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.