Sunday, November 14, 2010

Guess it’s about time I threw down some words for those wondering what the hell I’ve been up to. As time goes on, it’s getting more and more difficult for me to add to the narcissistic shrine that is my blog. At least before I could justify it because there were some reasonably interesting stories to tell. However, as time goes on, life is starting to turn into more of… life. And, as with it being an open blog, I have to be at least somewhat discrete about what I write, as people could find this that I might not want knowing the more intimate details of my life and thoughts. As time goes on, maybe I will switch it over to being private to open up the topics I can write, but even now, there wouldn’t be a whole lot to say.
But anyways, as I had kind of led on, life definitely settled down in the last month or so. I’d say I have officially adjusted and settled myself into my new home for the next few years (maybe). Currently, my work has funding from USDA that continues through May/June. After that, when funding runs out, it’s a bit up in the air if we are going to be able to be self-sustainable or not without outside funding, or exactly how a Peace Corps volunteer will fit into a business that is for profit. Generally speaking, PCV’s work for non-profit organizations. As exactly why I’m not sure, but I think it’s so we don’t get completely whored out (e.g. people wanting to charge for English lessons, wanting PCV’s to give trainings/develop clients without co-workers, etc). The real point of a business volunteer like me is to work on capacity development projects at my business, like giving trainings to counterparts and working directly with them. Doing things solo to outside clients kinda misses the point, that is, there wouldn’t be somebody to do it once I leave. That whole “Teach somebody to fish,” thing I guess.
But, I digressed. As I was saying, when the funding runs out, it will definitely shake things up for me at work. I don’t think its out of the realm of possibilities, either, that I might start working at another organization or maybe even move elsewhere. Finding productive sites for business volunteers is a bit more difficult than finding somewhere for a full time English teacher, which most PCV’s are. (Out of the around 70 people in my PC class, only 6 are business volunteers. There are also small groups of health volunteers and youth development volunteers, the rest are TOEFL (teaching English as a foreign language).
Although not full time, I am doing a decent bit of English teaching. 3 mornings a week I'm doing a business English class at my work, and Wednesday evenings I meet with some more advanced students that are trying to get their English up to where they can study abroad. This coming week, I’ll be starting a more basic English class for about 30 Buddhist students, which I’m pretty stoked about. Hopefully I’ll be able to learn something from them as well. I’m probably one of the more selfish people in the PC. Whenever one of my friends told me they were looking for somebody to teach the class, I said I’d do it thinking it would be cool to meet some folks I could learn about Buddhism from. I am a walking and talking contradiction. The ol’ selfish, realist, peace corps volunteer. Wait, what?
But even from the beginning, I wasn’t really doing the PC to “help” people… I think that in itself is a little bit condescending. I wanted to do some more traveling and see the world a bit more, and if people can learn something from me, all the better. I think the whole “invisible hand” way of conducting myself out here works pretty well.

What else, what else. Well, what I have been doing at work is not a whole lot. I’ve given some trainings, taught a bit of English, and helped with advertising and marketing. It’s pretty drab because there isn’t really a whole lot of business advising that goes on, which is what I was expecting. They are really more of a business services company, such as helping people to develop business plans and/or help people get loans for their business. Both of which I don’t have a whole lot of ways to help until my Mongolian develops a quite a bit further. The thing I want to work on is helping businesses to solve problems, (i.e. legit small business advising) but there isn’t a lot of it for me to do. I wrote up an advertisement/program describing a guaranteed solution to any business problem somebody might have. Hopefully it will start drudging up some problems I can help work on. I figure between the internet and my business background I’ll be able to come up with something, and if not, at least it will get me out of the office and meeting customers/seeing their businesses.
So yea, outside of work, I spend most of my downtime either with guitar in hand or watching a movie. My morin khuur has been on the dl for a while because one of the tuning ears on it too loose to stay in tune. I’ve got to take it to somebody, which I probably havn’t put enough effort into. Would be nice if I could just pull out a phonebook and look up “Morin Khuur Repair.”
Friday nights I’ve been playing basketball with one of my English students with a bunch of other people at the school he works at. Some other nights, I'll maybe be hanging out with some of the other volunteers in town, both PCV’s and some from other countries. At the moment, there are a few Euro area volunteers and also a few from Australia.
As of late, after getting settled in, I’m starting to a little itchy again and will probably try to start pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Thanksgiving is coming up, and a bunch of PCV’s are getting together in the capital to celebrate. I figure there I’ll try and set up a few different places to travel to see some friends and a bit of the country.

Yea yea yea… still taking Mongolian classes twice a week, and doing a bit of work outside of class on my own. My motivation wavers, but at the moment, I’m on the more motivated side. As time goes on, I still have the mindset that I need to learn the language and that it’s pretty necessary to be as productive as I’d like to be at work.
Still kicken it at an orphanage on Wednesday afternoons for a few hours as well. Usually end up playing hoops, kicking around a soccer ball, maybe playing some cards or some music together. The kids are pretty cool and I’m starting to get more comfortable around them as well.
Weather is starting to get cold here. The last few nights it was around 0(F) degrees outside. I like the cold though, the air feels so fresh. You can feel it going all the way down your throat. I’m pretty curious at this point what the -40, -50 degree temperatures are going to feel like, but time will only tell how quickly I get tired of it. As it is now, I’m still on my lighter weight winter coat and on my regular shoes, although I usually wear wool socks and I wear wool base layers under my jeans. I busted out my winter boots the one day earlier this week and most people looked at me like I had a dick growing out my head. Although most people do anyways, I guess I need to give it a few more weeks on the boots. But yea, finally chased down those boots this week. They are bas ass, but fucking massive. They are these big leather clodhoppers, lined with fur, with thick felt sock inserts. They’ve got a thick sole on ‘em and seem to be the real deal. I also picked up a heavy leather coat with a second fur layer added on the inside… hopefully it’s the real deal as well, I'm just a little worried the real cold weather will get through the zipper(s) a bit.
Well okay, [insert cliched conclusion/parting here].

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Fuck, I’m a bit typed out after drilling out the rest of that last entry. I started that guy a week ago but ran out of will to finish it. Right now I’m waiting for my challah bread to rise. Looking at the pattern of the last few times I’ve scrawled, looks like something about baking gets me all hot n’ bothered and in the mood to write.
Uhm, anyways, I’ve been crazy busy since getting to my new pad. It’s not like work is super intense or anything like that, it’s just by the time I get home, cook food, and get settled down I don’t have time to do much else. And because of previously described trip, a trade show the previous weekend, the trip to Ulan Bator the week before that, setting up my apartment the week before that, moving here the week before that, moving out of my host families place the weekend before that, etc, etc etc… I literally have not had more than 1 day off sequentially since moving here. I know, I can here the worlds smallest violin playing just for me, but new town, new people, new job, new language, getting sick… it’s fucking exhausting. This past weekend I finally grabbed two days to chill out, and it was awesome.
Today was the first day in a while I havn’t felt massively unmotivated. Having motivation in my position is a must, as I don’t really have anything to “do” at the moment (although I was told today that tomorrow morning I’m giving a 40 minute presentation (really 20 though cause ill have a translator) on how to start a strong business for 20 clients. ‘the fuck?). Its more just me going around to my counterparts and trying to figure out what they are doing or teaching English. Not that I don’t do this when I don’t feel motivated, it’s just that on those days, I’m motivated to do things because I don’t want to look like a complete waste of space all day just eating up company resources. Days where I have internal motivation move a lot quicker and are a lot more enjoyable, probably both for me and for my co-workers that actually have to deal with my bullshit.
Blah blah blah, alright. Don't have much more to say at the moment. Sorry to those that tell me to write and I don’t for weeks at a time. If I wrote when I wasn’t in the mood to I would sound fucking miserable, my writing would be even more awkward, and reading this would be like watching old people have sex. Or wait, is it just, “… be like old people having sex?” I’d say “watching” fits all right, I think it’s slow and painful no matter who’s point of view.

