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 - ...in 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!