sunday to unwind. So anyway, at lunch yesterday I kept dropping things, which made me even more a little peeved. My Monday english class went well, however, and when I’m working I don’t bring my personal problems in with me… Mr. Moore would be so proud. After work I fully expected to have my power back on since the REST OF MY BUILDING had it… but nope (I was so excited too because I could see from the street that everything was lit up). Something had died. After some calls, my landlord came over, but since he (and I) didn’t have a key to the electric box outside my apartment, I was SOL. Todd was nice enough to bring me some candles… and so I had a romantic dinner of apples and peanut butter with my cat, while reading a book by candle light.

The English language has also been somewhat of an issue lately. Maybe not having to do with the english language, but I’m noticing that a lot more people are calling me Russian. They think I don’t understand, but it’s almost laughable when a group of old men (it’s always the older men too) stare as they walk by and say “orse-hun” (Russian person) under their breath. Sigh. I CAN understand you… heeelloooo. I usually don’t take the time to correct them, because I should, but usually by the time I’ve heard them, I’m already walking past them. I suppose that’s ok anyway… Russians have very nice European style clothing, which I’m severely lacking (go go sneakers ahoy!), so if they want to believe that, whatever. It’s because I’m white… isn’t it? ISN’T IT?! (hah) Also, this town isn’t that big and volunteers have been here for quite some time… you’d think the rumor mill would have run its course and they would have known I’m American. I can forgive the soum-ers though. There are lots of people coming from all over the province all the time so they probably have no idea who I am or why there’s some random white chick chillin’ with the doctors and nurses. My favorite part is usually when they pass my office door, look in, do a double take, walk by again slower, and sometimes stand in the doorway. So usually I smile and say ‘sain bain oo’ (how are you?), but then they have the look on their face like I have two heads. Ah, and that is the life of a PCV Mongolia… thank goodness for my counterparts and my coworkers in the hospital. They are completely awesome and I don't know if I could much without their motivation and patience.

Oh, one more funny story about the staring thing- sometimes I just like to stare right back. But usually this ends with me breaking the staring contest because I think it’s rude to stare. Welp. Once I was walking back home and this little boy was walking near me and staring straight up at me, while walking. So what happened next? Oh course he almost face planted, but he just tripped hardcore and then kept on walking, looking forward that time. Also, once a kid at the store was staring at me with his mouth wide open, the kind of thing I only thought I saw in the movies. But alas, a fly could have landed in there and he wouldn’t have noticed. Then he got knocked over by another shopper because it was rush hour. Moral of the story kids- only stare if you know you’re not going to get the crap knocked out of you.

Attendance for my English classes has lessoned much as of late. A little disheartening? Maybe. This is pretty typical of any English class, or so I’ve been told. Those people who are there towards the end are the troopers, the actual people who want to stick it out, be patient with my (new) teaching methods, and learn English. So, I’m teaching for them. Also, sometimes the schedule of the class impedes them coming… sometimes doctors and nurses come during their work time and have to go back to the unit if a patient comes.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m learning two languages- Mongolian AND English. Seriously, English sucks. It is an awful language that doesn’t make any sense at all, and the rules are ridiculous, and there’s too many exceptions and slang and idioms (and I didn’t even know what the heck that was until I got here). I have a lot of respect for my students because that is a lot to take in (Mongolian is so vastly different in structure and words… there are twice as many English words as there are Mongolian). So needless to say I’ve been learning what all the tenses are, etc while making my lessons. I’m hoping after this main class is over (I’ll still have my other classes and tutoring), I’ll be able to work on what I really want to with my counterparts and what they want to improve. After my site visit, it sounded like that was what they wanted to do too.

I suppose that covers things for now. My mind is kind of mush at the moment. I need to make more lists, because I hate feeling like I have a billion things to do and I therefore get too stressed about it. Hm. Peace and love and deuces ya’all. :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dance, dance

Quickie post, I uploaded a video of one of the dances I saw at the children's concert. They were AWESOME! There were some kids playing instruments and singing, too, so I'll try to upload those as well as my internet allows.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

And then there were pictures...

Another busy end to the week. Friday night was Alex's birthday, and so we had a party over his place, complete with awesome chocolate cake made by Julie. Saturday I had class per usual, and after a little downtime, did my laundry at Todd's, dragged my crap back to my place, then everyone was treated for dinner by the heads of the english club that we're teaching for. OH and it... kind of snowed. A dusting, I suppose. Sarah texted me this morning and she said that it had snowed in Dariganga (the soum about 5 hours from us in our province). It's getting steadily colder, even though a couple days this week it was too warm for my coat, so I got to wear just my fuzzy fleeces. ^^

Today we're having our site visits... at time of writing, it sounds like they haven't gotten here yet. At 8 tonight, I'm going to the children's play at the theater which my Mongolian tutor's kids are in. I'm pretty geeked because Mongolian kids are adorable and I love Mongolian dances and songs.

Enough of my chatter... onto the pictures...

My hospital got me a lab coat! It is seriously a kick-ass lab coat. It's one of those old school nursing ones with the high collar and the buttons down the side. AND it came with a nursing hat. I never got a nursing hat in nursing school, so I feel like I'm compensating or something. It fit awesome, except that I have a busty chest so it wouldn't button around that area... so that sucks. We're gonna get it tailored though. :)

Suvdaa making me pose for pictures...