Looking at my last entry, I’m surprised that it was already two weeks ago. I know I’m going to blink and these two years are going to be over. It’s not really that the individual days or weeks go extremely fast, but when I look back at the almost 4 months I’ve been here, it doesn’t seem like it’s been nearly that long. Annnyways…
Trying to get some details down about this last weekend before I forget them all, or at least write down the ones I still remember after drinking enough vodka to kill a small horse. Back whenever I went to UB (Ulan Bator, the capital) with my company, they won an award for best branch of the year. Cool, but its not like I had anything to do with it since I had only been there for a week. But, one of the perks of the deal is we took an overnight trip to this scenic camp type of area about an hour and a half north of town. I knew we were going to be sleeping in a ger(felt tent) but I didn’t know how many or exactly what we were going to be doing.
Got up there around 8 or so Friday night, and started things off with a beer and cracking a bottle of vodka, which is pretty much standard play whenever groups of people get together here in a relaxed setting like that. At this point, there are about 11 er 12 of us in this tent because a few other people ended up coming as well. Around this time I also gathered that only had one ger where we would all be sleeping.--- (9-28 now, but finishing this entry off)--- Which was cool, because whatever, but it was so drastically different than America. How often would you end up sleeping with in the same room with 11 of your counterparts, managers, and bosses? I wasn’t sure how the end game was going to end up, because there were about 6 small beds laid around the periphery of the ger. I didn’t know if we were going to be doubling up in the bed or if a few of us were going to be hitting the floor. I was just hoping it wouldn’t be too awkward later on in the night.
The booze came on to me pretty quick because I had been sick all week with stomach issues and wasn’t holding in a whole lot of food. I was on the better end of things by then but was still using pepto and some other industrial strength medicines to keep my belly in check. Around the time I thought the night was dying down, 2 of my counterpart’s husbands showed up strapped with plenty more vodka. Ended up drinking a few more bottles of vodka and drinking more beers before the booze was gone.
In my experiences so far, no night of drinking with Mongolian women is ever complete without a good round of a dance party. No difference out in the middle of a ger camp either. We had no radio, but one of the guys that showed up later had a car, and that got turned up and we had a dance circle outside at 2 in the morning in 30 degree weather. Dancing circles here are about as awkward as it gets. People don’t really dance with each other here… you just stand around in a circle and dance with yourself while looking at other people. Extremely weird at first, but aftertime you kinda get used to it.
So yea, shortly after that my ass passed out on the floor in my sleeping bag with my shirt off. Was glad I didn’t have to double up in a tiny ass bed with a counterpart. Would have made for a strange night and even stranger morning. The morning was weird as it was anyway because by the time I woke up out of my drunken stupor most people were already up and walking around. Got my shit together a little bit and threw on my shirt, and sat up on one of the beds and waited for something to happen. Had no idea what we were going to be doing for the rest of the day other than having a khor khug(that sheep/goat cooked in a barrel thing). But, for hangovers, the choice breakfast here is a bucket of romin noodles. Packed with us on the trip was a boxfull of the stuff, so we all ate our romin without much talking. After breakfast, at about 9 o’clock, a bottle of vodka gets cracked and beers start to get passed around. Was not looking forward to this part as my belly was still three sorts of fucked up from being hung over and still a bit sick. I took the shot(s), but at first resisted the beer. I tried to explain that I usually don’t drink in the mornings, which was met with various degrees of disgust. A man dropped the Mongolian version of “when in Rome do as the Romans do,” which here is “if you drink the water, follow the customs.” Which I then translated to, “you mean if you drink the water, drink the beer?” Which got some laughs. Soon after, I was successfully peer pressured into drinking it.
The khor khug wasn’t a full animal this time, but just a few large cuts of it. The previous day, the morning before we left, somebody from my work stopped by the market and got some cuts of meat, which were stored in our conference room all day (no fridge) and then laid out in the ger for the night and morning before it was cooked. These are the kinds of things that my stomach and body need adjusted to… Americans just arnt built to handle it here right out of the box. Another for instance… going to the meat market here, there are just butchers in a room, and you pick which meat you want (goat, camel, sheep, cow, horse, etc… although I havnt seen camel yet. I also havnt looked that hard for it. Horse is surprisingly good) The meat isnt in a fridge or anything like that, and the butcher is usually kind enough to shoo away the flies before you pick the cut you want. I usually get the meat ground on the spot for ease of cooking later. The time before last that I bought, I had to pick a fly out of the meat before throwing it in the pan. It’s not the things you see that you worry about, though.
But I digress. Khor khug is fucking delicious. I could eat it everyday. Usually real tender and spiced really well, cooked with potatoes and carrots. I have also taken to getting a hold of the bigger bones after its all over, cracking them open, and eating the marrow. Sometimes you gotta dig it out with a small stick, though. This particular day I was the only one doing it, and I think I pulled some respect from the other Mongolian men. *puffs out skinny chest with pride*
Eating khor khug is also kinda funny because of how gruesome it is. Mongolian women are very rarely out in public without being well dressed and put together, and after waking up in a tent it’s no different. Quick touch ups of make up, some brushing of the hair and other quick primping, and it’s right back to status quo. Seeing a well dressed woman grabbing a sheep bone and going to fucking town is kind of strange at first. I hope all you feminists don’t get your panties in a bunch over all that. (and yes, I grossly overestimate the amount of people that read my blog. Blow me)
Ah, yet again, I digress. After grubbin down and getting’ my marrow on, time for another round of vodka and beer drinkin’ It’s ceremonial to drink after eating khor khug. Ive been told the vodka helps to keep your stomach from getting sick, which I’m a little skeptical about, but it is an excuse non-the-less. We all drank another 2 or 3 bottles of vodka… I forget which it was. Those of us still drinking by the end of things were sitting outside the tent passing around a cup that we take shots of. Behind us, there was a half basketball court with some teenagers playing hoops. After the last bottle was gone, one of the guys I was drinking with asked if I wanted to play some hoops. “Yes.” Nothing like some drunken hoops on a Saturday morning/early afternoon.
Hoops was a blast playing with a bunch of random people and just being tall as fuck. The one time I blocked a kids shot from behind my team mate that was guarding him. We all just kind of laughed. But yea, straight domination on the court. We did lose one game though… people can shoot here. After the game, we were all packing up to leave, but about 10-15 teenagers/people had kinda started to watch us play and a few wanted a picture with me before I bailed. So, somewhere around the Russian border region there are a few pictures of the tall, sweaty ass American after some intense drunken b-ball games.
On the way home, we pulled over because a few friends of my workers were meeting us. And yes, they brought vodka. By now, most people were either rather adamant about not drinking, or when given a shot they didn’t drink the whole thing, or just touched their lips to it and gave the cup back to the person pouring it(both generally accepted to get out of drinking, although I’ve seen it not work before). Before that bottle was gone, I ended up drinking another 4 or so shots in a period no longer than 15 minutes. Fucking hammered, but that pretty much summed up the rest of that trip. The car ride back was uneventful because I was past out drunk.
Other noteworthy things for the trip:
I saw a pregnant lady be awoken from sleep to take a shot of vodka
a new mother milk herself into a cup and then an unrelated grown man drink said cup (not saying it would have been normal to me if he was related… just sayin.)
and a blacked out, past out man be awoken to take a shot of vodka

(all three of which are fine and dandy here, yet you do give a double take sometimes… especially the milk thing)

Monday, September 6, 2010


Alright, I’m a little bit sour at the moment because I just burnt my last batch of home made donuts, but I think I’m going to be okay. But, the from scratch ravioli I made myself for dinner were awesome, so suck it. Anyway, the melancholy I feel because of my botched pastries is a bit overlooked by the fact that I’m typing this on my new computer and no longer have to deal with the painfully slow and messy process of writing in a notebook. I don’t know how you bona fide writers do it. Punching keys is much more relaxing for me, and not to mention efficient. But I guess that’s why I’m here doing business work.
Although, I still have yet to do a whole lot of it. This past week was spent mainly in the capital where my business had their annual “all staff conference,” where everybody from all the different branches come into UB to talk about stuff. Included in this stuff was an opening ceremony sort of thing where each branch had to do a different introduction/skit sort of thing. So, when we were meeting at my branch and trying to figure out what we were doing, some people had the idea of doing a dance. “Jon, do you know any dances?” And instead of keeping my mouth shut, I told them I did, and that it was a dance to Thriller. They loved this idea, and I then showed them the choreographed dance that I did to it while I was studying abroad in Australia. Fortunately, they only wanted to do the first half of it, and didn’t want to do the other dance that I showed them, which was to Justin Timerlake’s Bringing Sexy Back.
Instead, they wanted to make a dance to the Shakira World Cup Song, Waka Waka, which I still think is the most annoying song I’ve ever heard, and probably more embarrassing than Sexy Back. First, I taught the branch the rendition of thriller, and then, after taking a few moves from the video and making up a few moves of my own, worked though the Shakira song. All this with yours truly in the lead position of a V shape. Like the 6’3 American hippie needs any more attention.
After choking on stage with the ol’ morin khuur, dancing this in front of 70 people made me a bit nervous but really not that bad. It all went smoothly, including the end when I finished up with the worm. The thing I was most worried about was my arm giving out when I was dropping to the floor and then eating shit in front of everybody. Anyways, a video of this I have, and will be posted shortly, even though I have a queer grin on my face the whole time. I resorted to a fake smile instead of the deep-in-thought-look I usually have on my face while dancing… lesser of two evils.
The rest of the time spent in UB was rather uneventful, but I did get drunk that night with everybody else and had a dance party. The night got pretty fuzzy by the end of things but I think I made it out without making too big an ass out of myself, but I was a dancing fool. I also had a chance to roam the city a bit after all my other co-workers went home and I stayed an extra day. Was able to make it to the big black market, where I grabbed a nice leather bag for 20 bucks and a nice northface jacket that is heavy enough to maybe get me to November for 35 bucks. People have told me they are rip offs, but I’m not sure I believe it. If they are, they are damn nice ones. All the tags, all the logos… even the plastic bag it was in had the NorthFace logo on it. I think that maybe they bang these things out in China somewhere, and if they can sell them here for more than they cost to make, might as well, even if it is 100 bucks cheaper than in the US. Everything is crazy cheap here in the markets. Just today in my city I got around to finding a tailor who is hand making me a pair of dress pants for 20,000T, or about 15-16 bucks.
Had the time to roam around and figure it out because I finally got around to putting my foot down at work about hours. Working 9-1 on Monday and Wednesday, and 9-6 the other days, leaving me at 32 hrs/week not including lunch hours. I had talked to another volunteer that works at an orphanage here with kids that are between 8-16 er so, and I’m going to start going there on my newly free Wednesday afternoons with my geetar. I figure I’ll kick it there and try to see what kind of trouble I can get myself into. They also have a small basketball court so I might just end up ballin’ out on some kids. I’m mad tall, no way they can hold me down… I’ll throw bows if I have to. And, tonight, some other volunteers put together a Monglish Club meeting at a restaurant. During which, Mongolians and Americans are supposed to speak both languages. But, as bad as most of ours Mongolian is, the eight of us only spoke English. However, I did find out that they are interested in having a regular English class, and was able to set one up for every Monday. Apparently I’ll actually be starting up the club again and taking over the spot from a previous volunteer that used to run it until he left a few months ago. The people that were there already spoke English very well, but just want more practice. A lot of people here want to take the TOEFL exams, which as far as I understand, is an English exam that you need to help get scholarships and study abroad in English speaking countries.
I was also able to talk somebody that has the scoop on a good Mongolian teacher that I can use for some tutoring to help develop my language a bit more. I’ve come to discover that I’m a bit too lazy to pick up the book and teach myself. Having a few hours planned out each week might just be enough to force me into it.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I guess I'll take some time and put some thoughts down after the blur that was my first week in my new city has now passed.
Working in a office is about how I remember it being: boring as shit and looking for ways to waste time without it looking too obvious. But, I'm blaming a lot of that on this week as it is the “introductory” week, and I don't really know exactly what I'm going to be doing yet. I have been told numerous times that this was going to happen and to expect it, so I'm not too worried about it. Before I can really dig into things I'm going to have to take time and get to know the people I work with to be able to figure out what kind of things people need help with.
I also remembered after this week that I still don't particularly care to work these rest of my time in an office, even if it is for the greater good. Fortunately at PC, it's supposed to be around 30 work hours in the office. That way, there is still room for community initiatives and actually being a community member rather than just the white dude you see walking around in work clothes sometimes. But, the director to my office was out this week, but I do plan to get a schedule set up before things get too settled in.
For the time being though, I've been working closer to 9-6 and sometimes later. By the time I've gotten off work, got home, made some food, done laundry, cleaned the house, and then pull my head out of my ass, there's not much time for me to do anything else. It will be a lot nicer once my apartment is set up as well and I don't need to be putting it together after work as well.
Anyways, not sure yet what kind of things I want to get into in the community, but I think maybe I'll figure it out when I get a chance to experience it a bit more. And I guess to do that I'm going to need to keep working on my Mongolian, which I've fallen off with a bit these last few weeks. However, my pronunciation is starting to get to where people can actually understand me. Haggling at the market is a rewarding experience not because of the saved money but because of the satisfaction of having another person actually understand me.

