Sunday, January 30, 2011
Well, that was fun.
But all good things must end sometimes, right? I head back to the soum sometime today with my counterpart, Lloyd, and all my yummy goodies from UB.
This upcoming week is a MEGA Mongolian holiday called Tsagaan Sar, literally "White Month." Think Halloween meets Thanksgiving meets Christmas. It's a 3 day long celebration where you go from house to house giving gifts, taking shots of vodka, and eating buutz. I'll tell you more about it next time I'm in town.
Which could very well not be until March.
All of you with letters on the table, stamped and ready to go, MAIL THEM ALREADY! :)
So, it was good chatting with all of you and I'll see you again in March!
PS. Since it's next to impossible to get my little doggie to UB, the vet just gave me the vaccinations and syringes to do it myself. Luckily my sitemate is a nurse and was wicked excited to do this for me. Lloyd is the healthiest and prettiest pup this side Gobi Desert.
Friday, January 28, 2011
I've been chillin in UB for a few days now... takin in the sites and eating delicious food. I'm headed to the opera tonight, so I'm looking forward to that. Here are some random pictures I want to share with you all... enjoy!
Monument in UB. When I first stumbled upon it, I was stunned. The Beatles have never been to Mongolia...
Here's what I found out: Mongolian Monument Honors Beatles and Those who Hid Their Love Away
Mural at an awesome breakfast joint called "IHOPE" (slogan: Come Hungry. Leave Happy.) Certainly love staring at that while I eat.
Close up of one of the figures in the mural... Look familiar? Apparently, originally the guy in the purple vest was painted as George Bush and the guy Ms. Palin is dancing with was Obama. But then they thought that was too political and are in the process of changing the faces. Real glad I snapped a shot of this before she got painted over, though.
Ice Sculpture in UB. Will probably still be standing for another 3 months.
Really AWESOME phenomenon called a "Sun Dog." It happens to a much lesser extent everywhere, but cold places tend to see really intense ones. Sometimes, it looks like there are 3 suns in the sky. It's really cool.
Teacher's Karaoke and Aerobic Competition!
Their aerobics outfits... soooo glad I wasn't on that team. Our outfits were pretty fabulous, though. It included sparkly ribbons tied to our hair, necks, wrists, and ankles. We totally got 1st, too. (Sorry, no pictures... My camera was still in my ger at that point).
Like the boots? They are felt and even without socks, your feet will sweat in them. And they are just as fashionable as they look.
My Karaoke Team. We got 2nd (I was not on the karaoke team, clearly)
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
I'm too lazy to go through them all so I jacked this from a friend who did such a wonderful job answering all your questions. Apart from the Gobi-specific questions... that answers are generally the same.
Y'all remember those letters you stuffed into envelopes for me to open on the 9th of every month? Well, I can't tell you how excited I am when the 9th of a month rolls around... and so are my neighbors. They enjoy looking at your drawings and picking out words they recognize just as much as I enjoy reading the cards.
This blog is about those cards.
Every month, after opening one of the envelopes, I tape all the cards together and hang them from the rafters of my ger. Pretty soon, I am going to have no more rafter space...
Some have made me very nostalgic, some have made me miss home greatly, and some... well, some are just downright entertaining (I know Seymour Bunz is you, Weston).
I have photographed some of my favorites to share with you all... do you remember writing them?
Wes, you suck.
Workin on it, Frank.
Sorry, buddy... it might be awhile!
Background story: When I studied abroad in Rome, I left my fishy with Marie to babysit. He, unfortunately, didn't make it. I do not blame you for that Marie!!
Whoever wrote this... also sucks. However, I have seen the latest installment of HP and LOVED it!
I haven't eaten yak yet! At least, I don't think I have. I have yaked a wide variety of other things though!
I wonder who wrote this...
I also just received one that read, "It's January now and everybody is getting ready to watch the Bears win the Superbowl." Yeaaaaa. About that...
And finally, I got one from neighbor Haley about Mongolian birthdays. She asked how they celebrated birthdays here and how is was similar or different from how we celebrate.
Well, birthdays usually involve family, food, presents... pretty similar to America. The food is much much different though... no cake. No ice cream. Just meat and beer. Mmmm. Also, presents tend to be candy, from what I have witnessed. It's not as big of a deal here... people don't host birthday parties for their friends, but it is still celebrated to a lesser extent.
Thank you all for all your thoughtful cards... I look forward to reading them every month!
Hello Boils and Ghouls!
(Ten points to anyone who gets the reference)
I realize I do an awful lot of photoblogging, so I thought this time I would paint you all some word pictures about some of the crazy, gross, scary, and hilarious stories that I have from living in this country so far.
Let's start with this summer.
