Saturday, December 18, 2010

Happy Shin Jeel

Though not the exact spelling, phonetically Shin Jeel is the Mongolian term for Happy New Year. Though it is the coming of the new year that is celebrated, Mongolia is covered with Christmas decorations... trees, wreaths, etc, everywhere.
Here from what my students tell me, families usually put up their new year tree on the 25th of December, then New Year is when they really get dressed up, give gifts and celebrate.
So all places have major blow out parties, spending way too much money and wear glitzy clothes. According to my counterpart, Altai, our teacher party will be the 29th and the children will put on a performance on the 24th. I intend to get gussied up wearing my deel (skirt and jacket) I had made for my Peace Corps swearing in.
I bought a few decorations for my apartment: a tiny tree at the market with little lights and am making tiny snowflakes and tinsel to decorate it. That photo will come later along with the dinner and celebration with my site mates. Sadly Caitlin the site mate who loves Christmas the most, went home (early terminated) just recently. However, I did inherit her little toaster oven and massive cookie baking supplies so there will lots of Christmas cookies made by me for others. Hopefully, I can bake some for the dormitory students! Though the holidays will not be the same as being home and with my own children and family, circumstances change and so must I.
Wishing everyone a Happy Shin Jeel!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mongolia is growing on me...

Most days I find it hard to believe that I have now been in this lovely central Asian country for six months. The whole place is growing on me as I adjust to the differences, in the pace of life here (much slower), the attitudes (very easy going), the lack of amenities that we Westerners are so spoiled by (but nothing very drastic), the people, the music, the pride in their heritage and their nation. Mongolia with it's harsh weather balanced out by the gorgeous blue sky has become home to me in this short time.

I enjoy the slower more relaxed pace, and have realized that though plumbing is awesome and I really appreciate it, I can live without a shower or a bathtub, learning to bathe in a tumpen. I am fortunate to have the stove that I have with one working burner, a second that works on low heat and an oven that mostly works (but you can't use the burners at the same time and the oven temp is hard to regulate). I have not driven a car since leaving the USA, and thought that would be tough, but it's not. In fact, I rarely ride anywhere, except for the bus trips to the city and back and the occasional taxi ride there. These are some of the minor adjustments I've made here and after awhile these adjustments become a normal part of everyday life.

The saying "time flies when you're having fun" is true. So is time flies when you are busy being confused, befuddled, misunderstood, frustrated and sometimes exhausted trying to communicate.

My Mongolian language skills, or should I should lack thereof, are just that. . . Though I have been trying, studying and attending weekly tutoring sessions, my ear for this language (or perhaps any language foreign to me) is just not so good.

Perhaps it is partly my age, the fact that our hearing (as well as sight, etc) starts to slowly deteriorate after age 30..; or, that I've never learned another language besides my native English (which is seriously weird after being here 6 months and talking slowly and in simple language); maybe because folks here are so anxious and interested in learning to speak English....maybe my brain just doesn't have the aptitude for language.

Whatever the causes, issues, the simple fact remains that I still can communicate with others, in spite of language barriers! Smiles, gestures, and dictionaries are oh so helpful here. I am learning slowly, but surely, and just like the other adjustments that I've made here, this too shall come in it's own time.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mongolia or NE Ohio? Weird weather similarities...

Though I still miss leaves and forests, creeks and grass, there are many similarities here to NE Ohio weather wise....
Now that it's November, my steam heat has been on for 6 weeks and I have winterized my windows , there are days that I'd like to actually open a window or two! Just like back home, one day it's unseasonably warm, then the next day it's freezing cold! My heat is steam, with the old fashioned radiators and it's very, very toasty! There are many buildings heated by the same boiler and you can see the little building with the boiler and the black smoke rising from the stack. There are many of these stacks in our town and consquently a bit of air pollution hanging about in the cold weather.
As they say in Mongolian, "oh yahnna" , which roughly translated means oh my. So even when it's really cold outside I'm sitting in my apartment wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Yes, I shudder to think of all the years of cold interiors when I insisted on turning down the thermostat (with pricey gas heat), telling the kids and myself to just wear more clothes!
Now I can relate to what they wanted and rather enjoy the excessive warmth. However, I feel a little guilty with the excessive warmth. On the other hand, thank goodness I don't have to build fires daily or even many times during the day or night like my unfortunate counterparts living in gers.... (I was very fortnuate to enjoy the ger living experience during the summer and made very few fires...good thing, because fire building is not my forte'.
So I go from the warmth cozy comfort of my apartment, and have to hurridly layer up to go outside. Even wearing a long sleeve T and a light sweater inside make me sweat...Thus far, there have only been a couple days when I actually wore long underwear, though many days I wear the fleece sock/boot liners with my socks and boots.
It's still not cold enough for me to wear wool sweaters, long johns and a scarf over my face, but I'm sure the day will come soon enough.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

