Thursday, October 15, 2015

Life in Chinggis Town (Амьдралд Чингис Хот)

Life is good in Chinggis town. Sally and I have now been at site for 2 months. We have grown accustomed to all of the unique features of our town and are comfortably beginning to call this home. Let me tell you of some of the things that may not make it into other blog posts.

Bathing requires us to use every water warming device we have since we do not have hot water. Usually this process involves two stove burners, a rice cooker, and an electric kettle (water boiler that holds about 2 liters). The kettle which brings water to a boil in under ten minutes is used repeatedly to add hot water to large pots on stove. Once everything is close to boiling point it is all dumped into our tub that is large enough to sit cross legged in. During the summer Sally and I grew accustomed to bathing in 2-3 liters of water in a plastic tupon bath. Now it is true luxury to bath in 15-20 liters (cold water is added to boiling water via bath tub spicket to regulate a nice hot bath).

Three of the possible four surfaces for warming water. 
Electric kettles are amazing for heating up water, but if you accidently turn it on without water, be prepared for chaos. I have now done this twice. The second time, instead of melting in a cloud of smoke like the first one did, the kettle actually burst into flames which I tried to beat out on the kitchen floor burning holes in the linoleum before dousing it in the sink… Tomorrow, I will go back to the store and buy our third electric kettle. I may need to hang up a sign in the kitchen with instructions for myself…
Burnt a hole in my foot too. 
Laundry is a therapeutic experience with our Chinese machine. One starts by filling a large bucket full of water from bath tub 4 or 5 times and pouring into the washing portion of the machine. Then soap and clothes are added and agitated for 15mins. Then the water is drained via bucket, and fresh water is added.  Once the clothes have been rinsed, they are placed in the spinner portion of the machine which spins most of the water from the clothes allowing them to dry on a rack in less than 24 hours. What luxury! You may think I am joking, but I am dead serious. After two months of hand washing laundry, this machine is a godsend, and really is quite therapeutic. There is something satisfying in manually moving so much water.

Weather this October has not been too bad. It was chilly in the beginning of the month, but the past few weeks have had sustained highs in the mid 50’s and 60’s. Mongolia, being a landlocked country, has seen a significant change in temperature due to global warming. The winters while terribly cold are not as terribly cold as they once were. The summers are much hotter every year. This is good because it is not as common for whole herds of animals to freeze, and in the case of puppies, may reduce the chance of pupsicles… Oooh, Oooh, I know you are laughing on the inside.
Pupsicles to food… Our diet has become more vegetable based in Mongolia than it ever was in the states. We are easily able to obtain bell peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, garlic, and onions (in the winter it may become harder to find some of these items). Veggies are cheap and less of a hassle than meat. When we do eat meat, it is primarily in the form of imported chicken (legs and thighs, who knows what happens to the rest of the bird) and sausage. Last week, I made a veggie and cheese based pasta, stuffed vegetarian bell peppers, and pizza. I have been experimenting with yeast and may have a decent pizza dough figured out. 

Red meat can be complicated. I was buying a hunk of beef (Үхрийн мах) in the local store (Дэлгүүр). When I asked if it was beef the shop attendant said, “Тийм, үхрийн мах гэдэстэй.” I thought Гэдэстэй, гэдэстэй why does that word sound familiar and why don’t I know what it is? It was not until I had left the store that I realized that гэдэс (geddis) means internal organs, so I had purchased a hunk of beef with internal organs. The shop keeper had tried to warn me. When I got around to boiling the meat I was able to determine what looked like part of the pelvis with some of the pelvic cavity attached.  Disgusting taste and smell.

Grocery shopping is usually done on an as needed base, meaning that once or twice a week I will stop by one of the “super” markets on my way home from school. I have been choosing not to use taxis while the weather is good, so often I am walking the 1-2 miles home with my backpack loaded in groceries and a twenty pound bag in each hand.

Pushups and yoga videos have been our most recent form of exercise outside of lugging groceries home. I am able to download any video off of youtube with a program I have, so Sally and I are experimenting with a 30 day yoga challenge. Although, I was disappointed to find that yoga only burns about as much calories as a walk through the mall.

Free time has been spent watching TV shows, movies, playing Super Mario on a SN emulator, and reading. The peace corps community does a lot of data sharing in the form of TV show downloads and movies. Sally and I recently watched “Jurassic World”, so we are not feeling as disconnected as we thought we would be.  I have been reading prolifically and will publish a list of books read this year in a later blog post.

Social events have been plentiful. Tomorrow, I am going to the river with some of my English teachers to hang out for a few hours before the weather gets too cold.  At least once every week or so, Sally and I meet up for dinner with the other PCVs in our city. These are our site mates of which we have two. Living in a foreign country can be hard, and it is always nice to speak with other Americans. A few days ago, we met at our apartment and enjoyed homemade pizza.

Herein lies a taste of life in Chinggis Town as autumn swiftly flees before winter.

~Caleb (Кэлиб)

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