Friday, June 23, 2006

Monglia 1

Sain bain uu (San bano) from Bayangol!

So, the cheek meat is the best for the next time those of you decide to eat goat face, but lets talk about that when the time comes. Since I last wrote, I have spent two nights in a ger camp, four nights in Darkhan, and I am about to spend my second night in Bayangol. The ger camp is supposedly the nicest in Mongolia. Its where President Bush and the rest of the important Americans who have been to Mongolia within the last year (which is a lot more than you’d expect) come to see what a ger camp looks like. They treated us real well, and it allowed us to see what living in a ger will be like, minus the doing the work for yourself (ie., they fed us, lit our fires, had toilets and running water, etc). It was in a really nice area between the airport and Ulaan Baatar (UB).

After two nights in the ger camp, we left for Darkhan, where we began orientation. Darkhan is the second largest city in Mongolia with the impressive population of 70,000. Darkhan is where we learned our survival Mongolian language and culture as well as got some shots and learned some other information such as what to do if things go wrong. We learned about gardening, cooking, teaching, communication, and everything else fun that will be going on. We also met our support staff and some current volunteers who we were able to ask questions about what life is going to be like. The fact that they are all alive gives me some hope that I will also be in a year.

After a few days there, we split up into smaller groups and headed for our host families. I got sent to Bayangol, a town of 5,200 between UB and Darkhan. I was greated by my host mother and father, Tumurbaatar and Urjinsuren. I have yet to meet my 3 siblings, Saranchimeg, Khurelbaatar, and Munkhbaatar, because they are on vacation in UB for the time being. I cant really understand when they are coming back, either on Friday, or they left on Friday… communication is a difficult thing around here. After exhausting all of my Mongolian phrases, and got tired of playing charades and pointing to words in my phrasebook, my dad brought me outside and told me to sit by the stove. He walks away, and come back carrying two sheep’s heads, with a big old smile on his face. We spend the next two hours singeing all the hair off of the head with hot metal rods. After getting every last hair off, we tear away the jaw, split it, and throw the whole thing in the boiler. An hour later, I’m slicing off different pieces of face meat to chew on. The skin is my least favorite part, followed by pure fat, and then tongue. Once you get to jaw, eyeball, and cheek, it actually starts to get good. Once all the goodies were gone, we threw the rest in the pot, and boiled it up to make whatever we were going to have for dinner.

Mongolian life is pretty cool. The shitting situation isn’t the best (a floor board missing over a hole), but everything else is simple and frankly, pretty nice. People come and go as they choose, they only say hello once a day at the max, and they find it hilarious that I say hello every time I walk in the room. Goodbye is the same way, which still leaves me wondering where people have gone. They slurp their tea (lemon or milk) and soup, they spit out fat if they aren’t the type who eats it, and fart when they feel necessary. The food is surprisingly good, although I either have a different taste in food or the other moms aren’t as blessed as my mom. The other 11 that are in my Soum (village) don’t mind the food, but they also aren’t raving about it like I am either. All the people in the village are excited to see us and wave when we walk by. We have a one eyed guard dog named Dingo, and although tiny, he gets the job done when cows or pigs come into the hasha (yard). I’ve been spending the time that I’m not in language class talking to little kids and playing basketball on 9 foot goals, which as you can imagine is great for me.

All in all, I am quite happy here, and am excited about my next 3 months here. I’ll try to keep everyone updated as much as possible, but I don’t know how often I’ll be somewhere with internet or how often something notable will happen worth writing about. My group is in the process of making a group blog, however, to put pictures and funny stories on, and I will let you all know what the site is once it is up and running. Also, I am going to get a SIM card here, and when I do, anyone will be able to call me if they want to. I’ll get that number to you as soon as possible. Hope all is well wherever you are reading this.


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