So… its been quite a while since I last posted something. I will attribute it to being залхуу or lazy. At least lazy in terms of writing things down and posting it. Just a short list of what I have done since my last post:
- Ran a day camp during the school break at the beginning of November. Totally crazy but I’m glad I have some awesome sitemates that were able to help out in the times when it got especially crazy. This was a little hard to recover from, as it made our own school break nonexistent. But if anything it was a really good learning experience and now I have a network of *really* enthusiastic kids from all the schools in the area.
- Had two Thanksgivings. One with our Mongolian friends where we made chicken pot pie and pumpkin pie. Another on the actual day were we went to a sitemates ger and made horse meat chili ( yum, delicious).
- Held an English competition at my school specifically focused on world winter holidays. Mongolian social studies classes don’t really include a lot of world history and culture, so I had a lot of explaining to do concerning Hanakkah and other holidays. For example, one conversation I had went something like this ” So Jewish people…. Those are the ones who believe in Jesus right ?” , where I responded with a very basic…”Nope. In fact, the exact opposite”. It was a student initiated event and we had extra teams add on up until the last day. Overall it was a lot of fun, and a good experience.
- Helped out with my sitemates World Culture Fair. With the help of an awesome NGO in town we were able to have each school field 4 teams, each representing a different English speaking country. It was a whirlwind as each team from my school worked throughout the week to create creative and informative posters. And when I mean whirlwind I mean absolute crazyness. I think that up until an hour before the teams were supposed to go over and set up, I was being asked to come up with more pictures for New Zealand flora and fauna. It was an awesome competition. Kids got to see the other posters, present their own and participate in a trivia competition. Even though my kids didn’t win anything, they still did a great job, and it was great to see them learning things about other countries and cultures.
In between all of this, we got to go to In-Service Training, aka IST. We flew into UB on a Thursday, had one free day in the city, then on Saturday and Sunday had a seminar about peer education with our counterparts. On Monday we got driven out to a “holiday place” or a work resort, about 40 minutes outside of UB, for another 5 days of training with counterparts. It was an awesome hotel, with actual showers and tubs. What luxury!
Among the hard work and business of training (a full weeks worth) , it was great to see the people we had spent the summer with after three months at site. Mongolia, being so immense, lends it self to really never seeing any other Peace Corps Volunteers that aren’t aimag mates. My nearest PCV neighbor ( that isn’t in my aimag) is maybe 7-8 hours away when the mountain passes aren’t covered with snow and impassable. SO it was especially great to see friends that I had made this past summer. It was also awesome to participate in a game I like to called “one downs-men-ship”. Basically an average conversation amongst groups of volunteers about how ‘difficult’ their site may be, or even what sites do or don’t have. All the conversations are lighthearted but there is the underlying need for bragging rights. An ” I am Mongolier-then-thou” attitude if you will. Some examples:
Soumers (those who live in ridiculously small towns) -“Oh you have an ATM at your site? Weird” or ” I can walk across my soum in 5 minutes.” or ” You have more then one restaurant ?!?”
Gobi People : “You guys have mountains ? What are those?” or “We have rocks”
People from my Aimag, aka me: “You guys can go on a train to get places ? That must be nice… I have a 30+ bus ride”
” What do you mean there isn’t ice everywhere in your town? That must be nice “
I post this with the caveat that there are many more, but I can’t remember all of the gems that were dropped during IST. As I remember I will post more. I have to admit, I love the game.
Before and after training, I had maybe two free nights in UB so it was great to get some good dark beer, eat some good food ( oh my goodness KFC and Round Table! ) and do some shopping. We remarked several times while looking around for food to bring back to site that we often felt like country bumpkins. We would go into a place like Mercury Market ( a large open market where you can get everything!) , and just squeal over things like shrimp, real lettuce and peanut butter. What can I say, it was really easy to get excited.
While IST and the opportunity go to UB was great, it reminded me that I like being at site. Compared to Uliastai , UB was incredibly smoggy and dirty. It was nice to come back to my comfy , somewhat warm apartment and get back to work. IST was also a great way to experience share, get some advice and reconnect with friends. It was a nice refresher and motivator. Parts of our training included action and budget planning , which I’m sure will be very useful for upcoming projects that I have mulling around in my brain.
With all of my motivation that I do feel, its hard to fight the lethargy that winter brings. Mostly , its cold here. And its not even going to get warmer for a while. . But to compensate there are things I do. Wearing two pairs of thick socks is normal, which I’m sure I will increase to three in January. I wear legwarmers as actual leg warmers, not as a costume for a 80’s party. Probably the biggest change, is that I have gotten myself a winter дээл or deel (pronounced dell) . The only way I can describe it is that its like wearing a big heavy blanket as a big robe. A reverse snuggie that actually buttons up if you can imagine it. Its super warm. Expect pictures soon!
In the meantime, I hope this finds you all well and enjoying time with family for the holidays. Eat and drink up for me, and expect to hear more from me… hopefully 🙂