Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Fuck, I’m a bit typed out after drilling out the rest of that last entry. I started that guy a week ago but ran out of will to finish it. Right now I’m waiting for my challah bread to rise. Looking at the pattern of the last few times I’ve scrawled, looks like something about baking gets me all hot n’ bothered and in the mood to write.
Uhm, anyways, I’ve been crazy busy since getting to my new pad. It’s not like work is super intense or anything like that, it’s just by the time I get home, cook food, and get settled down I don’t have time to do much else. And because of previously described trip, a trade show the previous weekend, the trip to Ulan Bator the week before that, setting up my apartment the week before that, moving here the week before that, moving out of my host families place the weekend before that, etc, etc etc… I literally have not had more than 1 day off sequentially since moving here. I know, I can here the worlds smallest violin playing just for me, but new town, new people, new job, new language, getting sick… it’s fucking exhausting. This past weekend I finally grabbed two days to chill out, and it was awesome.
Today was the first day in a while I havn’t felt massively unmotivated. Having motivation in my position is a must, as I don’t really have anything to “do” at the moment (although I was told today that tomorrow morning I’m giving a 40 minute presentation (really 20 though cause ill have a translator) on how to start a strong business for 20 clients. ‘the fuck?). Its more just me going around to my counterparts and trying to figure out what they are doing or teaching English. Not that I don’t do this when I don’t feel motivated, it’s just that on those days, I’m motivated to do things because I don’t want to look like a complete waste of space all day just eating up company resources. Days where I have internal motivation move a lot quicker and are a lot more enjoyable, probably both for me and for my co-workers that actually have to deal with my bullshit.
Blah blah blah, alright. Don't have much more to say at the moment. Sorry to those that tell me to write and I don’t for weeks at a time. If I wrote when I wasn’t in the mood to I would sound fucking miserable, my writing would be even more awkward, and reading this would be like watching old people have sex. Or wait, is it just, “… be like old people having sex?” I’d say “watching” fits all right, I think it’s slow and painful no matter who’s point of view.

Looking at my last entry, I’m surprised that it was already two weeks ago. I know I’m going to blink and these two years are going to be over. It’s not really that the individual days or weeks go extremely fast, but when I look back at the almost 4 months I’ve been here, it doesn’t seem like it’s been nearly that long. Annnyways…
Trying to get some details down about this last weekend before I forget them all, or at least write down the ones I still remember after drinking enough vodka to kill a small horse. Back whenever I went to UB (Ulan Bator, the capital) with my company, they won an award for best branch of the year. Cool, but its not like I had anything to do with it since I had only been there for a week. But, one of the perks of the deal is we took an overnight trip to this scenic camp type of area about an hour and a half north of town. I knew we were going to be sleeping in a ger(felt tent) but I didn’t know how many or exactly what we were going to be doing.
Got up there around 8 or so Friday night, and started things off with a beer and cracking a bottle of vodka, which is pretty much standard play whenever groups of people get together here in a relaxed setting like that. At this point, there are about 11 er 12 of us in this tent because a few other people ended up coming as well. Around this time I also gathered that only had one ger where we would all be sleeping.--- (9-28 now, but finishing this entry off)--- Which was cool, because whatever, but it was so drastically different than America. How often would you end up sleeping with in the same room with 11 of your counterparts, managers, and bosses? I wasn’t sure how the end game was going to end up, because there were about 6 small beds laid around the periphery of the ger. I didn’t know if we were going to be doubling up in the bed or if a few of us were going to be hitting the floor. I was just hoping it wouldn’t be too awkward later on in the night.
The booze came on to me pretty quick because I had been sick all week with stomach issues and wasn’t holding in a whole lot of food. I was on the better end of things by then but was still using pepto and some other industrial strength medicines to keep my belly in check. Around the time I thought the night was dying down, 2 of my counterpart’s husbands showed up strapped with plenty more vodka. Ended up drinking a few more bottles of vodka and drinking more beers before the booze was gone.
