Tuesday, 13 January 2009

I'm Back!

Long overdue salutation are in order, again it has been a while since my last few updates, what with holidays, lazy days, busy days and cold days appearing on a variety of times, I've not really been able to get behind this computer screen and say hello to anyone on the world wide web. So this time it's different. I think.

I thought this might be fun to do the typical day scenario, but maybe put a slight twist on it. As my days are never really the same, I though I might try to describe the scenery, people, animals and general interesting things that I encounter on my walk to and from school in Arvaikheer. Naturally, other accounts might differ, but they are wrong.
I'm kidding, they just happen to live somewhere different than my little corner of suburban Arvaikheer. Enjoy.


My phone alarm awakens me in a state of frozen confusion. What time is it? 8:30....not bad, in fact some would say "lucky for you, you don't have to get up so early." The only argument I see with this is that those of you who live in a somewhat more cosmopolitan atmosphere can enjoy the benefits of radiators, showers and Mr Ccoffee. So I arouse myself from my sleeping bag and blankets and do the first thing any PCV must do when living in a Ger. Put on long underwear and make a fire. Ger's aren't bad, but they often have holes where they shouldn't be (okay mine does) and fires only last a a couple hours into the night. So after boiling water, eating my muesli (thanks for the packages, dried fruit and nuts ensure I enjoy the breakfast of champions) and some coffee, I dive into my nicer clothing (long underwear underneath) and wander outside of the Ger to school. Since I live in my directors yard,(hashaa in the term) I will say hello to my Arvaikheerian girlfriend. She's rather fuzzy and tries to push me over whenever there is a chance, but as long as I feed her some meat every I am allowed to keep my limbs. Her name is Aslan, and she's a big "puppy". I might also enounter my hashaa brother or sister wanderingto the outhouse and a short simply greeting is exchanged.
"Going to work?"
"Yes, how's your morning?"
"See you later, don't forget to chop wood!"
And away I go.

Walking out of my yard and down the alleyway to the main road, I often encounter 4 or 5 other dogs lazying around, fighting or simply staring into space. They don't bother you, you don't bother them. End of story. Except when they are feeling amorous, then it best not to bother them at all, because hormones control most of their movement. After some Hello's, Hi's, Sain Bain yy's and puzzled stares from everyone, I walk across the gravelled field and past the petrol station. The gentlemen in the bright Orange suit always smokes his morning cigarette 20 feet away from the pumps, which I applaud.

Its often at this point I attempt to cross one of the main roads in Arvaikheer. It connects the suburban paradise I call home to the main shopping area of the city. I've only been walking less than 10 minutes but at this time of year, my lungs are burning. Excerise is a problem here, but that's not what I'm referring to. Coal and chopepd wood are the main heating sources, so the air is naturally filled with smoke. This is not pleasant. When summer comes around it will dissipate, but sometimes its rather hard to breathe in the mornings, so wrapping the scarf around the mouth and nasal area helps. I should also add that some of the cars on the road have not passed an inspection in a say, a couple decades, so they tend to belch a little sleepy smoke as well. Not to mention the motorcycles and people kicking up dust.
Honestly, it does clear eventually and I am writing this to be entertaining, but some mornings are not helpful when it come to breathing.

5 minutes later I walk by one of my fellow PCV's school and am greeted with a verbal barrage of pigeon English.. sometimes they are correct, sometimes not so much. What I enjoy the most and am still having trouble not smiling is when they walk up to you and say "goodbye"....very cute indeed... it odes make the day brighter...but I hear a chorus of greeting and sometimes the odd "what's up", so my day continues to get better. The sun is often up by now and as we seem to have many sunny days, it helps my caffeine kick in a little stronger. Sadly though,m this time of the year brings a touch of frost. On your fingers, toes and any exposed skin. In 5 minutes. So its a little cold but the 20 minute walk to school helps to warm the body and mind. Strangely, though we are in the middle of January and the last couple days have been rather pleasant, I shudder to think what will happen next. Weather in Mongolia could be compared to a season of "Lost"; what's going to happen next?

