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!