Monday, June 22, 2015

One week in (6/14/15)

I have been with my host family for one week now, and the M26 group is officially finished with two weeks of PST (pre-service training). Time is very weird in Peace Corps. It feels like it has been ages since Caleb and I were sitting in the airport in Birmingham, waiting to head to San Francisco. At the same time, time is going by quickly. It’s difficult to explain.

I have done a lot of things with my host family over the past week. I helped plant cucumbers in their garden. I have observed and assisted with meal preparations. I have taken a bath and washed clothes in a tunkin (sp?). I have played some of the traditional Mongolian games, which I will explain in more detail later when I have all the correct spelling and terminology to share. I have watched Mongolian TV with my family, which has ranged from Mongolian horse racing and wrestling to “So You Think You Can Dance” with Mongolian dubs. I have gotten used to using a squat toilet.

And I have eaten. And eaten. And eaten. I think I have been doing a good job of politely refusing when I simply can’t eat anymore, even though my family always asks if I want seconds or they keep telling me to eat. I thought before coming here that I would lose weight because I am not used to a heavy meat based diet, but it seems like most of the host families are making sure that doesn’t happen. The food I have been eating with my host family has been quite good, despite the fact that I’m not used to eating steaming hot soup and drinking hot tea when it is 80 degrees outside. I have been eating many variations of soup, with cabbage, carrots, onions, rice, noodles, and meat, and noodle or rice based dishes usually including those vegetables and pieces of goat meat in a non-soup form. There are many variations of dumplings too, which have been a favorite of mine. We had fried dumplings two nights ago that were delicious. They had mostly green onions and little pieces of meat inside. Quite good. Eggs are a favorite for breakfast, either boiled or fried with the yolk not cooked all the way (forgive me egg enthusiasts, but I don’t know what this is called). They have been feeding me well.

(Chicken cage, and view of community)

Another interesting thing I did with my host mom, sister, and brother began with my sister telling me “We are going to pluck.” By this point, I had been eating goat, sheep, and who knows what other type of meat. If I didn’t mention in my previous post, my family has chickens. So, when my sister said this, I thought “YES! We are having chicken tonight!!!” Alas, this did not mean we would be killing and plucking a chicken. Instead, it meant we went outside of our fence behind our house, which is where the cows graze, to collect dried cow dung for fire fuel. My sister’s translator on her phone has been helpful most of the time, but it was off with this one. Anyway, the view in this area is amazing, especially during sunset. It took the four of us about half an hour or so to fill up our containers.

During the week, I have been going to school. It is about a 10-15 minute walk, and there happens to be a significant sandy hill between my home and school. I am still getting used to this, especially as the weather is getting warmer. I am usually sweating a good bit by the time I get there. And it isn’t just once a day, but twice. Our language class starts at 9am until 1pm, with breaks in between. At 1:00pm, we have to go home to eat lunch and be back at the school by 2:30pm for our technical sessions. Eventually the hill will be easy, right? Sure. Technical sessions have us learning Monday and Wednesday-Friday about teaching English. We are also required to “micro-teach,” which is where we will practice teaching to community members throughout PST. On Tuesdays, we have cross cultural sessions where we learn about the Mongolian culture.

(Sandy hill, and view to the west)

It has been almost a week since I’ve seen Caleb. We were luckily able to see each other in Darkhan on Monday when we were getting our second series of shots. I have missed him, but he is coming to my soum next weekend on Saturday and will go back on Sunday. After that, it will be less than two weeks before we see each other again in Darkhan for mid-center days, when the whole group gets together for four days for more training.

Overall, I am doing very well. The language has been tough for me, but I know I’ll get better over time. My family is very welcoming, and I have some pretty amazing views of Mongolia. I have a feeling I am leaving some things out, so please feel free to ask questions in the comments. There is much I am still learning, and I am exciting about moving forward with becoming integrated into the Mongolian culture.