Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Frog / Leap Year

Really, I just thought it would be fun to post on February 29th. Happy leap year!

So because I'm distracted (and I shouldn't be- I have a ton to do), here's a picture of where I'm going next week:
St. John, US Virgin Islands

No worries, I'm sure I'll get better pictures when I'm there. POW!

(Now back to your regularly scheduled programming...)

Monday, February 27, 2012

You win again, Tsagaan Sar.

I'm going to just go straight to pictures. I'm tired, a little sick, and hung over in oh so many ways (mostly buuz and vodka). I didn't go to as many houses as last year, but still an exhausting amount (15). It was really nice seeing my friends and counterparts, but man, is this holiday tiring (and I didn't even host!). Also: LARGE PICTURE TIME. Yeah.

Check out the customs/play-by-play from last year's blog

Greeting the new year's sun!
Greetings :) amar bna yy?
More greetings...
A sampling of the doctors, nurses, and workers at my hospital!
My director and I!
Smilie face boov tower.
Come play with us...
Travis' expression is perfect.
The three amigos, together again :)
It's not Tsagaan Sar without spilt blood in your stairwell.
This picture sums up that night pretty well.
Family portrait. 
Happy Tsagaan Sar, everyone!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

It's that time of year.

Imagine, if you can, Best Buy on Black Friday. Scary crowded room, full of people pushing to get the last $100 laptop? Right. Well, Mongolia has it's own mini-version, but instead of electronics, it's carts full of food stuffs.

What is the holiday?

It's TSAGAAN SAR time! :D

This was how I imagined most of the people I encountered today were thinking. People pushing past each other to get the last Super Kontiks off the shelf. It reminds me of a couple conversations I've had in the past year about the commercialization of Tsagaan Sar. I could see it getting to Christmas-sized proportions, easy. The ads on TV, the sales, all of it hints towards commercialism. Where it becomes less about celebrating the beginning of the end of winter and the new lunar year, and more about fancy things? Some Mongolians I've talked to agree.

I'm interested to see the differences between this year and last year. One of the traditions of Tsagaan Sar is giving a gift to every person who comes to your home. The more money the family has, the fancier the gift tends to be (candy, money, and phone units are common... things like clothing, decorations and American dollars are less common). Families can quite literally go broke preparing for this holiday. The trade-off is though, is that the families will probably be able to live off of whatever gifts they received during TS. Is it starting to get out of hand, though?

So, I had a fun time at the shops today. I went store to store, but everyone was out of (good) veggies. The last store I stopped in had a good pile of green peppers, so I went to town. I really love onions (for those who don't know me) but the pile was really quite sad. I asked the nice store lady if she had any more, and she went in the back to get some.

A couple of people came by to look at the onions, but were dismayed at the wilted-ness of them. Oh, but I waited there patiently. And waited. UNTIL. The lady came out with a crate with only like 30 onions in it. And they were all mine! I had my bag ready, and grabbed up a couple kilos right before the swarm of people in the back of me, who realized that there were new onions out, pushed me to the side.

But it was too late for them. I had the most glorious onions of the pile. 

And I realized at the moment, I'm more integrated into this culture than I thought.

Some of my beautiful, tasty, eye-watering onions.

(No worries, she brought out more after I went to pay. But after all the shopping, the pushing and shoving... it was my moment!) 

Until after Tsagaan Sar (which is Feb 22nd-24th)... peace!

Lay down in your new town, walk the ground

So I'm back! I've actually been back since late last month, but work comes first, and I never seem to have the motivation to write down daily happenings.

Welp, I have zero shortage of work for the rest of my service. I'm not complaining, I realize I'm one of the lucky ones. I just finished two proposals last week, which along with Children's Camp this summer... I'll be set. Doesn't seem like a lot, but things go pretty slow here. Gotta give it time.

I feel sad that I've been away from my town for so long. I'll be spending more time in UB in the spring, and I fear what I'll miss then. I said I wrote my last blog post before I left. When I arrived back in the BU, I had found out that Altansuvd had lost her baby while I was gone. I thought about changing my post, but left it as it was... I feel like it would have been cheating if I changed it now. I've been able to see her a couple of times since then, and she's doing well. She told me the other day that her family won't have Tsagaan Sar this year, because of the grieving period (I think she said 45 days?).

In other news, in a couple of weeks I'll be on my way to Florida to see the grandparents and take a vacation to the US Virgin Islands with mom and Monika... vacation well deserved, the calm before the storm that is the rest of my time here in the BU.

Some pictures from my trip:
Woman in the traditional medicine hospital. She had a stroke, and the doctor said with traditional treatments, she was able to walk again. Interesting, no?
Children at the Disability Center in Bayankhongor.
Old house in Arvaikheer!
A desk that was donated as a part of G.W. Bush's Millenium Challenge (Mongolia was selected as one of the countries to receive grant money)... I think it's interesting that the USA is translated literally as "America's 1st Country". Maybe I'm just reading it wrong. 
Seabuckthorn wine! It actually tasted pretty good.
Creepy old hospital wheelchair.
Seminars! It's fun to give each other the heimlich, right? 
Always remember to call for help.
Jess and I did a mini-photoshoot thing for fun!
Looking out a window is always a good way to look amazing. Fact.