Sunday, June 27, 2010

kids are the same everywhere

Sweet, kind, loving with open hearts…. I have found that here sometimes their circumstances are not as fortunate as what we may be used to at home, or even when we grew up. Children here seem to be given much more responsibility, in terms of chores, watching little sibs, etc.
My Community Youth Development group has started a youth club here in our small town. Though overall our focus group is actually boys, (roughly ages 12-18) because here in Mongolia we have learned, girls are usually the ones sent to college and boys stay home and work. In most other countries the focus is girls….However, while we are here for the summer, we welcome all children to come hang out, play, maybe learn a new game or two.
Pedro, our resident guitar player intends to teach whomever wants to learn how to strum guitar. Shareya wants to teach soccer basics, Justin basketball, etc…. I am good at filling in a spot for Uno! So during our pre-service training this summer, that is one of our experiential learning tasks. We will also start teaching a basic English class this week, geared more toward adults I believe. Teaching English is also part of our expectations once we get to site.
None of us has any idea where we will end up, but it’s funny to say that in less than a month our small group of 9 has become fairly close knit. We all blend together quite nicely, and I am constantly amazed by the maturity and wisdom some younger people have! The UU church is one of my tribes, and now I have discovered the Peace Corps is another!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

this place makes me happy

Being here makes me happy!

Mongolia is a place of natural beauty and wonder. A place where life is simpler, slower and totally different than life as we know it at home.
This is the kind of place I have farm fantasies about! The rolling land, the hills, the little hashas, the grazing livestock being herded by dogs; ah the simple life. The simple life also involves a lot of hard work to meet basic needs. No running water here. There are wells located around town, where you go to buy water and haul it back home
I went with my hasha dad Moogi (who is more like my sons ages…) this morning about 10:30 to fetch water. We walked about half a mile to the place where you purchase the water. Moogi had the plastic barrels to fill; the bigger for the family, and the smaller one for my use. The barrels were pushed on a metal frame cart with rickety wheels. There were many others also getting water this morning and we had to wait a minute. The concept of lines here is absent….instead you kind of hustle up to get your turn. I don’t exactly know how much the water cost. On the way back Moogi ran down a little slope to keep the cart going and only a couple spots did I need to help push the cart.
Upon our return, I helped him heft the large barrel into the family ger and I carted the smaller one to mine. Then I proceeded to fill my water filter which was almost empty (though it must hold around 3 gallons or so) then the fun job of hand washing clothes.
Now this doesn’t seem too bad to me theoretically, however, it’s a chore. I use cold water, a little Tide (yes I found it here) and scrub, scrub, scrub. My scrubbing technique needs some work though, since I noticed the jeans with mud on them still had some mud on them after washing…ugh. Part of the challenge to this is using as little water as possible, since it’s such a pain to get the water….conserve, conserve, conserve. So after washing some clothes, wringing, wringing and wringing some more, I then rinsed them sparingly. They at least smell better, though I’m not sure how clean they really are. (remember the water and lack of purity...)
The Mongolian language is really a challenge to learn. All the ish, ick and hocher kinds of sounds are fun…I think I finally have a grasp on the Cyrillic alphabet which is pretty wild. Though, of course, words are not always so simple to sound out. Our group of CYYD’s are meeting this afternoon for a little study session. What a fun group we all are….most of us went hiking yesterday and though it was far and a tough climb, the views were awesome! We plan to hike a different area next Saturday.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

its a ger life for me....

Wow, ger life is pretty awesome! It's sort of like living in a tent.....only with a stove and a bed! Here are some pics of my ger.... it's big and all mine! My hasha family lives in the ger next door, and our hasha (yard) is fenced in. Our hasha dog is tied up and barks a lot...dogs here are for protection, not as pets. One of our first days or orientation, we were taught to yell "CHO" loudly at dogs who may bark or run at us, and then throw rocks at them. Some people have trouble with the idea. Even though I consider myself an animal lover, I haven't had a problem throwing a few rocks and yelling at dogs!
My pics are not in order...however, you can see the hasha (yard fenced in), the glorious sky and some gers on the hills, boys riding a horse and some views of my ger!
It's cozy inside, though it has been getting a little cold..My fire starting and tending skills need lots of work and it's pretty hit and miss with me. I had a nice little fire going last night and it was good. We bathe in a tumpin, the pink tub near the sink....yes use your imagination, more like a sponge bath and rinse, but definetly doable!
Classes keep me quite busy and the language is tough, but I'm getting the hang of it!
I'll post more later, and perhaps about my hasha family! Mongolia is very cool! I am really happy to be here and am up for the challenges that await me.....

here are the picsfrom my other post

Sunday, June 13, 2010

all the news sans pictures....they will come later!