The week before I moved to my city was a massive clusterfuck of moving out of the town where PST was, to the capital for 3 days for the signing in ceremony and other training, and then finally heading to my new home. And also the talent show was while I was in the capital, which might have been the biggest learning experience I've had so far.
The song I played on the morin khuur was a very difficult song, and a lot harder than what I should have tried to learn in two months. The only real help I got from teachers before hand was them telling me to pick a different song. But alas, as stubborn as I am, I refused. So, for the weeks leading up to the show, I was literally practicing between 2-3 hours a day.
By the week of the show, I was able to play it fine by myself, but in front of other people I would get nervous and choke up, sometimes forgetting the song, cracking notes, or usually both. After some more practice, I was comfortable in front of small groups of people..
The day of the show there were about 250 people in the auditorium, including all of the new PCV's supervisors from their new work/school, PC staff, and other volunteers and friends from different years. I was exhausted from the week, and nervous as all hell. When they finally called my name to go on, I dragged the chair to the center stage, sat down, got set up, and then took some deep breathes to try and steady my violently shaking hand. It didn't work.
I choked through the first half of the song, missing notes, forgetting parts, and pushing through it. Anything but stopping and leaving the stage. I dont remember a whole lot of it, I just remember it as being a dream like haze, almost like I was watching myself play rather than just playing myself. My hand was shaking so bad that my fingers would sometimes miss the strings or hit the wrong parts, and on some of the more technical parts of the song a spot just a half fingertip's width will play in a completely different note or cause it to crack. I kinda pulled it together by the end, but I definitely choked in front of an auditorium full of people.
And it wasn't that bad, I just wish I had another chance to do it, which I'm not sure I'll get. But, if I can live through doing something like that, other stupid shit where I might make an ass out of myself are going to be a lot easier now. With as many awkward things that I'm going to do and say, then probably crash and burn after, they probably wont ever compare to that. Also, I kind of realized afterwords how stupid it is to get that anxious and nervous. There's no need for it, it doesn't do any good. I'm a bit upset I let it effect me so severely, and I think I'll remember that in the future. Anyways, as the old man always says, if you're going to make an ass out of yourself, you might as well do it in public.

More about the place where I'm at now... It's a big small city, although in Mongolia its either the 2nd or 3rd largest after the capital. Its big enough to get anything I need/want food wise, except some different spices and things for cooking western food, which is getting shipped from the good ol' USA. The city is apparently where the most beautiful women in Mongolia come from, and I would have to say I whole hardheartedly agree, even though I've only been a few other places. Even more, I work in an office with 7 other women, but there is another dude that just started working here.
Completely different workplace dynamic as all that goes. In Mongolia, there really isn't that whole “sexual harassment” thing. For example, while I was getting introduced to different girls in the office, the one lady was pointing out who was single, who wasn't. A joke, but still much different. And also, from what I've been told during training, things like holiday parties and other work events where booze is involved can sometimes lead to some rather “sexually themed” games.
The only thing I can say though, is that in Mongolia dating is also a lot different. If you're out with somebody in public, dating, and it goes on for more than a few months, you are practically married. What a mess that would all turn into. But, saying as how I'm in a bigger city and not in a small village somewhere, it might be a bit more like it is in American, but I kind of doubt it.
Then again, I am living in pretty modern conditions. It's a pretty nice place, and definitely nicer than anywhere I've lived alone before. It's a two bedroom apartment with a kitchen and full bathroom, Hot water, a refrigerator, and a stove. A bit under furnished, and I still have to hand wash my clothes, but I'm definitely more part of the “posh corps” here, as compared to the folks living out in tents in the middle of nowhere with few amenities. Us business folk usually get put into more populated areas and end up with better living conditions. Still havn't made up my mind about how I really feel about living in such a nice place. But, I do enjoy the hot water. Being able to quickly rinse off before bed is awfully nice.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Aug 8th

Oh the old school pen & paper thing. I wonder if I'll even be able to read my chicken scratch whenever I type this up.

The nights are starting to get cold here, kinda hinting at the change that is going to come. Since it stays so dry here for the most part, the cold air coupled with the dry breeze makes it feel more like a warm winter night than it does a cool summer evening. It's still hard for me to believe that it will be -40 outside in just a few months. The figure I heard the other day is that the winter here averages -15 F, which is down right absurd, and which I'm not sure I believe. I dont think -40 is something I can imagine until I actually feel it. Surprising to me as well is that many of the family friends that came in and out of the house today were talking about how it was cold. I'd think that this heavy hoody/light jacket weather would still be a beach day here.
Today was little Euruka's third birthday. I wasn't aware until the afternoon because I was busy sleeping off both a cold and a hangover until 1pm. Yesterday we had a "host family appreciation" day, where us Americans that live in the town got together and made a bunch of pizzas, onion rings, pasta salad, and some other desserts. Also included on the menu to help show some American culture was jello shots, which went over with different degrees of appreciation. The one two year old that got his hand on a couple seemed to love them, but I'm not certain he will remember.
That all started around 2 in the afternoon, and with jello shots and beer I was pretty well lubricated by the evening. Even though I probably should have just rested, I ended up going out that night again for a little more partien. When I got home, my host family apparently had the same idea I had, and were doing some drinkin themselves with some friends. Nothing like a few more shots of vodka and a nice warm glass or two or airag for a nice night cap. Even with it though, I still going sleep for shit. Ended up passing out around 3am for some reason.
After waking up at 1, and then waking up from a 2 hour nap until 630, it was time for dinner. Groggy as well I roll into the kitchen to see whats up and find the dinner table wasn't there. My host mom hands me a bowl of soup and points to the family room.
In my slippers, gym shorts, a t-shirt, and after being awake for about 5 minutes, I walk into the family room where there is a nicely decorated table with a bunch of my host dad's extended family sitting around it, nicely dressed. Awkward. They all starred at me like I would have started at myself in the same situation.
I put my bowl down and excused myself for a second I could at least put all of my hair in a ponytail instead of the 2/3rds of it that was left after my nap. After I collected myself for a minute I was able to relax a bit and eat, but I still bounced pretty quick out the room afterwords. Later some more family showed up that I was a bit more familiar with and the dad once again started pouring vodka and airag down my throat. My Mongolian comes a lot smoother once the nerves get knocked back a little and I can relax.
The same two year old family friend from yesterday that was enjoying the jello shots was also at the party, and this little dude knows what he wants. When I was sitting down with a cup of airag, he came over, and without hesitation, grabbed up the cup, drank some, slammed it down, then grabbed a spoon off the table, threw it in the cup and then walked away. I was almost crying I was laughing so hard but I couldnt describe to anybody why it was so funny. Kinda had to see it I guess.

My body is still recovering form a pretty intense game of ultimate frisbee us Americans got together for two days ago. We gathered up in a field behind my one friend's house and played a pretty competitive game for a few hours. It was cool paying a foreign game like that and having some of the local kids and some other people watching the crazy americans run back and forth while throwing a flying disk. You would think that a bunch of people in the peace corps would be a bunch of non-competitive pacifists, but our sports games get down right intense.
People in the PC are way different than what I expected. I don't know I've really met any bonafide hippies. Out of us all left, over 70 people in my class, I am the only dude that has any sort of long hair (and I even probably wont any day here). I thought every other person was going to have dread locks and a tie-die shirt. 100% not the case. What I have found here is real and honest people, for the most part. Or at least a higher concentration than any other situation I've been in before. In just a couple weeks I'm going to get shipped off to where ever in the country and it's going to be strange moving away from these friendships and starting new. A few months with some legit people and in a rather extreme situation will form some pretty close bonds.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

August... 4th I think.

Yea, so my computer finally decided to eat shit, so I haven't been writing at all. Not that there's a massive amount to report, anyways. Same shit, different weeks for the time being. In a couple of weeks everything will start to get turning again and I'll probably have some more to talk about. Only thing really worth saying is the original plan for me to get shipped way into the middle of nowhere and learn Kazakh instead of Mongolian got scrapped... an issue with the business that I was going to be working with out there, apparently. I see it as both good and bad... on the one hand, I'm glad I can focus solely on Mongolian as I think I have a much better chance of getting somewhere close to fluent with it. On the other, it is supposed to be beautiful out in that area with lots of mountains and other sctuff to do outdoors. But who knows where they will send me now. All I know is I requested to be sent somewhere remote, but no guarantees it will happen. And worth mentioning, remote is a relative term... most anywhere I get sent here that isnt a massive city will be remote compared to most American standards.