A freaking awesome nursing hat!!


 Also, people have been wanting pictures of my town (whoops, have been kinda bad about that), so here we go! And some videos too!

 This is the back side of the hospital, newly paved. My coworker's son was admitted for a while for low blood sugar (he's fine! he's back to his perky 12-year old self), and this was the view outside his room.

So, on my walk home... this is outside the main part of the hospital. Also newly paved!


 The main door, and just inside is the emergency room to the right.



The way back to my apartment. This is right across from the hospital, and it's a one way road... a little scary for people walking! Also, the road is really hard to walk on in high heels, by the way. I don't know how people do it.



MAN HOLE! A couple of those on my walk. Don't wanna fall down those things! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles... lalalala...


Some new apartment buildings... 

Sukhbaatar Square!

Government building...

The main stretch... the square on the upper right!

Sukhbaatar himself!

Our huge TV screen that was playing really strange 80's music and videos at that time. Hm. The song right before this one I swear was that Meat Loaf song, "I'd do anything for love". Freakin love this country.

My apartment building! Next to the photo store!

My balcony is the one with the missing windows... not too safe. At least it has a roof!

My door to my building. :)

My apartment building to the right, and the other buildings... it's like a big rectangle of old buildings.

So I attempted to upload some videos, but my internet sucks so it's taking forever. So I'm gonna try to put them on youtube and see if that goes faster. Hold on tight for that!

And at the time of this writing, I just came back from the children's concert. Mongolians are amazing in the fact that even the 1st graders can sing on pitch all the time. All the acts were awesome, and I took some cool videos for that too.

Work tomorrow with site visits, hoorah! (As I taught Dava's class) - Deuces ya'all! 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's hard to live the life you choose

Blog post, so long overdue. I'm sorry... it's been a crazy busy month. It's mid October already! I've been here almost 5 months, which is crazy to think about. I've been getting a lot of the "do you miss home" question from the Mongolians, and how can I answer no? It's definitely the longest I've been away from home (even in college I managed to make it home once every couple months), but I think I've been fairing well for the most part. There's been good and bad days, as you all can imagine.

I can see this entry is going to be hard to do, since I did a crappy job of writing down what I have been doing. Poops. Honestly, it's hard to describe what my experiences are like... as I think I said before, there's something that happens everyday that bluntly reminds me that I'm in a totally different culture than my own. Most of the time those moments are so amazing to me.

Working at the hospital has been really great lately. I've been busy making my lessons, and in between and I have pretty lengthy conversations with my coworkers, Suvdaa and Tuya:

Coolest nurses in Mongolia.

This week has been a lot of talk about the differences between my old hospital and our hospital. Break rooms, med rooms, (I had an old coworker take pics for me), salaries, amount of doctors and nurses, etc. Our hospital has a lot of things going for it, for sure. There are so many good ideas, so much construction already going on, and lots of room for improvement that Suvdaa has already identified. I'll be working on a mini proposal this week to possibly get some respiratory equipment/ventilators and/or trainers to come to our hospital to train about them, thanks to Travis' mom (the volunteer who was here before me) who is part of a respiratory group. I'll let you know how it all goes. :)

Lately, I've been doing a lot of english teaching. I know you're saying "Katie... you're a nurse, what the hell!" but hear me out! That's what they want, I will give it to them. Most days actually it's a lot of fun. I've been teaching some english songs (one woman wants me to teach some Beyonce!). Saturdays and Mondays are my hospital english class, Tuesdays are Dava's class, on Mondays and Wednesdays I have tutoring with people, and Thursdays and Saturdays are the community english class. Yes... that means my only full day off is Sunday! This week I was really pooped so I decided this would be my day to myself. I had to turn down a couple people for lunches, etc but I think I deserve some reflection time. I did spend this morning on a 4 hour skype call with my dearest friends from home. :) That was really nice, thanks guys. :)
'
Ohhhh yummy food stuffs... holy crap mac and cheese!!

I got "the" package from my mom this week... with my lab coat! I started doing some observing in the surgery unit this week. Since I don't have scrub pants (pretty sure I tossed those old things when I left my old hospital), I sacrificed a pair of my pajama pants. I wish I had brought my camera that day (I got a new P&S, thanks mum!)... I looked a little hilarious, but cool- white and blue checkered pants, MSU nursing lab coat, my coworker's scrub hat and my black shoes from the black market in UB.

Also, big shout out to MSU for beating Michigan last week. Sorry mom!

Pictures!

 Poker night with the MTBA! ...also with a 3D Where's Waldo? puzzle

...Nema playing with my camera...

Mr. Potter, Satan, and Princess (Nema, Alex and Chimgee)... we didn't play poker that night, but fun with hearts instead. I still get your chips next time, Todd.

 My community English class! Enee is the first on the left, and she's one of the university english teachers. She translates my english babbling!

 Some of my students from the hospital!

MIKA! Who looks a lot like...

Pippin!! This picture on the camera cracked me the hell up... he looks terribly pissed to be having his picture taken.

