Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Reunited, and it feels so good.

After a rather cold and exciting 27 months, and a quick adventure to Vietnam and Cambodia, I am officially back in the USA!  I know I wasn’t the best at updating this blog, but I do have a bunch of stories stockpiled that I think I might continue to upload since I have some fast Internet now.  For now though, this post is to tell you some things about my perspective about the good ol’ land of opportunity.

First off, faucets are AMAZING.  You can just turn those things on, and fresh, clean, drinkable water comes out! Revolutionary!

Everything in general is pretty amazing, street lights, sidewalks…roads! And Vegetables.  Vegetables EVERYWHERE!

Given my now severe dislike of cold, I am LOVING the weather outside, but the air-conditioning everywhere is a little dissatisfying…

Overall there is just lots of things to look at and take in…generally a little overwhelming but I am trying my best to acclimate.  Here are some things that have caught me off guard:

The pet groomer:
With just a couple days of driving under my belt, I am still getting used to it.  I took my aunt to the eye doctor, and she asked me to take her dog to the groomer, she gave me some very basic directions, and I was on my way.  Let’s just say I got a little lost because all the businesses and stores were a little overwhelming in addition to paying attention to traffic and the rambunctious dog in the backseat.  Once I found the place, I got the crazy dog out, who became even crazier outside of the car with excitement.  By the time I got inside the groomer, with other crazy dogs barking and my aunts dog jumping about, I was a little spaced out and flustered.
The groomer lady came out to take the dog from me very promptly, and as she took the leash from my overwhelmed hands she said ever so kindly, “Good morning to you TOO!”

LESSON LEARNED:  Don’t be overwhelmed, be overwhelming in politeness.

The Sidewalk:
So as some of you might know, while I was out and about walking in a neighborhood, I fell, and scraped myself up pretty good.  What you might not know, is that it actually happened two times.  The first time, within my first 24 hours within the country, I fared pretty well…I just got a nasty scrape on my palm…The second time, about two days later, I re-scraped up my healing palm, and then further scraped my other palm, my knee, my shoulder, and my money maker.  It happened.
So as I was sitting in the packed waiting room at the eye doctor, waiting for my aunt to finish, A real friendly older woman saw my injuries and started to talk to me about it…loudly.  She sympathized with me, saying she knows how tough sidewalks can be, and her own encounter with the concrete.  Within about ten seconds she had everyone in the room staring at me, as they prepared their own stories about their own sidewalk stumbles.

LESSON LEARNED: Apparently as you get older, watch out for the sidewalks, as they increase in danger.

After dealing with all the stray and otherwise scary dogs in Mongolia, I am a little frightened of all dogs now…My aunt’s for mentioned dog is usually calm, and we became fast friends again in no time, but lets just say the dogs in the yard behind my cousins house who barked at me when I entered the yard…nope…

So part of the friendship between me and my aunt’s dog’s (Bear) includes peaceful walks around the neighborhood.  One day, while I was out walking her, these two twin dogs came running out from around the corner of a house, barking, and looking quite determined to eat my face off.  I immediately bent down to pick up some rocks to throw, but given the location in a neighborhood, found none, and went to my back up plan of yelling “go away” in Mongolian. (Things that used to be apart of my daily routine, but now might be construed as a ‘little weird’ here in ‘merica”).  My efforts did not deter the dogs, and I braced for my imminent death.  Perhaps about 15 seconds later as I unsquinted my eyes, I saw the dogs licking and playing with Bear with wagging tails.  Around this time the owner was walking up to me to reclaim his dogs and making small talk.  I walked away with a stressed and hard thumping heart.

LESSON LEARNED: Dogs aren’t scary anymore?

The Dishwasher:
The dishes that entered my aunt’s dishwasher seemed to be very pre-cleaned in the sink with the amazing faucet, but they still seemed to find a temporary home in the dishwasher to be washed.  One afternoon as I was taking a dish out of the dishwasher to make a salad, and my aunt said, “Oh, those are dirty” …This warning did not deter me using the dish, and making quite the scrumptious salad in it.  As I sat down at the table and began to eat, my aunt looked at me and questioned, “So did you teach any manners over there?!” With my face full of embarrassment, and my mouth full of salad, I quietly replied, “no.”