But yea, the language classes and then the trainings are keeping me busy during the day, and geetar and mainly morin khuur keep me busy there after, especially now that I can't watch a movie on my computer. During the swearing in ceremony here at the end of the summer, they have a bit of a "talent show," per se. My goofy ass will be planted front and center playing my newly purchased instrument. I'm probably more nervous about that than I was coming to Mongolia in the first place.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


So, officially onto the third hole in my belt today. Sunday I got decked with a pretty gnarly case of food poisoning, and for about 10 hours was in pretty deep despair. I wasn't really mentally tired, but I was too exhausted to get out of bed and do anything except make runs to the bathroom or to go and empty out the pale I kept next to my bed if I couldnt make it to the sink. Definitely the most sick I've been in a very long time. Crazy how quickly it all came on, too. Around 2 in the afternoon I was doin fine, running some errands around town. By the time I got back and settled down though, I started to crash downhill pretty quick. By 6, I was in the depths.
Yesterday morning I didn't make it to my mongolian language classes, but was able to tough it out for an afternoon technical session. Still had, and still do, have a little bit of a fever that comes and goes, and am still a little bit weak. Trying to stick to some plain shortbread type cookies you can get around here and rice, maybe a little bit of apple juice for another day and hope my belly toughens back up. The way I see it though is its better to get sick here then it will be when I'm out at site and have a job and other things to worry about. I'm hoping my body is making adjustments after it's getting sick so at least not all is in vain.

... Later

Today was a long day... there was a lot to do and I pretty much ran straight though, and am still tired from getting over being sick in the first place. This evening I had to head over to the post office and polish off a few things on a computer that I need for a presentation I'm giving tomorrow to a small business in town here. Also while I was at the post office I was going to make a phonecall home that has been a whiles in the making. I was originally going to call Sunday night, but unfortunately my body was in the uncomfortable process of evacuation.
I finally got to the post office around 910pm here, which is 910am ET. Tried calling home first to no avail because I hadn't yet got the email that the folks were at home and that my old man's phone might not ring. So, before the post office closed at 10, the goal was to polish off/print out my presentation and a few other things, then still have at least 10 minutes or so to call home before the place closed up shop. After I printed everything off my computer and got off it, I went to the counter to pay for the internet usage and also for the 3 pages I printed out. Fortunately the one lady that worked there spoke English well, because the printer did not have paper loaded and my pages wern't back there. I wouldn't have been able to get close in mongolian if she wasn't there, especially with being tired. Thankfully, with her help though, I guess the print job was stored on the cache in the computer and she was able to print it out, even though the printer ended up being a bit busted and the type was smeared all down the right side of the page.
After everything finally got all sorted out with the computer and got printed what I could, it was about 945 and I tried to call home again using the one phone that is in the post office. For some reason or another, the phone is rather picky about when it wants to work. I think the most of it is my ignorance about it... I've began to come to the conclusion you need to wait a minute or two after you pick it up for it to connect to a network. After I got it to finally work and got a call placed in time to where I would be able to chat for a few minutes, something happened with the connection between the phone here and the phone at home to where it was only the "hello's" and then the phone disconnected. At this point, the place is going to be closing down soon, and I don't have enough time to wait for the phone to want to work again. I figured I'd just head back to my house here and try to use the phone with my calling card here.
Back at my house, I didnt want my family thinking that I'm using their phone to make long distance phonecalls. But, at 10 o clock at night, after a long day, speaking Mongolian is not easy. The word order here, the pronunciation, and it being an agglutinative language all make communication about things I havn't been formally taught a bit difficult. For instance, just looking up a word in the mongolian/english dictionary doesn't really give you a clear answer all the time. Anyways, when I'm trying to ask my host family if its okay and make sure that it would be free to use their phone if I'm using a calling card, it's not easy to do, and in the end, it did not happen. I think they thought I was confused about using the card and didnt know how to use the card, when I was just trying to make sure it wouldnt cost them anything if I used their phone.
Trying to think of a way that Mongolian is difficult and confusing... For example, in phonetic english,
bi alhem eadcen ---- I apple ate (I ate an apple)
bi alhemaa eadcen ---- I apple-my ate (I ate my apple)
bi chinni alhemic edcen ----I your apple ate (I ate your apple)
chi alhemaa eden ----- you apple eat (you will eat your apple)
chi minne alhemic edej baihn ----- you my apple eating (you are eating my apple)
chi alhemaa edech ve? ----- you apple-your eat ? (Will you eat your apple?)

The agglutinative part can get really confusing when you start getting 3 or 4 suffixes added on to a word, like,

Neiz - friend
neizootei-with friends
neizooteigaa-with my friends
neizteigaa-with my friend

That particular night, I know the word for expensive, which is Onetei (price-with), and I thought the word for free was onegwe (price-without), but how to go about saying "will it be free for you if I use my card on your phone" gets quite a bit sticky, especially whenever my pronunciation is shit and I cant even be sure if I'm pronouncing the words that I'm trying to say.
I wanted to yell I was so frustrated by the time it was all over. Eventually I think we understood each other that it wouldnt cost anything for me to use my card with their phone, but I was still a little bit skeptical that they knew it was going to be free. In the end I told them zooger, zooger, bi margash xalbaa yawn... "no worries, no worries, tomorrow ill go to the post office." But I felt bad afterwords that my frustration may have came through. Told them I was sorry because I was very tired and right now i cant speak mongolian. Although I thinking back I think I said, "right now I'm not speaking mongolian" instead of "cant speak mongolian", which is funny.
From the outside looking in I'm sure it looks a bit trivial... "so what, you couldnt call home one night," but after a long day of bullshit it can really add up. Not to mention when somebody is expecting to hear from you and you dont call, and then you cant have any form of communication for another 3 days, you dont want them to start worrying about you either.


Been hot as helllll these last few days. Supposed to get up to 40 today, which is 104F. And also today, we have a little bit of a get together known as a "horhug". Apparently we will all be getting together and eating a goat or a lamb cooked in a barrel. Which I'm pretty excited about, except for the part about it being 104 degrees outside and also being pretty sure there will be a bit of drinking going on. It should be fun though, granted there is enough shade to be found. It doesnt get very humid at all here when it gets hot, so it will usually at least cool off a decent bit at night and its not terribly uncomfortable inside/in the shade.
Anyways, that's at 2:30, and it's 1130 now. Going to go get a bucket and some soap now to wash up my clothes so if I end up with alcohol and food poisoning later I'll at least have clean clothes to waste away in.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Been a little bit since i've put some thoughts down, been kind of a busy last week. Its about the mid point of the summer/training before we all get sent off to site, so all of the peace corps volunteers get sent back to the main orientation site for a few days, i.e. wednesday-friday. Pretty boring stuff goes on, lots of presentations and crap like that. The days were pretty long though, and was usually some partien to wrap things up at night. Then this last weekend it was Nadam here, which is kinda like Mongolia's fourth of July.
Lots of horse racing, wrestling, and archery, although I didnt get to see any of the archery or wrestling, unfortunately. The horse racing is done by young kids too, which can get kinda crazy. There will be these 4 year old kids riding horses bareback... I was always kinda waiting for one to fall off but none ever did. Anyways, that type of sctuff would go on during the day, and then it would be more of a big party/celebration at night. In the town square they had a few singers putting on a show, and it seemed like most people in the town were out kicken it enjoying the scene. I ended up seeing the one dude that I had played some hoops with a few weeks back, and after shootin the shit for a little bit I went out boozing with him and a group of his friends at a local bar.
So, the drink of choice here is vodka, and a lot of it, and in a pretty short time period as well. In about 10 minutes after sitting down I had already had 3 large shots of vodka out of a glass. From all that I've seen, a group of people will just have one glass and a bottle of vodka and will pass the glass around shot by shot. Anyways, after some drinks, they made me arm wrestle one of their friends. This did not end very well for me, and I knew it wouldn't either. Just got straight embarrassed in front of all my new friends. Later, after some more drinking, they started asking about some swear words. Most Mongolians know the word fuck, although I dont think they understand how versatile it is. Anyways, the one guy had fuck confused with dick, so he was joking around saying, "I have a big fuck" which was kinda funny. Had to guide him on the correct way to use each.
Although I don't really have a story to tell along with it, that night two of the guys that I met had been soldiers in Iraq a few years ago. I couldn't really say much to either of them because of the language barrier, but it was a pretty strange feeling. A country that a lot of people dont even know exists in America has people fighting and dying for our problems. Crazy how far reaching it all is.
Anyways, ended up getting hammered, and rolled back to my house at about 130 in the morning. The next day more stuff with Nadam was going on and I was out with the host family here, and they knew I was hungover and were giving me some crap about it, which I was actually kind of surprised about. Drinking in Mongolia is very big and very common, I didn't think that it would matter that I went out and got drunk, especially because I've barely drank since I've been here. Even stranger my one friend's mom, who is my host Mom's sister, was making the most jokes about it and making them even while she's pouring airag for us to drink. Airag is fermented mares milk, which isnt too strong, but still alcoholic.
That night when I came home there was a skinned and gutted goat on my kitchen floor. Was not expecting it at all, and was glad to see the head was still left next to it. Today, I was out at my mom's sisters place again, and when I rolled up they were cooking up a marmot, or like a ground hog type of animal... I forget what they called it. Anyways, the way they cooked it was they cut off the head, and emptied the thing out. Although I wasn't there, I'm assuming they prepared the meat somehow, like with spices and sctuff, then stuffed the guy back up. I also didn't see this part, but they then stuffed the thing with extremely hot rocks to cook the thing from the inside. Then, with a piece of wire about the thickness of a hanger, they tied the neck shut so it sealed in the heat.
The part that I saw was this one dude taking a blowtorch to the outside of the animal to burn all the hair off and scrape it clean with a knife. This took about 10 minutes or so, and most of the time I was kind of in shock/awe. At that point, it's this animal with its head cut off but it still has its feet and tail on while it's getting torched up, and as he was hitting it with the flame it was kind of balooning out because of the head and I thought it was going to pop. But anyways, after it was finished cooking, it gets split open from the stomach to the neck, through the ribs. The meat that got prepared that wasn't still attached to the skin, like the arm bones and stuff, came out first. They looked kinda like chicken wings. And I've got to be honest, it was pretty fucking good. You get some gristly bites in there every now and then, but I'm mostly used to that from my other eating. It was full of flavor and really juicy. After the loose meat is out, the animal shell gets split into about inch wide strips, which has some meat left of it but mostly fat attached to the skin. The skin I didn't much care for, but I at least got the fat off it and just left the outer later. Unfortunately I didnt have a camera on me for that one.

