January 9, 2005: Headlines: COS - Mongolia: Blogs - Mongolia: Personal Web Site: Anna Jan's First Christmas & New Year in Mongolia

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Mongolia: Peace Corps Mongolia : The Peace Corps in Mongolia: January 9, 2005: Headlines: COS - Mongolia: Blogs - Mongolia: Personal Web Site: Anna Jan's First Christmas & New Year in Mongolia

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-181-108.balt.east.verizon.net - on Wednesday, April 06, 2005 - 7:32 pm: Edit Post

Anna Jan's First Christmas & New Year in Mongolia

Anna Jan's First Christmas & New Year in Mongolia

Anna Jan's First Christmas & New Year in Mongolia

My First Christmas & New Year in Mongolia
Posted by Anna
at 10:57 AM

Happy New Year!!! 2005…woohoo! Now if I could just stop writing 2004 on everything, itâ'd be great. I hope you all had a relaxing and fun holiday. My first Christmas & New Year in Mongolia were both really fun, but I did feel nostalgic at times for the holidays with you all back home.

After Peace Corps In-Service Training (IST) at Nukht, I went to Omnogov, the southernmost Gobi aimag, to spend Christmas with Max at his site in Hanbogd soum. Heâ's so far south that heâ's almost at the Chinese border. I had a really great time—seeing the desert & camels (supposedly more camels than people), meeting everyone in his community, roughing it in a ger, and of course revisiting my old nemesis…the outhouse. (It wasnâ't too bad because in the winter everything freezes so itâ's not too stinky. Now I just need to overcome my germaphobia and the fear of falling in!)

Actually, outhouses donâ't seem too daunting after having had to use one all summer. Itâ's the cold, frigid mornings that seem to be one of the toughest aspects of living in a ger. Max always kept a good fire going to warm the ger, but it inevitably goes out during the night so that you are awakened by the “brisk” winter morning air. Thankfully, he would rebuild a fire before going to teach at school, so I could huddle in my PC standard-issue minus 30 degree sleeping bag until the ger warmed up enough to venture out.

Itâ's a PC rule that all ger-dwelling volunteers have to live within a Mongolian familyâ's hashaa (fenced in yard). Maxâ's family is super nice; and his reputedly ferocious guard dog, Bassar, is actually pretty sweet (though the guy whose pants Bassar tried to tear off would probably be apt to disagree). His dad always checked to see if we needed more wood or coal; and his mom often insisted that we eat meals with them—which is how I got my first taste of camel and horse meat. And even more notably- sheep & goat heads (they blowtorch the hair off, then scrub it (see photo) before steaming it for hours), as well as less easily identifiable animal parts. Our understanding is that the mystery meat was a segment of the intestines (right at the end of the digestive route, if you know what I mean) stuffed with meat and then steamed. Iâ'd have to say that in particular was not my favorite “delicacy”, but Mongolians think itâ's one of the tastiest, so it was especially nice of his family to give it to us.

On my last night there, as a going-away dinner, his family served us a huge meal that included champagne and my favorite Mongolian food- manton buutz (actually, the dumplings are Chinese in origin, but they are ubiquitous here, too). By now our Mongolian language ability is much improved so that we donâ't have to rely on “What is your favorite food/color/hobby?” but it remains a popular conversational standby, which is how Maxâ's mom knew I really like manton buutz. Max and I also cooked some of the time. We made pasta for his family one night with ingredients we brought from UB. Iâ'm not sure his mom liked the tomato-eyness of it quite so much, but his dad really seemed to. It was also fun to cook in his ger even with only one pot over the fire, although we cheated a bit because much of what we ate in the ger came out of a care package from his aunt & uncle…including yummy oatmeal, green pea soup, and the smoked salmon that we had on Christmas.

