Thursday, July 19, 2007

The End

We have reached the end of our incredible peace corps experience. We finished in a fine fashion. We did a wonderful camping trip with a bunch of our peace corps people and mongolian friends. We rented a mini van and headed out. Our destination was a monastary at the top of the mountain. We stopped the first night at the most beautiful ger camp in Mongolia. It was located at the top of this cliff and at the bottom was a beautiful river with huge boulders everwhere. The boys went fishing (but caught nothing) and the girls looked cute. We brought along a special person to hunt a marmot for us. There was no other reason for him to be there, I don't know who he was, except that he can hunt a fine marmot. You cut the little head off, then turn it inside out, take out the guts and cut out the inside meat. Then you fill it with hot rocks and the bits of inside meat and the heart and liver. Steam was pouring out of this little marmot cooking sack. Then when it is all full you sew the neck up and blow torch the fur off. Then you cut it all up and eat it. It was the coolest bbq ever but the marmot meat is not awesome. Colin thought it tasted like squirrel which isn't a useful reference but there was not a lot of meat (mostly bone) and it was kinda wierd. The Mongolians think it tastes like horse. It decidely does not taste like chicken. That is about all I can say.

The next day we hiked to the monastary. It was 3k strait up a hill. Flys were everywhere! Millions of them! I just about died. But the monastary was beautiful, awesome views and pretty little temples. It was a wonderful camping trip.

Following was a series of goodbye parties. The first was jesse's work. We went out to dinner and fake disco. It was really nice. They gave everyone certificates of the heart to fill out about jesse and then they stood up and read them. We made a toast, recieved gifts, and then did some dancing in the resturant. At some point we were forced to teach a song and taught them the little green frog song.

Nadaam was fun but just kinda the same. We didn't stay long but my favorite part was the archery. I like it because they sing songs and stand really close to the target to make it more dangerous.

My office took us to the country side and we did a regular harhog (the hot rocks and meat in a container to cook) and we played traditional drinking games, in teams. They played with the mare's milk and since i can't drink it they made me take vodka shots instead. It was about 4 hours of drinking. It was really funny. I am actually quite good at the finger drinking game. It is like rock, paper, scissors but not.

The whole week we tried to say goodbye to people but no one wanted to say bye. So the morning that we left we met everyone at the square to say bye...but no one wanted to say bye they followed us out to the very edge of town and we had wine and candy and then we said bye. It was sad and wierd. It didn't feel real so i was sad but not as sad as I might feel on the flight.

This week we have been in UB running around doing a bunch of paperwork and whatnot. Did I mention the whatnot? So much whatnot! So we are saying bye to PC people and are all ready to leave. One day left.

Thank you to our faithful and intermittent readers. Thanks to our friends and family who sent us yummy food, movies, and creature comforts. We hope that you enjoyed reading our random stories as much as we enjoyed living them.

Now to our next adventure...America or Bust.

Friday, June 29, 2007

15 days

We leave site in 15 days and Mongolia in 22. How crazy is that? We have been busy getting things wrapped up at work, work plans and reports for the new volunteers, and cleaning out our ger of things we don't need or want. Our social life has also picked up. A few weeks ago we planned a big party for our VSO friend. It was a going away/wedding shower/baby shower. We played some dumb games, ate a ton of food and had a pretty good time. Last week we went with my work to a retreat center, whose main purpose is that it has a shower, and hung out for a couple of days. It was really nice and peaceful. I gave a presentation on child labor to the social workers with jesse, my boss, and a confrence attendee as translators. We also played volleyball but my team sucked. This weekend we are going to the countryside with a bunch of people. It should be good. We are planning on seeing a big monastary that was the summer retreat of Zanbatzaar who was born in our aimag and started the Mongolian alphabet among other great achievements. One of the friends we are going with is a lam so he should be able to give us some cool insight as to what we see, or at least that is what we hope. We will also go to the waterfall. We are planning a bbq for the 4th of july. Our neighbor is a missionary from Argentina and brought a grill back with her so we might even make horse burgers. Then we have our great ger give away and then nadaam and more parties with our offices and at least one more camping trip and then we are gone! Whew. Catch all that?