During this past week, for reasons I'm a bit unsure of at this point, one of my trainers apparently made a mistake and told me where I will be heading after summer training is over. Online with my requests, I'm getting shanghaied, but to the china/russia/kazakh border region out west. This is one of the more isolated places in the country, with it being about a 40-50 hour bus ride to the capital because of road conditions/lack of roads. They have an unpaved runway there that you can access by plane, so at least for the initial move out there, PC will be flying me in. I'm not sure how it works after that when I need to get brought into the capital for things like holidays and trainings.
This region is a bit different then the rest of Mongolia because they dont speak Mongolian there, they speak Kazakh, so I will be mainly learning Kazakh after my summer training is over. I also want to keep studying Mongolian because I think it might be good for the future, but I'm not certain how its all going to work. At this point im kind of under the impression that although I'm going to be learning Kazakh, I should keep working on Mongolian because of communication with other parts of the country and with the capital.
It's weird though that I was told, and kind of stranger afterwords I was told to kind of keep a lid on it and not tell other people because I wasn't supposed to know. Everybody kinda wants to know their placements and would probably get a bit pissed if I knew where I was going and they wern't told. I think it has to do something with the difficulty of the placement area and also having to learn kazakh, and they were making sure I was up for it and okay with the placement. Whatever the case, it kind of sucks that I can't talk about it, because its a bit of a source of anxiety, and I also don't like keeping it from my friends. Originally I wasn't even going to write about it, but I dont really have any friends from the PC that read my blog, so fuck it. Apparently the providence I'm heading to is possibly the birthplace of eagle hunting/falconry. If I get a chance to have my own golden eagle it would be bad ass, and this may be a place that is open enough to where I could maybe get my own horse. We'll see though... they arn't going to give me more information about exacts until when other people get placed. Classes are on break right now for a week, so I also wont be able to ask more questions for a bit, anyways. Might try to squeeze out some more info if I can though. And who knows, im not certain that the final word has dropped yet, so it might get changed again before it's all said and done.

Before I found out about getting placed in the middle of nowhere, I was starting to baseline here in my town. It wasn't immediately apparent when I woke up in the morning that I was in Mongolia, and I wasn't anxious or stressed out. Starting to feel a lot more comfortable just going different places in town and using my language confidently. However, this last week kinda through me off kilter a bit. For one, there were a bunch of Americans in town and it kinda felt like America again. Then I found out about my placement and had that to start mulling around in my head.
A lot to think about with being placed in the middle of nowhere and starting over with language and then not really have anybody to talk to about it. So, the last 2 or 3 days I was pretty deep in my own head and anxious about things, and have been more tired than usual. I was busy because of things with Nadam, so I didnt really have a lot of time to relax and play the getar of the morin khurr, which I've come to rely on here for stress/anxiety relief. This evening I finally had some time to relax, make some noise, get some exercise, and do some writing... so it already all feels a lot more manageable and it's starting to brighten up. This week there arn't any classes except for Wednesday, so I should have time to do plenty of all these things this week.


Sick again... this time from some kind of cold or flu virus though, not GI related. Might explain add a bit to the explanation as to why I had been so tired/run down. Body is achy, head is stuffed up, throat is sore but the sore throat is starting to go away. Yesterday morning I woke up with the scratchy throat and kinda knew it was all going to come. Luckily there arnt classes or anything for me to do these last couple of days so I've just laid around, watched movies, slept, and rested. Have been drinking a ton of water as well to try and help it all get cleaned out of me. This morning/early afternoon was the worst, but I think I've started to turn the corner already. My head feels like it's draining out and I'm starting to return to normal at bit... hopefully this doesnt drag on for too long a time.


And as the swings go, happy days are here again. Woke up this morning with a clean head and felt fine except for a little bit of congestion remaining. Got some mongolian practice in, played some hoops for a while, and spent some more quality time with the khurr. Finally good enough with the basics on that thing that I was able to figure out how to play the violin riff of bittersweet symphony on it, which I'm pretty happy about... just needs a bit more polishing to say the least.
After hoopin it up with my friends today, I asked how badly they were all missing american food. The cumulative answer, an awful lot. Although the mongolian food isnt bad, its like my body hasnt adjusted to it yet. I could eat a meal with enough carbs, fat, and protein, and calories, but afterwords I'm still craving peanuts or a candy bar or some other food I was used to in America. They have eggs here, luckily. But what I would do for a massive pizza... and some different fast food. It's strange, but I figure in another month or two it will subside for the most part, or I'll at least be living by myself and have more control over the food I cook/eat to manage cravings.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Milk was a bad choice.


So, my first fight with sickness hasnt been as bad as I thought it would be. For the last few days I really havn't been able to eat much, and I've especially been trying to steer well clear of Mongolian food. It kinda feels like my body has developed a bit of bait shyness towards mongolian food in general, even though I know it was the milk that did it. Whatever the case, fruit juices, peanuts, and a candy bar or some cookies get me through. I thought it would really start to get rough out here mentally if I got sick but spirits have been reasonably good, mostly because everybody is dealing with it and I can have some fun about it with my friends.
Today in the afternoon my business class took a trip to Ulaanbataar, the capital, to visit 5 different small business and to ask the owners questions/observe how businesses operate here. At the end of the day we would be going to AB&F for dinner, except here it isnt abercromie and fitch but American Burger and Fries. Was really excited about this, and was hoping my stomach was going to keep it together for it.
I think by now everybody in my business group, which is 6 people, has had some sort of GI issues. Yesterday one of my friends had food poisoning, throwing up, the whole 9. Another friend has been dealing with issues for the last week/week and a half. But so, after a long day of walking around the city in the heat, visiting businesses, traveling on gnarly roads, we show up at AB & F. for the three of us, are stomachs are already bothering us but we arnt going to turn down a chance to eat our first batch of American food since we've been here. Big mistake.
In the first 15 minutes after we were done eating, I had to go back to the restaurant to use the restroom. By the time I went back to meet up with the group, my other friend was throwing up on the other side of the building, and the one with food poisoning was waiting for something bad to happen but wasnt sure which way it was going to go. And even though this is Mongolia, this is the capital city here, and there are a lot of people walking around, it wasn't like we were out in the open somewhere. At least at this point the day was over and all we had to do was take the ride home.
The bumpy roads didn't make anything easy. About 20 minutes in we had to pull over so the one could throw up some more on the side of the road. My other friend had to crack the window so he would have somewhere to go with his head but was able to hold it together. I was just sitting with my legs crossed, laughing at the hilarity of the situation.
It sounds miserable, but we are all so open about it now because it's kind of the way of things are. At least until we are able to get out on our own and make our own food sanitation choices and be able to manage things our own way, we just gotta deal with it. Until then, we kinda have to eat what our families make, and on the daily you kinda wonder where your stomach is going. Common conversation every morning and afternoon is to ask your friends how their stomach has been and if their body is leaking or not. If they aren't in the process of evacuation they are usually at least wondering if something they ate is going to hit them the wrong way or not. If you dont find some humor in this game of food roulette you are going to have a rough ride. You can only gauge it personally as well... it doesn't matter if your family is sick or not. My two friends with legit food poisoning were the only ones that got sick even though both their families ate the same food on a picnic. Apparently we are missing some set of enzymes.


