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.

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