One morning, my sister woke me up to help her herd the cows to the water. It was all fine and dandy, but one stubborn little guy went trotting off in the wrong direction. So, we left the other cows a-drinkin, and went to round up the rogue fellow. When we reached him, he planted his feet firmly in the ground and refused to move.
We huffed. And we puffed. And we yelled. And we pushed. But he would not move. So finally, my sister suggests that she push from behind while I pull from the front. She got down into a linebacker position behind the cow, while I... well, I grabbed the bull by the horns.
We were successful, by the way. With the satisfaction of successfully herding cows for the first time, I can now say that I have literally grabbed a bull by the horns.
I'd rather try Windex
One day, I was tossing a disc with lil Dilguun (who has been acting very strange lately... I think he's jealous of Lloyd...), when the hot sand just beckoned for me to take my shoes off. I complied and almost immediately regretted it because I sliced opened my foot on... well... something ( I forgot... not important).
I sat down to better inspect my bleeding foot and was clearing not paying attention to Dilguun. I am going to take a brief pause in this story to remind all you folks back home that medicinal practices vary across the world. Cold water, while refreshing in the states, is believed to cause sore throats here. And the urine of small boys is used as a common cure-all here in Mongolia.
I'll let you guess where this story winds up.
My foot healed just fine, in case you were wondering.
At nights, the temperature drops to as low as -40. I get to snuggle with my puppy underneath two fleece blankets, a winter sleeping bag, and two comforters, so I survive the night just fine.
Animals (besides Lloyd, that is), do not fare so well. It is rather common to see frozen animals littering the streets (sadly, common enough for PCVs to invent a word to describe the creature: pupsicle)
One night, a wandering cow dropped dead in front of the school and blocked the main entry way. Hours later, when I was walking to work, the dead animal had attracted a motley crew of evil rabbid dogs that were joyfully enjoying the free meal.
As I got closer to door, the only thought that fluttered through my mind was, "Dammit. Now I have to go around the school."
Hours later, I realized that my reaction should have been more along the lines of "Holy Shit! There are 15 demonic dogs devouring a freshly dead cow RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE SCHOOL!!"
But that's just another day in Mongolia.
My Neighbor, with the Shovel, in my Haasha
I may have mentioned it 2,340,973,452,345.3 before in my blog, but dogs are not liked here. most people think I've taken one too many ger-door frame hits to the head (ger doors are about 4 feet high) because I pet Lloyd (not to mention let him sleep with me and lick my hands). Awww, Lloyd... :)
Anyway. Last month, my haasha dog, whose name is Dick and happens to be female (I've tried to figure out the origin of the name, but I got nothing), was in heat. As a result, every male dog in the soum camped in my haasha waiting to have his way with her.
For a while, it was simply inconvenient to have to yell at a million vile dogs to get out of my way and to listen to all of them get in vicious dog fights over who go to "lay" with Dick (and then listen to them "lay" with Dick) but it soon became a legitimate issue. As time went on, the male dogs got more and more aggressive and less and less afraid of me.
To make the situation worse, Dick's little doggie cage is right next to my argal (cow dung) pile. In order for me to collect the fuel for the fire, I had to fight off 18 maniacally aggressive beasts, usually by screaming, throwing things, and hitting them with sticks.
One day, that backfired. A particularly satanic dog lay on my argal pile, keeping a close eye on his female prize. As I approached, he became tense. I yelled at him. He showed me his teeth (M..m..m...my! W..w..w..what big teeth you have!). I threw a rock at him. He showed me some more of his teeth (as sharp and gnarly as the rest, turns out). I grabbed a stick and bopped him on the head with it. He lunged at me, teeth bared, spit flying, and barking angrily, because I was clearly a threat.
As you would hope in life threatening situations, my body reacted without me telling it what to do. Unfortunately, that reaction was crumble to the ground to make it easier for the dog to eat me alive.
I managed to recover before the dog had another chance at my jugular and went crying to my neighbor's house. He either DESPISED dogs, was ultra pissed that this dog attacked me, or was simply following standard Mongolian protocal, but he grabbed a shovel and marched straight to my haasha.
Before the dog had time to react, Bagay wound up and swung. The sound of a shovel cracking against skull is something I hope to never hear again.
Needless to say, the shovel was effective. The dog ran whimpering away and I gathered my argal like nothing had happened.
Then next day after school, I returned to my neighbor's house and asked politely if he wouldn't mind helping me remove a dead dog with a crushed skull from my cow dung pile.
After lesson planning one day, my two counterparts and I were chatting away about the upcoming Teacher's Sport Competition (part 2 of 7). Anhaa asks,
"Sarah, do you know Arabic?"
