[Shine Jil translates to “New Year” (and is pronounced “shin jil”- Шинэ жип) , tagging on Mine Jil on the end is like saying “New Years n’ stuff”. For example you can say that I had “Talkh Malkh” for breakfast, or bread n’ stuff for breakfast. It’s a Mongolian turn of phrase that I really like.]
This week has been madness. The entire school has been preparing for their big New Years show this Friday. Kids are busy learning dances, rehearsing plays, and memorizing songs. There actually won’t be actually any class Friday, that’s how big of a deal it is. So I’m glad that I did my lesson on some western holiday traditions last week.
On Tuesday we have our 9th grade ‘extra English class’ – which I guess most Americans would call a club. Its an optional extra hour of lessons, though they tend to be more interested in activities and movies during the hour. Last week we went over the holiday season in the States – a little bit of Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza and wrapped it up with New Years. My kids puzzled over mistletoe, and why you would have to kiss someone underneath it. They thought it was ok that kids got coal for Christmas, because at least that would be useful for their stoves at home. They puzzled over the physics of how Santa could get through a chimney, when most of their stove pipes are not even six inches in diameter. My students thought that Santa must get his reindeer from Mongolia, because where else could he get semi domesticated reindeer from? To be fair there is a small ethnic minority that live near the Russian border that herd reindeer.
We wrapped up by discussing New Years traditions and I showed them clips of the Tournament of the Roses Parade from last year. I like showing parades, because they are very American, and the kids seem to like them. “Its like they are walking as one person !” one kid said. “Do they tie their feet together?” another asks. Of course I just say its lots of practice, but I would have liked to have seen THAT in my marching band days. I do think that my favorite comment was from Dorjbat, the teacher that I co-teach these lessons with. A high stepping marching band showed up on the video ( I think it was the University of Wisconsin) and she remarked that they must have good kidneys! It they didn’t then their kidneys would hurt. Little health tidbit from Mongolia. Of course I don’t know if marching band contributes to your liver health :-P… I kid.
As for other happenings…
Last week I went over to the Education department, hoping to meet with someone about doing a culture fair for the kids next month. Of course, no one was there, BUT I happened to run into one of my students , her dad and her homeroom teacher. They approach me with a stack of papers, and ask me for help typing up an application to study in Japan for a cross culture exchange. Without really asking for an answer they whisk me back to school to type . Luckily its an easy chore, but it does take a village. The student had filled out the majority of the application, and just had some clarifying questions. The English teacher was helping her with grammar in her statement of purpose. The computer teacher was helping her with an email address to register with because she didn’t’ have one of her own. Another student went off to scan her passport picture. Her homeroom teacher was around… for moral support I guess. Again. It took a village.
Random Conversation I had with a student. She is adorable and as an eighth grader speaks amazing English. I had nothing to do with it, its all her. Lets call her B.
B – Verjinya, I read about Louis Armstrong
Me – Oh really ?
B.- I was interesting. He is a good musician.
Me – Of course, did you listen to his music ?
B – I did, I like very much. I like Jazz. My class likes pop. I like jazz. I think, so very much.
Me.- I like jazz too. I can give you some music if you like.
B. – I would like it very much.
B then does what I call the Mongol exit. She just turns away and sits down with some of her friends. Conversation over.
Walking home one day there was a little girl wearing a ginormous pink coat, a crochet dress peeking out from underneath, those reindeer leggings all the cool kids wear, and pink boots. She was carrying a single piece of paper. I catch up to her and, in Mongolian, ask where she was going ,
“I’m going home ” she answers , turning her entire body so she can see me. Her coat didn’t allow for peripherals. “Are you going home?” She asks. “Yes I am”, to which she responds “Are you an English person?” ( that’s the general way I’m described, especially by kids. Its never American, always English. As in , someone who speaks English.) “Yeah I know English, but I’m from America”. This gives pause . “But you know English?” . “Yep” . “But you’re American”. I know its hard to believe kid “Yep” I respond. ” Is American close? How did you get here? Did you come by plane?” she asks rapid fire fashion. “Yeah, I came by plane. America is far.” I answer. She pauses, and I think I have given a satisfactory answer. “Za, bye teacher!” and she disappears ( more like waddles) down the road. I love conversations with 6 year olds. Its right about my level in Mongolian language ability.
A typical Facebook conversation with a Mongolian friend . Lets call him T.
T. – Is today Eve day?
V. – Yes today is Christmas Eve
T. – Are you resting today? [In Mongolian the words for something like a winter break or school break , and resting are interchangeble. Transfers to English as well]
Me. – Lol, In America maybe I would rest. But in Mongolia , Mongolians do not rest, so I do not rest!
So I hope I have given you some nice vignettes that happened over the last couple weeks. Things are getting slower on my end. There is the final push for a culture fair to get done right before I leave on a vacation, and I might have been overestimating my energy level. As one other PCV asked me “Why would you do that to yourself?!? Its winter for goodness sake!”. The important reason is that the kids love it, and the less important reason is that winter can and will suck your life energy out of you , but YOU CAN’T LET WINTER WIN! . Yes, my face hurts, I can feel my nose hair freeze a little with every breath and miscalculating the number of layers I wear to school can have miserable consequences, but I know that it will only be for a little while. The winter solstice just passed and I know the days will start getting longer before I know it. I’m enjoying preparing my school with decorations and winter songs. If the vignettes above are about anything , its enjoying the little moments and conversations in your day that you can settle into and enjoy.
As I write this its Christmas Eve where I am. I know if I were with the fam bam, we would be taking one present to open before we go to bed and I would probably be eating the leftover Greek salad I made with my mom. I know that tomorrow morning I would be getting ready to be one of the first people up the slope for Christmas Day ski runs. I know that I would be back to look through the stockings later on that day. Stuff like that I miss. But I know that it will still be there when I get back and I look forward to it immensely .
To everyone back home, I hope you’re enjoying the Christmas trappings and trimmings. They really do make the season, despite how innocuous / annoying they seem. They do make the winter that much warmer and jolly. I just might go all out next year with the bad holiday sweaters and holiday food, just to make up for two years of that not happening.
Finally , its hard to believe, but at the end of this month marks the seven month count down to … being somewhere else! Hard to believe that I have been here 20 months. In many ways I feel like I just got here yesterday!
Lots of Love, and Happy Holidays – V.