Monday, March 21, 2011

Yea, so I havn’t done this in a while. After a little bit of poking from the old man over the phone, guess it’s time to jot some crap down. As time goes on, most people in the PC stop blogging because lives become pretty uneventful or at least not much different than life was before. Just because you live in a developing country doesn’t mean that every day is going to be this crazy adventure. After a while, life is just life again, and blogging kinda just seems a bit narcissistic. I think I had mentioned that in one of the first few entries I did, that I thought location doesn’t really make that much of a difference in how happy you are/quality of life. I guess I still feel the same way, even after a winter with -40 degree temperatures with only about 8 hours of daylight. Living is still living, you get the good ones and you get the bad ones. Ya feel me?!

But yea, about to hit my 10th month in country, which is absolutely absurd. Looking back, time has absolutely flown by. The first three months, from what I remember, sucked ass and went slow. I didn’t much care for those ones, having to live with a family that you didn’t know and sit through trainings instead of having a job. After getting moved in and getting my independence back, it’s really been smooth sailing here. I’m still really trying to learn this language, but I’m still not anywhere close to being fluent. The pronunciation is so fucking difficult, and the grammar screws with your head just as bad. In my opinion the pronunciation part is undoubtedly the harder part though. That being said, I am at the point that if I need to communicate anything I can do it, although my accent might be a bit harsh and I might have to say it a couple of times for people to really understand me, and of course have time to think before I speak. Especially if I can write first, my shit is nice. But, listening is still really difficult for me, and my plan is to really try and concentrate on improving my listening skills in the next few months. The personal goal I have for myself is to have functionally learned this language by the end of summer. If that will come to fruition or not is a different story, as all of my language goals have taken much longer than planned. (at the end of this post I’m putting an example of why Mongolian is such a mind fuck, if yer curious)

So, other than putting an awful lot of time into the language and it leaving me feeling like an idiot, I’ve also been going to work 5 days out of the week. There, I don’t really do a whole lot of exciting things. Sometimes I will give trainings about random topics that co-workers need to learn more about (e.g. email marketing, proper survey techniques) to other collaborative things like developing a new business plan for our company. As of right now, our business gets funding through the USDA, but funding is up for our particular project in the middle of the summer, so from there, we need to be self-sustainable or the doors will shut. So, there was quite a bit of work that was done with that. But after it was finished, I have not really been busy. The people I work with are pretty darn competent so there isn’t a whole lot I feel I can add to the whole back office scene of things, especially because there have been a few volunteers in my same business before me. Teaching English in the office goes on and off depending how busy people are. I guess in a nutshell, my actual assigned position isn’t very exciting, although I really do like all the people I work with. They are all genuine, fun, funny, good people.

Outside of work, I recently sent an application for a grant I’m waiting to hear about that deals with bringing some agricultural equipment (more or less an aeration/tilling machine) up here that will be used to test out a number of different ideas. Really briefly, if all goes as planned, I’ll be working with a dude here to set up pilot alfalfa growing programs in some areas that could be really beneficial to herd animals and dairy farmers. Could also help with getting other deep rooted plants a better chance to thrive here and also help with reducing excess runoff from rains. All stems from issues with the soil here being really hard and difficult, not to mention the harsh weather conditions. ( …reading this it sounds dull as all hell, but I’d be really happy getting into some farming/agricultural hands on pilot work.)

Other than that, I’m starting the groundwork with a co-worker of mine about how to get a cooperative together of disabled people that would want to start a sewing business or a carpentry business or something along those lines. If we could get some people together, which I think we will be able to, I should be able to write a grant or get money to help get the proper trainings and equipment and a building, or at least really cheap loans to help facilitate it.

So, those are the two projects at the moment that I am excited about and really hope that something can come of. This week I plan to stop by a few different organizations in town and introduce myself and tell them what I’m doing here and trying to figure out what kind of projects they are working on and if they can use me in any way or use me to write grants for projects, etc… Starting to get to the point where I’ll be comfortable doing this with the language skills that I have, but it will take patience on the part of the other side. One way or the other, it’s for these reasons I have been trying to learn this tongue. If I don’t I will more or less be stuck behind a desk for the time that I am here and will not have a huge degree of professional independence. Well, I will, as most all PCV’s do, it’s just that I wouldn’t have a whole lot I could do with it.

Also have English/Mongolian lessons with some university students two or three times a week, depending on who doesn’t cancel on me. Those are a joint effort of mine to 1) practice mongolian 2)teach English to motivated students, and 3)to try to meet friends.

Although I am not lonely, per-se, I definitely need to get a crew together that will go out and party with me a little bit. Most friends that I have here aren’t much into having a few beers and dancing like an asshole at a night club to loud house music. Unfortunately for me, that is a hobby I have grown quite fond of over the past few months. It’s just, ah… such a release. But my attempts to find some bros have been a bit hit and miss. Every now and then I can catch a good hang, but I could really go for a good Mongolian bromance. If I can get a little bit of a crew together, things could be a lot more fun and eventful around town. And I mean, let’s be honest here, if I want to go out with some girls I’ve met I can’t just be rolling solo here. I need a home base.

Need. Bros.

So yea, if you’re a Mongolian guy reading this, my names jon, I like long cold walks on the gobi sands, staying out late and dancing… send me an email or give me a call. Can teach English on request.

Alright, all I can drudge up for now. Maybe ill do this again in a week or maybe I’ll catch yinz guys in another 6 months. If anybody is curious about anything in particular let me know and I’ll write about it. Peeeeeeace!

An example (er two) of why this language is difficult, and why it will make you feel like an idiot:

English: I argue I don’t know how to take this cup

If this was in Mongolian, you would have to add endings to the words to denote which ones are the direct objects, among numerous other things. For example:

Mongolian: I argued I don’t know-aar how to take-iig that cup-iig

Because you are taking that cup, but you don’t know how to take it. And I argued through the idea that I didn’t know…, hence the aar ending. It’s also important that it is THAT cup, and just some other cup…

Whatever, it just builds up when you start getting into more complex conversation/story… its different from English because I kinda have to think ahead to what I’m going to say to figure out which are direct objects. Also, if you have complex sentences, and the subjects are different, you have to change the pronoun to a different case.

English: If I write this sentence, you can understand it

Mongolian: If me-iig write-(bol) this sentence-(iig), you can understand it-(iig)

(But the 'iigs' are kinda dependent on the situation and how well defined that particular sentence is)

(also similar things happen in sentences like: When I was in America, you lived in Pittsburgh)

The point is, I have to think to change that first “I” to the direct object version of “me” because you are the subject in the second part. It’s not that it’s super complicated and impossible to learn/figure out, it’s just that English speakers don’t need to think ahead to what the subject of the second part of the sentence is. It doesn’t sound important either, but it is, because if you don’t change it, it implies that… eh, fuck it, it is important though, and just a couple examples of why I sometimes want to throw my head through a wall.

I think, of course, similar things happen to Mongolians learning English. So, like I have to think ahead of what the subject in the second half of the sentence is, Mongolians have to think about if the sentence is conditional or not. In English, we must say “if” at the beginning of the conditional, but in Mongolian, just putting a (bol) ending at the end of the first sentence/verb is adequate.