I have been in Mongolia barely a week and I already feel at home here! The adventure began last week flying to San Fransisco, then met with all of our group; 75 volunteers in all. We (the M21’s; ) are the 21st group of PCV’s sent to Mongolia, even though volunteeers have only been coming here since 1992.
A group of highly talented individuals, we each fit into one of four work areas. Community youth development (the best of course as these are my peeps) has 9 of us, health is also a small group, community economic development-smallest, and the largest is english (teaching as foreign language.
Our first few days were spent in Zhumond where we lived in a dorm and experienced orientation. Here we were living the life of luxury with warmish running water for showers, flush toilets supplied with toilet paper and pretty good food. However, I must say that it was after the first 3 days I decided my system just cannot handle the meat….I have become a vegetarian(at least for now…)
Now each job group has gone to separate towns for our training. We just got here to Altuzi on Thursday and were warmly welcomed by our families who were just as excited and as nervous as we were, with a lovely ceremony at the local school. My family is so cute, a young married couple (they are 26) with a one month old baby and a 20 year old sister. I have my own ger which is lovely! My hasha family has their own ger as well, where the four of them live. Hasha is the fenced in yard which is quite large and includes a shed for storage along with the hasha dog. Dogs here are not pets and are used to guard their hasha. Mine seems docile and is tied up near the shed and main family ger.
In our small town of 3,000 residents, water is hauled from various spots by homeowners daily. Water sanitiation is a huge problem all over the country. Partly this is caused by the old Russian system of waste water pipes being built over fresh water pipes, so that when pipes rusted, waste contaminated the fresh water supply. People here always boil their water before use, and don’t generally drink water, instead enjoy regular tea, or milk tea, or bottled sodas, juices, etc.
Peace Corps supplied us with a water filter system which is tall and plastic…. You pour water in top, it is cleaned by the candle type filter and flows clean….yea! I carry my 32 oz water bottle everywhere! Bottled water is available, though it can get expensive to buy all the time!
Here as in most of Mongolia, outhouses are the norm. In my hasha family, ours is located 47 steps at a slight angle from my ger door…. I practiced this my first day, in case of night visits. Last night I used this skill, it was accurate…. The outhouse is new and fresh, with a slot in the floor. Paper is always put separately in a trash can.
Our CYD classes start in full swing Monday, though Friday and the previous week we have had intro classes. The language is quite beautiful and interesting souding to me….lots of rolled r’s and gutteral sounds. If anyone has suggestions for how to learn to roll r’s please share. My hasha family is most amused by my lack of r rolling ability!
Language class is 4 hours daily (M-F), then walk home for lunch, then back to the school for CYD class. It is all very interesting and there is much to learn, as we need to get to know the community and their needs and wants….This is just the tip of the iceberg…and I am writing at my site which does not have internet…so I’m putting this on my flash drive and hope to be able to hit the post office next week during our visit to Zhoumod for shots…oh yes, we get hep a, b, rabies (yes, really 3 injections) and Japanese encephalitis shots….to post this…..
I am very happy to be here and have much more to share…..

Monday, June 7, 2010

welcome to mongolia

Hi all! I am here and it's great....would love to post a picture of me with my new friend a calf I was petting on our first morning here, but am at post office now and cannot do pics....
Lovely place, arrived safe, finally over my get lag..colder than anticipated, but great!
I'm so happy to be here, though I will not have access to the internet until probably sometime in to another town for training till then.
Keep watching and thinking of me, as I think of you everyday and hold all of my friends and family in my heart and mind!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

let me eat cake....instead of mutton

wow, hard to believe I have said so many final goodbyes (for now)..maybe it should be see you later; much later, but later! I have now bid farewell to my hiking friends, my chalice group girls, my wild women friends, my church family gang, my friend and landlady pal: my life has been so very blessed with so many great friends and family...
Now I am savoring the last few days with my sister....Sue and here we are eating cake! Ok, well we are testing the frosting for the cake....she is an awesome baker (and professional caterer..among her many other talents) and this cake is shaped like Mongolia (more or less) for the open house going away this evening..., party, party...we will enjoy milk tea, Mongolian cookies (we will make both of these) and of course CAKE!!!! Plenty more hugs, see you laters, and pictures!
Sue and I enjoyed what I expect to be my last movie theatre experience for awhile by going to see Sex and the City 2 yesterday.... She now wants a total fashion makeover, especially the can anyone walk in those heels?
Packing has progressed to (gasp) almost being finished...after of course, changing suitcase sizes again....first last week I discovered the bag I was using for my winter stuff was too big! So now what was my summer bag is now my winter bag...(the 107 inch total checked luggage dimensions for both pieces...)then I got a small suitcase from my mom and it is too small for the summer stuff, and is now my carry on (yea, that small) and fortunatley found a medium suitcase in the attic....for the summer stuff...yikes... hope I enjoy all the stuff I am bringing.. I did remove the several pounds of dried beans from the winter bag but kept the many spices that I anticipate enjoying!