Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Bu Crew 2011-12

As you know, Peace Corps service is 27 months long. This summer we had to say goodbye to Alex and Todd, who have return to their homelands: Colorado and Iowa, respectively.

But with their departure came two new awesome folks, Bonnie and Jessica (Washington and Cali)! Here is a delightful picture of all of us at the swearing in ceremony:

I think they will fit right in.

Scenes from the Fall

Glimpses of my life in September and October:

This is Scarface. His face is full of scars. Anyhow, he is everywhere. He hung out with all of us this summer at camp. When I walk to the mountain, he meets me there. When Nate and I hiked out to the lake, Scarface accompanied us, literally appearing out of nowhere.

Nate came to visit! Fences and Nate don't usually get along.

Meet Larry, Moe, Curly, and Shep. Every time I hike to this lake, I run into these horses and this donkey. Last year, it was just the 2 horses and the donkey and the obvious trio to name them after was the Stooges (guess which one is Curly!). This year, a new horsey was added to the gang, hence Shep.

Stare Off.

Lloyd's newest friend. The white neighbor dog has been dubbed "Harry Dunn." This lil pup is named "Mary Swanson."

Huh. I've named an awful lot of animals...

Dilguun and his new harmonica! I regretted giving that to him almost immediately.

Shillin Bogd. Coolest place in Dariganga. That mountain in the background is China! Also, it's not a mountain. It's a volcanic crater! This part of Mongolia is full of them. Shilin Bogd is a holy mountain (but women can climb it, hooray!). Since it is the highest point in the East, Mongolians climb it as dawn to receive the first sunlight into Mongolia.

So many volcanic craters! I bet back in the day this place was as raging as that scene from Fantasia when the Earth was being made.

Some of Mongolia's finest. Shilin Bogd is on the Chinese border so these guys guard the area.

From left: Jessica, Nymaa, Davaa, Mogie, Bonnie, Me, Kate

This is Ganga Nuur. It's the biggest lake in Dariganga. On my left is Erka, Zolaa's husband. To my right, Bajay. We are standing next to the spring that feeds the lake. You are supposed to pray to it. Bajay asked me what I prayed for. I said, a warm winter. I asked him back. He said "A husband for you." They will not be happy until I am married with 12 kids.

First day of school! The tiny cutie in the middle is Zolaa's daughter.

I do! And so does everybody else.

This past month, everybody and their dogs got married. It was crazy. The Mongolians ask the Dalai Lama when they should get married and apparently every day in October was a good day. 2 full days couldn't pass without someone in the school getting married.

Mongolian weddings are quite different from American weddings. First of all, the bride and groom literally wait on everybody hand and foot. The "reception" takes place in the house in which the two will start their life together. The party usually happens something like this:
  1. Eat.
  2. Drink Tea.
  3. Eat again.
  4. Drink arag (fermented mare's milk)
  5. Toast the bride and groom with a shot of vodka.
  6. Vodka Toast. And Repeat.
  7. Drunk male relative arrives.
  8. Drunk male relative insists you take 3 shots of vodka in rapid succession and refuses to take the cup back until it's empty.
  9. Eat again.
  10. Present the couple with gifts (vodka, chocolate, and a song), vodka toast when finished.
  11. Drunk male relative divvies out more vodka.
  12. Sing a song, vodka.
  13. Repeat #12 seven more times.
  14. Time to leave! Drunk male relative guards the door until you take your goodbye shot of vodka.
  15. Stumble home. Realize it's only 5 in the evening and you are very very drunk.
Here are pics from my two favorite weddings this month: Anhaa and Zorigoo! This is my beautiful counterpart and her new hubby (she's 6 months prego in this pic... and pretty much ready to pop at this point. She's on maternity leave now and is expecting next month!)

Oh, also these are Kate's pictures, hence the professional-esque quality.

Drunk Male Relative.

This is the gym teacher. This is his daughter's wedding. It was so much fun. Anhaa wanted to lesson plan with me afterwards and that was all fine and dandy for her (she wasn't drinking on account of the baby), but I was basically useless by the time we left.

This song is called "Welcome to my Ger" and it was just the first of 20 songs sung that afternoon.