Lots of things to do in UB...medical, dental, paperwork, kitty things, thesis things, and last minute souvenier shopping so place your orders now.... Then we are out, for good. A wierd thing to actually process. We have been preparing for america for a while but ....we will miss our mongolia home.

Keep on keepin on....

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Jesse's Big Bang

Today was a great day in jesse's volunteer life. Having started community meetings last fall and working though to this spring on a Peace Corps Wheat Fund project today was the opening ceremony.

Let me back up and explain. Wheat fund is availabe in some countries where USAID serves. They designate an amount to Peace Corp for them to grant to volunteers for community projects. Jesse applied for and recieved this grant. It was for $2000 USD, with the community providing 25% in matching funds (which they met and exceeded!). The idea for the project came from area health workers. They identified our container (black) market as an area that needs to be cleaned up. So the project entailed getting a big garbage can (like half a ton) made and installed, 12 smaller garbage cans placed around the market area, implementing regular trash pickup of the big canister, and hiring 5 new garbage workers to pick up the trash, sort it, and generally keep the market areas clean. They also trained 20 new health volunteers and are opening an environmental health resource room in the market.

Today kicked off the beginning of their campaign. Radio & TV covered the event and the aimag governor and arvaikheer governor as well as jesse all spoke today. It was pretty cool. I was very proud. They were able to distribute many posters as well.

Jesse wanted to leave his mark on arvaikheer and finish his service with a bang. This accomplished both.

Thats all from us.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A blogging we will go

so this blog is not because we have a lot to say but because we haven't blogged in a while. Today I gave a presentation about how to involve community in fighting child labor in our aimag. Now I am killing time waiting for jesse to be done with work, he couldn't finish earlier because his office was eating icecream. What a rough day. : )

We are happily planning our return to the states but are finding there are a lot of things to think about. We will land on July 22nd and be moved across country and jesse starting school by the 5th of Aug. Two very fast weeks. Everyday (now that my office has internet) I look at apartments on craigslist. Its fun. I know, I'm wierd. I also look at jobs, but it is disheartening. I will just keep crossing my fingers that something will come up that will be perfect...

We have our COS (close of service) confrence in two weeks. This is the time where PC tells us all the important info we need to return to the states and a big party with all of the M16s. Thinking about it, it is very similar to prom or something, once last hurrah before we all go our seperate ways in the big big world. Most of our class is leaving before the actual COS date (which is Aug 22). Like us, many are leaving in july.

The weather is getting nice. A cool wind but a warm sun. I think it is around 50 degrees F. Cinder loves it. Her hobbies are rolling in the dirt, shedding, and spying on the neighbors. She much perfers doing this in the sun but in a pinch dust storms and snow will do.

That is about it, like i said not a lot going on. Just wanted to check in.

Dip your day in awesome sauce.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Yakkity yak

So we went to the Yak Festival and it was...awesome. We rented a car and driver for the day and caravaned out with two other cars (peace corps, VSO, and some counterparts). It was located in a soum about 80k from our town. We had a little car and had to ford two rivers and one 2k section of lava rock field, no roads. We got stuck in one little river when we fell through the ice but we got out no problem and we didn't get any flat tires from the lava field either (nearly impossible I think).

So we pull up to this spot that has yak herds all around, a bunch of horses, motorcycles, and cars. They are setting up a bunch of gers to serve food and stuff. Each bagh (kinda like a neighborhood) had its own ger (maybe 5 total). Everyone was in dels and sporting their really nice stuff (fancy belts and the horses are all decked out too). Really beautiful. It was the first time that year that many had seen eachother, there was a lot of formal greetings. Us and some french doctors (who we told about the festivities) were the only foreigners so it was pretty authentically mongolian. Yak herders were there from all over our aimag (state).

The day started out cold and windy and progressed to cold, windy, and super dusty. By the end of the day we gross. Dirty everywhere. I can't over explain how windy it was. It was really tiring.

