Monday, October 24, 2011

My Octember

So the title of this blog is a common error my English students have been making when remembering the date. Its so close, I almost hate correcting them.... yet I must! "October, October, October!" (Apologies for that minor outburst...)

Anyway, so it has been getting pretty cold here (I’m shivering as we speak.) BUT, the business incubator I work in houses a boot maker and dell maker, so as a gift, I got my measurements taken and was given custom fit boots and a beautiful Mongolian dell. I was so excited when I got my boots, that I wore them home.... BIG mistake. Two big mistakes actually, in the form of blisters on both heels! Let's just say they need some more wearing in =(

So, randomn thought, just when I thought I was adjusting well, I woke up the other night and didn’t know where I was. I literally had to say to myself, “you are in Mongolia, this is your apartment.” It was the first time since coming here that this has happened, and it was a crazy feeling. But despite my midnight freak-out, Gobi-Altai is beginning to feel like home and we love it here... still.

Housing Upgrades
So our apartment is amazing. Can’t say it enough, but we were in need of a few things and a few weeks ago we were lucky enough to get everything on our list. Up until now we haven’t had a refrigerator. It’s been a little difficult, but unfortunately it isn’t a Peace Corps requirement for us to have one, so we made due and made a makeshift one out of our window ledge (it gets pretty chilly there.) After a few weeks of this, we decided to suck it up and purchase one, but Anthony’s agency came through for us big time and decided they would buy us one and they could use it after our service was up. Our apartment is also one large room, so not only is there no privacy to speak of, but it’s of course harder to keep such a large, open space warm. So Anthony suggested we make some type of curtain divider (I think he just misses his curtain from home) and fashion something out of a bed sheet and some rope. I mentioned the idea to my director and she took charge of it and got us a beautiful matching curtain and had it properly installed. We were also in need of a second insulation door to keep the cold out. Not to mention that our one and only door doesn’t close at the top and lets in a big draft. So the wood maker I work with built us a beautiful door and had it installed. I think the fact that my regional manager was coming to town to do a housing check, served as a deadline to make all of these things happen in one week’s time. It definitely gives our house a more “homey” feel and we are thrilled we can buy more than 4 eggs at a time now! 

 Our new fridge addition!

Work Update
So at the beginning of the October we had our Regional Manager, Enkhee, come out for a visit and the two of us had a meeting with my director. We all agreed that a tourism project is needed in our town and is something that can benefit everyone. Some ideas that were thrown around were a training on customer service geared toward local restaurant and hotel owners, translation of menus and hotel rate sheets to English, and widening our monthly cooking class to include local chefs. Tourism is something that I am very interested in, so I’m looking forward to working with my counterparts and local business owners on this project. I will keep you posted on my progress…

Halloween Progressive 2011 & Thanksgivings
We are having a Halloween party next weekend and I am so excited! We are going to do it “progressively” and have a different food, beverage, and game at all of my site mates’ houses and hop from house to house, until we finally settle at our house (it’s the most beer pong friendly) and party our little hearts out. We are adding an Olympic factor to it and will have some type of competition at every person’s house, and the person who scores the most points at the end of the night wins.!!

Only 2 short weeks later, all the cool kids residing in the western part of Mongolia will make our way to Hovd for the "Western Thanksgiving." We are going to have a M21 vs. M22 football game and a glorious feast. Our In-Service Training (IST) is coming up at the end of November, so Anth and I will get flown into UB for that and be reunited with at least a portion of our M22 group-also very exciting! All of the non-TEFLers will be at our training and we get to be flown in early to celebrate Thanksgiving together on the 26th. Anthony, of course, is already brainstorming ideas on his dish-to-pass. Typical!

Garbage Man and Gang
So garbage handling in Mongolia is vastly different than that in the US. Littering is extremely common here, and is very painful for this eco-friendly gal to witness.  Gobi-Altai, however, has proved to be the exception and I’ve been very impressed with their garbage “system” here. They have metal bins set up all around town for people to throw their garbage in to. Lucky for us, there is one across the street from our apartment…. YAY! When these bins get full, they either light them on fire, OR the garbage man, who rides around our town on 3 donkeys pulling a flatbed, empties these containers. It is a mystery to me what is done with them after this, but I he is absolutely adorable.

Garbage Man in action (pictured with said donkey)

When we visited Mother Mountain a few weeks back, my co-workers were very good about cleaning up after themselves and not littering. I was even eating an orange and wanted to throw the peel on the ground, and they made me put it in the garbage. Instead of opening up another can of worms with how natural foods decompose quite easily, I gave in and threw it in the trash. I’m trying to be supportive of their habits!

Me and Anthony with Mother Mountain in the background

Cooking Update: Anthony and I have been getting a lot of use out of our Peace Corps Cookbook and have been experimenting with a bunch of tasty dishes. We made BBQ chicken sandwiches (w/ homemade buns… nbd) cookies, sushi, banana pancakes, cal-zones and homemade stuffing. YUMMY!

BBQ Chicken Sandies w/ Coleslaw
Veg Sushi.... YUM!

Fun Fact: Did you know winter is measured in Mongolia with 9 series of 9 days? According to ancient knowledge, winter in Mongolia actually lasts 81 days or “Nine Nines,” and it is a way for them to gauge their progress through the coldest of winter. The signs of the Nine Nines are familiar to everyone, beginning with the first moon of mid-November, 81 days before the Lunar New Year which brings in the first day of spring.
First nine - shimijn arkhi (mild alcoholic beverage made of milk) freezes
Second nine - arkhi (vodka) freezes
Third nine - tail of three-year-old ox freezes
Fourth - horns of four-year-old ox freeze
Fifth nine - boiled rice doesn’t freeze any more
Sixth nine - roads blacken
Seventh nine - hilltops blacken
Eighth nine - ground becomes damp
Ninth nine - warm days set in