The staff and students at his school were really welcoming also. I was a little reluctant (?) at first because they had been anticipating my visit, and I wasnâ't sure what theyâ'd make of the second foreigner theyâ'd ever seen, but who looks almost just like them. It was fun to hang out at the school, for instance to attend a wresting match in the gymnasium and to watch his students perform in the schoolâ's New Year concert. We accidentally went to the kidsâ' viewing rather than to the one for adults later in the night, but I am actually glad for this bc it was so much fun to be in the audience with the kids as they energetically and quite vocally cheered on their peers on stage. I was impressed by the young performersâ' stage presence and ability to belt out traditional Mongolian songs. They seemed unperturbed by the occasional electricity outages during the performance. I was too for the most part, except when kids would light sparklers (mini-fireworks) to amuse themselves in the dark until the lights came back on. Despite my efforts not to, I kept thinking about the fire hazard with the building at twice its capacity—that is, if there was such a thing as fire codes here.

Another highlight of my visit to Hanbogd was hanging out at Ivanhoeâ's mine in Oyu Tolgoi. The staff who work in Ivanhoeâ's community development and HR office are SUPER nice. OT is where I got to take nice hot showers, use the Internet, and snack on FRUIT while Max was teaching English to relocated herders. They were also nice enough to pick us up an hour early so that we could eat lunch with them at the dining hall, where some of the best food Iâ've had in Mongolia was served. It was really fun to hang out in the office with the staff, who speak English really well.

We even got to ride the Ivanhoe beast of a truck from Hanbogd to Dalandzagad, which is the aimag (think state) center (think capitol), when we went to visit Laura & Hector for New Yearâ's. Max was so excited to ride the orange life-size Tonka truck (see photos), and I admit it was a really fun adventure. At one point, as we were passing the mountains created by the volcano that has long since had its last eruption, our Tonka truck got stuck in a deep snow drift. Our driver was very experienced, but itâ's really hard to discern precisely where the snow pits are due to the sand dunes everywhere, plus the truck weighs a ton so it sinks rather quickly. How silly of me to worry, though— one of the Mongolians assured me that we had enough water to survive at least a couple days if we remained stuck in the middle of the cold Gobi desert! In spite of the hour it nearly took to dig ourselves out (Mongolian-style without shovels, of course), we made the trip in good time. We even made new friends with the mining company employees aboard. Notice the photo of the mining dudes reading fashion and entertainment magazines sent to me in a care package (thanks, Juster!). I was very amused by the contrast- one minute theyâ're under a truck capably digging out from under it and the next theyâ're curiously reading fashion magazines.

Mostly, it was great to see more of Mongolia and to get to spend so much time with Max and the other PCVs we visited. We stayed with Laura & Hector, and the four of us along with Eric (M14 in the same town) celebrated the New Year together. Steve & his girlfriend visiting from the US also came up so that we could travel together to UB. It was a memorable fergone ride, and not just because it was my first, but because it was a long, cold 20 hour ride during which someoneâ's container of camel airag (fermented milk) burst and covered the floor. Luckily, it froze quickly in our horizontal freezer of a moving vehicle, so the dairy didnâ't have a chance to spoil and become stinky.

So, thatâ's the scoop on how I spent my first Christmas and New Year in Mongolia. Hope your 2005 is off to an auspicious start! :)

When this story was posted in March 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers

The Peace Corps Library Date: March 27 2005 No: 536 The Peace Corps Library
Peace Corps Online is proud to announce that the Peace Corps Library is now available online. With over 30,000 index entries in 500 categories, this is the largest collection of Peace Corps related stories in the world. From Acting to Zucchini, you can find hundreds of stories about what RPCVs with your same interests or from your Country of Service are doing today. If you have a web site, support the "Peace Corps Library" and link to it today.

Top Stories and Breaking News PCOL Magazine Peace Corps Library RPCV Directory Sign Up

Crisis Corps arrives in Thailand Date: March 20 2005 No: 530 Crisis Corps arrives in Thailand
After the Tsunami in Southeast Asia last December, Peace Corps issued an appeal for Crisis Corps Volunteers and over 200 RPCVs responded. The first team of 8 Crisis Corps volunteers departed for Thailand on March 18 to join RPCVs who are already supporting relief efforts in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and India with other agencies and NGO's.

