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.


  1. I miss you. Go easy on mixing barbituates and alcohol. Love you. Proud of you. XO

  2. Hey buddy, I think that this blog is a real good idea. At least for me writing can be very cathartic, might help ease you into your new situation. Anyway I feel horrible I didn't get to say bye before you left so I just wanted to apologize again in case you didn't get my facebook message. So keep postin', I'm sure I will be an avid follower. Later on man...


  3. Jon, this blog is lovely. Thank you for sharing. Don't forget to always find beauty.