Saturday, September 10, 2011

The past month has been very busy. I moved from my summer home in Orkhon to Baganuur, a district of the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. Baganuur has a population of around 25,000 and is located about 2 hours east of UB.

Ээж, Одко, Ме, Одмаа, Аав 
On August 19th (my birthday), I was sworn in by the US Ambassador as an official Peace Corps Volunteer. Accompanying the ceremony were many performances of our attempts at Mongolian dance, music, and song from my fellow trainees and I. I sang a popular song as a friend played along on guitar. After the ceremony, we had a reception and many of our host families came. Immediately after that, we went back to the dorm where we were staying in Darkhan and packed our things to move to our respective sites.

My family saw me off with flowers, chocolates, a birthday cake, and plenty of hugs and kisses. I was even given watermelon by another family that I was close with in the community who hosted a friend of mine. So with all of my baggage, the water filter, wash bucket, medical kit, and sleeping bag that PC had given me, and my newly acquired watermelon, cake, and candies, I loaded the bus for UB. Since there are only two main roads in the entire country, most travel has to occur by first going to the capital, and then continuing on to your destination. So most of us spent a few nights in UB before moving to our permanent sites. Once loaded, our buses left the dorm. My language teacher and friend, Tumee, brought me a bottle of water and handed it to me through the window as we rolled away, along with letters from home and birthday cards from my brother, Mom, and Mammaw. We waved goodbye and headed off. No one chased our bus, flinging milk towards the sky as they had done when we left Orkhon to wish us safe and prosperous travels, but we were moving nonetheless.

Орхон Trainees

Tvmээ and I

I stayed one night in UB. I went to dinner with friends from my training site and with some volunteers who were in the city to show us around. We went to an Irish pub where I had a stew with a pastry on top and a salad. It was incredible. Later, we went to a party that one of the current PCV’s was having for all the newly sworn in volunteers at a dance club. Concluding possibly the busiest birthday I’ve ever had, I headed back to the dorm where I would stay for the night before moving to my new home the next morning.

Today marks 3 weeks since my arrival in Baganuur. I live in a 4th floor one-room apartment very near to my school. I have running hot water and electricity. Since my city is large, I can find many products and produce that I haven’t seen all summer. Last week, I bought bananas. Today, I found a Dr. Pepper. Still, I am adjusting to things vastly new and foreign to me even though it’s my 4th month in country.

Take for example, the weather. On September 6th, we had our first snowfall. I awoke to snow still clinging to the mountains in the distance, though it had already melted from the ground. The temperature since then has often dipped below freezing, and today is the first day it has been out of the fifties. The sun is shining brightly and the sky is cloudless. I actually have my windows open as I sit at my kitchen table typing this post. Last night, however, I woke up at 3 freezing to put on another layer of clothes and turn on my space heater. Unpredictable. The heat in my apartment will be turned on next Thursday.

I spend my free time here reading and watching movies and tv shows. I just got internet in my apartment via a USB modem, and have already been able to Skype home. I work at a school complex, but I work primarily with teachers. After administering an assessment last week, I divided my 25 counterparts into 3 levels. I’ll teach intermediate English on Mondays and advanced English on Wednesdays. I hold office hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays to help my teachers lesson plan effectively. On Fridays, I have a special class of 9th graders. They are selected students who excel in English, and the class will focus on listening and speaking activities. I’ll also start a beginning class for the teachers I work with who know no English, and I’ll leave it open for other teachers in the school to join as well.

I’ve met great people here. I work with great, motivated teachers who treat me as a friend. I have two other sitemates who I get together with occasionally to make tacos, pasta, chili, or whatever else we are craving. I was even invited to vacation with the family of one of my teachers in the summer. She said that I need to go sightseeing, and that I should come with her family and be shown around.

I am getting used to my new life in Baganuur. Days pass easier now that I have made my schedule. I am a really lucky girl with a great life that, at the moment, just happens to be stationed in a foreign country. I’m excited for the adventure ahead.
(cows crossing the playground in front of my building in the rain)

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