This is it, my forever home for the next two years.
I’m sure that most of you have looked up the very short Wikipedia page about the aimag of Zarkhan and my new town. I’m sure the thing that popped out at you (I know it did for me) was the climate being described as ‘subarctic’…despite this little tid-bit, I can’t help but really like this town, my apartment, my school and pretty much everyone I have met since coming here. But let’s start at the beginning shall we …
I was lucky enough to get a window seat on my flight from UB to Uliastai. Due to the town being surrounded by mountains, the flight profile into Uliastai was pretty dramatic. As in the airport I actually 30 kilometers from the town due to all those mountains, and I think we descended in the matter of three minutes. As we were descending though, the plane made a huge bank and I got a really good view of Uliastai. I could see the two rivers which run through town, the colorful buildings, the monastery on a hill on the center of town, the surrounding olive green countryside spotted with white gers. When we landed and de-planed (technical term), got our bags, me and my PCV buddies got into our separate cars and went our separate ways. I got introduced to my new school (where all my luggage was waiting patiently for me) and dragged it the 100 meters to my new apartment. Ok I didn’t drag anything, but I did get driven the 5 seconds to the front of my apartment. Ok and the apartment isn’t quite new but definitely new to me. Waiting for me on the inside were my schools social worker, the school jijuurs ( key holders , or maintenance workers) and various teachers, all wanting to meet me and help me get settled. Two hours later, when they decided that I was appropriately unpacked and left, I fell asleep at the impressive hour o f 7:30 pm and slept for 12 hours. I think it might have been a long day.
The next couple days were a whirlwind. Getting to know where the shops are to stock up on food and household things we would need. Getting to know the people at our school, who our neighbors are and just getting acclimated to this new town. All with the language skills of a 2 year old. In the meantime, my safe haven has been my apartment.
While this has been my most ‘adult’ living situation, I never thought it would be in an apartment with a Soviet Bloc aesthetic… which, in all honesty, I can’t help but love. Not to mention lots of space. I have an entry way with a bunch of shelf space. My kitchen is a lovely shade of sallow green with complementary pink and white matted linoleum (which is super easy to clean). I have a living room with a faded yellow hard wood floor, complete with a glass cabinet for all my future certificates (Mongolians love certificates). There is even my bedroom… with a carpet on the wall… trying to figure that out. While I love this apartment, it does have a bunch of character. For the first couple of days I had to cross wires to turn on the bathroom light (there is now a light switch don’t worry). While I do have running water, its not heated. While I do have a shower head, there isn’t water pressure to get water up there. I end up washing my hair as I have all summer, in a washbasin. But I do have a tub now, which is actually easier, water doesn’t get everywhere. And my most useful appliance so far?My hot water kettle. I am pretty much boiling water all the time… to purify my water, to make my coffee, to get hot water for my ‘bath’, to get hot water to do laundry… So far best purchase yet. OK It might be rivaled by my huge jar of peanut butter that I bought in UB. But that’s quickly disappearing so that probably wont be around for long.
I can even see my school from my house. That pink building with blue accents this is where I will be spending most of my time over the next couple years. They even gave me my own room! Hopefully I can make something of it. The first couple weeks, even months, for me are about building relationships, and developing ideas for the next couple years. Just know the ideas are there and as time goes on, will ‘hopefully’ come to fruition. I’m lucky in that the teachers at my school have been awesome so far, and I can’t wait to work with them.
I’m sure in the future there will another post at some point detailing the minutiae of my life…but I think I need to sort that out with myself before I post something on the interwebs. No day has been what I would call regular. Every day has presented new challenges, but also potential to really integrate and become a part of this new community. Even on my meh days (of which there have been a few), there are things that make me glad I’m here. It’s the shop keeper showing me pictures of her daughter that lives in Chicago. It’s the teenage girls that approach me while I’m walking around town wanting to practice their English. Its getting a ride from my schools jijjuur, when I’m on a mission to get across town to the one store to buy some cheese, then all the teachers asking me the next day whether I got my cheese…. OK the last example kinda shows where my priorities lie (what can I say food makes me happy), but I think you get my point. I’m incredibly happy to be here and I feel more motivated then ever. So I hope this finds you well, and in the spirit of adventure,