Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Art of Moseying

If you decide to make your way to Altai, Mongolia and want to do some people watching on a weekday morning, you may find a small girl speed walking. You will watch as she slows down suddenly, only to work her way back up to a rapid walk, again and again. This girl... would be me. I guess if I think about it, I've been this way since can I remember; walking extremely quickly and leaving whoever decided to make the trek with me, in the dust. It can't be helped, it's just one of those natural things. My legs end up working so hard, my muscles ache a bit and the soles of my shoes wear down quick... but so is life as a speed-walker.

Since coming to Mongolia, I've learned that it's not so much about where you are going, but the steps it takes to get there. But old habits, I'm finding, are tough to break. I have to constantly remind myself to slow down and take in all the beauty I'm surrounded by; the colorful buildings, the snow capped mountains, the small children who pass me and whose faces light up in recognition that I'm an American, as they practically shout 'HELLO' and 'HI' at me as if I might disappear if they don't yell it like, right now. But even these things have a way of slipping out of my present moment of conscious thought and I find my little legs once again carrying me passed several Mongolians as I fly by. Not only this, but it's also a constant battle between looking at my surroundings, and keeping an active eye on the ground. Rocks lurk out to trip you, ice covers the ground, and manholes threaten to eat you... it can be a dangerous place for a mosey-er. I, of course, try and attempt both, and as a result, trip at least twice daily.... it's becoming a problem.

And not only that, but where do I have to go that I need to get to so quickly... I mean reaaaaally? Time is viewed extremely differently here, and it's a lot more flexible than the rigid schedules we're all accustomed to in the states. Nothing bad will happen if I arrive a little late - Mongolia's biggest lesson to us all. When you're stripped of the constant demands on your time, the urgency begins to fade a little and you're left to ponder the simple decision; to haul-ass or not to haul-ass...? And if I didn't have all of this extra time on my hands, I might not get to ponder all these random, yet important things while moseying, like why are there still birds in Mongolia? Shouldn't they have flown somewhere more south by now? And what element makes snow good for packing, and why does Mongolia hate me and not want me to have snow fights...? 

But since we are onto the '5th Nine' of winter, this is all really just a moot point. As temperatures teeter around -40 degrees F, you walk fast to escape the cold and get to the next building that promises some warmth. Maybe I'll master sauntering come spring...

Friday, January 13, 2012


Apologies for the long delay between posts! Life has apparently gotten in the way of me updating all of you fine folks. It went from us being here 100 days, to over 200 while I blinked, and things don't look to be slowing down anytime soon. Another cause for delay was a little mishap with my laptop that included me, a water bottle, and slow motion horror as I knocked said water bottle over my entire keyboard resulting in the death of my computer. Help is on the way though - currently in the process of filling out a claim and getting it replaced.... THANK YOU decision I made to insure my possessions!

SOOO moving on... So much has happened, I don't even know where to begin!! The weather is dropping and my eyelashes are freezing. From what I hear, its been a pretty mild winter so far compared with last year's. Most days have been sunny and nice. People assume because it gets so cold here that we get a ton of snow... but that is juuust not the case. Mongolias typical dryness combined with our semi-dessert location, give us little precipatation and hardly any snow. And the snow that does come has no packing potential... waaaamp wamp.

Christmas & New Years
Being in Mongolia for the holidays was great; Different, but in a good way. While Christmas isn't celebrated here, I had plenty of Americans around to keep me occupied for the grandest of American holidays. Leading up to Christmas was fun and sharing our seemingly weird traditions with Mongolians made it really special. In our sitemate gift exchange I was the proud recipient of a bottle of olive oil and some delish oatmeal cookies.... nifty! Also got so many amazing and thoughtful gifts from home that made life seem not so different after all. We were even able to string some lights up that lasted for about a good 10 minutes before they burnt out due to outlet incompatibility.

Our pretty lights and paper tree

New Years was a different story. Mongolians DO celebrate this holiday and they know how to do it right. The week before Jan 1 is filled with work parties, while New Years Eve is spent at home with family. Typically spouses aren't invited, but Anth tagged along to my work party, and I tagged a long to his. This essentially entails a restaurant being rented out, people dressing up in prom-worthy attire, heavy waltzing, and  lots of glitter and delicately frosted cakes. 

The ladies of Altai's Children's Department.... and me at Anth's Shin Jil party

While teaching during our weekly community English Club last week, I came across the word 'enough.' Next to it, was a simple definition that really hit home for me on a few different levels- to have everything you need. If I had to sum up what 7 months in Mongolia has taught me so far, it's that I can get by with a lot less than I've been accustomed to. It's in a way shifted the way I view the things that I have. I'm sure all of us volunteers limited what we thought we might need when we desperately scrambled to pack for this great adventure... hoping to cut the excess fat and live a simpler life, if only for these 27 months. But I've reconsidered the meaning of 'necessity' and am realizing I can go without a lot more than I may have ever realized. Mongolians are a great example of this. While they have considerably less than Americans, they seem happier in many ways. They aren't constantly worried about keeping up with the Jones' and seem to just be able to live life, and live it simply. While many Americans  seem to tie their happiness to their possessions and think if they can just get this or that, they might be better off in some way. It's been refreshing to be a part of such a different culture and everyday I'm thankful to be here and learn so much from them. Its a nice reminder that we can all do with a little less and that what we have at the current moment and where we are in our life just might end up being 'enough' for now.

Fun Fact
When serving or accepting food, candy, or gifts, it is always to be done with the right hand. IF you are wearing a sleeve that is rolled up, you must first unroll it and reach your little paw out to accept. NO EXCEPTIONS!

I will be traveling back to Michigan from May 15th-June 11th. GET EXCITED! And if I may, please everyone stop getting engaged, married, pregnant, and promoted.... your forward life progress is interferring with my life! Just kidding, but seriously... much love always!