As I walk through the main square I pass the battle memorial, the government building and various people all quite bundled up against the cold. Crossing another small road and trying not to slip on the ice and frozen snow, I notice that there might be a couple men feeling the effects of last night's karaoke session. This doesn't happen everyday, but it happens enough to know they are not good to talk to. Drinking is a problem in Arvaikheer, but it is a small handful of people who tend to spoil it for everyone. Naturally, I avoid this situation when I see it and continue to school, where after a short 5 minute walk down another road, littered with hashaa's, some rubbish, a stray dog or three and 2 very abandoned buildings, I come up to half a radiator dug into the ground; my school gate. Walking through the ground involves several more greetings and I am nearly at the door. Except for one or two children who wants to practise their English, which as I should stop to chat. these chats last about 4 minutes and involve the extend of the English and some Mongolian, but it's actually quite fun. How are you? Where are you from?, My name is..., I live in..., Are you a Mongolian? (seriously), Do you like meat? I'm hoping to help my teachers give a little more conversational variety, but more on this later.

So I must get some work done, but part 2 will appear later this week. Thanks for reading, if you have any questions do let me know, and of course a cheeky comment or two is always appreciated!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

oops, I did it again...got sick in Mongolia.. la la la la...(sing it)

Welcome back to another posting, this time yesterday I was a tired but healthy PCV. Today that is all different, I am a very tired cold having, cough hating PCV. GRRRR. So I might have to make the large update to this site at another time, probably this weekend when I am in UB again for training/ social/ catching up with some close friends. Sadly, I've have no one to blame but myself for the sickness, just over working and not sleeping enough, not too mention the naughty cigarettes, which never helps when it is -20 and you are not sleeping well. So, oops here it is again but I am drinking gallons of water and hoping for the best!

Anyway, so maybe you would be interested to learn a bit more about my oh so strange and wonderful life in the depths of Ovorkhangai province. Most weeks I am at school by 9 or 10 and my job title is to help assist in the development of the English department here as well as provide English lessons to the 12 or so English teachers at the secondary school. Sometimes it works, and well, sometimes things don't. Such is life as a volunteer, and when you are trying to get things accomplished then it's never fun when none of your teachers feel like A.) showing up B.) paying attention C. talking on their mobiles...well, they had an exam from the ministry of education a couple days ago and hopefully the results will scare them a little more into working a bit more. It's alright, as a close friend of mine says, "I ain't mad", I just wish I could be a bit more productive at times. Nevertheless, things are good, my school is pretty fun to work in and I have a laugh with the other PCVs. But. I am sick. And that is somewhat detrimental to my good humor right now, so I think I will try and get some work done and then go drink veggie soup into it seeps from my pores.
Just to let you have an idea of what else I am doing, I am teaching a free class at the government English centre today, and writing an exam for the 11th grade students on Friday. This is called the "English Olympics", where a select group of students take a test and receive a certificate. Its good for them and it makes the English teachers happy. So that okay, however, I was told told about it until two days ago and won't be able to see how the fruits of my labour test these students. Oh well, margash....so I must depart, but will update this weekend. I've got about 6 other things to finish before I leave but don't worry, you;ll here all about them soon :-0

oops, it's been a while...


I should really apologise for not getting this done about 2.5 months ago, there is no reason to think I am living in the middle of nowhere, I am just so lazy and preoccupied with the trivialities and ridiculous issues of my daily life that not a whole hell of thought has really gone into updating this blog. My apologies, rest assure after a couple months at my site things i'll start to settle in and be a little more regular, but there are one or two things that I say before I get on with it; Life in Mongolia is both fascinating and frustrating because it is so amasing but at the same time it will certainly "do your head in"....I must admit that sometime over the last few months I have thought, "hey I'm sure some people would be interested in hearing what's going on..." I'm sure that might be the case, nevertheless, I am here and available....finally, I am able to recognise that this needs to be updated regularly and I shall supply you with a serious update tomorrow when I am back at school and not taking up my friends Internet time on his newly arrived Internet...rest assured I am alive and well and learning as well as attempting to teach some very odd and peculiar aspects of the English language. Hopefully in the last two months I have actually learnt how to type a little more legibly as well. I'll speak to you all quite soon and promise to make tomorrow a more interesting and verbally stimulating read....cheerio x

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Part 3

This is my heating system, which tends to work quite nicely as my ger is pretty small
A beautiful sunrise, I had an extremely early class to watch and was able to snap this as I left
Some of the entertaining little people who I see everyday...even though I am a teacher trainer, I still get to co-teach with my teachers so I am able to enjoy some teaching. Okay, I need to go get some things ready, tomorrow I start my co-teaching, more Mongolian language lessons and generally speaking, what I came here to do. I am also dicsussing classroom managment and how to teach some of the finer and more difficult points of the English language, so tomorrow is another busy day. I hope to get another update done by the end of this week. In the meantime, any comments or questions are appreciated. Cheerio.