Happy Halloween from Dariganga! This year, Zolaa and myself put on a wicked a Halloween party (on November 1st, but whatevs). I may have mentioned this before, but the only thing Mongolians love more than vodka is a good competition. So, this Halloween party turned into all the different classes competing against each other in various Halloween-themed games for fortune and glory... or rather apple cider and a gallon bag Smarties. The picture above is a class shot of 7a.

Competition #1. Pumpkin painting! Or balloon drawing...

Competition #2: Bite the apple. The adults in the crowd LOVED this game. They were upset when they realized I had only bought enough apples for the students.

Competition 3: Dance-off. It's not a Mongolian party until there is a dance competition. I had made a spooky Halloween mix for the competition, but it was vetoed almost immediately in favor of some techno korean jams.

Competition 4: Costume contest. Obviously the girl on the left won. Most of the other kids just painted their faces oddly. But Buyna literally drove children out of the gym in tears with her costumes. Buyna won the individual contest, but Bajay's class won over all:

Competition 5: Pin the nose on the pumpkin... I was chaperoning at the time... Sorry, no pics!

Clearly is was a spooky good time. Bajay's class ended up winning overall and took home the Goblet of Apple Cider as a prize.

The next day in class, some of the students who took my permanent markers without asking still had faded traces of Halloween on their faces.

Me and Bajay. I forgot my costume at home, sadly. Also, Bajay made more than 1 kid cry with this mask. No joke.

Another class pic!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

And so it begins....

Happy 11-11-11, ya'll! ( I wrote that intro on 11-11... then I got distracted. Merry 11-13-11!)

It's been a while, yes? Since my last post a few exciting things have happened:
  • I turned 24.
  • Lloyd quite probably turned 1.
  • It snowed. And the avg. temp has dropped by a good 50 degrees.
  • Shinee had her baby! On August 18th, Shinee gave birth to a brand new baby girl named Misheel. Which is an odd Mongolian name because it doesn't mean anything. And usually everybody has two names (Shinee's full name is Shine-bayar). I asked Bajay (Baatar-sukh) about this and he just said, "Misheel Obama." Also, Misheel has a dazzling blue bottom, which according to tradition, makes her a descendant of Chingiss Khan.
So anyhow, I'm happy to be up in the city, hanging with friends and reacquainting myself with the BU. So much has changed in the month I have been gone. Most notably the 2 story HOUSES that are being built on the south side... Comparable to the size of our house in America.

And also, the introduction of a store selling AMERICAN goods has us all in a tizzy. We can buy such amazing things as reese's, ranch dressing, Swiss Miss, and above all, not vodka. The store is stocked with wine and whiskey (there is still vodka, yes, but it's endless line of clear liquid is broken up by the beautiful label of Jim Bean).

I'm gunna get to picture bloggin here, so sit back and enjoy!


Monday, August 29, 2011

And on to Year 2...

Back to school...
Back to school...

In a short half hour, I will be saying goodbye to my nice hot shower. I think I will miss that most of all...

This summer has been a lot of fun, hard work, and quite a bit of chaos. Since I've last updated you all, I've done two notable things:

TEDx Conference

For those of you who don't know, TED is basically a forum for idea sharing. (check this out). My good friend, Travis, organized the first ever TED in Mongolia. It was phenomenal. The theme was concerning Mongolia's need to push forward while maintaining their rich history. I met a lot of cool folk and heard some real cool stuff... but more on this later when the talks are uploaded so y'all can listen too.


Or, Mid-Service Training (Peace Corps looooves their acronyms). I had a lot of fun being with friends and getting motivated for the next year.

Ummm, yea that's it. I apologize for the lame blog, but I've been busy, ok! I promise a better blog next time (coughinoctobercough).

Hugs and Kisses!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dream Eco Camp

Camp #3.

Dream Eco Camp was set in a sleepy soum called Batsumber in Tov aimag. It was a gorgeous place... rivers, mountains, forests. Unfortunately it also came stocked full of children.

Just kidding, but really... I was wickedly camped-out by this point.

So here are some pics and a story or two about Dream Eco Camp:

The theme this year was "The Chipmunks." So the kids were split into 3 teams:



And... Teathor...

We also got sweet shirts!

