Saturday, June 30, 2012

Photo of the Day

Inspired by a friend, I have decided to participate in "Photo of the Day." Basically, it's a challenge to myself (creatively) to take one picture for every day. And since I'm going to be in some pretty awesome places in the coming months, now is as good a time as ever to get this started. I won't post everyday, but I will post one picture for everyday. 

Check it all out here:


Friday, June 29, 2012

The End and The Beginning

Hello one and all!

I write to you all on a beautiful Mongolian summer day, listening to the delightful sounds of construction taking place right outside my window... which started at 4 am. 

But the warm air and quick internet connection are not all that's different about this post. I have officially COSed as a PCV and have joined the ranks of the thousands who came before me as an RPCV!!

(Peace Corps sure does love it's acronyms: COS = close of service, PCV = peace corps volunteer, RPCV = returned peace corps volunteer [though 'returned' is misleading as I won't be returning anywhere for quite a bit... read on, read on...])


The COS process was long and filled with paperwork, but all in all, everything went perfectly smooth. This was the hard part:

and this...

and this... (they are sending me off to UB!)

oh god and THIS... (for those who don't know, Lloyd the Dowg will continue to reside in Dariganga under the care of Shine and Bajay. He has doggy friends and I am convinced he will be happiest there. Oh, but when they take down my ger... yanaa, I can't think about it!)

I think I will miss you most of all... (The word for "to miss" is the same as the word for "to remember" Mongolian. I totally get it. I don't think I'll ever be able to remember these people without missing them terribly.)

OH GEEZ, I got myself cryin again. I could (should) reflect about all my triumphs and failures over the past two years. Or about the crazy things I've done. Or about what I've learned as a Peace Corps Volunteer living in Mongolia. But, in the end, it is these three people, my best friends and my family, who have made this experience everything it is. 

And just like that, it's over. 

But one must continue to look forward, non? And I have a pretty sunshine-y path ahead. Some friends and I recently took a quick jaunt to Ulan Ude and Lake Baikal in Russia to renew our Mongolian visas. We camped right off the shore for three days, hiking around and eatin fish. 

Oh, and Ulan-Ude is home to the world's largest Lenin head! How about that?

Now, my friends and I are gearing up for our 3 week canoe trip from Lake Khuvsgal to the Russian border in Mongolia. We expect a very good time. And on August 3rd, I fly out to Bangkok to begin my journeys in Southeast Asia! My ETA stateside is still TBD, sorrrrryyyyy. 

Things are looking good, people! 

As always, I love and miss you all. Go White Sox. Boo Cubs. Happy summer and good day. 

Ooooh fer cute.

This one is a long time coming. Cute kids and Cute Animals! Viewer beware: obscene amounts of adorable are comin your way. 

Misheel #1 - Shinee's 10 month old

Check out lil Atzaa in the background!

Oh. Dear. 

Future herders!

Nomio did my hair...

Misheel 2 - Anhaa's pretty little girl 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ma and Pa Do Mongolia: Unabridged Version

As promised: The Kappel's take Mongolia. 

A big ole high five to these two:

... for being such good troopers throughout this whole affair. After getting off the FIRST CLASS flight in China, their transportation slowly disintegrated until they were shoved in the back seats of a Japanese mini-van, hurdling through the countryside of Mongolia. But they did it. Just like Rocky. 

Culture shock turned out not to be too bad in UB:
Oh, hello Sasha Bairn Coen!
A little tougher in the countryside:

Then we spent 6 days travelling to and from my soum. It is approximately one hundred million kilometers of travel. Or so it feels like. Dad began checking off his Mongolia to do list:

Hold a GIANT bird of prey on his shoulder: Check. 
The first day in Dariganga, we spent the day seeing what there is to see. Dad climbed Altan Ovoo with our driver Otgoo while Mom and I waited at the bottom, pondering our womanhood. Next, we saw a few lakes, a few swans, a few natural springs, etc... We drove out to Shilin Bogd (the tallest point in eastern Mongolia), where my parents got to experience Mongolian weather in all it's glory. Sunny as we drove there, snowy/windy/sleety/rainy as we were atop the mountain, then sunny as we drove back. Thank you Chinggiss, for giving my parents a true Mongolian experience. 

Standing in the open, watching that storm cloud move ever closer. Oh, yes, that is snow by the way. And yes, it is May 28th. 
 After our terribly chilly stint on Shilin Bogd, we trucked on over to the Ice Cave, aptly named as it is a cave... that is covered in ice. As per any Mongolian monument, the cave was plastered in khadags (the blue scarf) and money, but seeing how it was a cave, there was no light, and thus no good pictures.

Can you see the ice crystals?
The ice cave was the grand finale on a tiresome day. As we were bouncing back to my ger, we saw our first herds of gazelle sprinting across the steppe.

Next day! We had a horkug (a goat roast) at my friend's ger out in the countryside.

Otgoo gathering some water for the goats.
Making the milk tea
 The horhug was done in the same manner as the marmot roast. They took out all the good stuff from inside the goat, then recrammed it back inside with potatoes, onions, and hot rocks. 6 hours later, we cracked that baby open and had a feast.

These men spent HOURS trying to get all that stuff out of that goat. 
Meanwhile, we partook in many a countryside activity. Horseback riding, sheep herding, baby goat holding...

Later that week... Mom and Dad met Ээж and Аав!

My Mongolian dad presented my American dad with a horse! Dad ceremoniously tied the ribbon around the horse's neck and dubbed him "Jack-Horse." Jack-Horse will be racing in the national Naadam festival this summer. 

And then they were gone! We had a really wonderful time in spite of jet lag, bad roads, and uncooperative national parks. And I'm very glad I got the opportunity to see Mongolia through fresh eyes again. Especially since my time in the country is really winding down FAST. But I'll tell you all about that later. As for Ma and Pa, you guys did a wonderful job travelling about this country and I can't thank you enough for coming. Have you recovered yet?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Kappels in Mongolia

Maw and Paw came to visit!!
Here is the quick, compressed, it's-11-and-I-am-tired-and-leaving-on-the-8am-bus-tomorrow version of my life!

  • Mom and Dad just left this morning after a grueling 10 day stint in Mongolia. Highlights include:
    • A goat roast
    • Horses, camels, and gazelle, oh my!
    • Extreme heat, terrifying sandstorms, rain, snow, and sleet
    • An awful lot of Chingiss Khan
    • Outhouses
    • Karaoke
    • Wiggle Walks and Rocky impersonations
  • I finish my service June 22nd!
  • I am in the process of obtaining a Russian visa to visit Baikal
  • Then, I'm taking a canoe trip through Mongolia
  • Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, India, and Burma after that!
I PROMISE I will have a better post complete with better pictures, but until then, tough luck, I'm goin to bed.