Friday, July 29, 2011


I can't believe we are down to the last 2 weeks in our towns before our Pre-Service Training (PST) is over. It seems like just yesterday we were dropped off at our front doors with all of our luggage in tow (well MOST of our luggage.... I had to run after the van because I left my purse and coat on it; some things haven't changed.) As much as I'm looking forward to going to site, I will miss my little town and all of its simplicity and charm. It's driving us all crazy not knowing where we are placed yet. Come August when our site placements are announced I guess its a pretty big reveal party. We all stand on a map as they call us up and tell us where we are going. I was kind of hoping there was a hat Harry Potter-style that we put on and it would scream out our province name, but I'm thinking not so much. So I thought I'd take this opportunity to tell some funny stories over the summer months I've spent here so far. Grab some popcorn?!?

Mongolian Lantern Party~
As I said, I'm visiting Anthony this weekend. Last night we went for a walk and noticed these balloon type things sprinkled across the sky, so we walked over to see what it was all about. There were a lot of people gathered and they all had these lantern-type things made out of colorful paper. At the base was a flame and once the hot air filled up the lantern, they released them into the sky. It was really pretty to watch, they looked like tiny little hot air balloons dancing across the sunset. It was also a great opportunity to discuss fire safety with Mongolians..... if only we had more language knowledge! There were some who let go of their apparatus prematurely and instead of it floating away into the sky, floated into a group of people.... YIKES. But it was fun to people watch and be a part of such a cool event, even though we had no idea what was going on or why, but sometimes we don't need answers to those questions to still enjoy ourselves.

The Bucket~
One of my favorite stories so far was the first night I arrived at my host family. They brought in a bucket (which they have never done since) and basically motioned to me that if I had to use the bathroom during the night, I should do so in the said bucket, instead of walking across the yard to the outhouse. They pointed at my Toumpin (bathing/laundry bowl) and gave me a thumbs down, and to the bucket and gave me a thumbs up. Rough translation - pee in bucket, not Toumpin.... got it! So as I was settling in, I became parched and grabbed my aluminum water bottle for a drink. I got a piece of paper along with my swig of agua and noticed that there was a price tag in the bottom of my "new" water bottle (why would it be in the inside?!?!) But nonetheless, it needed out. But the bottle was too narrow to reach in. So I went over to my Toumpin and began to pour the water out in hopes of pouring the price tag out. It took a few attempts but I finally did it.... mission accomplished. The next morning my sister came in to get me for breakfast and looked horrified as she saw liquid, and what she could only assume was pee, in my Toumpin. Ironically enough, it did look like the perfect amount for a midnight tinkle. She pointed from the Toumpin to the bucket and her face said it all, "I gave you specific instructions and you messed up!" Again this was day one, so I knew practically zero Mongolian so I ran over to the Toumpin and started splashing my hand in the water and screaming the only noun I had learned yet, thank God, "WATER,WATER." She looked even more horrified when she saw me splashing around what she still thought was my own urine, but finally got that it was water, gave me a weird look and left.

                                      Me and my friend Bryce with our Toumpin hats

My Host Family Assumes I Have a Hair Fetish~

So not too long after I arrive in Mongolia, I get labeled a hair cutting expert and begin giving several of my fellow volunteers haircuts. During training, using borrowed scissors, I cut quite a bit of hair off my first two victims at their insistence. To make it a quick cleanup, I used one of their Toumpins to catch all of the hair (there are so many uses for that thing!) Afterward, I was the one left cleaning everything up and since there is always a lack of trash recepticles in Mongolia, we put all of the hair into a ziplock bag. (I think there was talk by one of the girls, to use it for some type of prank later, but that never panned out.) So anyway, I'm not sure how, but that bag of women's hair got into my bag. Of course the first thing my host family pulls out when they begin helping me unpack is a bag full of human hair. I got a lot of weird stares, and let's face it, there's hardly a way to explain that even in English so I didn't even bother trying. I learned in our culture class a week later that Mongolians consider hair to be sacred and keeping it to be extreme bad luck. They even have hair cutting ceremonies and its a pretty big deal. Since then I have cut all of my sitemates hair at our house, so I hope they at least get it and don't think I'm a total weirdo. Now I just need to find someone to cut MY hair...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Naadam and Such

Got to hangout in Darkhan this week for Mid-Center Days which means I've been reunited with the other 65 volunteers who are still here (2 people recently bit the dust, but for their own just reasons.) I guess we are here at a good time too because it is the anniversary of the city we are in, which means a randomn, AMAZING fireworks show at 10 pm on a Tuesday night. It was really special to watch, since there were no fireworks to be found on the 4th!

We have been here for 3 days and its been great to see everyone from all of the different sites. Anthony got to come visit my town last weekend, so we've enjoyed 5 precious days in a row together =) They really crunch a lot of sessions into the little time that we have here in Darkhan, but the evenings are ours. The trainers coordinated a group dodgeball tournament yesterday with all of the sites. There were a few tough calls, but my team (the non-TEFLs) came out on top..... (was there ever any doubt?) It was a huge success because there were no injuries and a cash prize =)

So what have I been up to lately? Celebrating Naadam and taking part in festivities has been a big deal for us this month. It is essentially the equivalent to the Mongolian Independence Day. Its common to wear the traditional Mongolian formal wear which is a "dell" and both men and women wear them. My family bought me a top which is red and gold and really beautiful. They gave it to me for my birthday and also CHOCOLATE CAKE! It was really special. So Naadam consists of the 3 "manly sports" which is wrestling, archery, and horseracing and takes place over 2 days (different in each town.) There was unfortunately no archery at our site but it was really fun to watch the horseraces and wrestling matches. There were also dancing and singing performances, which my host sister participated in and I loved every minute of it. Each night everyone gathered at the school to celebrate and dance and it was very much like a high school dance. But there was a strobe light and my brother DJed, so me and my other sitemates had a pretty intense dance party.

In addition to that, its been pretty low key here. Just really trying to get the most out of my language classes and learn more about what my job will be like come August. We have the vocabulary of 4 year olds and know all of our colors, most body parts, food, family, professions, and how to describe our basic needs. They are currently working on our placements and we will find out that info August 14th. Its been pretty inspiring learning about all of the community development project options we could choose to explore at site and see what passed volunteers have done. I'm really looking forward to our training coming to an end and getting settled in here and actually implementing some of the things we've been learning about.

Will be visiting Anthony the last weekend in July, so will have internet access! Until then...