In my experiences so far, no night of drinking with Mongolian women is ever complete without a good round of a dance party. No difference out in the middle of a ger camp either. We had no radio, but one of the guys that showed up later had a car, and that got turned up and we had a dance circle outside at 2 in the morning in 30 degree weather. Dancing circles here are about as awkward as it gets. People don’t really dance with each other here… you just stand around in a circle and dance with yourself while looking at other people. Extremely weird at first, but aftertime you kinda get used to it.
So yea, shortly after that my ass passed out on the floor in my sleeping bag with my shirt off. Was glad I didn’t have to double up in a tiny ass bed with a counterpart. Would have made for a strange night and even stranger morning. The morning was weird as it was anyway because by the time I woke up out of my drunken stupor most people were already up and walking around. Got my shit together a little bit and threw on my shirt, and sat up on one of the beds and waited for something to happen. Had no idea what we were going to be doing for the rest of the day other than having a khor khug(that sheep/goat cooked in a barrel thing). But, for hangovers, the choice breakfast here is a bucket of romin noodles. Packed with us on the trip was a boxfull of the stuff, so we all ate our romin without much talking. After breakfast, at about 9 o’clock, a bottle of vodka gets cracked and beers start to get passed around. Was not looking forward to this part as my belly was still three sorts of fucked up from being hung over and still a bit sick. I took the shot(s), but at first resisted the beer. I tried to explain that I usually don’t drink in the mornings, which was met with various degrees of disgust. A man dropped the Mongolian version of “when in Rome do as the Romans do,” which here is “if you drink the water, follow the customs.” Which I then translated to, “you mean if you drink the water, drink the beer?” Which got some laughs. Soon after, I was successfully peer pressured into drinking it.
The khor khug wasn’t a full animal this time, but just a few large cuts of it. The previous day, the morning before we left, somebody from my work stopped by the market and got some cuts of meat, which were stored in our conference room all day (no fridge) and then laid out in the ger for the night and morning before it was cooked. These are the kinds of things that my stomach and body need adjusted to… Americans just arnt built to handle it here right out of the box. Another for instance… going to the meat market here, there are just butchers in a room, and you pick which meat you want (goat, camel, sheep, cow, horse, etc… although I havnt seen camel yet. I also havnt looked that hard for it. Horse is surprisingly good) The meat isnt in a fridge or anything like that, and the butcher is usually kind enough to shoo away the flies before you pick the cut you want. I usually get the meat ground on the spot for ease of cooking later. The time before last that I bought, I had to pick a fly out of the meat before throwing it in the pan. It’s not the things you see that you worry about, though.
But I digress. Khor khug is fucking delicious. I could eat it everyday. Usually real tender and spiced really well, cooked with potatoes and carrots. I have also taken to getting a hold of the bigger bones after its all over, cracking them open, and eating the marrow. Sometimes you gotta dig it out with a small stick, though. This particular day I was the only one doing it, and I think I pulled some respect from the other Mongolian men. *puffs out skinny chest with pride*
Eating khor khug is also kinda funny because of how gruesome it is. Mongolian women are very rarely out in public without being well dressed and put together, and after waking up in a tent it’s no different. Quick touch ups of make up, some brushing of the hair and other quick primping, and it’s right back to status quo. Seeing a well dressed woman grabbing a sheep bone and going to fucking town is kind of strange at first. I hope all you feminists don’t get your panties in a bunch over all that. (and yes, I grossly overestimate the amount of people that read my blog. Blow me)
Ah, yet again, I digress. After grubbin down and getting’ my marrow on, time for another round of vodka and beer drinkin’ It’s ceremonial to drink after eating khor khug. Ive been told the vodka helps to keep your stomach from getting sick, which I’m a little skeptical about, but it is an excuse non-the-less. We all drank another 2 or 3 bottles of vodka… I forget which it was. Those of us still drinking by the end of things were sitting outside the tent passing around a cup that we take shots of. Behind us, there was a half basketball court with some teenagers playing hoops. After the last bottle was gone, one of the guys I was drinking with asked if I wanted to play some hoops. “Yes.” Nothing like some drunken hoops on a Saturday morning/early afternoon.
