So a few people have expressed general wonderment about what my accomodations have been like here in Mongolia so here it goes.
I thank my lucky stars everyday that I made the decision to check the "vegetarian" box on my Host Family Questionairre. Mongolians have a lot of meat in their diet and I'm pretty picky in that department, so I'm thankful that my family is considerate of my dietary needs. They feed me what they call White Food, which I initially thought meant American food, but I now know simply means food without meat. My oldest sister Batsetseg is a pretty great cook and she prepares most of my meals which are made up mostly of dehydrated soy meat (tofu), rice, potatoes, and some veggies flavored with soy sauce and seasoning. Its pretty tasty in my book. Aside from the heavy oil its prepared in, I haven't minded it at all; my plate is usually glistening when I'm finished with my food and its safe to say there is a puddle of oil leftover at most meals.
Food preparation has been a different experience. There are just different standards when it comes to cleanliness and food preparation compared to the US. For instance its not uncommon to find a bug in my food. Its usually a small fly or something, since our "summer kitchen" is outside, its no wonder things fly/fall in my food. There is also a minimum of one hair in my meals as well, but I've sort of stopped looking. I did get sick a few weeks ago, which I'm thinking was some type of food poisoning, or perhaps my body just adjusting to the heavy oils, but I'm better now. It was really sweet how my host family took care of me. Turns out soup is the go-to sick food in Mongolia as well.
With no running water in my village, we have an outhouse scenario. They painted it bright blue in case I can't find it in my yard, which was nice. The inside is basically just a small room with a 2x4 missing in the flooring. They fancied it up a bit with orange linoleum and they even have a plant in the corner! My biggest fear right now is losing a flip flop into the abyss, but I'm trying to be real careful. Our outhouse doubles as a trash can and is where most of our garbage goes that they don't decide to burn. All in all not so bad.... its amazing what you get used to.
Shower: My family doesn't have a shower, and most don't in my village. Peace Corps issued us a toumpin which is basically just a big plastic bowl. Its gets kind of tricky, but basically we just use this bin to bathe ourselves. Its a process and having a game plan is always a good thing. I like to wash my hair first, then limbs, and finally torso. I haven't really nailed it yet and I get a lot of water on the floor but its a work in progress.
Communication & Host Family:
The family that I am living with for the summer is great. My mom is a kindergarten teacher and my dad is a driver. They have 4 kids, 2 boys and 2 girls. The oldest brother lives with his wife in the top of the store that they own in town. My sisters are Batsetseg, who is 24 and has a 4-month old baby boy, and Batszaya, who they call Zaya and is 18 and basically takes care of me. The other son Batnyham is 16 and pretty shy. He hardly looks at me let alone talks to me and is always playing American hip hop music from his cellphone, which I find pretty funny. The house we live in has 3 rooms and I occupy the only one with a door, so they all sleep in the family room on the floor and couch and don't have much privacy. This made me feel bad at first, but they don't seem to mind it and they all rarely stay there at once.
I am their 4th PC volunteer so they sort of know the drill. When we arrived 3 weeks ago, we knew about 10 words and phrases in Mongolian so it was very difficult to communicate but we're finding a rhythym. Zaya knows a little English and my Mongolian is getting stronger everyday.
Before I forget, if anyone would like to send letters, the address for both me and Anthony until August 19th is:
Central Post Office
PO BOX 1036
15160 (via China)