I haven’t written for a while. Not so much for a lack of things to write about, there have been plenty. Mostly, I think, because I have been enjoying being slightly disconnected from the world outside of here. I apologize to those of you who show interest in and enjoy reading my accounts of my experiences here for not writing more often. I am sort of lost in two different worlds here: Mongolia and myself. Being in Mongolia is still wonderful, and something new happens every day. However, I am also able to explore the world of myself here, having (large at times) amounts of isolated time where I am forced to reflect on my experience here and myself, having no one else to talk to. Something I never thought I would really do (or want to do), and enjoy it for the most part, even if individual sessions can be a bit lonesome. I don’t think it is possible or would be interesting for me to go into detail about it, but I thought I would mention it to explain why I passed up a few opportunities to communicate with the outside world.
Anyway, I have been here in Shivee for a little over a month now, and boy does it seem like a lot longer than that. Not that that is a bad thing, I enjoy my time here immensely, and have plenty of things to do. It just seems strange that it feels like I have been here for so long when, in fact, it has been a very short amount of time. I feel, at least, like I have been here for as long as I was in Bayangol, but, as you know, I have not. Weird.
I will start from where I left you in my last post, after the trade show. I received a fancy invitation to a dinner with all of the people who helped host the event, which was a very nice dinner at the train station (fresh food!). After the dinner, my director and I took a car into UB, where we stayed for the weekend. I stayed at a hostel which was a great experience for me because I was the guy with all the information about Mongolia there. The people I met were all amazed that I could speak (if only a little) Mongolian and were impressed that I was spending two years out in the Gobi rather than doing their 2 week tourist trip to some sites to get a feel of the country and cross it of the list. I hope I don’t sound like I’m saying that the 2 week tour is a bad thing, I love doing it, and will miss not doing it during my time here (hopefully I can do it next summer for a little while… who’s traveling in SE Asia and wants to let me tag along?). However, I think I will always be slightly jealous for the rest of my life when I meet someone in my position in a country that I am only traveling through. Anyway, I was there to meet Anya’s friend who works for the Open Society to establish a contact there, and to get a little city life out of my system. It was a fun trip, one that I am glad I will be able to do at reasonable intervals.
Another week of work went by fluidly. I decided to start an English class for my class of advanced students and anyone else who they decide to invite. The club will (hopefully) combine fun with some extra English instruction. The plan is to read American books (starting with a ESL version of Tom Sawyer) on Monday, tutor the 4th and 5th grades on Tuesday, play games on Wednesday, do a life skills lesson on Thursday, and watch a movie or learn a song on Friday. Although this is the plan, I am quickly learning that plans aren’t always followed in this country, and less so in the smaller soums. The students also do various other things after school which I usually find out about as they are going on, such as sports tournaments, dances, clean-up projects, etc. Also, my students are the more motivated (reason they are in the most advanced English class) and are most likely to be involved in the other school activities as well. Hopefully we can figure out a fairly reasonable routine though; I would really like to see them read a few classic American books and do the whole life skills curriculum.
Two weeks ago, some members of my class invited me to go along with them and the rest of their class to the (even more than Shivee) countryside with their class. Grades are split up for size reasons and they stay as a group every year and do all classes together (except for my advanced English class which has kids from 10A and 10B). So I went to the countryside with 10B and we had a blast. It was a really beautiful location, with sand dunes and cliffs and herds of animals and even an eagle’s nest. We cooked food, sang songs and played games. We started off with the traditional thing for Mongolians to do in this setting, wrestling: Mongolian, sumo, arm. I brought m Frisbee and showed them how to do that, which they had a lot of fun with. We did some sand dune racing which is either as hard as or harder than you think it is (made me miss the hill we ran up during rugby practice), but was lots of fun running down. Then I taught them capture the flag which we played for maybe two hours. We cooked up some delicious goat for dinner which we had to rush because the clouds were looking to open up anytime. But I had a absolutely great time, and I feel honored that they enjoy me more than just some silly foreigner who moved here for some reason (which I get the feeling other volunteers experience sometimes).
Another week of work went by. On Tuesday we went to a different countryside place called the Rock Mother (I think), which is a little spot for Buddhists to pray. Shivee just switched governors, and there was a picnic to say goodbye to the guy leaving. That Friday I went into Choyr with my director to get my internet fix as well as look up some things on the internet for her. While there I got a call from Peace Corps to come into UB for a consolidation drill (practice for emergency situation) about 10 minutes after the bus for UB left Choyr. So instead of getting there quickly, I took the midnight train which got me to the office about 11 the next day (which is fine though, because under real emergency, I could hire a car to get me there in 3 hours at anytime). This was nice though because it meant I got to stay for the new teacher’s party that we put on for the other teachers. We all sang songs and danced and ate and had a great, funny time. Three other teachers and I got on said train for UB where I met the other volunteer who was coming in on the train line. I asked a train worker where the other American was, but she didn’t know. When I then mentioned that she was Korean, she know immediately who and where she was and brought me right to her. I found it so funny that I could do that. Could you imagine asking where X passenger was sitting on a train in the States? Well, I found her, and we enjoyed some hoshur (fried dumplings) and airag (that wonderful fermented mare’s milk) that we bought at one of the stops on our long ride to the big city.
UB was about like it was last time. A few meetings to set up contacts for future secondary project work (mostly working with Trafficking in Persons this time), and getting my fill of the city life to last me for the next few months. We ate a variety of food not available outside of UB such as Indian, Chinese, and American; I went to a party where everyone spoke English; it was a real treat. I extended my stay until Tuesday afternoon rather than leaving on Sunday in order to meet with some more Trafficking in Persons workers, and then came back to Shivee where I am now writing this note to anyone who happens to be reading this. Speaking of which, a guy put my blog on a website with other PC blogs [hopefully I will remember to add the real information when I actually post this: http://www.PeaceCorpsJournals.com/], so if you are thirsting for reading material more often than I can update this guy, you can check out what some other people have to stay in similar situations. AND, you could even tell me what you think about my experience compared to theirs, as I don’t have the ability to read about them myself. Any other information that you wish to share with me that I can’t read in Newsweek is also appreciated, anytime you wish to share it.
New favorite Mongolian phrase: Saihan Ongoroogoorei (pronounced: sakh’n un-grow’-gore-ā). It means something like “enjoy your visit with soandso,” but more literally, “spend your time with soandso well.”
-I’ll try to include little things like this to make your blog-reading experience more interesting and authentic.