For the past several days, I have been living in Darkhan at a dormitory with my fellow trainees for a quick orientation. Before arriving in Darkhan (by way of a turbulent 4-hour bus ride), we stayed one night in a ger camp in Ulaanbaatar. Many of the volunteers agreed that our introduction to Mongolia has been "cushy." Our meals have been good and our days easy. We've had running water. I'm at an internet cafe (think less Starbucks, more basement where Mongolian teens play violent video games.)
Here in Darkhan, we've spent our days in seminars ranging from our job expectations, to crash courses in Mongolian before we begin our four-hour daily classes next week at site. We even had an orientation to Mongolian culture today including norms, taboos, and the proper way to do a variety of activities including entering and exiting a home and accepting and refusing food. Once we're at site, we'll be living with host (hashaa) families who will help us learn other survival skills. In fact, our families have received a checklist of the skills that we need to be able to complete successfully by the end of the summer. Included on the list: how to chop wood, how to clean the stove, how to wash clothes by hand, and the ever-important how to bathe in a tumpin (small plastic tub). Not included on the list: how to use a latrine.
We concluded today's training by receiving information about our host families. I am very excited to go to site tomorrow and meet my hashaa family and the cows and dogs that they own. I'll be spending the summer with this family and they will invariably become my own. Not to mention, I will have no choice but to pick up Mongolian faster once out of my sweet dorm life and into complete submersion. Just think, in a few months I might be able to understand what these teenage boys are yelling in exclamation as they shoot guns and basketballs on the computers next to mine.
Though I am anticipating meeting my hashaa family, they will, of course, be no replacement for my own. I learned today that my brother and sister-in-law saw the heartbeat of their first baby, and I can only imagine what the phone call of that news would have been like. However, I hope that my family finds solace in knowing that I am being taken into this Mongolian family as one of their own without exception, and that the Peace Corps is making every effort to ensure my safety during my service.