 Homework assignment for you guys... what am I gonna be for Halloween?? Ahh maybe crazy cat lady? Also, I've put up a list of cool stuff you guys could send me. :) Love you all!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

They made a statue of us and put it on a mountain top...

I had the strangest thoughts when I was walking back to work after lunch today. I somehow had a train of thought that was about the future, and what was going to happen, or if it would happen. And then I suddenly felt lost, like a small child, like those ideas I was thinking about were so far ahead in the future that I couldn’t possibly be that old yet. I then thought about what I had already accomplished in my life (which, sure, it seems like quite a bit I suppose), but that I really have much more and I have no clue how I am going to fit it all in. And then I felt depressed.

Blame it on the sad British pop I was listening to.

Speaking of which, I’ve given that 500 Days of Summer movie another try, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was initially. I like playing it in the background for the music. I hate to say it (Ellen will yell), but Regina Spektor is slowly crawling to a predominate place on my playlist.

At the time of writing, I am at work. I supposed to be working on a translation for my English class that starts next month. There is a huge stack of meat on the windowsill to the right of me. I love this country, truly. There’s always at least one happening a day that reminds me that I’m on the other side of the world from everyone I know.

The heat is going to be turned on next month, which for the past week I am looking forward to. I can even tell you the last hot day- last Monday. Ever since then it has been 60’s, 50’s-ish, and I’ve been missing the sounds of the kids at the square late at night as I fall asleep. That has been replaced by Mika making a racket in the hallway. Mika has been doing well, and he loves playing in his litterbox of dirt a little too much. At least he’s white and not brown like when I got him!

Right now it is freaking freezing in our work room. Even during the days that it was in the 80’s, this room was freaking cold, making my nose and fingers cold. And you all know how much I hate when my nose and fingers are cold! Tuya, Altansuvd and I have been taking to boiling lots of tea in the past couple days. I don’t exactly have a jacket (unless I want to wear my hard-core winter one now), but one of these days my friend Dava is taking me to meet a lady who can sew a coat for me.

What I would give for my hot tub right now. Ah, that would be wonderful. Anyway, I shouldn’t complain because it’s gonna get a hell of a lot colder. Then I will complain haha.

I just saw the most glorious bathroom ever, in the pediatric ward. I wish I could upload a picture, but it had two washer machines, a lovely toilet with seat cover, and possibly the most beautiful shower I have seen in Mongolia. Scratch that, it is the best bathroom I’ve seen besides my host family’s bathroom. That shower had (what looked like) hot water (probably from separate boiler), with glass doors and removable shower head.

(Written the next day) We got internet at work yesterday at the end of the day… currently installing the required Yahoo messenger. My M20 site mates joked that when you come to site, the Mongolians actually only make sure you have three things- a place to live, a door to that place, and Yahoo messenger.

Last night was a bit rough. I got home after going to the meat market with Altansuvd, which I’ve been before, but I’ve always been on weekends where no one was there. Today, however, I was slapped in the back with dead sheep bodies no more than 5 times because it was so crowded. Hm. I got a kilo of some mystery meat (I think it was goat) for Mika, and when I got home I discovered there was no water. I got it back this morning, but it was a little sad having meat fingers and having to use my nice filtered water to wash with.

THEN since it’s been so cold, I remembered I had my space heater… so I turned it on and WHAM YES HEAT… for 30 seconds. Then it died. But it started back up this morning just fine, so… I think I had a shitty night I suppose!

‘Tis all for now. Going to work on my English lessons (class starts next week, ahh!).

Monday, September 13, 2010

I'm the hero of this story, I don't need to be saved...

The internet has once again hindered all my productivity including doing blog posts. Hm.

Things I do on the internet:
-Facebook (sad I know)
-CNN/news
-Email and lots of it
-Flickr
-Various message boards
-INTERNET RADIO!

And I'm about to get internet at work as well... which actually would be a good thing, because I could do grant stuff and look up English language activities. Instead of trying to think of my own and using the same book and playing spider solitaire. Actually, the spider solitaire thing won't change. I don't have it on my mac, and I love it so! Along with hearts. I will kick your ass around the corner if you dare to play hearts with me.

Anyway, today was pretty darn busy. I taught a bunch of English to one of my counterparts, and then in the afternoon I met with an english teacher who is going to help me with grammar explanations (because I seriously need it- present perfect WHAT). Days have been going pretty steady now, but it's still going to take some time before I figure all this stuff out.

This weekend I was SIIICK as a dog. Food poisoning, I suspect. For sure the worst I've felt since I've been in Mongolia, but nothing life threatening or anything.

In other news, I HAVE A KITTEN! My site mate Todd had the hook-up from one of the teachers at his school. I have named him Mika, for he reminds me of the singer. He is a little storm, as all kittens are. I actually have to stop every other sentence to either stop him from climbing all over the keyboard or clawing my leg off. This thing does not stop purring, it's so adorable. This morning he feel asleep in my arm and was half-purring still. So. Cute.

Weird thought today as I was going through my photos... I've definitely grown a shit ton in my ability to take actually ok photographs since I started only a couple years ago. Man I love this hobby.

What a not insightful blog post. Oh well. Maybe next time with more detail!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

No one needs to know we're feeling higher, and higher and higher

September already? Oi geez.