Hoops was a blast playing with a bunch of random people and just being tall as fuck. The one time I blocked a kids shot from behind my team mate that was guarding him. We all just kind of laughed. But yea, straight domination on the court. We did lose one game though… people can shoot here. After the game, we were all packing up to leave, but about 10-15 teenagers/people had kinda started to watch us play and a few wanted a picture with me before I bailed. So, somewhere around the Russian border region there are a few pictures of the tall, sweaty ass American after some intense drunken b-ball games.
On the way home, we pulled over because a few friends of my workers were meeting us. And yes, they brought vodka. By now, most people were either rather adamant about not drinking, or when given a shot they didn’t drink the whole thing, or just touched their lips to it and gave the cup back to the person pouring it(both generally accepted to get out of drinking, although I’ve seen it not work before). Before that bottle was gone, I ended up drinking another 4 or so shots in a period no longer than 15 minutes. Fucking hammered, but that pretty much summed up the rest of that trip. The car ride back was uneventful because I was past out drunk.
Other noteworthy things for the trip:
I saw a pregnant lady be awoken from sleep to take a shot of vodka
a new mother milk herself into a cup and then an unrelated grown man drink said cup (not saying it would have been normal to me if he was related… just sayin.)
and a blacked out, past out man be awoken to take a shot of vodka

(all three of which are fine and dandy here, yet you do give a double take sometimes… especially the milk thing)

Monday, September 6, 2010


Alright, I’m a little bit sour at the moment because I just burnt my last batch of home made donuts, but I think I’m going to be okay. But, the from scratch ravioli I made myself for dinner were awesome, so suck it. Anyway, the melancholy I feel because of my botched pastries is a bit overlooked by the fact that I’m typing this on my new computer and no longer have to deal with the painfully slow and messy process of writing in a notebook. I don’t know how you bona fide writers do it. Punching keys is much more relaxing for me, and not to mention efficient. But I guess that’s why I’m here doing business work.
Although, I still have yet to do a whole lot of it. This past week was spent mainly in the capital where my business had their annual “all staff conference,” where everybody from all the different branches come into UB to talk about stuff. Included in this stuff was an opening ceremony sort of thing where each branch had to do a different introduction/skit sort of thing. So, when we were meeting at my branch and trying to figure out what we were doing, some people had the idea of doing a dance. “Jon, do you know any dances?” And instead of keeping my mouth shut, I told them I did, and that it was a dance to Thriller. They loved this idea, and I then showed them the choreographed dance that I did to it while I was studying abroad in Australia. Fortunately, they only wanted to do the first half of it, and didn’t want to do the other dance that I showed them, which was to Justin Timerlake’s Bringing Sexy Back.
Instead, they wanted to make a dance to the Shakira World Cup Song, Waka Waka, which I still think is the most annoying song I’ve ever heard, and probably more embarrassing than Sexy Back. First, I taught the branch the rendition of thriller, and then, after taking a few moves from the video and making up a few moves of my own, worked though the Shakira song. All this with yours truly in the lead position of a V shape. Like the 6’3 American hippie needs any more attention.
After choking on stage with the ol’ morin khuur, dancing this in front of 70 people made me a bit nervous but really not that bad. It all went smoothly, including the end when I finished up with the worm. The thing I was most worried about was my arm giving out when I was dropping to the floor and then eating shit in front of everybody. Anyways, a video of this I have, and will be posted shortly, even though I have a queer grin on my face the whole time. I resorted to a fake smile instead of the deep-in-thought-look I usually have on my face while dancing… lesser of two evils.