just call me baagst.....

a few of the advanced english class students at the Arvikheer museĆ£m. we practice speaking skills,and pronunciation top 2 and left

ecology club members have many awesome projcets above below and left

ecology club members top and left...

knitting club at the dorm!

english class at the dorm

Just call me baacsht ..which roughly translates to teacher in Mongolian. Though a social worker by education, I have found that I am mostly teaching English here, and I love it! However, I really need to brush up on my language skills. I cannot diagram a sentence to save my life, in fact I don't think I spelled it right either!
I currently teach two English classes to the dorm students (a few of them shown above) and they are wonderful, bright, eager, loving, sweet and sometimes mischevious! Mostly they just need more love and attention, which I am doing my best to give them. I have little teaching experience so am learning and flying by the seat of my pants! Some training this summer has at least helped me attempt to plan class time and what we will cover. There are over 60 students who attend the two classes! Sometimes I have 15, other times 30 with varying skill levels so it is challenging. I resort to playing games (hopefully they are educational), toss a spiderman ball to a student, try to pronounce their name (they made name cards with their names written in English) then ask them a question. The hour passes quickly and at least they are having some fun (me too)! One of their favorite activities is writing on the board so we do that every class, as well as using dice to practice counting and playing games in teams...
I have an amazing counterpart/dorm teacher, Octay, and we have found that we are of one mind when it comes to the dorm students and what they need!
Witness Octay teaching kids to knit! We have our own little stitch and bitch, Mongolian style going on! It was her idea and I happily joined in, even though it's on Saturday afternoon ...We started out with about 7 girls and within 2 hours had 20 kids there! Some already knew how to knit and others (including a few boys) were eager to learn! I brought chopsticks for those without needles and bought the locally available cheap yarn for the kids to practice with. They are so proud of their accomplishments and it makes my heart full!
The advanced English class is one that I mostly just practice speaking skills with and assist them with pronunciation. One of the interesting words we discussed was lion. They always say it like "leon". I told them that is a boys name, and if they want to sound like a native speaker....lion it is. Always a lively discussion in that group!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Trick or Treat, a love letter to Pete

Though Halloween is a little known event here in Mongolia, it's always been very special to me. That's because my first born made his entrance into the world on Halloween morning in 1982 at 7:50 a.m.

Weighing in at 8 lb. 6 oz., and a whopping 21.5 inches long, Peter Alan Hunt appeared via C-section following many hours of labor and pushing to no avail. Back in those days, and in Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro, NC no less,(said with a delightful southern drawl) not too many innovative techniques were offered to women in the maternity ward, especially first time moms.

As comedian Stephen Wright says, in his hilarious deadpan delivery... Pete, like all children born by c-section... "came in through the window"......

I am not one for regrets, but I will say that the children I now have the pleasure of working with (who live in the dormitory and attend school here in the aimag center(equivlant of the county seat), have the benefit of my wisdom, maturity, patience and kindness that I did not possess while Pete was growing up.

As a woman old enough to be a grandma (no rush whatsoever!!!) I often fondly recall comedian Bill Cosby saying in a routine about his mother and her relationship with his own children, alluding to her sense of playfullness and joy, "this is not the same woman who raised me"!

Regardless of my parenting shortcomings, there is one major theme that rings true now and all during Pete's childhood... the depth of love, connection and bond that I feel toward my son!