LESSON LEARNED: don’t do that.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Countryside trip Part 2

So I stayed for  few days and pretended to be a herder and help with the baby animals. (and by helping, I really mean taking countless selfies with baby goats). I had went hoping to see an animal being born, but it was a little late in the birthing season, and most had already been born already.

The kids-

There were I think around 300 new baby goats born this year.  I forgot the actual number they told me, all I know is that there were plenty of them jumping around and yelling out all cute like for the momma goats.  Momma goats are not so great at looking after their kids, so in the morning, when the goats go out, the kids get herded separately so as to not get lost.  Each morning, we took the herds out too the well, and then separated them there.  I would roughly estimate the well to be about a mile from the house.  Well, one morning, we were separating them, and a group of kids got scared and took off running towards the house.  I was the closest to them, so I took off running after them.  Let's just say that they were fast, and I was not.

 Once we all reached the house, the kids calmed down from their frenzy, and I got them running back in the correct direction towards the well.  They were still a little freaked, and were running fast.  About halfway through our running journey, they saw the herd of momma goats going further into the countryside to graze.  The kids then proceeded to run EVEN FASTER towards them.  In a herders perspective, this was a horrible I took off sprinting to catch them and change their direction, but I was not fast enough.  FC's dad eventually saw what was happening, and raced over with his motorcycle before the two groups combined.  The group of kids went now in the correct direction towards the well, and the momma goats walked out of sight for the day.  As FC's parents had a hearty chuckle, I smiled in shamed, just glad that I was done running.

* Side note, when I got back to BX and told this story to FC, she did not stop laughing for 12 minutes...not just a chuckle laugh either, a literal rolling on the floor laugh.

Goats in the house.

I was outside with Enkhjin and her sister tending to the animals.  When we had finished our task, we went back inside for some warm milk tea.  First to enter the house was Chimee, then me...assuming that Enkhjin was right behind me, I left the door open for her.  She however, did not enter right behind me.  As I sat inside sipping some milk tea, FC's Mom went out to get something from the other room.  What she soon discovered, though, were about 10 goats that had come into the house! Oops.

the kids climb on everything

my favorite lamb...all black with a bit of a white tail.

The well

Animals drink alot of water.  So much of the time was spent down by the well.  If you are wondering what happens if you accidentally drop the stick down the well....well, here are some photos.  

The birth

Where's Enkhjin?  1 point for identifying the goat in labor,
 2 points for finding Enkhjin.
On the last day that I was in the countryside, I was lucky enough to see a birth. As I walked out of the house, I heard the poor goat screaming in pain.  The sheep and goats had to stay in the corral until they were milked a little, So this poor goat in labor was being tramped upon and squished by the others.

There were some real jerk goats who would come up to her and start head butting the soon to be mom.  I like to think that they were other mother goats trying to give advice to the preggo goat, and with their head butts were trying to say encouraging things, like 'dont lay down, get up and walk honey!'  'you can do it!' or 'better out than in!'  but in reality, I think they were just being jerks.

After about an hour, FC's dad, just stuck his hand in, and pulled that kid right out.  I was expecting it to be messy process, but turns out, it was way more messy than I thought.

I thought the goat would lick the grossness off the kid, but that never happened.  Instead, Enkhjin wiped it all off with her hand and smeared it on the momma goat to make her remember the smell of her kid.  Then she rubbed dirt all over the kid to fully clean him off.  


Overall, it was a great trip, and I had a lot of fun.  Here are some things that I learned:
1.       Goats don’t look after their babies very well, which is why the kids don’t get to go out with their mothers to graze.  Sheep look after their babies quite well, which is why lambs can go out and graze with their mothers.  In other words, don’t pick up a lamb and assume that the mother will not head butt you and knock you over.
2.  If you lay anything on the ground, goats will eat it. 
3. If you have a fake knit flower on your hat, goats will eat it.
4.   If you are wearing clothes, goats will try to eat those too.
5.  Baby goats jump…a lot.
6.  Stars in the countryside, are limitless.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Countryside trip. Part one: getting there.

It's 'spring' here now.  I really cant believe it.  Mostly because it just keeps snowing...