The rest of the time spent in UB was rather uneventful, but I did get drunk that night with everybody else and had a dance party. The night got pretty fuzzy by the end of things but I think I made it out without making too big an ass out of myself, but I was a dancing fool. I also had a chance to roam the city a bit after all my other co-workers went home and I stayed an extra day. Was able to make it to the big black market, where I grabbed a nice leather bag for 20 bucks and a nice northface jacket that is heavy enough to maybe get me to November for 35 bucks. People have told me they are rip offs, but I’m not sure I believe it. If they are, they are damn nice ones. All the tags, all the logos… even the plastic bag it was in had the NorthFace logo on it. I think that maybe they bang these things out in China somewhere, and if they can sell them here for more than they cost to make, might as well, even if it is 100 bucks cheaper than in the US. Everything is crazy cheap here in the markets. Just today in my city I got around to finding a tailor who is hand making me a pair of dress pants for 20,000T, or about 15-16 bucks.
Had the time to roam around and figure it out because I finally got around to putting my foot down at work about hours. Working 9-1 on Monday and Wednesday, and 9-6 the other days, leaving me at 32 hrs/week not including lunch hours. I had talked to another volunteer that works at an orphanage here with kids that are between 8-16 er so, and I’m going to start going there on my newly free Wednesday afternoons with my geetar. I figure I’ll kick it there and try to see what kind of trouble I can get myself into. They also have a small basketball court so I might just end up ballin’ out on some kids. I’m mad tall, no way they can hold me down… I’ll throw bows if I have to. And, tonight, some other volunteers put together a Monglish Club meeting at a restaurant. During which, Mongolians and Americans are supposed to speak both languages. But, as bad as most of ours Mongolian is, the eight of us only spoke English. However, I did find out that they are interested in having a regular English class, and was able to set one up for every Monday. Apparently I’ll actually be starting up the club again and taking over the spot from a previous volunteer that used to run it until he left a few months ago. The people that were there already spoke English very well, but just want more practice. A lot of people here want to take the TOEFL exams, which as far as I understand, is an English exam that you need to help get scholarships and study abroad in English speaking countries.
I was also able to talk somebody that has the scoop on a good Mongolian teacher that I can use for some tutoring to help develop my language a bit more. I’ve come to discover that I’m a bit too lazy to pick up the book and teach myself. Having a few hours planned out each week might just be enough to force me into it.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I guess I'll take some time and put some thoughts down after the blur that was my first week in my new city has now passed.
Working in a office is about how I remember it being: boring as shit and looking for ways to waste time without it looking too obvious. But, I'm blaming a lot of that on this week as it is the “introductory” week, and I don't really know exactly what I'm going to be doing yet. I have been told numerous times that this was going to happen and to expect it, so I'm not too worried about it. Before I can really dig into things I'm going to have to take time and get to know the people I work with to be able to figure out what kind of things people need help with.
I also remembered after this week that I still don't particularly care to work these rest of my time in an office, even if it is for the greater good. Fortunately at PC, it's supposed to be around 30 work hours in the office. That way, there is still room for community initiatives and actually being a community member rather than just the white dude you see walking around in work clothes sometimes. But, the director to my office was out this week, but I do plan to get a schedule set up before things get too settled in.
For the time being though, I've been working closer to 9-6 and sometimes later. By the time I've gotten off work, got home, made some food, done laundry, cleaned the house, and then pull my head out of my ass, there's not much time for me to do anything else. It will be a lot nicer once my apartment is set up as well and I don't need to be putting it together after work as well.
Anyways, not sure yet what kind of things I want to get into in the community, but I think maybe I'll figure it out when I get a chance to experience it a bit more. And I guess to do that I'm going to need to keep working on my Mongolian, which I've fallen off with a bit these last few weeks. However, my pronunciation is starting to get to where people can actually understand me. Haggling at the market is a rewarding experience not because of the saved money but because of the satisfaction of having another person actually understand me.