Even though I have moved across the world from you dear Pete, you are always on my mind and in my heart. Happy 28th Birthday from Mongolia!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mongolian open house aka drink three times

drinking airig in the big bowl, my counterpart, Happy
So this was my first Mongolian house warming party, and as usual my invitation was at the last minute. (those who like to play it loose and not worry about making plans, etc. would love the easy going way things are done here). The man here is not the host, but a friend/coworker of the host. This is the chemistry teacher who speaks some English. He was serving up the airig, fermented mares milk, which is one of the popular drinks you must drink three times here ceremoniously. You get the big bowl full of airig, take three drinks, pass it back, it's refilled, then passed to the next person.

Airig looks, smells and tastes something like watery, sour yogurt. You can see in the background some of the juice, water, milk tea, fruit and many types of salads which were served to us upon arrival.

Me drinking the Mongolian national vodka, which is made from cow's milk (I kid you not), and looks and takes like airig, only this is clear. I'm drinking it from a cow's horn cup..... will wonders never cease....

On left, my fave chemistry teacher, and in striped shirt, our host (can't remember his name or what he teaches). After the airig and Mongolian vodka were passed around, we then moved on to the bottled Vodka. It is customary on both types of vodka to drink three shots. Whoa..... this is a big drinking country.... I did it, they were impressed, then thank goodness we left so I could go home and rest!
our hostess in orange sweater was busy serving, washing up and serving some more that she never enjoyed anything with us.
After all the drinking, we were then served dinner...each plate individually prepared with rice, beet salad, carrot salad and boats (little steamed dumplings with mutton)... What a lot of work for the hostess...
I was expecting to have to sing a Mongolian song, which I would have done when forced to, but perhaps that all happened later. As we were leaving, more teachers were coming in, so maybe the singing was led later by the men who were there when we arrived and still there when we left and by my count, had way more than 3 shots each during the time we were there!
You know what they say, when in Mongolia...

Turn, Turn, Turn...there is a season..I miss leaves!

Though it is autumn here in Arvikheer, with a nip in the air, and the shortening hours of sunlight, there is something conspicuously absent. The autumn leaves that I have become so accustomed to seeing every fall are not present here so close to the Gobi.

This area is considered Central Mongolia, but we are on the edge of the large and imposing desert. The soil is mostly sand, and when the wind whips up, there are mini sand storms; little cyclones of sand. An awe inspiring site to be certain, but also a time to close your mouth and cover your nose and eyes if possible.
I have have this experience even when I lived further north in the summer. I was visiting my training site friend, Little B, at her ger. We were standing outside in the hasha (barren, dirt covered yard) chatting (ok lamely attempting to chat) with her hasha mom, when off in the distance we watched a small wind blow into a very large ominous looking dust cloud.

We all stood there mesmerized, watching intently, when her mom squealed and ran for the cover of the house....we quickly followed as she ran in and closed the windows against the blowing sand and dirt. These little mini cyclones disperse as quickly as they appear.

The soil here, whether sand or dirt, blows easily without vegetation to secure it..... I have observed there are areas of weeds and desert like plants, grasses and flowers, then nothing but sand and rocks.

The main town area in Arvikheer has fenced in plots with a few trees and shrubs; all struggling to survive in the windy foreign soil. My view from my apartment windows is a quaint little courtyard, fenced and locked (even from me) with some fairly healthy looking fir trees. There are planters in many locations around town (outside stores, gas stations and homes) bursting with flowers. Many of these flowers are familiar looking annuals, such as sun flowers, cosmos and marigolds.

Aside from these planned and fenced in little garden areas, the land is pretty barren. Public landscaping is not the same in this country. Even in the big city, there is no such thing as a lawn,remarkably to me, not even in the big city parks. Thus, no mowing of lawns.

So back to the absence of leaves. As Joni Mitchell says "you don't know what you've got till it's gone".... leaves are something I have long associated with the changing seasons, the onset of fall, the end of summer, the precursor to winter.

Leaves to me symbolize autumn; along with representing the smell of fall. Fallen leaves with their beautiful colors, their crunchiness, the memories of playing in them as a child, playing in them with my children, and seeing other little kids loving the fall because of the fallen leaves!