But with spring, comes NEW BABY ANIMALS.  lambs, kids,'s exciting.  It is interesting to actually see a reason for spring break instead of just a break from school.  Those children have to go help their parents with all of these babies being born!

So, on the first chance I got, I went to the countryside to visit Firecracker's family, and pretend to be a herder...  FC still had to work, so I went with her young niece to fully test my mongolian skills.

Her parents live in the middle of nowhere, about 6 hours away from where we live, in the distance from a small village call buutsagaan.  When we went to the market to find a car, there was only a small car going.  The driver said that they were only taking one other small child, and that taking me would be no problem.    FC, however, called his bluff, and convinced him to let me have the front passenger seat.  We all agreed, and he said that he would be by to pick me up about 3 hours later.  A suprising 20 minutes later, I was in the car with Enkhjin (FC's niece) and the drivers adult friend.  The first stop was to pick up the "1 small child."  Turns out 1 small child in Mongolian really means 6 medium sized children and a teenager.  So total for the tiny sedan was 3 adults, 2 teenagers, and 6 children.  I sat so comfortably in that passenger seat as everyone else, quite literally, crammed into the back.

So we set out on our journey driving on the open field (there are no roads in the countryside) towards our destination.  We were driving pretty fast, so I was hoping it would be on the 'faster than 6 hours' side.  About 2 hours in however, we hit a ditch going a little too fast, and we broke the front axel.  Now what this means is that we were stuck, in the middle of vast unpopulated mongolia- about 2 hours away from the next small village, with no cell phone reception in the cold ass weather.

So here is a how to, on fixing an axel.

step 1. light a cigarette

step 2.  assess the damage

step 3. crawl under the car, and try fixing it by hitting it with a nearby rock.

step 4.  get back in, turn the car on, and see if the car can move.

step 5. repeat step 3 and 4, roughly 4 times.

step 6.  use the car jack, cut out a seat belt, remove the tire and tie the axel up.

step 7. start the car up, see that it works, and pile all the kids back in the backseat while the foreigner relaxes comfortably in the front.

so this fix to our situation only would only work if we drove going 1 mile per hour, stopping every 5 minutes to repeat the process.  Needlessly to say, we were well past the time we were supposed to arrive at our destination, and we wereonly about halfway there.  we eventually had to cut out another seat belt after hitting another ditch.  However that second seat belt only lasted us until dusk, and about a mile from a small village.  The driver just went ahead and told us all to walk to the village at dusk aka wolf time (aka actually a pretty scary time) while he figured out the  situation.  The kids darted out all scattered like towards the village, and my motherly instincts were yelling after them to stay in a group...but they seemed quite intent on their scatter what i realized is that there is probably a good reason that I am not a mother yet.

DISCLAIMER: no one was eaten by a wolf

Since we were close enough to the village, that there was someone that drove by us and picked up all these random kids running.  The kids were excited to tell him of our car situation, and he asked if we knew anyone in this small village.  Once he figured out we didnt, he just kind of let us sit in his car for a while.  Since we were at a village, we had cell reception, and I called FC to let her know where we were.  She called actually a former teacher from my school who now lives in this village, who invited me and Enkhjin over and fed us.

Naraa teacher and her family
They eventually got the car to the village, and fixed it up in the dark with a welding tool, in about an hours time.  The now fixed car picked us up, and once again we were on our way at a faster speed.  Now however, the drivers friend took the front, leaving me snuggling with the kids in the back.  They all fell asleep on me.  While I didn't fall asleep, my legs surely did.

We arrived in the middle of the night to our destination.  I was very surprised that the driver just found the correct house, in the huge landscape, without actually any directions from me or Enkhjin.
We stumbled wearily out of the car, and stood tiresome under a blanket of the brightest stars and waited for FC's mom to answer the door.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Video Contest

So last year I made a video for this Peace Corps Video Contest about living in my ger (if you didnt see it, click this:  It was actually my first time even experimenting with how to edit a video together, and it was a fun project for my down time...

Well, this year, I made another video for the contest!!  It is about my friend, Firecracker.  Anyway, PC only judges the top viewed videos, so please go check out the video, and if you feel so inclined, share it with everyone you know!

Here is the link:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

On buying extra bananas

I think in the states, I probably ate at least one banana a day.  My favorite fruit by far…but bananas are a rare treat where I live now.  They don’t always come, but when they do…yum. 