The camp was also stocked with inspirational signs:

I was on Team Alvin:

Team Leader: Who are we?
Alvins: Super Alvins!
Team Leader: What's our motto?
Alvins: The Super Alvin Team is strong!
We have fun all day long!
With our friends, we will grin!
And with teamwork, we will win!

I say Super! You say Alvin! Super! Alvin!

Ok- weird story: So I have found many of your Mongolian Dopplegangers. Britt, I found you. And you Stephen. And Pat Gaetz, too. Oh, and you too Karen. Here is the first picture I've taken of these dopplegangers... Call me crazy Mrs. Palazzo... but I see Connor and Brady circa 2006.

The photographer came and insisted we make a human pyramid. The Mongolians were a little over confident.


Ahhh, much better.

Some Americans enjoying the heck outta that porch.

My first YAK sighting!

The kids at this camp were incredibly talented.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bor-Ondor Sports Camp

Camp #2.

After taking a few days to re-coup in my soum, I headed to Bor-Ondor to start my second camp of the summer: a week-long sports camp organized by my friend Leon.

Camp ran from 9-12 and we taught a new sport everyday. In the afternoons we would hang out, play cards, and enjoy the beautiful summer air.

Day 1: Capture the Flag

First, we divided into teams and chose team names. My color was blue, so my kids chose to be "Super Blue." Brian was red and dubbed the "Red Stars." Apparently, we have very few pictures of Capture the Flag day. No matter... neither team managed to capture the flag. They were more pre-occupied with guarding jail and the flag to every make a move.

My team got real close though....

Yea... I'm in jail.

Day 2: Ultimate!

Obviously my favorite day. The kids LOVED it. And they were real good, too. I was so super impressed. Here's a vid of the most intense game of the day:

Brian and I split our teams into two smaller teams so we could play 5 on 5. Super Blue took 1st and 4th. Red Stars 2nd and 3rd. At the end of the day, we were still all tied up.

Oyoka. She was my favorite. She was super competitive and really great at all the sports. Look at her go!


Day 3: Dodgeball

Oh man, another really fun one. The kids had trouble in the beginning, but once they got it... it got intense. Unfortunately, Super Blue couldnt' pull it together for a win. We got 3rd and 4th.

The last game we played was Camp Leaders versus students. While I felt a wee bit bad throwing balls at little kids, it was super fun and of course we won.

Day 4: Kickball

If you are considering teaching kickball to children who don't speak your language and also don't know what baseball is... I wouldn't suggest teaching them kickball. Easily our most frustrating day, but, hey... there are a million rules to kickball. If we could play kickball with them once a week for a month, I bet they'd start to understand it a lot better.

Despite the confusion and frustration, and as a true testament to the wonderfulness of these kids, they said they had a great time and liked the game.

Though Super Blue took an early lead, we couldn't pull it together in the end. Red Stars took the W.

My line-up (10 points to me if I can still remember all their names...): Nendaa, Amraa, Batzka, Monoo, Oyoka, Deka, (Damn it... I can't remember pink stripes!) and Darai

Day 5: Relays

This day was meant as a game-changer. Red Stars were waaaay ahead, but a few relay wins later, Super Blue was only a point behind. Ultimately, it came down to the last game... and thanks to one kid who was spacing out during the game... Red Stars were declared the winners of the week.

We had loads of fun, though!

This relay was ridiculous. We gave 2 eggs to each team. The first guy on my team dropped and cracked both of them. So... we lost. But the Red Stars were kind enough to give us their second egg so that each kid could have a go.

No relay day is complete without dizzy bat!

Leap Frog

3 legged race

Super Blue! We had trouble wearing blue all week, so I changed our color to white the last day. My team then suggested our new name was "Super White," but I thought we should stick with "Super Blue" :)

Super Blue + Red Stars = SUPERSTARS!

Bonus Day 6: Water Games

It was hella hot all week. These kids endured that sun without complaining (too much) all week, so we thought we'd give them a special day to hang out with us in a non-competitive atmosphere.

Water Games.

Aaaaaand of course, it was cloudy and colder than all the other days. But we played anyway.

Water Balloon Toss

Drip Drip Drop (it's duck duck goose only with water)

The drenched participants