Some of my best memories of this season inculde the fallen leaves, raking them, cursing them as I'm raking them, then praising them as they compost into beautiful rich soil. I could definetly use some rich soil here for my immense garden project/beautification plan for my school! Suffice it to say I am composting in my kitchen for now, and have been put in touch with a lady in UB who has red worms for composting. My plan is to obtain some of these worms when I got to UB for Thanksgiving!

It is still autumn even without the falling leaves, as the season turn, turn, turns toward winter.

Friday, October 8, 2010

food glorious food, or the answer to Sue's burning question, what do you eat Jo?

breakfast this morning, cream of wheat (known as baby rice here) with sugar, cinammon, and vanilla flavored soy milk and an orange!
my salad made from freshly grown lettuce, spinach, mung bean sprouts, cucumbers and home made honey mustard dressing, along with black bean soup (my neice Leah's recipie)

One day I may become techno saavy and actually post the photos I'm trying to post, in the meantime, here is a little snapshot of my food here in Mongoloia..... During my initial days in country, the copious amounts of fatty meat just did not agree with me (and we were served the good stuff then), so I quickly switched to vegetarian prior to going to my host family.
Their cooking was fine, just not the same as my own and I was always craving more veggies, especially salad. There is an easy solution to that-grow it on your windowsill....I have several photos of that, but of course can't seem to get them posted. Use your imagination here. I have two salad greens containers going, both with lettuce and spinach growing in them, as well as some dill, basil, chive, cilantro and parsley. I also bought a small green pepper plant at the recent trade fair. All are doing well, and thus far I have only harvested two small bunches of lettuce. However, I sprout mung beans on top of my fridg twice weekly so I have those with tomatos for salad as often as possible.
The veggies available are limited but awesome. Beets, potatos, turnips, carrots, cabbage, onion and garlic are locally grown and cheap. Not as cheap, but still inexpensive are tomatos, peppers and many fruits including apples,bananas, peaches, oranges, kiwi and earlier there were plums. Some dried fruits locally for sale are raisins (not very good, mostly with dried seeds in them), prunes and apricots that are tasty!
An abundance of various grains are available, so I have cream of wheat or oats for breakfast frequently, and the local yogurt is tasty as well. I also got a bag of muslic cereal from a friend who got to UB (the big city).
The local milk is very high fat content, so I usually don't drink it, but I do buy powdered milk and use it in my instant coffee in the morning. I make powdered soy milk and add a dry packet of vanilla flavoring which is pretty tasty.
There is real butter locally which is tasty and some wheat bread as well. I have also made bread a few times...yummy!
Friends and I get together often to share food, cook together, etc. Last weekend at Pablo's we all threw in ingredients and made enough small pizzas for an army, even though there were only 5 of us and we ate them all!
The meat here is too intimidating for me, so I have not bought any, though the chicken is ok, even if only dark meat seems to be available in this area. Chicken is expensive, mostly because it is imported!!! Eggs are readily available, cheap and good, but people keep chickens for eggs only.
I have yet to buy tofu, but friends tell me it's available locally and pretty good. I am really into beans these days (thank goodness I had learned many ways to enjoy beans prior to coming here).. lentils which I bought in UB make great tasty burgers, and I invented my own Cajun style red beans and rice which was delicious! (I brought many spices with me from home, there is a very very limited selection in country...)Korean food is popular here, so if it's spicy you want, you can order some kim chee at many local restaurants (spicy cabbage in a red spicy sauce) or buy it bagged and have it with rice and dried seaweed is everywhere, so homemade veggie sushi is a tasty meal.
My friend Caitlin is an awesome baker and has made several cakes since I've been here and my favorite is the chocolate chip oatmeal cake with peanut butter frosting. Yep, it's good.
Fixin's for spaghetti, soups and stir frys are easy to find and tasty. I have not starved..which is good, because I love food! Cheese is one thing that is very different (not to my liking) here. There are a few types of "cheese food" slices and spreads which make very passable grilled cheese sandwiches and mac and cheese. Sandwiches are not a common thing here, though I am lucky to have some peanut butter for when the urge strikes!
Popcorn is my favorite snack here and easy to make on my stove. Thanks to my sister Sue, I can also have the butter flavored seasoning (as the label says,balllpark style from Amish country?)...
We recently discovered a new small restaurant in town that serves chocolate milk shakes (Tom!) made with ice, Hersheys syrup, chocolate ice cream and milk, and are sooooo good!
For those foods I really miss, it's amazing that UB has many continental restaurants with my favorite being American Burgers and Fries. It's owned by an American from Virginia, Rob who ended up in Mongolia. The food is truly American, familiar and quite tasty! I'll be having some burgers over Thanksgiving when I go to UB!
Ok, now I am really hungry....just a brief look into what I eat here across the world...not too shabby:)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Remembering Vicki at the local Buddhist temple/monestary

