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.