So yesterday I finally talked my host family into taking me down to UB with them so I could finally get my own morin khurr. Today's trip ended up being the longest continuous period of time ive ever spent being completely confused.
The problem here is that a lot of places sell morin khurrs, but a lot of them are more for just decoration than they are actual musical instruments. The purpose of the trip to UB was to go to a place that actually sold solid musical instruments so I wasnt trying to learn how to play on a souvenir. So, before going to the city, I had my language teacher write out directions to my family about how to get to the actual music store.
When we first got to the city, we parked, and then walked into this indoor mall type of building. We went into the basement, which was a grocery store, and then into a room off of the side of it that was about the size of a larger american family room. In it there were a bunch of people, and a bunch of random stuff being sold like tents, sleeping bags, some small peices of furniture, etc. In the corner of the room there were about 6 or 7 morin khuurs hanging on the wall that were pretty superfluously decorated. Immediately I had the gut feeling that these were not well made instruments but more the decorative types, but I was assuming this is where the directions told us to go to find the legit instruments. Pulled one or two down when we finally got some service and looked them over. The hard part about it is I dont know whats good and whats bad, per se, and cant play the thing well enough to really tell quality, especially not in the middle of some crowded market place. Also didnt want to tell my family we just drove all the way out here for me not to buy anything. But, after some monkeying around I told them I wasnt going to buy one there.
When we were leaving the store I was able to peice together that I want to go to a music market... a place that had morin khuurs, guitars... and then they asked somebody at at information desk there if they knew of anything. The guy didnt, but gave them directions to somewhere. About two blocks down from where we were we walked into a building that had some mongolian on it and then below it in English, "school of fine arts." Inside, my aaB asked a guy about morin khuurs, and he led us to a room where there was just one sitting there. Beautifully carved, it had 3 heads on the top coming out of it and sweet carvings on the body of it as well. But, it was crazy expensive and again I didnt think it was good musical quality.
Leaving there, I told them it was okay and I would just buy one in the town we live in. But, as we were walking back to the car, something clicked in the moms head and was able to gather she knew where my teacher was talking about. She led about 3 blocks down the road and we walked into an actual music store with actual instruments. Awesome, all was good, and finally got my own instrument. From there on out, the day got a bit weird.
Something was up with the cars air conditioning that the dad wanted to get fixed, at least from what I gathered. So, driving around, we stopped at about 6 or so repair garages. The dad would get out of the car, walk into the garage quickly, and then walk back out. Only one place did somebody actually come out and check out the AC. But, both obviously and from what I was able to gather, they wernt able to fix it. Might have just been diagnostics. Then we went into one area of the city that was the car market.
There were endless convoluted parking lots of people sitting in their cars with for sale signs on them. At first I couldnt exactly figure out what was happening, but it made sense after thinking about it. Without a craiglist or a widely distributed newspaper, how are people going to sell used cars? Apparently on saturday you go into the city and sit in your car all day with a for-sale sign on it in the auto market area. Anyways, we turn into one of these lots and drive through the back of it, which wasnt easy. Its not like it is a paved area with parking spots... its a dirt area where everybody wants a prime spot. A few times we would be stopped and have to have the people in front of us move their parked car so we could get through. Crazy tight clearances, and lots of people walking all over the place. We finally squeeze into a spot at the back of things and the dad gets out of the car where I assume hes going to one of the buildings that are around the lot.
Left waiting was me, the two daughters, and the mom. While waiting, a few groups of people would walk by the car, check it out, look in the trunk, under the hood, etc. One asked how much it was. I was so confused, was he selling the car? I asked the daughter if she knew what was happening, and she just kinda shook her head nonchalantly and said she didnt know, but also didnt seem to care. About a half hour later the dad comes back to the car with some parts, puts them in the trunk, and then leaves again. Then he comes back in another 20 minutes or so and has a set of brakes with him. From there he proceeds to drop off the front left wheel(passenger side here) and changes the cars front breaks. After this is done, we finally leave for somewhere else. I asked where we were going and gathered we were going to his moms place.
So we manage our way through the massively clustered traffic to his moms business. She owns a small food/convenience store in the city, which is also their house, i think. Either that, or the living area is just an area for them to rest during the day... not certain. But whatever, when we got there we went to the back where there was a bedroom, tv and such. There, we ate some lunch, drank some tea, and had some candy. After this, the family bought some groceries there and we were off again. From here I thought we were going home but we ended up in the part of town where the more densely packed, kinda flea market type of area is.
When we parked, I went with the mom into a big grocery store type of building to just kinda look around and hang out while she bought some things. The daughter stayed in the car with the baby. After wandering around for about 15 or 20 minutes, we weave our way back to where the car is parked. Get the groceries in the car and then sit down expecting to head out. The baby was asleep in the front seat of the car. Then the mom tells me her, the daughter, and the dad are going to go to the clothing market area, and Im going to stay and watch the baby. Alright. So here I am, this american sitting on the side of a busy market road with a baby in the car, hangin out. Got some strange looks from people for sure. Wasnt the most comfortable situation... with as busy of an area it was and since it was a warm day, I'd get a pretty decent breeze of garbage stench every now and then, was gettin a little thirsty, and also had to use a restroom. Also had no idea how long the family would be.
About 25 minutes or so later the daughter comes back, but the parents still wernt back. At least now she was able to deal with the baby that had woke up and started crying, and I could go and hunt down a toilet to use. after about another 25 minutes or so, the parents came back with some shoes and some other clothes, and we were off back to our home town. When we were about 10 minutes away from home, the dad pulls off the side of the road where there is a broken down dump truck. There were 2 guys working on the truck, a mom, a baby, and another car.
Alright. When I got out of the car, I saw the baby and recognized it as my one (american) friend's little host brother. After that I recognized the mom and the dad as well. The mom, i guess, is my host dad's older sister. So for about 15 minutes we were hanging out there. I was watching the guys do some serious surgery on this truck, tearing apart the motor trying to fix it in the middle of this field. After my experience with the changing of breaks and also seeing a few other impromptu auto repairs in strange places, I pieced together when something breaks you fix it, and not really worry too much about taking it somewhere.
After the visit, we start to head back once again. After getting back on the road for about 2 or 3 minutes, the dad stops, gets out of the car, and switches spots with the mom, and the mom starts driving for no apparent reason. Alright. Then I start to notice she's driving a bit slower and seems pretty pensive. When we came to a rough area of the road with a lot of potholes, the dad grabbed the wheel a bit a steared around some of the areas. It didnt seem like the mom was too happy about this either, but I couldnt put together any of the bicker. After another minute or so, I looked at the daughter and was able to ask her if she was learning. The daughter laughed a bit and shook her head yes. So, a perfect cap to my confusing day I guess.
When we were finally getting into down, the dad had to correct her on a couple of turns so she wouldnt run into the curb, and when we were parking in front of the house he had her stop so she wouldnt hit the car next to us. He through it in park and finished it himself. The mom was less than pleased and mimed to me him barking in her ear... a lot of the same things that happen when learning to drive back home.
But alas, back to the apartment. We left around 10 in the morning and got back at 7:15... my head thoroughly cooked.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Sunday morning/early afternoon. Looking over some language sctuff but cant really find the motivation to keep working on it. In a little bit im going to go bug my host father to play a game of watap (shatar, aka chess) I played the oldest daughter a few days ago and she wasn't too bad, surprised me really. Wouldn't surprise me if the dad beats my teeth in judged on how much the daughter knows. I havnt had a whole lot of communication with the father yet. Apparently the mother is a kindergarten teacher, so I think patience is instilled in her a little bit. If I can get her to slow down when she talks I can usually figure out what shes talking about, as long as they are reasonably tangible things. I can also understand most question words by now, and the nouns during family communication are usually them, you, me, etc, or household items that I mostly know by now, so my lack of vocab surrounding nouns isnt very important. Usually the verb is something I need to figure out, especially with the different tenses that can really change the sound of them. But, if I can understand 4 out of 5 words in a sentence I can usually put it together, especially if there is a little miming involved. Still mentally draining though. After a half hour or so of really trying to communicate, I practically need to lay down for a few minutes.

Yesturday I went outside to get some exercise on the dilapidated playground equipment still left around the school from the soviet era. A set or two of monkey bars is all thats really left by the school...there are two other places around town that have newer equipment though. But whateva... on the way to the school, a couple of kids were playing some basketball on a court across the block from the school. One of them yelled something and said basketball and if I played, or something along those lines. The kids were probably 12, give er take a year. The one spoke reasonable broken english. Ended up shooting around with them and playing some 2 on 2 and then 3 on 3 for a bit. I had a good foot on any of them there so I had to take it easy, did a lot of passing so it wasnt overkill. They dont play with a take back line here so its kind of a clusterfuck, but works reasonably smooth when you get into it. And they play to 6, not 7 or 11.
Apparantly the one boy that started talking to me was my host fathers little brother. But, brother and sister are kind of loose terms here... I dont know if that means he really is his brother or if thats his cousin or what. Anyways, he knew who I was, asked if Tuul (in the english alphabet, dont have the letters for it in cyrillic) was my mother. He also knew that I played guitar and was learning the morin khuur.
Its weird how things work in a small town like this, especially when families are so big. Everybody knows eachother, and when something different is happening, everybody knows about it. It's hard for me to say exactly how he would know about me personally like that. It could either be somebody that the boy that is giving me lessons on the morin khurr knows, family talked to him, daughter/daughters know him, my language teacher knows them, or even a combination of some sort.
We were told, and kinda warned, about this. People are always observing or looking at whats going on. Shop keepers know a lot of people, people at the markets, at the bars, etc., and people talk. You need to think about what kind of impression you are giving off at all times. Say you go and buy a lot of booze, people are going to know. Buy some kind of strange food all the time, people are going to know. Id say this will especially be the case when I get to whatever cite im going to, givin its not my current town. The place Im staying at the moment is a reasonably bigger town, but still very small against any kind of american standard.


After dinner I went over to a half basketball court around where I live. There were a few people playing there that looked like they were older and had some decent game that I could actually play against. there were 4 people playing 2 on 2, and about 5 other younger kids just kinda sitting around watching. I sat with them and watched the guys play, then when the game was over one guy that knew some english asked if I wanted to play.
Gamed up on some three on three mongolian style. I still dont know for sure if I have to take the ball back or not. Whatever though, the first couple games went alright. Made some shots, bricked off a decent bit of layups as usual, but ya boy plays some solid D so it was all good. By the third game though I couldn't catch my breath at all, I was literally seein stars. I still dont think my lungs have accounted for this air. And the dudes I were playing against noticed it too. They were probably around 18 or 19, maybe 20, and the one dude just kept posting me up and playing me hard as hell. By the time that game was over I was about to die, and they were barely breathing hard.
Was all good though. I had been told that playing hoops with some of the locals might get a little rough, them sizing us Americans up and all. It's a bit of a balancing act... I dont want to come off like a hardass but I dont want to bitch up, either. After the game was over, the one dude that knew English pretty well, Ogii, said we should go drink some beers. I said I couldnt and that my stomach was fucked up, which it kinda is, but its a bit taboo/rude to turn down alcohol here. I told him later this week or this weekend we could drink a few beers if he was around. I dont have a cellphone though, so we took a ride in his car to show me where he lived with one of his other friends.
This was a bit shady, to be honest. If I would have had a wallet on me or anything really expensive other than my keys I would have been a bit more worried. All kinda part of the process though. I'm going to have to meet people and go places I'm not completely familiar with, and also trust my instincts. Anyways, went and checked out this dudes house. Was a pretty big place comparatively, and met his mom briefly. She had a pretty solid "what the fuck" look on her face whenever I walked inside with Ogii.
When we were sittin around shootin the shit for a bit she gave me a huge bowl of tapar, (taragk) which is mongolian yogurt. I still havnt figured out exactly how this stuff is made and how sanitary it is. Whatever the case, I can't not take it, and I can't not eat it after I take it. Tapar isn't bad, its actually really good if you can mix a little bit of sugar into it. This was straight up, and tasted a little bit sour. Again though, no choice. Especially for white food in Mongolia, you don't waste any of it, so I had to plow down this huge bowl of yogurt after playing some intense basketball games.
As of now my the yo' is sittin in my stomach. I'm worried it might not be the case come tomorrow evening, but I guess there's only one way to find out. A few people I know have had some sort of GI issues already. The PCMO (peace corps medical officer) practically guaranteed everybody we would deal with GI issues at some point.
The past few days my belly has been feelin' a bit off, though. Lots of gas, actually. I thought a couple of times it was going to turn serious but it held together. Funny thing is, in Mongolia, farting is not a big deal at all. My host father has ripped a few at dinner time and it doesnt even turn a head or cause a giggle or anything. I took straight advantage today in class. The Americans are looking at me like "what the hell was that" and the teacher just doesn't miss a beat and keeps on teaching. This was clutch, too, because every time I had to fart it was an emergency. Sometimes you find a different cultural norm you can really get used to.


