Sunday, July 29, 2012

Is it August 1st yet?

Yep, that's right, you heard it here first....Now that it's almost time to leave, I'm waiting for the day.  After being in the city for a week, doing lots of Peace Corps paperwork and preparation to become a RPCV (returned Peace Corps Volunteer), it's almost done.

Two more days and I'll be on the way to the airport with my huge suitcase and new easy to carry backpack, and it's goodbye Mongolia.  I have loved my time here, and when being out and about the city I'm having little pangs of nostalgia....the last times to go places, eat foods, see people.  In the words of David Bowie......Chchchchchch CHANGES.....turn and face the ch changes....

Soon I'll be writing from the beaches of Thailand:)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

One step closer to leaving...

The leaving and goodbye process here is nearly as bad as leaving America.  There is the common thread of saying goodbye to people, celebrating the time here and the friendships developed.  There is also the same feeling of "isn't it time to leave yet?"  

I can only go through the process for so long before I am feeling crazy.... ooops too late.  I decided to be proactive and hosted a leaving Mongolia party at my place. I bought lots of snack foods, some vodka and mixers and invited all my site mates as well as some of my Mongolian counterparts and friends.  I advised the site mates we needed to do it up right and we could enjoy all the drinks if no one else showed...

I considered the party to be a success with 10 Mongolian friends stopping by and my site mates and I drinking, laughing, playing a couple games of dice and  then dining at our favorite restaurant one last time.  This was followed by the photos on the statue, a couple more drinks at my place then dancing at the local club.  It was a good send off, until we meet again....

Next, one week in Ulaanbaataar to finish up Peace Corps paperwork and such, then off to Thailand.  Still a few more goodbyes and celebrations here.
My school director Otgon rode with me on the bus from UB to Arvaikheer two years ago, so it was fitting that she saw me off on my last bus ride to UB

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

You Can Close Your Eyes...

In the words of the gorgeous and talented Johnny Depp, "you can close your eyes to the things you don't want to see, but you can't close your heart to the things you don't want to feel".  Wow, handsome and insightful.

This quote really resonates with me as I pack, sort, give away, throw away, clean and attempt to mentally prepare for leaving my home of the past 2 years.  I am stressed out beyond normal capacity worrying about the looming changes.  Good thing I don't have much going on now except preparing, enjoying, traveling and spending time with my local friends.  I have now gotten a cold/sinus infection, my first in over a year, and it's probably due to self induced stress.  This is how my body reacts to such things.... headache, inability to sleep well, and green snot in my head....

Though I am totally excited for what lies ahead, I cannot keep the feelings of loss and sadness at bay. 

It was more than two years ago I was on the other side of the world, having similar thoughts and feelings.  Coming here to Mongolia, joining the Peace Corps, leaving my home, family, friends, pets.... My comfort zone.  Even though I had to put things to bring into two large suitcases, I still have loads of belongings in Ohio... furniture, clothes, kitchen wares, household items, etc. stacked in my friend Kay's basement.  Here when I leave, I must reduce the goods to the suitcases., 

In one week I will be on a bus to the city, with my one large suitcase crammed with a few clothes and lots of gifts and memorabilia from Mongolia...(I may be taking one large and one small suitcase.....always worry about having more than I can handle by myself).  And carrying a equally stuffed backpack for a vacation to SE Asia, then at last home to America for a few weeks.  

Many last times  are approaching...the last time I'll ride that bus with the loud annoying music and crying babies... the last time to eat at my favorite restaurant in town, last times with friends.

Now, similar thing, different place.  Hard as I might try, I cannot close my heart to feelings of sadness at leaving here and moving on to my next adventure.  My heart and my being has been enriched by this experience.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Countdown is On!

Though I continue to seemingly be in denial about how soon I am leaving Mongolia, Arvaikheer, my apartment, my site mates, my counterparts, Peace Corps... My entire life for the past 26 months is changing!

With less than two weeks until I am on the bus to UB with the stuff I am taking back to America, it's kind of hard to remain oblivious about it.  However, I like to cope with such things by procrastinating.  Thus, here I am doing much thinking about cleaning my apartment and going through my things, (and blogging about it) without actually doing a whole lot of work.

Over the past few days I've developed a head cold so I feel even less motivated, but scared of running out of time, frightened to leave the comfort of my old soviet block building and sad to leave my friends here.