my own shrine to Vicki at home
me and Caitlin at the temple
lamas praying

Bataar and me outside the temple
Text ColorFriday, October first was the four year anniversary of my lovely daughter Victoria's untimely death. I have spent previous anniversaries with family and close friends, having fun and remembering Vicki with stories and laughter. And there are plenty of stories filled with love, joy, and a whole range of emotions. It's always heart warming to share Vicki stories with those who knew and loved her!

Last year, (I think it was just last year) Sue my awesome sister, Marguerite, our Mom, Pete, my eldest son and Courtney, my lovely surrogate daughter, had lunch together at Dravenstott's restaurant in Orrville. This is the small Ohio town where we had lived; where she and her brothers, Zach (her twin) and Pete, all went through school and it was the local family owned restaurant where Vicki had her first job as a salad bar girl. Yes, that's right, someone has to fill up the dressing tubs, re stock the salad fixings and make sure it all stays appealing and appetizing!

The salad bar there is my favorite, as it was Vicki's! They make an awesome broccoli cheese soup...mmmmm, I am salivating just thinking about it and now I really want some!

The first anniversary myself, family and several friends (Sue, Mom, Courtney, Mallory, Heaven and Wynter, DaVonna, Kory and Stephanie) got together and planted a memorial garden for Vicki near where her fatal accident occurred. Sue donated lots of daffodil bulbs from her beautiful yard and I brought a pink miniature rose, a little evergreen and some perennials that had been in our family back yard in Orrville. It now blooms with something year round.

This little intersection on a busy 2 lane highway is a beautiful, yet strange and lonely place for me. This is farm country in the heart of NE Ohio. Lovely fields, pastures, plenty of livestock, mostly cows; farms and wide open spaces that Vicki loved so much adorn the area. Not such a bad spot to leave this world, if choosing when and where is an option.

According to some ways of thinking, this may be exactly how we leave this world...We plan in a place called Bardo, (in between heaven and earth, life and death) what lesson we need to work on, learn, master in our next incarnation. Then we figure just how to do that. While in grief therapy, my wonderful counselor Jane helped me explore this notion. If I were to hold to this line of thinking, then Vicki would have approached me in Bardo and asked me to be her mother next time, letting me know that she wasn't long for this world as her lesson should not take very many years. I would have then agreed lovingly to do so, in spite of the anticipated mind numbing hurt, pain, grief and loss that I would be certain to endure; just for the sheer joy of having her as my daughter for only 18 years.

I have stopped there many times over the years when returning to the area to visit with family and friends. I pull onto that road, drive up and turn around and park near the intersection, with my car off and the flashers on. Tears, as well as overwhelming feelings of love, grief, happy memories and sadness are intertwined. I feel so grateful to have been her mother and to have shared this life with her, yet miss her so much that at times it is a physical aching for her.

Friends of Vicki's erected a huge white cross honoring her memory shortly after she died. Her friend Heaven and her dad made the cross, and many young people helped paint it, and wrote messages of love to Victoria on the back. The cross stood for at least two years, then one day disappeared. Turns out the family was tired of having it there and I think it's still in their garage. I just don't have the heart to go and get it and do something with it.....

This year was the first time I have been away from home, so it felt kind of weird and a little lonely. I have maintained contact with my family, friends, all my loved ones back in the US in various ways, letters, email, FB, etc., so I am not totally disconnected or out of touch with those who also knew and loved my daughter.

