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.