So its been a while. I haven’t had internet since… well pretty much the last time I posted – and my goodness, I have been productive. I have been to a Mongolian summer camp, had a multitude of Mongolian classes, technical training for community and youth development, taught English for the first time, been traveling by train, seen wrestling, archery and horse racing… and on top of that I have read 9 books and counting… not bad for a summers worth of work. And now I’m sitting in my suddenly bare room, my bags semi packed and contemplating how fast this summer has gone by. I have been in this country around 10 weeks. And it has just flown by. Its incredible to think that in a couple weeks (as of me writing this) that I will know where my site will be and that I will most likely be at site.
Everyday, the clock spins faster and faster. While I’m looking forward to Final Center Days, a part of me is just wanting it to go slower so I can learn more and enjoy the summer camp atmosphere that is Pre-Service Training. This is mixed with the feeling of excitement. Where, in this impossibly large country, could I possibly be placed? What could I possibly be doing? So many emotions. I think it hit me when we had our administrative meeting ( where we covered allowances and other fun stuff) where I had the overwhelming feeling of “Oh my good ness this is actually happening! How can I even comprehend this incredible change, in my already incredibly changed life.”
All I can do right now is enjoy the time I have left here. Spend time with my host family. Work on my Mongolian. Spend time with fellow PCT’s here. Learn as much as I possibly can before the big day on August 12th, where I get placed on a giant map of Mongolia and get handed an envelope with all my job specific details. As apprehensive as I am, I can’t wait for this next step.
In the mean time here are some quick updates of what I have been up to for the last couple weeks.
We got back from Darkhan after Mid-center days Thursday and got back into our routine of class, school and host family. Luckily we did have a ‘long’ weekend due to it being Nadaam. Nadaam is the big summer festival that occurs throughout the country. As my host sister told me, its all about the ” Three Manly Sports”, which are wrestling, archery and horse back riding. While we missed our small town’s Nadaam due to being in Darkhan for Mid Center days, we were allowed the opportunity to go see Selenge’s Nadaam – basically the events occurring in the provincial capital which is about 20 minutes away by “machine” or car. While it did mess up with our lessons, we still got a good day at the opening ceremonies. If you can imagine a county fair, with the added element of everything being Mongolian, and having to look out for drunk men galloping by on horses, you pretty much have Nadaam. And something called “hosher”. If you imagine a flour pocket with mutton and then fried .. You have hosher, as far as the eye can see.
Another nice element was that our family gave us Deels! Deels being the traditional style of dress / shirt. I look awesome in mine! I will eventually publish a picture, but it’s a really nice white dress with a gold collar… the unfortunate thing was that due to the dress being white, and me being me, I got it dirty and ripped a hole in it (which got fixed – so no problems there). Nadaam was also nice in that I got to see other PCT’s from other sites, and looking fantastic in their deels.
In fact my family enjoyed Nadaam so much I got to go the next day. Which was great, I got to see an end of a horse race (insanity) and eat even more hosher. Even while it was super hot, and Mongolian wrestling for two hours is not the most scintillating of activities, I’m glad I got the full experience of Nadaam. Being able to experience it with my host family and friends made it incredibly special.
Mongolian Summer Camp !!!
Time for Camp Stories! We all got up particularly early to get on the train to head south to “Shorhun Camp” . We were all super excited, and looking forward to it. Even getting on the train was exciting. The train rolled into the train station (aka concrete slab) and we have 120 seconds to get on. Very exciting. The train was incredibly comfortable for the 5 hour trip (if a little bit hot). It was great to see a bit more of the Mongolian country side, which honestly reminded me of the rolling hills you could find in California ( maybe a little bit more green then golden).
The camp itself was incredibly beautiful, nestled into the hills near the border of Selenge. We got picked up by a land cruiser and a Russian van. I opted for the land cruiser, though I’m not sure that made my ride any more comfortable. But the camp is awesome, there was a babbling brook with the clearest water I have seen since being here, surrounded by aspens. I could close my eyes and be reminded of Fallen Leaf Lake near Tahoe. So basically its awesome.
When we got there we got introduced to all the kids and counselors. During the camp we were assigned to a counselor as a counterpart and then got to lead a Life Skills class ( mine in particular was focused on communication). Which was great practice because the constant question of when we would plan the class kept on getting evaded. So it was great practice. Overall my groups session went really well mostly because my counterpart is awesome. The most challenging part of the camp had to be teaching English Just trying to explain subtleties
It was also interesting comparing the camp to a camp found in America. From my experience atleast. There were around 120 kids there, ranging in age from 6-18 years old, and all living in the same dormitories (which is quite large and spacious). There was also a lot more free time, but with most of the kids being from Ulaan Baatar, it was still a nice time to relax in the “hodoo” or country side. We even got to go berry picking! During the kids naptime we climbed a hill to a berry patch with the tiniest but sweetest strawberries ever. To be fair you had two find 15 berries for a handful, but it was particularly gorgeous and pleasant.
Even though we were there for a short time, the good byes were pretty bittersweet. Lots of hugs from the kids and a lot of promises to come back next year. Hopefully that can happen. But that was followed by our amazing Russian van adventure to the train station. Imagine a large van with no actual bolted seats, but normal chairs and benches stuck in the back. With nothing but our own luggage to cushion the jolting ride along the dirt track that is a basic Mongolian road. It was like being on an obnoxious Indiana Jones ride; except without the rolling boulders or the pyrotechnics. Just the average Mongolian road and 10 Americans in a van, bouncing around like rag dolls. There is also something about bouncy van rides that make me incredibly slap happy – I just giggle all the time. That may have not contributed to my fellow passengers sanity. But we made it to the train and back home safe and sound which is what matters.
Overall the weekend was an awesome success. We got to play games, practice Mongolian and interact with kids all weekend in a beautiful location. Not only that, it was our practicum! Who says you can’t work and play at the same time?
All in all I can’t believe how the time has flown. I feel like it was three days ago I was in California enjoying my friends awesome company and at the same time an eternity. I have been flipping through my journal and while most of it has been filled with a lot of the above, and random shenanigans with my fellow Peace Corps Trainees, I can’t help but marvel over how differen my life is and how much more its going to change over the next couple weeks. On August 12th, I find out my future site. Within 5 days after that I will be in a new town with new friends to make and ALL OF THE CHANGES! While I feel like I can handle it the next couple weeks will be the challenge… with our language test coming up and packing to do. I will be busy… as always.
On another note – you are told as PCT that your low days are lower and your highs are higher then what you would normally experience in the States. While I do find myself a pretty, cool , calm collected person – I do have my moments where I get ticked off at the most random things. Forget about the giant pterodactyl moths that get into my room at night, or random drunk people around the neighborhood, what truly frustrates me is my hair is proving very difficult to wash with no running water. OK, I over exaggerate, but I have settled with the fact that I will never be as clean as I was in the States. I walk outside for 10 minutes and get dirt underneath my nails. It’s a very dusty country, if you can’t tell. There are tricks though. I wear nail polish now, just because if you can’t see the dirt then it probably isn’t there right ? Also baby wipes clean everything. Especially feet. Always feet.
But everyday I marvel at being here. I walk down the hill from school and see the tiny town I have gotten to know, with the Selenge river curving by… I have to pinch my self with the reality that I am here. While there have been challenging days, the things I am learning during my time here make it worth it. Even language lessons have been going well… I can now say that I can spell badly in two languages 🙂
In the meantime I do miss my family and friends. While I enjoy being off the grid as it were ( I read so much and have made so many friendship bracelets) but I do wonder what people are up to and how they are doing. Its going to be hard to catch up, but I will try my best.
Lots of Love,