One day, I was in our grocery outlet, and they had bananas…I bought 4…two to eat right away (as fast as I could put them into my mouth) and then two, which I would eat on subsequent days…because what is more joyful then waking up and eating a banana for breakfast! ESPECIALLY when you have peanut butter to go with it.

So I had these two extra bananas.  It took a lot of self-restraint not to eat them the same day, but I made it.  I think I fell asleep thinking about them.  So when I awoke the next morning, I completed my morning routine of fire making and bed making, and then bright eyes and bushy-tailed got ready to eat my banana for breakfast.  My extreme exhilaration was however RUINED when I came across my now FROZEN bananas-hard as a rock after spending the night sitting out in my ger. 

To make good out of a bad situations, yes, I still got to mix REAL banana mush in with some oatmeal for breakfast, but banana buyers beware and heed my advice-  when buying extra bananas, it is just best to eat them all at once.  There is no time like the present.  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

How to jump start a Mongolia.

After a long cold day at an ice  party, my teacher was going to give me a ride back to my home, and her car was broken.  I watched from the passenger seat and I tried to document this jump starting with some photos through the small space between the roof and the car...since it was so cold and windy outside, it didn't even occur to me to GET OUT and take photos.  Clearly, I am just a moron... or maybe sometimes when you have actual 'brain freeze' it just takes time to assess your situation.  My apologies for the horrible photos...


When you find yourself in a car that wont start in Mongolia, here is a 'how to' on getting it started again.

Step one: Call a man.

Step 2: Have that man take out a battery from a working automobile.

Step 3:  While holding the battery, turn it upside-down to touch the metal points together.  And try to start the car.

If that doesn't work, continue to...

Step 4: Go put the battery back into the other car, and bring that car closer to yours.

Step 5:  Grab your jumper cables...errr...I mean...Grab a random wire from who knows where, and strip the ends.
see that random white wire?

Step 6:  Find another guy to hold the wires against one car battery while you hold the other ends against your battery...And try to start the car.

If that doesn't work, continue to...

Step 7. Again, take the car battery completely out of the working vehicle

Step 8:  Find 2 wrenches.

Step 9:  While holding the one battery, connect the metal studs of batteries together using the two wrenches...and try to start the car.

You can see so much from this horrible angle.

Step 10:  Put the battery back into the other car...and get on your way with your now fully functioning automobile.

I remember when I was 16 and had to jump start my car for the first time...with actual jumper cables.  I was terrified of getting electrocuted, and also of my car just exploding...So witnessing this account just proves that none of that will probably happen...ever.

Also, a noteworthy observation of this experience was that when they pulled the other car up to connect 'jumper cables' they had to remove the blanket covering the engine of the other car.  Silly me asked why there was a blanket under the which I got a puzzled look and a straight-forward answer, 'to keep it warm!'

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Like a phoenix

Burning coal produces a lot of dirtiness.  Things just become black and dirty.  I have a special black jacket that I only put on when making fires, or busting up coal, because I know whatever I wear will be filthy after even thinking about coal.

Something else that you have to deal with when fire making is the ash.  You constantly have to empty the ashes out of your stove, which is also quite uncleanly.  The process goes as follows...

Step one: put on the black jacket

Step two: open the stove, and rake all the ashes into the tray

Step three: take the tray out, and walk outside to the trashcans on the other side of the yard, while hoping it isn't windy outside so the ash wont blow all up in your face.

Step four: Hold your breathe as you walk across the yard, because it is always windy.

Step five: Dump the ash.

Overall, pretty simple process.

On one fine Friday evening, I proceeded in my evening fire making routine.  I put on my black jacket, and went outside to dump my ash.  It was windy, so I had ash in my face the whole way, and quickly dumped the ash into the trash barrels upon my arrival.  What I didn't know, was that there were about 5 tiny birds foraging some thrown away noodles from my neighbor in the trash barrel.  So when I mistakenly dumped the ash on top of them, they all flew up creating the most horrid ash cloud all around me, leaving me coughing and covered with grey ash.

They never really tell you, but the whole process of 'a phoenix rising from the ashes' must be a pretty messy process.  Even the birds have to dust themselves off once in a while.