The week before I moved to my city was a massive clusterfuck of moving out of the town where PST was, to the capital for 3 days for the signing in ceremony and other training, and then finally heading to my new home. And also the talent show was while I was in the capital, which might have been the biggest learning experience I've had so far.
The song I played on the morin khuur was a very difficult song, and a lot harder than what I should have tried to learn in two months. The only real help I got from teachers before hand was them telling me to pick a different song. But alas, as stubborn as I am, I refused. So, for the weeks leading up to the show, I was literally practicing between 2-3 hours a day.
By the week of the show, I was able to play it fine by myself, but in front of other people I would get nervous and choke up, sometimes forgetting the song, cracking notes, or usually both. After some more practice, I was comfortable in front of small groups of people..
The day of the show there were about 250 people in the auditorium, including all of the new PCV's supervisors from their new work/school, PC staff, and other volunteers and friends from different years. I was exhausted from the week, and nervous as all hell. When they finally called my name to go on, I dragged the chair to the center stage, sat down, got set up, and then took some deep breathes to try and steady my violently shaking hand. It didn't work.
I choked through the first half of the song, missing notes, forgetting parts, and pushing through it. Anything but stopping and leaving the stage. I dont remember a whole lot of it, I just remember it as being a dream like haze, almost like I was watching myself play rather than just playing myself. My hand was shaking so bad that my fingers would sometimes miss the strings or hit the wrong parts, and on some of the more technical parts of the song a spot just a half fingertip's width will play in a completely different note or cause it to crack. I kinda pulled it together by the end, but I definitely choked in front of an auditorium full of people.
And it wasn't that bad, I just wish I had another chance to do it, which I'm not sure I'll get. But, if I can live through doing something like that, other stupid shit where I might make an ass out of myself are going to be a lot easier now. With as many awkward things that I'm going to do and say, then probably crash and burn after, they probably wont ever compare to that. Also, I kind of realized afterwords how stupid it is to get that anxious and nervous. There's no need for it, it doesn't do any good. I'm a bit upset I let it effect me so severely, and I think I'll remember that in the future. Anyways, as the old man always says, if you're going to make an ass out of yourself, you might as well do it in public.

More about the place where I'm at now... It's a big small city, although in Mongolia its either the 2nd or 3rd largest after the capital. Its big enough to get anything I need/want food wise, except some different spices and things for cooking western food, which is getting shipped from the good ol' USA. The city is apparently where the most beautiful women in Mongolia come from, and I would have to say I whole hardheartedly agree, even though I've only been a few other places. Even more, I work in an office with 7 other women, but there is another dude that just started working here.
Completely different workplace dynamic as all that goes. In Mongolia, there really isn't that whole “sexual harassment” thing. For example, while I was getting introduced to different girls in the office, the one lady was pointing out who was single, who wasn't. A joke, but still much different. And also, from what I've been told during training, things like holiday parties and other work events where booze is involved can sometimes lead to some rather “sexually themed” games.
The only thing I can say though, is that in Mongolia dating is also a lot different. If you're out with somebody in public, dating, and it goes on for more than a few months, you are practically married. What a mess that would all turn into. But, saying as how I'm in a bigger city and not in a small village somewhere, it might be a bit more like it is in American, but I kind of doubt it.
Then again, I am living in pretty modern conditions. It's a pretty nice place, and definitely nicer than anywhere I've lived alone before. It's a two bedroom apartment with a kitchen and full bathroom, Hot water, a refrigerator, and a stove. A bit under furnished, and I still have to hand wash my clothes, but I'm definitely more part of the “posh corps” here, as compared to the folks living out in tents in the middle of nowhere with few amenities. Us business folk usually get put into more populated areas and end up with better living conditions. Still havn't made up my mind about how I really feel about living in such a nice place. But, I do enjoy the hot water. Being able to quickly rinse off before bed is awfully nice.