At the time of writing, it is September 1st. That can only mean one thing for children this time of year- the first day of school! (And it is for the whole country!) I looked out my window this morning while I was making breakfast only to see moms with their children dressed up in their best suits. Usually that time in morning is populated by the old men stooping across the road at the social insurance building. They are interesting to watch too, really. But anyway, while I was walking to work I could see one of the schools decked out in balloons and tents with Akon blasting in the background. Huh. I wonder if the parents are excited for them to get back to school like American parents.

Not much is happening at the moment. My hospital is pretty busy this month because inspectors are coming mid-month for accreditation purposes. Kind of like JCAHO, I suppose? Anyway, I’m kind of finding my own stuff to do, like helping out with English classes at the schools or whatnot.

This past weekend was interesting- Saturday, the whole town had a huge celebration to commemorate the Mongolian win against the Japanese that ended in 1945 (World War II? My counterparts said no, so there must be some history that I’m missing?), also the 5 year anniversary of the zinc mine that is near my city.

So bright and early, my counterparts (CPs) look me to a part of the steppe just outside the city to watch two horse races- one for “older” horses, around 6 years, and one for “younger” horses- 2 years old. All the horses are manned by children (so maybe the word should be “childrened”?), and sometimes that’s a problem because with the more competitive races the parents might pull the children out of school to practice. Anyway, the race was as cool as ever, you could start to see the cloud of dust rising from the horizon, which meant they were probably 10 or 15 minutes away yet. The dust isn’t just from the horses- they are also from ambulance and police cars, waiting in case a child falls from the horse (which isn’t uncommon- you see horses come back rider-less all the time).

After the races, there was a… um, not sure what you would call this, not a demonstration because that sounds like there was riot or something. I guess the closest phrase would be “military parade”. Basically, the military put on a show to show off their mad skills, like punching through fire bricks (for reals), saving people from terrorists (complete with fake rounds in their guns that scared the kiddies as well as my CP), and parachuting into the square. Actually, I’m not totally sure what the point was, but I was quite impressed with it all.

A couple hours later there was a military concert at the theater. It was jam-packed with Mongolian dances (which I absolutely love, I can’t get enough), singing and Mongolian instruments (which I also love!). There was supposed to be another show in the square that evening, but the weather was pretty crappy and freakishly windy.

Sunday was spent doing a lot of cooking and a whole lot of nothing, ha! I have started to become a chef, and I imagine that when I get back home I’ll have a whole slew of recipes I can use. I think we really take what we have for granted- I’m lucky because in this town we have quite a range of food options, including brown sugar (!!), and the occasional chicken drumstick. Oh, and I’m for the most part vegetarian now since I’m mostly too lazy to prepare meat. Mmmm eggs and peanuts. Anyways anyways (aww I miss Oogii), I made honey-Dijon chicken with veggies and rice pudding for dessert. Hells yeah!! I. Am. Awesome.

Lately I’ve been a little lazy, because I’ve mostly been eating fried potatoes with ketchup and lots veggie melts (grilled cheese with veggies in them… mmm). Need to expand my horizons!

Even though I’m a health volunteer, I’m going to be teaching a loooot of English. I don’t mind, though. Today I was talking with my counterpart and the ENT doctor (ear/nose/throat) and the doctor had just completed a two month course on English, so that kind of made her even with me in terms of language. Anyway, we somehow got on the topic of how you pronounce “corps” (as in Peace Corps). In English you don’t pronounce it with the ‘S’, but in Mongolian you do. So anyway, the doctor looks up the Mongolian word for “corps” and my CP and her keep saying corps with an ‘S’. So she hands me the dictionary and points to an unfamiliar Mongolian word. Next to it is “corpse”. Ugui! (No!) We all laughed pretty darn hard though. Just goes to show you that English is HARD (and so is Mongolian… the words for “husband” and “dog,” as well as the words for “sheep meat” and “human meat” are crazy similar).

Das ist alles (for now!). Love you all :D

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Home, cont...

This is kind of an extension to the post I did yesterday, so read that one first (it’s directly below this one).

So after our placement ceremony, of course all of us were feverishly looking through the packets that we were given about our place of work. Turns out I’m replacing a PCV who extended for a third year, and who will be living in UB. So it’s been pretty cool getting to know the town through him and my new site mates. Funnily enough, I have all male site mates which is not unlike my entire summer with the Zuunmod crew (minus Ashley!), so it’s not gonna be a problem. Speaking of Ashley, she’s on the east side with me, so we’re going to be making lots of visits, me thinks.

After a few more days of trainings, we left for UB on Tuesday morning. I was quite sad leaving my host family that day, to be honest. I feel like I’m starting over, like reversing back to when I got to Mongolia, with a new home, new city to get used to, etc, except I don’t have the safety net of a family to live with. My Mongolian family came to the school to say goodbye, along with Ashley’s host family who I’ve been close to as well. Turns out Ashley’s Mongolian cousin is from the town that I will be living in, so she’ll come visit in September. After many goodbyes and promises to visit Zuunmod (which I totally will!), we gathered our things on the bus and left.

In UB, although I’ve been there before, I again had the comfort of my host family to guide me, but not this time. We went on a tour the first day, but I quickly became confused as they showed us where the markets, movie theaters, and restaurants were. I was actually thinking of Ellen at that point, because I’m sure she would have known where we were going!