Time to face the music..... is it Mongolian throat singing, perhaps monks chanting?  Or is it the little finger cymbals of Thai music, and the sound of the roaring surf I'll soon hear there?  Or maybe the country music from the radio stations back home, or America the Beautiful; the only patriotic song I know and is in an easy range that I've belted out to my counterparts on a couple of occasions.  Oh my it's a combination of all of them and time to get to work!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Farewell My Friends

A very large part of being a Peace Corps Volunteer is learning to go with the flow, swim with the tide, roll with the punches,  and just generally be chill.  Sometimes the daily challenges experienced as an American living in a foreign culture can seem overwhelming.  Relaxing and not getting your panties in a bunch or your knickers in a twist is the key to success and adjustment.

While maintaining friendships back home can be a lifesaver, it's the relationships we forge here that really make a difference!  I have kept in touch with family and friends back in Ohio and when I said goodbyes I didn't want tears.....  Now with my plans in place for leaving Mongolia, I intend to see them all soon.

Therein lies the difference with friendships fostered while living abroad.... Will I ever see some of these amazing pals again?  When my Mongolian friends ask me when I will return to their beloved country, I tell them I don't know if I ever will.... (perhaps if there is a PC Response position available in the future matching my qualifications)... but I in all likelihood may never pass this way again.  Wow.

Joyce C., me and Erin L.
Regardless of seeing them again or not, keeping in touch may or may not happen, via email, facebook, friends here have touched me in innumerable ways, buoyed me up when I felt down, and shared lots of great times together.  With fond memories and lots of love, I will hold them in my heart.  To all of you I say, thank you for enriching my experience here, I will miss you!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Part 4 of Traveling Mongol Style...

And now, the long awaited final episode of Traveling Mongol Style.... ok, maybe not so much, but boy was I ever glad to get home to Arvaikheer!  There were a few highlights and low lights of the last couple days. 

We slept in a school building on the floor on night 6, me in my sleepy out of sorts states, when the ladies in my group chose beef instead of mutton for dinner.  I was informed I'd need to eat meat tonight (they kindly worried about my lack of mutton consumption) so I said sure, shall I cook? 

Well there was some culture clash, and if only I had photos of some of their facial expressions as they watched me attempt to sear small pieces of meat as well as brown and saute some onions (one said I don't like onions) and kept trying to pour water on it.  We ended up with what I found to be a tasty concoction, (using my precious Knorr French onion soup mix, throwing in rice) a flavorful meal.

Not the reaction I was going for, I received many turned up noses, and no thanks, as not one other person ate the food I fixed!  They watched in distaste as I devoured 2 bowls of the concoction.  Wow.... On the bright side, one guy teacher kept telling me "san ban" (good) and giving me the thumbs up....I was humbled by the experience, although I have eaten Mongolian food and ate the food at the eco camp, all of which was made with beef.  Guess this is how they feel when I say I don't want any... though I have at least tried mutton many times and just can't make my taste buds change their minds...

Of course I was again the first to bed while the others got out the vodka and stayed up.  The next day was another long one on the road, with many stops.  There was a minor crash when one of the micro buses nearly hit a guy on a motorcycle and his bike fell over and his nose was bleeding.  They all seemed more adamant arguing whose fault it was and I was internally freaking out about the rider and head injuries... no one seemed to be concerned he was not wearing a helmet.  yow.

That last evening on the road found me excited to know it would be our last night of traveling!  As it were, our micro bus ended up getting separated from the other 5, attempting to find a ger camp by a lake.  We drove and drove and by 2 am, declared to be lost, we parked.... I was like a little kid, so over tired that I couldn't sleep, with my legs feeling twitchy and achy.  Half our gang jumped out and pitched tents and the rest of us, snoozed with our legs up for 3 hours.... Then we discovered the camp was literally just down the road....  Of course I was awakened, got out peed, got back in, ate a couple cookies for breakfast and said, I'm going back to sleep, which I did for another 3 hours till we reached Khar Khorem, ancient capital of Mongolia and home to the oldest monastery in Mongolia.

We visited the Turkish Museum outside of town and the monastery eventually after an entire afternoon spent at a dorm, where groups cooked, ate and waited for the return of our driver.

My conclusion about my inability to keep up with the Mongolians, is that I'm just an older spoiled American, who likes my sleep (all in a row ) and gets tired when I drink during the day, (especially the traditional toasting for a safe journey, which happens any time of the day or night) and likes to relax over a cup of coffee in the morning:)  In the words of the Bearanstain bears, this trip was "too much vacation"!