Let me back up and say that I do have plenty of kind and caring friends here in Mongolia. My fellow CYD trainees and all of my great site mates, especially Caitlin Rose whom I feel quite close to and spent the anniversary day with.... So when the date was quickly approaching, I knew I needed a plan for some sort of service to honor Vicki's memory. I know for me, I need to honor her memory, and deal with the loss head on; rather than letting it sneak up on me unexpectedly.

Since Caitlin knows the local head lama, (Tibetan Buddhist monk) Bataar, we went to speak with him. There are many monks (35 or so) who live in the compound. For a token offering of money and matches for each lama there, Bataar asked each to pray that Victoria's next life be a long and happy one. The money helps them with living expenses and the matches I am not totally sure I understand their signifigance. However, when someone dies here and you are given matches, you are to light one and hold it until it burns out. I plan to learn more about this in particular and Buddhism in general.

On October 1st at 10:30 a.m., Caitlin, Bataar and I went inside the temple where the monks were chanting morning prayers. This is a lovely experience and as they chant, at certain points, several of them also play instruments. Two drums, 2 horns and 2 pair of cymbals join in with the chanting to what I liken to a "joyful noise".

We approached each monk in turn, Bataar telling them please pray for my daughter Victoria who died 4 years ago today, then Caitlin handing me a 500T bill and a partially opened box of matches, which I then handed to the monk (with both hands and a nod to each). Each lama accepted with both hands and a nod. After we finished we sat awhile and listened to the chanting, which is melodic, soothing and embracing. I stayed in the safe peaceful environment during the time Vicki has passed on. (approximately 11 a.m.)

Though I identify myself as a Unitarian Universalist, I find many Buddhist teachings speak to me in a meaningful way and am comfortable visiting the temple. It was the perfect way for me to honor her memory from here in Mongolia.

In loving memory of Victoria Marie Hunt
Born 01-29-88
Died 10-01-06
I hold you in my heart

Monday, September 27, 2010

this roller coaster called Peace Corps.....

..or should I say, this Peace Corps Mongolia experience I am having certainly is like a roller coaster ride! PC talked about the ups and downs and how natural and expected it is to have extreme emotional highs and lows during service. Never let it be said that we weren't warned; because we sure were. Many times...

The ups and downs of service can be interesting, challenging, disconcerting, scary, strange and oddly fulfilling. Sometimes, all at the same time!
One minute I am slowly, excruciatingly, painfully slowly, climbing the huge hill, gripping the handrail till the circulation in my fingers cease; terror gripping my chest, counting slowly to myself, and chanting, breathe, breathe, breathe... And the next thing I know we have reached the top and now I am screaming (with a combination of joy,fear, thrill, exhilaration) waving my hands madly in the air as we plummet down...way too fast. Thrilled and frightened simultaneously ...what a rush!
The ups and downs that I have been experiencing as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mongolia are similar to a roller coaster adventure. I don't know about you, but I really like roller coasters. Ok, I used to love them when I was younger, but now "really like" covers it.

In fact the most recent time I enjoyed riding a roller coast was the summer of 2009 with Courtney (my lovely surrogate daughter :))and her bridal party. We spent the day at Cedar Point (amusement park famous for coasters and the best in our area) for the bridal/ bachelorette party.

Being the "old lady" of the group, I was not quite as enthusiastic as the girls about riding, say, the top fuel dragster, which goes straight up in the air (many many stories high I might add), only to plummet straight down, all at unbelievably high rates of speed... hence the name.

However, I did ride many of the other slightly more tame coaster with the girls... the mantis, maverick and what was that first one we went on where I thought I was going to have some anxiety attack before we even climbed the first hill... but I didn't... in fact, it was (dare I say it?) fun!

After we got off the ride, I felt pretty damn good...I told Courtney, we did it, and commented that Vicki (my lovely daughter) was always too afraid to ride coasters and we did it for her, and that she was with us too. We had a tearful moment, then the festivities continued as they should.

