|By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, May 26, 2003 - 1:04 pm: Edit Post|
Life in Moron
Life in Moron
Life in Moron
By Matt Barranca
Brothers and sisters,
I write to you from the fog of a third world pharmacy, blessed temples where the weary and the sick can find the sweetest refuge that poorly trained chemists can muster. In Mongolia, we are blessed with Demedrool, Diazapan, Codein, and Phenobarbitol. All for the asking, and priced to move. I've actually been a bit under the weather with a nasty flu and my indulgences are purely for nocturnal purposes, I can assure you.
I had planned on having a regular correspondence with all of you, but I'm sorry work, time, money andtechnology have not aligned accordingly. Oh, yeah and that great work of ethnographic fiction I'm suppose to be writing in Mongolia, well, that dream is no nearer to fruition than you might imagine. Other wise, things are Ok in Moron, Mongolia [EDITOR'S NOTE: ACTUAL NAME OF TOWN]. Let me first say that we Mali volunteers may have had as good an experience as it gets in Peace Corps. Everyday I reminisce about the never-ending the tea parties, the tin roof crackling with heat at 8:00 AM; the long days of myriad subtle cultural confusions and absurdities, and think, I wish Mongolia had half the charm.
Mongolia is a gorgeous country and I live in arguably the most gorgeous Aimag there is, but it doesn't have the comfort and warmth of Mali. The men here are tough and confrontational and naturally zenophobic in a country with roughly zero ethnic diversity. Making Male friends is really, really difficult. In the market, men will walk right at me and make me get out of their way. If I walk into a bar, I'll be quickly accosted by drunk men calling me Ruski and then pelted with cigarette buts. It's a common experience for Male vols here. Mongolian women are a different story - they are ezqually aggressive but for more self-serving reasons. The women here run EVERTHING they do all the work, handle all the monetary transactions and take care of the kids. It's a bizarre and somewhat familiar story. It ain't Mali.
I'm teaching English - three classes of adult conversation. I didn't expect to be doing that as an NGO vol, but pretty much everyone in PC Asia teaches some kind of English classes it seems. I didn't expect too like teaching, but I do - even when the class is basically unappreciative and sees me as "English Teacher" and nothing more, I get a kick out hearing them say things like "Her name is Enktusha. Enktusha is not chalk." That was my advanced class.
My Mongolian progress has been pretty slight the past few weeks - I've had little energy to wrestle with the hard and soft sounds, dipthongs, 5 cases changing subjects, objects and verb forms, and illusive and ever-variable verb cases that depend on what you are talking about, whether you actually witnessed it, heard about it, or heard from someone who saw it first hand. Mongolian is tough. I'm not complaining because the other central asian languages are equally
tough or so I hear.
I'm enjoyin the life however - lots of guitar playing, wood chopping, and walking through the type of amazing developing world market that is constantly reminding you that you are alive and this planet is amazing and crazy and great. So, there are many good things about being here, and I wouldn't have traded the decision for anything. We';; probably just be leaving here a bit early - probably in the end of the summer of 2003. The work here just isn't panning out in the way I'd imagined. I was hopin to get involved with a community development project of some kind, but I don't think there is actually much of a sense of community here to begin with. People live mostly quiet lives with their nuclear family. They get together with their work colleagues for vodka and gossip, but you see very little evidence that peoplewant or feel they need community based development projects. In the end, people seem to like take care of themselves and not feeling responsible for the unfortunate around them. Perhaps is an ironic twist6 to the Soviet era - an anti-community develops when a forced community was previously imposed. In Mali, it was easy to drop in a on a village meeting and talk about soy beans or diarrhea or oral rehydration fluid - not that our efforts really did a great deal, they were at least somewhat well received and applauded as being part of the swing of village life. Here, the main venue for people's coming together is not under the Mango tree or on market day - it seems to be via a telephone to telephone word of mouth grape vine.
People stray away from the public and live very insular, quiet lives, bordering on suspicious. The market may be full of rotten debris and wandering farm animals, but this is not Mali - and that's been a tough lesson to learn for me.
For example, there was recent basketball tournament organized by my Host Agency NGO. I was asked to play on one of the teams. I thought finally, I'll get too be one of the throng, equalized by the rule of the sport and not by our shared misconceptions of each other. It was somewhat liberating, until my coach told me not to shoot the ball because I was not good. I argued that I was as good as any of the fat, mutton eating, sumo look-alike 40 year-olds they had assembled to play this American game. I said, If I get the ball, I will shoot. In the end, I became the targeted man by the other team. I was constantly grabbed, pinched, twisted, punched, and repeatedly wrestled to the ground. At one point, I pulled myself off the warped, dusty floor and swatted the guy who tackled me on the ass and said, "bring it on, Chenggis." (Who, by the way died, eight-hundred fucking years ago - how about a new Mongol hero - really) Chenggis copped a serious tude with me and got all in my face. I grabbed the ball and thrust it into his saggy belly and said "Let's see it, Dick." The refs separated us, but really, for Christ sakes, it was just a fundraiser. After the games, no-one would talk to me and I've been pointedly ignored by everyone there. Cocksuckers. They even took our sink the next day, so we're washing our hands in our slop bucket.
So we've had a few reservations about hanging foor 2 years. We'll decide what we'll doo next April - after the thaw - then we'll make plans. If all goes as I expect, We';; be home by the fall. For those who just have to visit Mongolia with a slightly bitter PCV, come in the early Summer - and we'll have a blast.
Anyway - I imiss you all - I wish you could experience, just once the joy of doing number 2 in -30 degree outhouse at 6AM. It's frightening. I hope all is well - keep in touch.
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