Tired as hell. For some reason last night I could not fall asleep... just couldn't get my mind to slow down. Finally passed out around 230 or so, and naturally today was less than pleasant. The mood swings here are pretty strange for me... almost seems like if I have a good day, the next day im going to be dragging, and visa versa. Even though I'm completely aware of whats happening its still hard to change the fact that it's happening. Forcing myself to get some exercise on the bad days helps, maybe having another cup of coffee in the afternoon will help as well, but it only goes so far.
Yesterday, for instance, playin hoops, makin friends, had a great day in the language classes, and was able to have some decent conversation with my host family members. Today my head's too tired to think, I dont feel like talking in Mongolian, or really doing anything else for that matter. Currently I'm trying to stay awake until it gets dark so I dont wake up in the middle of the night. At least as the process goes on I know that they are just swings and it will level out. Earlier in the month when I was feeling low I would start wondering if it's going to stay that way.
All in all, I'm still under the impression that living is living. Locations don't really matter a whole lot, or even money, as long as you have enough to eat and get what you really need. The only real differences I can personally see is that new places lead to greater variations in moods. Back home in pittsburgh it was pretty straight forward; days wernt every really bad, but they usually wernt anything really fantastic, either. A pretty straight line. In cali, at the beginning of things, I had a lot of the same feelings I do here. By the end of the road there it was starting to settle down and feel like home even there. Days just started melting together. The only variable I've ever noticed to have a severe affect on mood is relationships.
I guess when it boils down I'm still just not ready to settle down in one spot yet, but I kinda wish I was. Being happy is happy, and it seems like if I could be happy staying in one spot for an extended period of time it would be an easier life. One of my biggest worries that remains here for me is being content staying in the same area for 2 years. If I start to get itchy feet in the middle of a -40 degree winter it's going to make things difficult. But I'll jump off that bridge when I get to it.


Been pretty hot here these last few days... thankfully it stays dry and there is usually a pretty nice breeze coming through. Havn't made it outside yet today, but the last few days the sun was pretty strong. My one friend told me he saw the forecast, and after converting to F, it was around 96 er so. The days are so long here in the summer too because of how far north it is. It doesnt really get dark until about 10, and its already starting to get light out around 430 or so. In the winter, apparently it's about the opposite. With how the weather has been lately its hard to imagine how its going to be in a few months time.

Right now out in the kitchen my host mom is boiling up something gnarly that is going to be dinner im sure. This dude showed up earlier, who I believe is my host moms little brother, and he had a plastic bag full of meat/meat parts. What my Eej was boilin up looked like some kind of stuffed organs, cause they were tied off. Didnt smell too fantastic, especially because the house is warm right now because of the weather. Might get a little crazy later... I guess we'll see. Trying to at least let my body taste a lot of different foods around here, no matter how gnarly. I figure in the winter if I get shanghaied somewhere in the middle of nowhere, my body will need to know what nutrients are from what so I can crave the right things. Veggies will be scarce, so probably better I have other ways to get vitamins and minerals.
I havn't really had too much crazy shit to eat yet, though... a lot of mutton, potatoes, noodles/dough, carrots, onions, rice, and some eggs, some beef. and yogurt. We also got a bit of milk here a couple days ago, which I think came from my host mom's mom's place, although I'm not positive. It tastes a lot different from milk in the US, and my stomach doesn't quite treat it as well either. Paid for it the first day when I drank a bunch of it, so Im trying to just drink about a half a cup a day and see if I can adjust to it or not. Giving up milk would be a tough one for me.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Monday here, and back to full days of class. 9-1 of Mongolian in the morning, and then from 230-530 of technical training sctuff with business. My head is fried by the time I get home and it makes it even more difficult to communicate with my family. I did help make dinner tonight, which was xyywyyp (pronounced khuushuur), and was very good. It's fried dough filled with potatoes, carrots, onions, some meat, and some other stuff im a bit unsure of. I think the meat we had tonight was beef... for the last few days I think it was mutton that had been the main meat in the dishes. My host mothers cooking is pretty good. Most of what I've had so far have been soups/poridges, and I've ate a lot more vegitables than I thought I would. During the orientation days the teachers/trainers made it seem like it would be rice and meat. Or just meat, for that matter.
It's no wonder why, either. I just looked out my window a few minutes ago and saw a full sized cow eating some grass in my backyard area. While visiting a greenhouse today during my technical training, which involved visiting a few small NGO's around town, I passed heards of cows, goats, sheep, and horses. All of which are good eatin' here. Have yet to try the horse, but my host mother asked me if I liked it. I told her I had never ate it so I didnt know, but that I eat/like everything. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite as elegant in my Mongolian. But whateva, I feel like it will be on the menu at some point, as I'm sure yak and camel will be if I get out in the boonies a little bit more. And hey, it's all free range organic.

I started bugging my language teacher today about where I could get mopNH xyyp (except the N is backwards, prononced Morin Khuur, with the R rolled) lessons around town, which is something I really, really want to learn. Google either that or horsehead fiddle to get an idea of it and also why I really want to get into it if yer curious. The winters are long and cold here, and outdoor activities will probably be limited. The last few winters here have been especially harsh, and it wouldn't surprise me if it coninuted this winter. Its called a zud in Mongolian, and it's practically a natural disater here. The ground hardens too much, or too much snow, and the livestock cant get food. People lost entire heards, lost everything. I've heard this last winter over 10,000,000 livestock died... which is a lot for a country with around only 3m people. It wouldnt surprise me if my job ended up being something with herders.
Anyways, couple the gnarly -40 degree winters with having no internet and living alone, I'm going to need some hobbies to keep from going insane. I figure my geetar, the Khuur, and maybe a set of cross country skiis will take the edge off. Also hoping to be in a position to build some decent friendships with local people by that time as well so ill have people to hang with. The more I reflect on why I'm here and whats important to me, building relationships with real people is, I think, my main motivation.
I want to live here, I don't want to just be staying here for 2 or 3 years. I dont mean I want to stay here for the rest of my life, I dont know what I want to do, but I want to have it feel like I've moved here. For example, studying abroad... It was always just like a long vacation or something. In the back of my head I knew I was just leaving in four months. I guess I think the best way to do this is to first, not make plans or try to decide what I want to do after, and to also build real relationships with local people. Preferably with herders, people based in agricultural business, etc. I'd like to move away from the business thing a little bit. Not that I dont think building relationships with counterparts in a more... professional? business setting isnt important, which it is, I just don't want to be some educated american in a suit. It would also be rewarding for me to kinda break that American stereotype as well. I want to work with my hands with other people and get my hands dirty, something I always liked while installing carpet.
At the moment, I'm interested in a more simple sort of life, and would like to live it to the fullest for a while. My eventual position will not be something labor based, my education and knowledge surrounding free market economys will undoubtedly be used, but I guess I just hope that it leaves room. In conjunction with my main position, the peace corps also requires me to begin a community based project, which seems to be wide open to possibilities. Even if my postion isn't something im super excited about, it seems there will be other ways for me to mold my experience into something I can meet some more personal goals with.
Alright, enough from me. This took way to long to type up. Eruka keeps busting into my room half naked and slapping keys on my computer. Typing and playing the guitar with her around are a exercises in futility. She almost deleted everything at least once... but alas, if you've seen the picture, Im sure you get why theres nothing i can do.


The weather is strange here. The day will start off and it seems like its going to be really hot, and then a strong wind will start blowing through and it will cool off a good 10 or 15 degrees. The last few days its been really windy, and a lot of times it will look like rain is coming any second. You can see the rain out in the distance is obviously falling, but I think what happens is it evaporates before it hits the ground because its so dry out here. In short, its generally pretty comfortable for the bis.cas. I have to wear to classes/training. At night, a hoodie and jeans does the trick just fine.

Found out today my host mother knows a little bit of guitar. I was pretty shocked when she picked it up and started strumming a bit. No hendrix by any means, but it seemed like she knew where to put her fingers for a couple of chords. From what I could understand, I think she used to play a little bit about 20 years ago. The family was in my room, and she started to play a few single notes that put together a part of a kids song she played and sung for Eruka. I keep trying to get Eruka to strum while i change the finger positions for chords, but she usually just grabs the strings or bangs out one or two and quits. In time I guess.
In addition to the guitar, the mother and the rest of the family also like playing on my iphone. A few different games on there have been a pretty big hit, and I'm glad it can get some use. At the moment, its really just a glorified gameboy and an alarm clock. Not having to worry about people calling is nice, but I do kinda miss the email and most definitley the news from it. I really miss the news. Back in the states that's what I would start off my morning with... couple cups of coffee, read over bloomberg, and hit up a few other sites for current events (i.e. digg and reddit). Here I either put something on on my computer or play the ol' geetar before heading to language class.
After some thinking, learning the language here is the hardest mental thing ive ever had to do. Its exhausting. Some mornings I wake up and get to class and start thinking to myself this is never going to work and I'm never going to pick it up. An hour later I'll be thinking that I can learn this stuff and I'll be convorsational in a few weeks. Starting from nothing makes it even worse. There are sometimes I get stuck and have no idea how to communicate something, and my brain reverts back to how to say something in German. Apparantly the 4 years that I slept through in highschool ended up sticking a little bit.


Half hour before dinner and I'm not sure what I should be doing so I'm going to write a bit. The mongolian way is to not really mind bounderies in houses, e.g. go into rooms without knocking, not really care. But where I'm staying it seems reasonably americanized, at least as far as family norms go... so sometimes i feel weird walking in their room if a few of them are in the living room, which is also their bedroom. In any other house I'd do it, but they dont really do it to me so I feel strange doing it to them.
I found out yesturday that they had previously hosted a peace corps volunteer here. Which makes sense because its been so smooth here. Some of my other friends have had some pretty strange experiences at their homes. I have warm water, a sit down toilet, and some other things like that that a lot of people dont. I'll take what I can get during my host family experience. It will be lot easier to deal with bathing in a plastic washbin, washing clothes by hand, using an outhouse etc when I'm by myself and dont have to deal with awkward situations.