Photos part 2

This is the view from my ger; my front yard and the gate...As I'm not allowed to say where I am, I live in Ovorkhangai aimag on the edge of the desert. Notice I have not included a picture of the outhouse, as it is, well, an outhouse, and not that aesthetically pleasing
My lobby with non-matching wooden sink and mirror. The blue "tunpin" is the walk in shower, which is not that bad; however, real showers are pretty amazing inventions.
My bed and bedside table..it's hard but strangely comfortable
My kitchen and firewood storage unit, as well as a prime example of why I might leave Mongolia with a hunchback...all my chairs are made for 3 year olds... And finally, my living room...yes those are red, yellow and orange flowers set against a green backdrop. Behind that cover are two layers of wool and some wooden gates...and there you have it, MY GER. I may sound as if I am being a little sarcastic about my home, but it is really quite nice, I have added some of my own posters, but other than that nothing has really changed, expect the TV is now gone since I s0 rarely used it.

Some photos, finally!

This is the "site placement" day we had in August in Darkhan. Two maps, one big and one small, were layed out. Our photo was laid on the smalll map and then we had to stand where we were placed. Behind the small white map is a massive concrete and grass copy of Mongolia's borders..pretty entertaining and it gave me a decent idea of how far some of us are from each other.
From our swearing in ceremony. Most of us had tradtional Mongolian clothing given to us by our host families. I'm the blue one..and yes, they are supposed to be worn a couple sizes too big, I haven't gained any weight...
Someone very close to me, literally...
Indeed, that is my home for the next two years...and that is me trying to smile after a day of intensive rescheduling, meetings and class observation...note that what I am wearing is not typical for a school day, but more focused on the "Warm and Comfortable" look...and that is dirt around the edge of my ger, commonly referred to as "insulation".

Thursday, 28 August 2008

What do you do when there is no power?

Hello to all again, i am back with what one hopes to be another arousing and entertaining discussion of life in middle mongolia. It is WEdnesday and has been snowing incredibl amounts all morning, sadly i ran out of wood so had to borrow from my hosat family, which is kind of essential. Let me just make this one point. Gers tend to leak a little, and it can be frustrating. Oh werll, it is part of the fun, but still, its cold and my ger is wet, and there is no electricty. currenlty I'm sditting in the internet cafe here, because this is the only place in A-Town where there is electrcity. I do wish it will come back, Brian needs to eat and spending money he really should be using on a winter jacket is a bad idea!

Anyway, so maybe i should talk a little about my site. 20-25 thousand people, cold and windy but it has been hot and warm, so a little slice of everything. We have all the amenities tgat are needed and its not too expensive, so i should be fine. The only problem is reliable electricity. I am living in a big tent, or GER and it is taking some time to get used to, especially when trying to start fires. Stupidly i inhaled a little smoke this morning trying to get the fire started, so in future it might be prudent to wear a mask. I am working with 12 English teachers in a secondary school and trying to build an English department as well as ensure they are able to teach the English language effectively. Not too mention trying to get their speaking abilities up to date, which is going to be lots of fun, as they are quite lovely women. And yes, i am one of only 10 or so malke teachers, which makes me either very lucky or in danger....hahaha, obviously not, but the first question most of the teachers have asked is "Are you married?" "Why not?" and "Maybe you can find a Mongolian wife." Who knows, stange things can happen but i am quite comfortable in my present state, albiet cutting some of the distance would help things run a little more smoothly. Moving swiftly along, Life in A-town is going well, I am starting class on Monday and am expected to deliver a 5 minute speech, as is tradition. Needless to say, my Mongolian is a little poor so writing it andf having it corrected by my tutor and co-workers is essential. I should also mention that i do have a mongolian tutor, a very sweet woman who has a great deal of patience. I've only had one lesson but have I enjoyed it and I'm hoping for a couple a week. Maybe i will be able to carry on a full conversation soon! Crazier things have happened.

Okay, other than being wet and cold and anxious about school starting, there isn't much going on so far. I would like to thank my parents for sending a package, I have no doubt it will make what appears to be a very long winter much more relaxing. I need to get some lesson planning and done and maybe check on the electrcity at home situation but will come back with something a lot more interesting next week, when i should have a much better idea of how a week or month is going to function. Take care andf think of me while you sit in your centrally heated, or even radiator heated building...grrrr....i'm joking; complaining is not something i want to do as it is my choice to be here but right now i am a little jealous of people with heated buildings! Cheerio