Of course, there was an alternative to the walking- taxis! The drivers didn’t know any English (most taxis aren’t even legit taxis- they’re just cars), so we got to use our mad Mongolian skills. I did pretty well, considering, and even if I didn’t know the name, you can just say “go straight, go left, go right”. Most importantly, I didn’t get ripped off! Whoo, go me! :)

The next day we were to meet our supervisors. They gathered us in a room not unlike the gym in Zuunmod (actually, the school was a carbon copy, including the placement of the bathrooms. I suspect the Russians built them?), and put all of us PCTs on one side. They called out our Aimag (province), city or soum (small town) and the place where we were going to work. My supervisor is a doctor and the head of the hospital, of which this is her second or third year (I think). She used to be the head of the pediatric unit before that. She’s a super nice lady, and her English is pretty good and we were able to have good conversations!

Last Friday was our Swearing-In Ceremony. During this summer, we weren’t actually Peace Corps Volunteers, but rather Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs). A woman swore us in who was from the US Embassy, using the same oath that people who work for the government are given. After speeches and lots of translation, us M21’s (we are the 20th group of Peace Corps Volunteers in Mongolia) put on a show of traditional songs and dances. Everyone did extremely well, and I got some pretty awesome shots since I was in the front.

Later that night, the M20s had organized a party at a skating rink (roller, not ice, but STILL it was awesome!), of which most of us drank, skated (not such a good combo), and danced our hearts out, because we knew that it was the last time we would all be together until the end of our service. I thought a lot about the future, hoping that we would all make it to the end, hoping that our sites will treat us well, and hoping that we can make some sort of difference in this country.

Ah, and we have cell phones now! It’s been a real blessing, because apparently we’re one of the few Peace Corps countries to get them because of how remote we are. We’ve been told multiple times that this is one of the hardest PC countries, if not the hardest, because of the language, remoteness, and the weather. Texting has been awesome these past couple days, because I’m already missing the Zuunmod crew. Those boys (and Ashley) were such a good support system and I’m going to have to keep tabs on them and make sure they’re not getting into any crazy trouble. ;)

Anyway, early the next morning, Sarah (our soum-er, who is about 5 hours from us in the city), Nate and I packed up in a pretty sweet charter bus headed to the east. The ride was about 10 hours, and my supervisor said the driver was “hurrying”, so I’m guessing the ride can be quite a bit longer. Most of it was fine, and I didn’t get sick, yay! We also saw some camels on the way, along with the typical goats, sheep, and groups of horses. The land also became flatter and flatter. The end was the most interesting, because we had no idea when it was going to end. All of a sudden, a large stone pillar appeared as we went over a small hill, and in the distance we could see the outskirts of the city. As we drove past, my supervisor pointed out my apartment building, the square, the hospital. It was a lot to take in, and I’m still trying to find my way around.

Now I’m all moved in. My apartment is seriously awesome, and although there’s not much water pressure, I’m thanking the stars that I actually have running water. I start work tomorrow, and my counterpart, the nursing supervisor is to walk with me to the hospital. I’m going to be working with her and two other counterparts in a room. I’m nervous, of course, but I’m really excited to start working with them.

That’s about it for now… I hope everyone is well!

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Volunteer, New Home

Hey ya'all! I finally got me some internets. Not at my apartment, though, so hang tight for that. Holy crap, so much to tell. Where to start?

Let's see... last Sunday was when the craziness started, but lemme back up a little before that. That Friday was my lil duu's birthday, of which Ashley and I made a wonderful cake, made from a modified brownie reciepe and my american frosting I got in UB way back at Naadam time. It. Was. Amazing. Not quite as amazing as when my mom pulled out fried onion rings (that I taught her how to make) and fried chicken! Mmmm.

So the next day (Saturday) was pretty uneventful except for us Healthies and CEDs frantically trading movies and TV shows so we won't be so bored in the winter.

Then Sunday. Oh yes, Sunday. It was the day to find out all the mysteries that Peace Corps had in store for us. Kind of like Lost, I suppose, yeah? First off, we had some announcements and such, but it was a little obvious that people weren't paying that much attention. We were all a little nervous to see how we did on our language tests we look the Thursday before. Well, turns out I passed! And I didn't just pass, I got one higher (you had to get Novice-High to pass, but I got Intermediate-Low), which was pretty crazy to me since I didn't think I did that great. But anyway, Oogii was very proud of us, and all of her original class passed as well! :)

The rest of the day there were sessions, but not as important as what was going to happen at 4:30. Our site announcements! I was a bit nervous, because this was where I was going to be living for the next two years! Turns out I'm in the East, whoop! (We're not supposed to say exactly where we are according to Peace Corps) I'm actually here right now at the moment, in an Aimag center, which is like the capital of the provience. I'll be working at the hospital directly with the nursing staff (as well as the doctors).

I seriously couldn't be more excited about this assignment. My supervisor, who is the head of the hospital, seems super motivated about things she wants changed in the hospital. There is also a ton of oppertunity to work with my site mates at the school and community centers.

Seems that I have to go... I'll update more tomorrow (I hope!). Peace and love :D

Monday, August 9, 2010

It's the finaaal cooountdown!

