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!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

People as Places as People

Still forming my "Mongolian Soundtrack" but it seems Modest Mouse is in the lead...

My 4th of July was as cool as it could be, sans fireworks and BBQ. Ahh BBQ. I'm currently skyping with Luke and have told him I want Sweet Baby Rays sauce. Mmmm. But anyway, I spent most of the day with Americans doing the American thing and drinking beer and talking about how much we want BBQ. Heh.

An interesting thing has happened concerning some people I met on Saturday. Hmm. Will update when I can about that (if I can, I guess).

Our language test was today, which went as well as it could have, I suppose. I suck at remembering verbs! Hooray! We have the rest of the day off, which I'm trying to spend without taking a nap because if I'm bored, I watch movies, read a book and nap. Mmm. The weather is really nice though (I'm getting a crazy awesome tan, btw), so maybe I'll try to spend it outside.

I lost another kilo this week. I'm not going to be anything by the end of two years!

Mid-center days is tomorrow, and Naadam is this weekend. I guess I'm not going to UB for their Naadam because my mom says it gets really hot and it's really busy. Ah well!

Will post probably after the weekend, since it seems it's going to be hella busy here. Peace!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy 4th!

Although it's not actually the 4th in either country, I might as well type it now since I'll probably be busy later!

Let's see... this week has been busy, busy, busy. Besides getting ready for our pre-LPI (language test!), we have begun to do some projects at the local family clinics. Lemme take you through my typical day!

5-5:30a: Wake up because the sun is shining through my east-facing window... wonder what time it is, then fall back asleep for another two hours.
7:30/6:30a: If I need to "shower" then I wake up at 6:30, hit the snooze button until 7, then make my bath- I boil a liter or two of hot water, mix it with the freezing cold water, then pour the water over my head while kneeling in the bath tub. Works like a charm!
8a: Breakfast! My mum usually cooks me eggs :)
8:30a: Out the door for class, pop in my ipod for a little bit of excitement, then remember I probably should have put on sun-tan lotion because it's freaking sunny
8:45a: The healthies assemble and usually have some interesting stories about the night before, mostly either about food or some miscommunication!
9-1p: Our awesome language teacher teaches us some Mongolian... ahhh it's so hard :(
1-2: I come home to Oochko (my littlest duu) running towards me screaming "kaaaaaadaaayyy" (he's almost 2... he can kind of say my name!) and Jugi (my other duu) greeting me with pokes, etc. Then lunch! Usually a noodle dish of some sort.
2:30-5:30p: School again... usually health system talks and important cultural stuff.
5:30-10: I either: 1) read (I've finished 5 books already, whoo), 2) study, 3) hang out with my duus/the fam or 4) take a walk... really should study more though but my brain starts to hurt.

Rinse, repeat.

I love the weekends, ahh. Some time to really chill.

Oh yeah, I finally got around to converting the kilos into pounds, and the scale says I lost about 15-20 pounds since I've been here (can't quite remember how much I weighed beforehand). Hah. We made pizza yesterday (holy crap SO good), and it upset my stomach a little since I hadn't had cheese in a month. Whoops! Some of the healthies are off to UB (the capital) today, so they said they might bring back more cheese so we can make other awesome dishes.

Speaking of food, a lot of people have been sick this week. Two of the healthies, and I think 3 or 4 of the CEDs (business peeps) have been having things come out both ends. Luckily, not me so far, just stomach being upset now and then. But I'm sure I'll have my turn. Bleh. 

Tim, Brian and I (Blain and I's clinic went on a month-long vacay so we disbanded to other groups) did our first project yesterday at our family clinic- doing hand washing! Hoorah! It went really well, despite a pretty big language barrier. One of the doctors spoke a little English, so that helped a ton. We taught to eight little kids, some of which I recognized as my duus friends. They got biscuits and coke for washing their hands correctly, so we're going to have to do teeth brushing next we think.

This week is sure to be fun... besides Monday and Tuesday, I mean. Monday is our mid-training interview, and Tuesday is our pre-LPI test. *Everyone* (yay!) is coming back Wednesday and Thursday for some more training sessions, but that's going to be really nice seeing everybody again after a month. Friday and Saturday is Naadam here in the big Z, then UB Naadam is Saturday and Sunday (I think?), so maybe I'll get to go with my family (big rule- can't go to UB without a family member and prior permission).

Otherwise, weather has been a little cooler this week, a nice change from the 100 F weather last week. Things are looking up?