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!