The first event was yak racing (they are not really high endurance animals) so it was kinda slow. The yak and rider who took second, the yak just stopped moving right before the finish line, the rider pretty much had to get off and push him over the line. Yaks have really long tounges and they were hanging out of their mouths as they panted their way to the end. It was pretty funny. We were almost run over by one that decided to run through the people rather than the course. I was taking pictures at the time so i didn't even see him coming. They took bets on the animals number 9 won, he was a champion yak, but I am not sure what for, he had medals hanging from his head. Then we were invited into one of the gers for tea and food. They made yak khushuur (the fried meat pouches) which were awesome! They tasted so good, like high quality cow, kinda. Then we had yak milk products, also good, this coming from someone who usually hides the arrol (hard milk curd) in her pocket and can't drink the airag (fermented mares milk) without feeling violently ill. Yak milk is really creamy and sweet. It made everything taste nice, especially the airag. Wierd huh? Who knew i heart yak?

We were introduced to some yak twins too. They were identical, and the mongolians were really proud of them. I think twins are rare. They were really soft and pretty calm. I wussed out and didn't get on though. They were giving me the eye. Jesse didn't either so i didn't feel too bad.

After the race and the animals had a chance to rest or get switched out they had yak polo. That was pretty funny to watch because they don't really like to go where you tell them. They played with a tennis ball and sticks. While we were watching polo a drunk driver started racing around the spectators and drove through the game. People had to run out of the way of the stupid a-hole. After he terrorized us for a minute or two he sped off into the countryside. The police chased him.

So those two events pretty much took all day. We were tired and polo was taking a long time because it was a tournament. We missed the official yak lassoing competition but we saw some informal stuff at the beginning. I took about 200 pictures. Here are some of my favorites.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Spring spring everywhere

That means it is cold and windy and sometimes snowy. In language training when we learned the seasons they would always ask what was your favorite season and why. I always said spring, and got the funniest looks. People hate spring here, and given the way the winters are, you know it's bad.

Not a lot going on here. Our town got wired (I think it is an election year) so I have internet at my office now and it is awesome.

Our kitty, Cinder, had a big drop in appetite recently for no good reason. We bought her camel but she wasn't eating it so we bought her horse again (what will we do when there is no more horse like in the summer and uh...america?) but she still didn't want to eat. She hates her dry cat the only thing we found that works is pate. She will only eat pate if it is hand fed to her and you tell her she is a good kitty and a nice kitty and a pretty kitty. Jesse calls her is princess, yup, one spoiled kitty. And I think she is going into heat again, it is about one week on and one week off. So pretty soon she is going to wear us down and we will take her in to get fixed...

Next weekend is jesse's bday. We are going to a yak festival. How jealous are you? It is rumored they have yak polo, yak cart pulling competitions and other yak things plus a yak goods fair where you can buy yak purses and yak cheese or something. There are going to be three or so PC volunteers and about 5 VSO volunteers. It should be fun. It was supposed to be today but the government needed the yaks so they changed the date. Then yesterday they changed the town. So as long as we can find it we will be there.

I think that is all for now.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Year of the Golden Pig

Well we have survived another tsagaan sar. For some reason this year was easier at people's houses. Less push to eat a ton and drink a ton, it was nice. We ended up visiting about 14 houses (!) I didn't know i knew that many people.

Last year we made pizza pockets for the work parties but this year jesse's work asked for sweets, so i made cookies. BIG mistake. stupid cookies. I borrowed our friends toaster oven and whipped up about 4 batches of cookies but we got our conversions wrong so it was super buttery...i had cowpie cookies not cookie cookies....and i could only bake 3 at a time. It took two days and much tweaking but his coworkers liked them, they don't make cookies here. For my work instead of a potluck present exchange like last year they decided to visit everyones home. So i had an 11 hour office party. Did I mention the 11 hour office party?! Jesse joined us (he ate 51 buuz that day and then groaned on the floor all night). The party came to our ger. I didn't make all the traditional things I made dessert. I felt like it would be less pressure if it was something totally new rather than trying to copy something they have been doing forever. So I made three awesome desserts (homemade chocolate pudding pie, pineapple upsidedown cake, and lemon squares). We served tea and soda, no vodka. They didn't really know what to do with it all but i think it was a nice break in the middle.

It has been crazy warm here, I think spring has started. Spring is not typically a nice season like it is in the states. Mainly it is just really windy and big temp changes, but this winter was not typical (warmest in 20 years) so maybe it will be a mild spring too.

I have some good pictures that i will try to post soon of tsagaan sar and such.

that's all for now.