Arabic? Now why on Earth would I know Arabic? I tell her so, and she says,
"We have an Arabic competition on Saturday."
Eh? Mongolians know Arabic? After 10 minutes of miscommunication, I finally realize she means aerobic. We laugh at the misunderstanding and my other counterpart asks,
'Well, what is Arabic, then?"
I tell them it's a language. You know. Like English or Mongolian. Arabic. They speak Arabic in Egypt. Jesus spoke Arabic (let's just ignore the fact that I meant Aramaic).
You know... Jesus. Jesus Christ.
"Who is Jesus?"
How's that for isolation?
Loyal Blog Followers: How cold is it, Sarah?
So cold that when a LARGE Mongolian (easily 200 pounds) sat down in the seat next to me (and half of mine as well) I was not ticked off like I would have been in the States.
No, I was thankful for my rotund bus buddy as he blocked the draft from the door and provided a source of heat (my bus apparently did not have working heat... that was 11 hours of being able to see my breath).
It is so cold that I am willing to snuggle with large strange men on buses to keep warm.
Anywho, hello everybody! I write to you from a delightfully warm hostel where I am checking emails, digesting a burger, and regaining feeling in my extremities. I will be here until Sunday, when I head back to my soum to celebrate Tsagaan Sar, or White Month, the Mongolian equivalent to Thanksgiving (only with buutz and vodka instead of a delicious variety of food and drink).
Well, that's where I am at now... If you get a chance, I'm sure I'd love to catch up with you on skype or facebook or email!
My neighbor, Bajay, decided one day that I needed a Mongolian name. I was slightly confused because Sarah (or Сараа) is a legit Mongolian name, but all Mongolians have two names, so I was in need of another.
I am now known as Sarantsetseg ( or Сараанцэцэг) which literally translates into "Moon Flower."
So, to quote the skunk from Bambi, "You can call me (moon) Flower".
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
You can't triple stamp a double stamp! Lloyd!
I'm totally one of those parents now who only talks about how great her kid is and wants to show everybody pictures that they couldn't really care less about.
But here is the cutest best puppy EVER and you all better love him. If you say one bad thing about him... Oh, just kidding! But really...
So goofy sometimes.
Lloyd heard the camera click and stretched in his sleep... he fell right out of my bed onto the floor!
Silly boy... that's your tail!
I don't even care that you are chewing on my hair tie... you are adorable.
It's ok! I'll just sleep on the floor!
My counterpart said, "Lloyd is lucky dog." You can say that again sister.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Happy New Year! Or Merry Christmas... Mongolian's don't really know the difference between these two holidays. They think it's just one big celebration spread out over a few days. Which, let's face it... is kind of accurate.
Fun Fact: so far, 2010 has been the shortest year of my life. 13 hours shorter than all the others... strange, eh?
My school had a big community shabang for the event (hosted on December 26th... most things here are a mystery to me) complete with dancing, singing, awkward games, sparklers, and booze (the last two compliment each other very well).
I decided that I do not take enough B&W photo's, so I switched it up this time. Though, it is a shame that you cannot see the prom-esque dresses in all their brightly colored and glittered glory. I looked like a hobo in comparison (but that is true on most days (how women remain clean and fabulous living in a desert without showers is COMPLETELY beyond me), but I digress...)
I got the evening started by playing some hot American tunes for everyb... this picture was most certainly staged (pun soooo intended).
When the Mongolian soldiers are not out fighting terrorists and enemy countries (i.e. always), they are hired out as live entertainment for New Year's parties, weddings, and birthdays.
Our Midnight Toast! Happy New Year!
(At 10:00 on December 26th)
My Haasha fam... Bajay and Shinee (Dilguun's ma and pa). I am a beast next to them.
Bunny Ears are universally funny!
The stage complete with the New Year's Christmas Tree!
Some impromptu karaoke
My counterpart, Anhaa
This man is training me to be a table tennis CHAMP. Also a volleyball champ. He's also training me to run the 4 by 4 and 100 meter dash in the sport competition later this year. I think he has a little too much faith in me.
Cake! Candy! Yak milk-based dairy product! Beer! Vodka!
Truly, a Mongolian Celebration.
In Mongolia, you spend the stroke of midnight in your ger with your family because how you ring in the New Year is believed to be how the rest of your year will go. So, if you spend it happy, healthy, safe in your home surrounded by family, you will spend the year living the same way.
Due to some questionable buutz, I spent New Year's puking into my tumpun. I hope that's not an omen...
Oh, and at our New Year's party, the Governor awarded me the "Best Foreign Teacher in Dariganga" award. Competition was tough, but I daresay it was well deserved :)
Many more pictures to come... I'm living large in the big city for the next week!
Big Gulps! Alright!
Well, See ya later!