Started my morin khuur lessons yesturday, and go to another one at 7 again. Pretty cool, and the dude that is giving me lessons is sick with it. Although I havnt really heard any other people play, he seems like he knows his way around the thing pretty well. He'll drop some classical shit, then switch it up to something more tradtional and oriental, then hit something with a bit of jump and funk to it. It's a lot different from the ol' geetar though... instead of pressing down on the strings you just kinda push them or touch them to change the notes. I figure its something like how a cello is played, but Ive never seen one played close enough to say for sure. He's trying teach me to play twinkle twinkle little star to start things off. I asked him if he played guitar and he said no, but told me to bring it tonight. So im figuring well spend sometime with me learning the khuur and sometime with me teaching him the geetar. He speaks about as much english as I do mongolian, and maybe a little less at this point. The peace corps is paying for my lessons, which I'm assuming was set up at about 1000 or 1500 torpor (pronounces tugrik, and except the o's arnt o's, they are o's with a line through them... like a theta sign if a theta sign is what I think it is) an hour.
I think tomorrow I'm going to this one guy's shop that makes them and is supposed to be real nice playing them as well. Bring a language teacher with me so I can communicate a bit. The dude custom makes them, but they cost anywhere form 150,000 torpor, to 700,000 + depending on how nice you want them to be. Ill probably shoot for one in the 300,000 range, which will be a very nice instrument. The US dollar is ~1400T right now. Still though, a liter sized bottle of water will cost around 600 torpor, and a reasonably expensive full meal here will can be had for 1400-2000 T. So 200$ - 250$ will buy a very very nice instrument. I'll probably drive my host family crazy playing it... maybe ill be able to rig up some sort of mute on it.

6-18 - the AM

My sleep schedule still isnt completely right. I usually try to drag it out around 730 or 745 depending on how many times i hit the snooze, but I start waking up around 6 or so and kinda lay in this light sleep until I finally get up. During it I have a lot of really vivid dreams, and are usually with me back in America somewhere. It's weird because then every morning I wake up I kinda remember all over again that I'm in Mongolia and am nowhere close to home. Sometimes during the night I will lightly wake up and wonder why my bed feels so weird, and then remember why. It can be difficult to get going knowing that there is so much work left to be done before I wont feel like as much of an outsider here.
It already feels like I've been living in this house for so much longer than a week, and taking my language classes for so much longer than a 5 days. It's encouraging to know I've only been here a few days, considering how much I have learned. It's rewarding in class when I'm making sentances and changing the tenses of verbs and modifying sentences for possesvive forms, etc. after only a few days of classes. It's discouraging when I get brought right back down when I still cant communicate for shit with anybody outside of the classroom.
But alas, off to class!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

First Week or so

The only real noise I can hear right now besides the clucking of keys is the dripping of my water filter. Its strange how quickly you get used to the idea that you must assume that your water is fecaly contaminated. Apparently the soviets thought it was a great idea to put the drainage pipes above the pipes for running water. If it all would have been maintained properly, maybe it wouldnt have been such a big deal. But alas, rust is a killer. The ambient drops do give a nice touch to my new room, anyways.

The room is nice, quite nice. A comfortable single bed, two chairs, a desk, and a small armoire. Included with the drawers is a good sized mirror. From my brief experience in the country, mirrors seem to be an undesired luxury. Either that, or Mongolians just arn’t as vain as Americans. Whatever the case, I was able to look at my body for the first time since I’ve been uprooted. Maybe a little slimmer, but I don’t think I’ve lost more than a pound or two.

My appetite is finally starting to come back. For the first few days, it didnt matter how much I ran, how many push ups I did, or how much or little I had ate that day, I was never hungry. Blame it on the jet lag I guess, which kind of turns into a catch-all for feeling shitty for the few days after you land in a strange place. Constipated? Jet lag. Shitting your brains out? Jet lag/travelers diarea. Tired, anxious, stressed, depressed, irritable? Jet lag.

I never really bought it, though. I passed out in a pharmacudial induced coma on the way from sanfran to Seoul. A xanax, 3 lorazapams, and a single serving bottle of courvoisier to knock them down. 10 of the 12 hours I was out like a light. 4 lorazapams if you count the one I took an hour prior to take off the stem an honest panic attack. I would later be told that the flight attendent cranking her cart off my knee wasnt even enough to wake me up. Good think my friends were there to tell her to stop asking if I was okay and what I wanted to eat. Maybe my coma was a reason I never really felt like I was in another country.

It was dark when I landed in Mongolia, and also a bit rainy if I remember correctly. Whatever the case, the windows were foggy on top of the dark, and the hour bus ride to our dorms was bumpy as hell. I was still fading in and out of sleep, so I just figured it was a poorly paved road. Even when I got out at the dorms it was too dark to see in the distance, and was too tired and exhausted to care. It wasnt until the next morning I walked outside around sunrise and saw that the bus had literally drove through the hills and meadows for a while in an unpaved road and dropped us off at a town that popped up. An audible “holy fuck” ensued.

Rolling hills for the entire distance speckled with grass. Cows wondering whereever there is food, paying no mind to people. The cows are, I think, the funniest part. Sometimes they get out of the feilds and end up in the middle of town, munching on random patches of grass that might pop up. Cheaper than lawnmowers I guess, but its strange to be leaving the market or class and there is just a cow hangin’ out gettin some grub, no big deal. Even stranger is that its not even strange until you stop to think about it. They just kind of fit together, and it was never something I had to get used to. It was what it was from day one.

Didnt have to get used to living in the dorms with three other people in my room, either. Straight back to the beginning of college... strange place, strange people, new food, new classes. The first few days pf class were even just like syllabus days. Same ol’ pointless overviews where we talk about what we are going to do before we do it. Never understood why they don’t just give it to us and let us deal with it. All along, still didn’t feel like I was away from home. Sleep schedule was cocked up, but same as it would have been. I’m so used to sleeping nocturnally that if I go to sleep at 9 I wake up at 230am. My body just thinks it’s a nap. But other than that, still got enough sleep, and all was good.

The third night I barely slept. The mattress in the bunk bed I was sleeping on was practically and almost literally a piece of plywood, save the reasonably thick blanket put on top of it as a padding. I was too lazy to lay out my newly received -15C sleeping bag over it for some added comfort. I paid the price. The next day was miserable. Irritable as hell, and borderline hallucinating by the time it was over. You question everything. Why am I here, what am I doing here, two years is a long ass time, this is never going to feel normal, etc. Also the day I decided to first go out into town my myself and try to get my bearings a bit. Went to the post office, where you can get on one of six computers and pay for the internet, and wrote my first email home.

Something about describing how I was doing and how things were different, combined with being sleep deprived and the realization that the email was going a long, long distance was enough to let it sink in that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Anybody that deals with anxiety knows the warm, panicky, kinda dream like reality that comes on when it gets serious. I thought getting outside and getting some fresh air would make fix it, but all of the previously foreign but now local faces just set it in more.

But that’s the worst it got. No breakdown, no real freaking out. Just an overwhelmed feeling for about 10 minutes. That night I slept like a brick, and the next few days were a breeze. Language classes got much easier, and relationships with other people began to click again. But just when you’re about to get comfortable, the end of the week is coming. Along with it, a whole ‘nother set of anxieties that revolve around moving in with a random host family, to a random building, with random family members.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Something is up with the shower room, or at least the room where I would fill up a big plastic tub and use it to bathe myself. It started yesturday when I got home from my four hours of daily language class. There were a couple of dudes in there chiseling away at the wall by the spicket that wern't family members. People are here again today working on it, and I dont have any idea when it might be fixed or whats wrong with it. All I know is im not going in there to take a shower because I dont ask if its broken or not.

I just got finished looking over a few phrase books for about 2.5 hours writing down different things that might be helpful to communicate. Being able to say I'm full, I'm tired, and maybe be able to peice together a phrase to ask if the shower is broken or not will be helpful, among other things. The cyrillic alphabet makes things a lot more difficult to learn. Lots of throat noises, new sounds, and new letters to learn.

Luckily in my host family everybody is eager to help me learn. At the time, its really the only thing we can do together. I was trying to help them make byy3 yesturday (pronounced like boatz, kinda), which are like dumplings, but the only thing I really did well was get in the way. But thats how it is, and I think they all understand that at the moment as well. I've also only spent three days with them, I'm curious how our relationships will be in a few weeks.

The one I'm already getting attached to is Eruka, who is 2 years old, and the youngest of the three daughters I live with. Her cheeks are 90 percent of her face, and are usually about as red as a tomato. The absolute cutest thing I have ever seen. She is just starting to learn mongolian as well, so knows about as much as I do. Which is good, because when shes in the room we can just look at eachother and not have to say anything without it being awkward. Maybe she will throw a ball at me and play some half assed catch, or will repeatedly say "mai" and hand me different things which she expects me to give back in a couple of seconds. She is very friendly to me and not scared at all, which is nice. Pretty curious I guess, but I dont think anymore curious than she would be if a random Mongolian dude moved into her house. Yesturday the mom asked me to put on her shoes. I grabed them, and she knew what was happening so she came up to me. I sat down, she sat on my lap, and then I put her shoes on and finished them off with a double knot. I wish I was a better writer and could explain why that was so touching, or more precisely how completely cute she is.

The oldest daughter, who is 15, knows a small amount of english. Still, she doesn't know much more english than I do Mongolian, but it can still help sometimes. If there is something reasonably important to say, she can at least look something up in a Mongolian dictionary with a translation and get the point across. The first night I was here she taught me a card game with her other sister, and also taught me a game played with the ankle bones of chickens, I beleive. Although I forget what its called in Mongolian, its a game played kinda like the american version of marbles.


Writing this here at the post office before I post everything. Even since yesturday my language has come a long ways. During the week, 4 hours is spent in class everyday on the language alone, technical work related to my business postion is during the afternoons. No, I dont know what im doing yet and wont until the end of the summer. But I digress. Its sunday today, and yesturday I spent about 5 or so hours on language, and today Ive already spent about 2 and its only 1230. Without a doubt the hardest part about being here is not knowing the language... the quicker I get some good bearings with it, the more downhill the rest of my experience will be.
But whateva, about all from me for a little while. Check out some of the pictures I posted on facebook if yer curious, and leave comments. Best wishes.