Peace Corps Mongolia is kinda like that ride, and every time I feel anxious, discouraged, lonely, unsure and missing Vicki I remind myself to breathe, breathe, breathe, and that my lovely daughter is right here with me, always in my heart.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

congratulations on starting a new school year....

a very talented group of students performing some traditional mongolian dances... made me want to learn...oh, I forgot, I already tried it (and am not good..)

the students enjoyed the show almost as much as I did!

these two danced and sang...

oops, I'm always getting my photos ou of order....some of the performers, all children, two girls who sang and did a dance... part of an amazing group of little kids who danced!

 they say here in Mongolia...the first day of the new school year is a very big deal...September 1st and the festivities start at 8 am, and continue for a couple hours then classes begin. Here are a couple photos of some of the pre festivities, above are some of the local dignitaries who came, and left some boys helping to hoist balloons out the window to decorate the front of the school.

Originally I was told by my school director that I would give a I nervously was going to greet them in Mongolian, then speak English with a translator. Lucky for me, there was a mix up and the emcee's of the event did not have me listed, so I did not speak. Of course, in retrospect, I might have liked introducing myself and extolling the virtues of having social workers in the school and how we can help the students and teachers.
Now that school has been in session a couple weeks, Wednesday evening are the opening ceremony festivities for the dorm students that I've been invited to. These students are from the countryside and usually are at our school because their area does not have a school to their grade level, or they may have some difficulties at home. I will be working with the dorm students a lot and am excited at the prospect!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

photos, supplement to last post....

far left: my school director, me and two of my teacher counterparts in front of the sacred tree.
center: sacred tree, covered with hallaks
right: ohwah, sacred place
each of these places are related to buddhist beliefs, you circle 3 times clockwise, at the ohwah, you throw a rock on the pile with each circle stating your wish. At the tree on the third round you whisper your wish into the tree. They brought me here my second day in town.
Here are my welcoming gifts, delicious chocolate and very sweet wine. I was given wine to drink while my guests drank tea I made. When I was finished with my glass of wine, they each had a small drink and we toasted to my new home and my work at the 12 year secondary school, #1. Cheers!

My wonderful CYD friends, Sheraya, Nate, me, Justin, Little B, Pedro and Crystal, on the morning of our Peace Corps Swearing in!! We are no longer trainees, we are volunteers!!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

my site, my job....

Of course, let's remember I am in Mongolia, and thank goodness for the internet, however, things do not always work as one would expect.......thus no pics with this blog right now...surprise... I am at the internet cafe and can't seem to get my pics on...
There is so much that has happened since I last posted! I have finished my pre-service training (aka PST)and now am a full fledged Peace Corps volunteer!(PCV) Hoorah!!! Me and 74 others in this M 21 class (that's Mongolia and the 21st group of volunteers to be here!)
In my little amaig center of 20K+ residents, there are two other CYD (community youth development) M20 PCV's, as well as me, one English teacher (TEFL) and one business volunteer (I forget the acronym)...There are also 3 VSO (Volunteer service organization out of Great Britain) volunteers here in town, and two more TEFL's in soums (small towns) a couple hours out.
So many opportunities for English speaking as well as the fact that most of my counterparts at the school (about 5 teachers, 2 social workers and many others) who already speak English and many more who want to learn... My Mongolian language skills are not so good and I will be tutored by one of the social workers who does not speak Englsih...
Still getting settled into my apartment, an old, old building though they tell me it is the warmest, but on the down side it flooded a couple times last year, and there were some electricial problems...yikes...I just bought some bleach at the market today and will dilute it and use it to wash down walls, etc....good times...
However, I must give kudos to my school as they gave me a washing machine ( a little labor intensive but definetly beats the crap out of hand washing), a fridg, a TV and DVD player (though they aren't hooked up yet and that will take some time I am sure), curtains....and they are all welcoming people....I think I'm gonna like it here!
Us three new PCV's met with one of the VSO's last evening and we all plan to hang out this weekend...the M20's are currently in UB for training and shall return next week...
Not sure exactly what my job will entail right now...though the director is as excited as me about a big garden (out in the countryside) for the school as well as possibly a greenhouse and me re-doing the potential garden areas around the that's awesome!
My school is named the Number #1 school (literally, that's it's name) and it has over 2500 students and over 100 teachers plus other staff....There is a dormitory which houses around 100 children from the countryside as well....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

oops old pics again

this group is the awesome CYD's.... Pedro, Brittany, me, Little B, Sheraya, Nate, Crystal, Ashley and Justin