Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Last Days of Summer

            Sally and I have been in our new home in Chinggis Hot for almost two weeks. It has been a nice gradual transition for us. We have had the opportunity to meet many of our Mongolian Counter Parts (CP) and have become somewhat accustomed to life in this small city.

            For most PCVs, I think the transition of starting in a new site can be difficult. After months of training with other Americans a volunteer is placed alone in a site where only a handful of the local population might speak English and even less fluently. For some volunteers fresh out of college this is the first time they have ever lived alone. While the potential for personal growth is exponential, the trials of the first few months are noteworthy and intimidating.

Photo from "Dream Camp" earlier in the summer 

            This difficult transition is not the experience that Sally and I are having. For us it has been fun to create a new home together. To finally unpack the winter bag was in many ways like Christmas, because neither of us remembered what was in the bags. (When we came to Mongolia we had two large bags. One we kept with us during the summer, and the other was placed in storage for arrival at site.) Our transition has also been easy, because so far both of our Host Country Agencies (The schools we work at, HCA) have been helpful and excited about working with us.

            Last weekend was an aimag wide teachers’ conference that occurred at a school in our city. Our HCAs informed us that it was not necessary for us to attend because it was entirely in Mongolian and we have not settled into our jobs yet.  Two other new volunteers had traveled into the aimag center with their counter parts from distant soums. The Mongolian supervisors got together and decided to deposit all of the Americans into Sally and I’s care for the weekend.

            This turned out to be a great time. We were able to meet and kinder stronger friendships with our fellow PCVs. While our Mongolian coworkers met, we united all of new khentii aimag volunteers for dinner at our apartment. For one meal we experimented with a chicken curry rice dish, breaded potato wedges, and a cucumber onion salad. The next day I was able to make a pretty decent egg salad. I also experimented with what I thought was lentils, but turned out to be some sort of Russian grain similar to barley or wheat. This was just okay.

            Food and having control of our diet has been a luxury that Sally and I have been enjoying thoroughly. We have already cooked more times in this kitchen in a two week span then we would ever do in America. A healthy reason for this is the inability to just go buy cheap warm fast food. The availability of food is limited in our small city, so sometimes we much just wing dishes and hope that it turns out well. Last night, Sally and I created calzones in our small oven or steroid boosted toaster oven depending on how full or empty the glass is to you. The dough was too thin so the calzones took on a nice hot pocket feel and flavor that was enjoyable. On the previous night we created chicken khuushuur that turned out to be pretty good, although we are still tinkering with the ingredients.

            There are some things that Mongolia does not do well. Cheese is one of these things. They have everything they need including a robust population of milk-able animals, but still the cheese and dairy products tend to come in one flavor that I have not acquired a taste for yet. The only cheese we have found in our city that does not fall into this category is processed cheese slices which have been enjoyable.
Photo from "Dream Camp" earlier in the summer 

            Still as I write this, I slap myself into perspective. Last weekend, we were shopping with one of our PCV friends who lives in a ger.  We found ourselves in a sort of furniture store and were sitting on a comfortable new couch. The one person with money to spend was looking through the rugs trying to decide which would look good in his ger, and debating as well the necessity of a fridge and washing machine. “Look at us,” I said “here we sit in a store debating whether to buy refrigerators or rugs. Think about all of the volunteers in Africa who are living in straw huts. Isn’t it weird to be shopping for these things in the Peace Corps?!?”

“This is true, but the volunteers in Africa don’t have to contend with Mongolian winter.”

And contend we shall, for now life in Chinggas town is relaxing and fun. Sally and I are enjoying the last months and days before the weather changes and winter is upon us.


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