These past few weeks have been jam packed with some awesome happenings. Last weekend I went to the countryside with my family (the countryside is called the “houdo” in Mongolian, and it kind of sounds like it makes for a phrase similar to saying “ghetto”… “I’m going to the houdo this weekend,” or “My brother is in the houdo”.) I of course got super sick from the car ride, which sucked because I didn’t have my drugs with me. There are not a lot of paved roads in Mongolia… there’s the one that connects Zuunmod and UB, a handful going to other places, but the paved roads are as smooth as the dirt road leading up to my house in Michigan. I’ve never experienced real “off-roading” until I came to Mongolia. Basically, you drive around the mountains and through the steppes, following the dead grass that was left from the previous car.

Anyway, I digress. We first went to a Buddhist holy spot that had an Ovoo, of which you throw a rock on top and circle around it three times. We then walked a short distance to a huge rock, where my mom gave me a 10 tugrik bill and started scraping off pieces of the large rock onto the bill. After getting some pieces, she folded up the bill and told me to put it in my wallet. Apparently this gives you good luck with money and will make you rich. But, uh, I don’t think that’s going to happen to me because this past weekend, Cody, in all his wisdom, when the folded up bill fell on the floor after I pulled out some other bills, he unfolded it, the rocks falling on the ground. Sad day. Justin said he would have done the same, so I can’t be mad. I managed to salvage a little bit at least!

After the scraping of the rock, we traveled for another hour or so to a larger spot, where I noticed there were signs for “Eej Had” (Mother Rock). I posted pictures on facebook, but I have to get some on here for the non-users. But basically, it is a large rock formation that looks just like a person, along with a face. They had built an open- circular house (maybe ger-like?), and dressed the mother in a deel. There was a large table in front of the mother, where people placed boov (cookies) and lots of candies. In the back was a place where people put noogon tsae (green tea) and lit candles. After a while, my host mom gave me some rice to throw on the walls, inside and out. People also threw milk on the walls as well.

The most interesting part was that there was a men’s side and a woman’s side to the mother rock. People lined up accordingly and took turns whispering to the mother about their wishes, hopes, and dreams. Of course, I took a turn, but I’m not telling what I wanted. :) My littlest duu took a turn too, and he was hilarious, because when my mom held him up to the mother, he kind of just “whispered” a bunch of nonsense, because he’s two. Actually, he’ll be two on Friday, so that means vodka time!

So yeah, that was my last weekend. This past weekend was spent working on our tooth-brushing clinic for 15 children, which went as well as it could have, considering. The children actually seemed like they enjoyed themselves, and we even got a little show at the end where our doctor had some of them sing and say poems for us. So cute!

I’m everywhere with the topics, sorry. So much to write!

Anyway! Also this past weekend we had the host family appreciation day! A bunch of us met at the school early in the morning to start working on food for the families. We made pizza, onion rings, fried apple pies, pasta salad, jello shots, fresh lemonade, and brownies! Ashley made the brownies, but they were such a big hit that I didn’t get to have any. But maybe next time! So yeah, the event went off without any big problems. While cooking, we kind of had to battle the space with a group of Koreans who were there doing volunteer work for the week. We also had to battle a giant pooh-bear. Just kidding, but there really was a pooh-bear- Korean dude in a costume. Yeah.

After finishing the food and cleaning the kitchen, the rest of us went to sit with our families and enjoy the awesome food. That was a little short lived, however, as we were all called up to perform our Mongolian songs that we knew. The Mongolian people LOVE when you know their songs. The families were clapping along and singing with us too. After our songs, Oogii said we should sing an American song, so we chose “Hey Jude” (not exactly American, but close enough!). And, I uh, ended up singing pretty much solo on that one in front of 30 or so Mongolians. And I didn’t even have any alcohol! Hah :)

After the singing, there is always dancing at Mongolian parties. We did the Mongolian waltz and a kind of line-dance-ish thing that we were taught. I got to dance with my host mom, which was uber awesome, but I’m crap at those dances… note to work on that!

A little hilarious (kind of) note… yesterday my littlest duu tried to totally cop a feel. Like not just cop a feel, like put his hand down my shirt! Apparently little kids do that… my host mom laughed and said in Mongolian, “he likes boobs” (and yes, there is a slang term for breasts… “hoch”, which is also the color dark blue). He’s still the cutest little thing on two legs so I’ll let it slide! Hah :)

So that brings us to this week. Thursday is our language test and technical interview. Bleh. Not excited, and I’m getting a little nervous. It’s actually not a huge deal if you don’t pass, because they give you more money for a tutor and you take the test again in December when everybody comes back together in UB. I’ve heard that we’re doing better than last year’s group, but I have no idea how I’ll do. Meh. Reminds me hardcore of Japanese oral exams, and especially Melanie knows how much I hated those!

Speaking of Melanie, I totally got your letter today! It really made my day! Melissa’s told me that she’s sent a letter as well, so it really makes me happy that my bestest friends have sent me these heartwarming letters :) OH and I got Ellen’s last and 11th postcard from Nova Scotia! Someone needs to send me sticky tack for walls so I can put all the notes up in my ger/apartment!

