Its so hard to even start writing about all the stuff that I have done over the past several weeks…
Three weeks ago, I was sitting in the Darkhan Hotel, nervous with anticipation to start the next phase of my training, to meet my host family, and eager to meet my Mongolian host family. Now, three weeks later, at mid-training-training, I know a little bit more Mongolian, and overall am a little bit more grungy. While I wish I could write about every detail of my life and how I’m feeling, I think I will save that for my novel… and just give you the general jist of what I have been up to for the past several weeks.
First and foremost, my Host Family is amazing. I have a mom, dad, and 3 sisters that live at home. While the adults don’t speak any English, all three girls are at some stage of learning so the initial communication wasn’t as bad as it could have been. My family lives on what Americans might call a homestead. Right when you enter their hasha or yard, there is a corner for their horses and dairy cows, a large plot for potatoes, carrots and other veggies, and lots of farming equipment scattered around. While I don’t live in a ger (yet… maybe) I instead have a room in my family’s house, which is incredibly comfy and warm. It connects right with the kitchen, which leads to the living room then connects with the master bedroom, where everyone else sleeps. While there is no running water my family has a connection to the well in their hasha, so we don’t actually have to go to the well to collect water. They can fill our big oil can and use that water for cooking, cleaning and washing. That being said, I’m still trying to get used to washing my hair in a big wash basin. So far I’m getting the hang of it, and I like to see how little water I actually need to wash my self. Though for hand washing clothes, its just a different process. As it turns out, its super difficult to wring out jeans. Luckily I only have one pair with me.
As for food, in case anyone was worried, don’t. I will not starve here. Anytime I sit down in the vicinity of my family I get calls of “Tse oohyy?” or “would you like milk tea?…or tea or coffee, or bread or candy. Thankfully, people aren’t offended if I don’t eat everything so I can leave stuff on my plate for another person or animal to eat. My family overall has been incredibly generous towards me. Once I told my host mom that tomatoes were my favorite thing, I get some tomatoes for breakfast. Which is super cool. The family also makes every Mongolian dairy product on the planet, including oros , orum, yogurt (which tastes like greek yogurt) and others that I haven’t really figured out yet. Basically every dairy product except actual trees. I could go for some cheddar at some point.
As for other things… Within the first weekend I had accomplished several ‘herding’ activities… one day a calf got lost, so me and my sisters went looking for it to return it to its mom, which we did. Another day we herded the horses out to pasture. Another day we “took the cows for a walk” in my sisters explanation, which basically meant finding the cows and herding them home. Since I have been here, I have also witnessed a foal and calf being born… both conveniently at 1 am on a weekday. They also have tried feeding my gittis… basically every part of the sheep that I wouldn’t eat, served in a huge silver basin. For the curious gittis includes intestine, liver, kidney, testes and all 4 parts of the sheep’s stomach. When I can start referencing my Animal Science classes dissections at dinner to identify organs, I didn’t feel inclined to try more then a few nibbles. Luckily they had cooked potatoes just for me, so I got to eat that instead. Thank goodness
In all honesty, I couldn’t have asked for a better placement in a host family. They take incredibly good care of me, and I’m learning a lot from living with them.
When I’m not with my family however, I’m at a training of some sort. Every weekday at 8:30 am I meet the rest of the PCV’s that live in my area (aka the styx) and we start the trek up the hill to language class that goes from 9:00 to 1:00 pm. After that is technical training, where we could be learning about development theories, youth issues relevant to Mongolians or cross cultural training. It’s a lot, but its amazing how much we have learned in just three weeks. When I came to Mongolia, I knew two words in Mongolian. Now I know a little bit more then that, and can ask a variety of questions like, “what do you like?”, “how many older brothers do you have?”, and the all important ” how much is that?”. Not much, but it’s a start. We all learn languages in an exponential curve right?
As for me, and how I’m doing, I’m incredibly content here. My host family is great, I’m loving what I have experienced in Mongolia so far, and I’m looking forward to my time here. In all honesty I have felt more motivated in the last couple weeks then I have felt in a long time. Doesn’t mean I don’t miss people however, so I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon. If you have any questions please let me know and I will do my best to answer them ,
Lots of Love,