This Month's Feature Stories - only on PCOL Date: March 27 2005 No: 537 This Month's Feature Stories - only on PCOL
Dream Come True - Revisiting India after 34 years
The Coyne Column: Read Winning Vanity Fair PCV Essay
Tomas Belsky's paintings inspired by service in Brazil
RPCV reunites with friend after 40 years
RPCV reviews "Los Heraldos Negros" by Cesar Vallejo
Photo Essay: Taking it to the Streets

March 26, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: March 26 2005 No: 532 March 26, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
PCVs in Kyrgyz Republic Are Safe 25 Mar
The Coyne Column: A Good Friday Message 25 Mar
Frederic Zenhausern developing "biometric bodysuits" 24 Mar
Robert Blackwill calls for US co-operation with India 23 Mar
Margaret Krome promotes alternate crops 23 Mar
Al Kamen says allies disappointed in World Bank 23 Mar
Ambassador Randall L. Tobias speaks at PC 22 Mar
Becky Binns helps organize 30-hour fast 22 Mar
Fred Poses meets with Vice-Premier in China 22 Mar
John Hoff unionizes substitute teachers in Hawaii 21 Mar
Bill Moyers takes time to "sit and vegetate" 21 Mar
Tony Hall says Ethiopia may need more food aid 21 Mar
Taylor Hackford's 'Ray' wins four NAACP Image Awards 21 Mar
PCV seeks tap shoes for students in Moldova 20 Mar
Adam Donaldson learns to believe in Baltimore 20 Mar
Allen Andersson builds libraries in Central America 19 Mar
Senator Sarbanes' quiet leadership will be missed 15 Mar

March 26, 2005: RPCV Groups in the News Date: March 26 2005 No: 534 March 26, 2005: RPCV Groups in the News
Houston RPCVs sponsor "Around the World in a Day"on April 6 25 Mar
Minnesota RPCVs need Photos for Exhibition 24 Mar
Vasquez to visit DePaul University on April 6 22 Mar
New Jersey RPCVs host exhibit in Maplewood on April 2 20 Mar
Maryland RPCVs eat crab cakes in Annapolis 17 Mar
Connecticut RPCVs held fundraiser on March 5 3 Mar
RPCVs: Post your stories or press releases here for inclusion next week.

RPCVs in Congress ask colleagues to support PC Date: March 5 2005 No: 482 RPCVs in Congress ask colleagues to support PC
RPCVs Sam Farr, Chris Shays, Thomas Petri, James Walsh, and Mike Honda have asked their colleagues in Congress to add their names to a letter they have written to the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee, asking for full funding of $345 M for the Peace Corps in 2006. As a follow-on to Peace Corps week, please read the letter and call your Representative in Congress and ask him or her to add their name to the letter.

Add your info now to the RPCV Directory Date: March 13 2005 No: 489 Add your info now to the RPCV Directory
Call Harris Publishing at 800-414-4608 right away to add your name or make changes to your listing in the newest edition of the NPCA's Directory of Peace Corps Volunteers and Former Staff. Then read our story on how you can get access to the book after it is published. The deadline for inclusion is May 16 so call now.

March 1: National Day of Action Date: February 28 2005 No: 471 March 1: National Day of Action
Tuesday, March 1, is the NPCA's National Day of Action. Please call your Senators and ask them to support the President's proposed $27 Million budget increase for the Peace Corps for FY2006 and ask them to oppose the elimination of Perkins loans that benefit Peace Corps volunteers from low-income backgrounds. Follow this link for step-by-step information on how to make your calls. Then take our poll and leave feedback on how the calls went.
Make a call for the Peace Corps Date: February 19 2005 No: 453 Make a call for the Peace Corps
PCOL is a strong supporter of the NPCA's National Day of Action and encourages every RPCV to spend ten minutes on Tuesday, March 1 making a call to your Representatives and ask them to support President Bush's budget proposal of $345 Million to expand the Peace Corps. Take our Poll: Click here to take our poll. We'll send out a reminder and have more details early next week.

Read the stories and leave your comments.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Mongolia; Blogs - Mongolia



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.