This Sunday we find out where we’re going. Ooooh boy. I’ll try to update ASAP when I find out, but with 70+ people wanting the internet, it might have to wait until I get to UB next week. I’m so freaking excited! And then the planning of trips begins :) And I’ll be sure to update my address as well and send lots of letters to the US of A! Peace and love my peoples!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

And the [sheep] blood rolls down the drain... oh July, July!

Thank you, Decemberists.

Be prepared, my topics are kind of scattered since I basically typed whatever came to my head.

We started our language classes back up full force at the end of last week, with different teachers. It’s been a little hard since I’ve gotten so used to one teaching style, but it’s been nice to hear other dialects of speech. So as Helen has told me, my main drag at the moment is language. We’ve been told that Mongolian is one of the hardest languages of Peace Corps volunteers, and I’m inclined to agree 100%. Mostly though, not a lot is written the way it’s spoken; because the Russians came in and made people learn the Cyrillic text, which they still use. There is a traditional script that the Mongolians use, however. It looks pretty confusing, but really pretty (our teacher said there’s a class that students take to learn it). A lot of volunteers end up getting tattoos of script words. Next tattoo anyone??

This past weekend was awesome. Saturday my family took me to UB to get new shoes (hooray! My flats were falling apart) and material to make my deel for swearing in. We did a bunch of errands first, and then went to the black market, which isn’t so much a market as the biggest-place-you’ve-seen-that-sells-literally-everything-maybe-minus-human-kidneys …place. So anyway, shoes. My feet are big in America (9, 10 or 11 in womans), and my feet in comparison are larger here! Needless to say, it was a bit of a struggle, but I managed to find a pair of dress shoes and sandals in size 42 (cm, I think?). AND my mom haggled the guy for my sandals, because she’s pretty awesome.

Ah, and the black market is known for foreigners getting their shit stolen (actually, UB in general, tons of pickpocketers as we’ve been taught several times already), so my mom was LITERALLY taking me by the hand the entire time. She also insisted to take my purse, because I was like a walking target.

After acquiring my kick-ass footwear, we headed down the rows and rows of every piece of clothing you could imagine. Most of it was from China, however, so you have to be careful of the quality. It’s interesting- Mongolians pretty much hate China (most will tell you openly), but they’re kind of forced to use their products because China borders them (along with Russia) so it’s pretty much the only stuff around. It’s also a but funny because (and a lot of PCVs have said this) that the stuff that we brought from home was mostly made in China, so it seems that we can’t get away.

Anyway, some of the shirts they had there were hilarious. For example, totally obvious Hello Kitty knock-off shirts with the word, “PENCIL” above it. Really now? Or my favorite- one of those long shirts that women sometimes wear as skirts had a stylized French anime-type character with “COLBERT” written below it, with the words “SHE MARRIED HER BOSS” in smaller letters below that. I mean, seriously. What.

I bought Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate Mix the other day here. 6,500 tugs (~5 bucks). So worth it. Also random thought: my youngest duu has a serious obsession with slamming doors and stuff and it’s annoying. I can’t remember- all kids do that, right?

Kind of off track. So, black market. I ended up getting this really awesome orange with silver cloth for my deel (the traditional Mongolian outfit), and got it fitted at a seamstress a couple days ago. I’m geeked! In the past couple days I’ve kind of spent a lot of money, or at least in tugs. There are some sweet stores in Zuunmod that I would have never had known about it if it wasn’t for the CEDs (business sector) who went to those places as part of training. I bought some handmade leather boots (suitable for horseback riding!) and ordered a pair of hand-spun and made wool slippers for indoor use.

So the topic of conversation this week (ok, and every week to be honest) has been site placements (that and poop, but that has lessened as of late). We had our final site interviews, and it sounds like they’re looking at a hospital for me. There’s no sites in the west for healthies (aww no speaking Kazak for me), and there are soum (small village) and aimag center (larger towns) placements. Oh, and someone was told during their interview that we have no English-speaking counterparts (the term used for our main people we work with). That means my Mongolian is going to get pretty sweet me thinks.

In other news, we taught English yesterday to the nurse in our clinic. It was our second time, so we went over what she learned the last time, which started out a bit rocky, but she remembered after some reminding. We then went into some phases that we know in Mongolian as well (where are you from, what do you do, etc) so it was pretty easy for her to catch on. They’ve told us that we’re going to be doing a lot of that at site.

This week has been balls-to-the-wall hot outside. Holy crap. It’s been 34-38 C (93-100 F), which has been killing me. My suntan lotion seems to attract bugs to land and die on me. Yeah. Fun. Luckily the cement buildings are a kind of air conditioning, but not so much when your family has a whole skinned sheep on the table. That smell is, er, interesting. Even my father thought it smelled bad. The innards were separated into different buckets, which reminded me of my days at the fish lab. So nothing new. Should have took a picture, though, you know, to gross you all out some more.

Lastly, something I found creepy/hilarious: we get the UB Times (that is in English) weekly for one of our classes, and I like to read the horoscopes occasionally. Well, mine read for this week, and I QUOTE: “…This week also begins 26 months of slowness in work, employment, and health zones. …” For REAL? How did they know we have 26 months left of service (and I’m in the health sector??)?? I swear a PCV must have written this. It’s too funny and… awfully accurate.

