An Average Day, Stinky Outhouses and Smoothies

In your second year, it gets easier to say to yourself that oh I don’t have anything to write about. Why blog today. You have nothing new to say. But I have been on a roll when it comes to posts so why ruin the stretch until I have an actual reason to not write something up. So here is the typical day in my life – what sometimes happens on an average day…
Though keep in mind , there are no average day in Peace Corps.

Around 6:00 or 7:00 I roll out of bed in the dark. None of the lights are on in the apartment across from me . Now I don’t really need to get up this early, but I have been telling myself that since I don’t live in a ice cold ger (read : glorified tent) , I don’t have an excuse.

Another reason to wake up early – I was fortunate enough to inherit a blender from a departing sitemate, and I have since learned this simple fact: Any day that can start with a smoothie, is inherently a better day. Mongolia has all of the yogurt you could possibly want, and for some reason you can get apples and kiwis here all year long. Time for smoothies ? I think yes. It’s a nice energy booster, and a nice addition to the paleo inspired diet that is Mongolian food. Other then that, I have jam on bread sometimes, and if I’m feeling particularly proactive , oatmeal wheat muffins I made the night before. Look at me being all domestic.

So depending on whether I have a class I usually trudge over to school any time between 8:30-9:30. The first couple days of the week I have meetings with teachers about lessons so I’m motivated by that. I have a deal with them that I will team teach classes with them, only if, they meet with me to lesson plan. We did pretty good last trimester, but ever since the break, it hasn’t happened yet. But I can always hope. So I get dressed in my work clothes, walk out the door and walk my meandering way to school.

My apartment is right behind a sitemates school , so I usually walk through the campus to get to my work. I walk through the schools back gate, around the trash bin and do a large ark in front of his schools out house. No joke – its nasty. Like winter is pleasant because the odor doesn’t waft out. But once the temperature inches above zero degrees , there is a very strong aroma. While I avoid that monstrosity, I’m walking past the jillions of kids, bundled for all their life is worth, being dragged along by parents and siblings. Of course as it gets darker and darker in the mornings , those shapes and shadows look more like phantoms in the foggy mountain morning air. Enough almost to make me do a photo essay on the subject, “kids going to school in Mongolia or phantoms? “. Thought like I said, it keeps getting darker. Soon I will able to stargaze on my morning walk. So I’m not very inclined to get up any earlier for photo ops.

If it’s a Tuesday, I’m on my way to assist a teacher Dorjbat with her homeroom class. This particular week she was planning on doing something called a “Character Tree”, where students would think of characteristics and write them on leaves, placing them on a tree that would be displayed in their classroom. I took up my traditional cheer leader role and assisted with procuring materials. I arrived, the lesson happened , and I think it went pretty well. It blows my mind that these kids are ok with being at school as the sun rises and their classrooms windows are iced over, but then again, they don’t know any different.

If I’m not meeting with teachers, or hunting down counterparts, I will force myself to do busy work. I will sit in my teachers room and either plan things on my computer, study Mongolian and talk with whoever comes in to talk to me. This particular week the teachers had some sort of report due, meaning lots of people needing the services of a printer. Now printers and papers are incredibly hard to find here. Most of the time teachers buy their own printers, along with all other school supplies, and that’s if they are motivated to do so. So when it comes to report time and teachers need to print stuff, it’s a little bit chaotic. Needless to say it felt good helping people with their technology problems, even it was something as simple as printer drivers. Its always a printer driver. Those are the banes of peoples existence here.

I think if there is one thing that is consistent with many a Peace Corps Service, its that there is always a lot of down time. I think there were multiple days where for lunch I sat and ate a PB sandwich for lunch , while listening to a NPR Education Podcast, while watching my teachers flit about like the busy bees they sometimes can be.

Depending on whether I have an after school activity , if it particularly slow I usually do a lot of scrambling around town. Going to places like the post office, the foreign language methodologists office, various shops around town. Again on Tuesdays, we have a Beginning English class for adults , and I swung by, but found that I was the only extra volunteer there. I guilt tripped myself into staying, mostly cause I feel the support is important.

Overall my day finally ended at 7 pm and I got home, the apartment a mess, still having to do the multitudes of work I need to do. Recently I have taken to always working out when I get home from work so that happened. I also needed to send off some emails, plan out my coming days, and do those things that are important me. Journaling, yoga, reading that Dickens novel I’m so close to finishing.

Of course, what I describe above , is what I would call a good day. A day where you feel needed and helpful, where there are things to do and you feel accomplished. Not every day is like this. There are days that go by where I sit in my teachers room and haven’t been approached by any one. There are days that go by where I consistently have to hunt down counterparts for a specific project. People have multiple phone numbers here, so I might have a rotating schedule of people I need to text/call on a specific day. Some people, will only call you when they want to. Others have never called back. Those days , where you wonder ‘why am I here’ , just plain stink. Like that outhouse at the beginning of this blog.

But luckily there are no average days. What you’re asked to do is constantly changing and its all you can do to keep on your toes. One thing I have learned here though is the time that you take to take care of yourself is essential for a successful service. For me taking the time to eat good food , journal and workout nourishes me to get me through those tough days, and to keep me going through those walks past the plain stinky outhouses.

Til the something else exciting happens – V.

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4 comments

  1. Blasted printer drivers are the bane of EVERYONE’s existence. I completely understand.

  2. These ‘average days’ are still fun to read about! And can i put in a post request. Im sorry if you have written about these things before. Now that you’re in your second year, what about some reflection kinda thing? How do you view Mongolian culture now versus when you first arrived? Any other changed views relating to PC or your time in Mongolia? Any changed opinions about american norms and standards? Just curious about your thoughts on these things. Hope you’re doing well, and man it sounds like it gets real dark there in winter.

    1. Excellent idea! Those are things I have been thinking about a lot recently. Stay tuned for next week!

  3. 1jacquezero · · Reply

    Guess I can’t complain about no heat in my house, which hovers between 50-60 degrees. You are one strong cookie.

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