I should have some more pictures up next week, so watch for those!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

So let go, jump in, so what are you waiting for?

This past week, we had the whole group come together again (sans one person, who ET’d (early termination)), which it was nice to see other faces. Some people we’ve seen for shot day, but the TEFLs we haven’t seen since we left for our host families. For dinner one of the days, we had a kick ass BBQ of beef (yay! I’m really just not a big fan of mutton. I can eat it, but I’d rather not, but I digress), veggies, a super awesome salad and watermelon (which I have gotten quite attached to, even though I wouldn’t eat the stuff in the states). Yumm, so good.

My mom gave me some airag (fermented mares milk)… ok, maybe not as bad as I thought, but the ending is really what I don’t like about it. It has a wine smell and at the beginning, it does taste like it, but the aftertaste is like a really really sour/gone bad yogurt/milk. Not my favorite. But I can tell you what IS my favorite- marmot! Yes, it is a rodent, but a delicious one at that. I had it twice this past weekend when we went to some “summer houses”- I guess that’s the closest thing I could think of the houses would be, kind of like going up north to a cabin or something in Michigan. On Friday night, we went to a roast in the countryside (“ the houdo”), at my dad’s father’s cabin. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, the land around us was beautiful. There are some neato pictures of the marmot roast I’ll post me thinks.

That day on Friday was a really awesome bonding experience for the family. I was able to learn a card game while at another trainee’s house, and it came in handy as I played with my mother and her friend. It was so fun, as we laughed at the same thing, but saying it in different languages. Another touching moment- as we were eating the marmot, my dad asked if I liked it. I replied in the affirmative, because, really, it was quite good. He appeared happy, and in his Japanese/Mongolian language (that we both use) he told me that I was also his child, that we were all family. D’aww :) That made me quite happy since my dad’s been pretty quiet around me until now.

Saturday was spent watching the horse race in Zuunmod (their Naadam is earlier than the “actual” Naadam which is the 11th, 12th, and 13th of July). My duu ran up to one of the winning horses, and touched it, and then touched his and my forehead. Yeah, it doesn’t smell so good, but it’s good luck for the whole year! We then went to another family friend’s place for the day and played lots of cards. They were building a outhouse at the time, so I had to use the “Mongolian toilet”, as my mom explained to me. Basically you go to the other side of the hill (which was part of a bigger mountain) where no one could see you and pee there. I am an expert squat pee-er, thank you very much. It was a little strange at first, but really, it’s not that big of a deal. People were right when they said you get used to the lifestyle of your host country pretty fast.

On Sunday, my mom and dad took me to Naadam in the big ‘ol city- UB. It was crazy awesome, and my dad was really into the wrestling. We got to see the opening ceremonies, with people riding horses (plus doing archery and jumping on either side of the horse while it still moving), wrestlers, dancers, lots of traditional wear, and even skydivers (??). The funniest moment was when one of the skydivers undershot his mark and bowled over 10 of the young dancers during landing. They were ok though! Oh, and there were so many Americans, and I couldn’t stop staring. It’s something I’ve picked up living in the big Z. Every time there is someone not Mongolian, everyone stares at them, including me now. Although we’ve been here for almost 6 weeks, we still get lots of stares and I don’t really mind anymore.

Anyway, after watching the ceremony, I got to ride a horse (hooray!), and have decided if I’m in a soum (small village), I’m getting a horse and that’s that. At the very least, a cat. But anyway, we then went out to dinner at a wonderful chicken place… holy crap, chicken sandwich. Freaking awesome. You really start to appreciate the small things when you don’t have them around as often. My mom then took me to the local huge shopping center, which had a ton of American products. Better believe that I dropped 30,000 tugs (about $25) on the following: two cans of diet pepsi (there is NONE in Zuunmod), a can of funfetti frosting (don’t know what I’m going to do with that yet), tic tacs, Heinz ketchup, soy sauce (Kikkoman), box American chocolate, a can of pineapple chunks, a can of corn, a chunk of mozzarella, and a jar of strawberry jam. Ahh. I saw a HUGE box of Frosted Flakes that was going for 28,000 tugs ($23) but that is SO not worth it. Oh well. I’m going to stick with my egg for breakfast.

Something a little more sobering- last week a couple of Americans (not PCVs) went hiking from Zuunmod to UB, and they (apparently) spent the night and the next day one of them wanted to rest and the other one went on to UB. Long story short, he was reported lost by the guy who made it back and they found the first guy a few days later, but he had died from hypothermia (prelim autopsy reports say). I wouldn’t probably mention the story otherwise, but I met those two last Saturday and I helped them get to the monastery where the park was. They were super nice, and like I mentioned, non-Mongolian people in Zuunmod isn’t that common so I struck up a conversation. The police still want to bring me to UB to make a statement, but that hasn’t happened yet. Kinda crazy stuff. I’m praying for his family, which is really the best I can do at this point.

So that’s kinda been my week up to this point. It was a lazy day today, including making pizza (again! SO good) and cinnamon rolls with the left-over dough. They gave us a bunch of days off for Naadam, which has been a good break from language learning (hard-core style), but I’m starting to get ready for round 2. Only 4 or 5 more weeks until I find out where I’m going to be living for the next two years!