daily schedule

June 30, 2012

Since we arrived in our host community (just 2 weeks ago!), our daily schedule has been: 9-1 Mongolian language lesson, lunch at home, 2:30-5:30 either TEFL or Cross Cultural training (except for Thursdays when we have the afternoon free). Evenings have been a mixture of hiking, movie nights at Steven’s, soccer, volleyball, or basketball in the park, group dinners on a rotating schedule (someone likened it to our host families arranging play-dates for their American kids), and study nights at home.

The TEFL training includes things we need to know in order to effectively teach English (such as lesson planning); I really appreciate this since my English-teaching experience has been more casual than formal. I’m sure this part is standard Peace Corps training regardless of site, whereas the Cross Cultural training is, of course, site specific. We learned a couple of Mongolian Games—Hozor is easily our favorite!—and presented Mongolian history and religion in small groups. This was our first chance to collaborate with our site-mates (there are 10 of us) and also our first chance to see one another as teachers, not just classmates.

The first micro-teaching experience was this Friday. We started by creating a lesson plan, not knowing the skill level of our students or the number of students we would have. (My understanding was that this was more for our benefit—a chance to get our sea-legs, if you will—than for our students’ benefit, though I’m sure they all walked away having learned something.) My partner Gwen and I taught clothing, specifically the phrase “I am wearing…” with appropriate vocabulary. That our 4 students participated was very encouraging! Since they were somewhat familiar with the material, we were able to incorporate colors and an additional game to make the 40-minute class.

Of note, I had assumed I would spend time distinguishing between the beginnings of SHIRT vs. SKIRT, but it turned out that the vowel was the trouble spot for our students—SHIRT/SKIRT came out as SHORT/SKORT. If you think that is strange, Mongolian has 4 letters devoted to what I think of as the “O”-sounds (think “pot” “book” “food” “told”), three of which I still can’t differentiate, making both reading and spelling certain words nearly impossible for me. Mercifully, Mongolian also has the “vowel-harmony” rule, meaning there are only a few combinations allowed, so if you get one of the “O”s the others will be the same!

BTW, each “O” in the game Hozor would be pronounced with the sound from “book.”

PS, more pictures added here.


June 16, 2012

So, my Mongolian sister just brought in this internet connection flash drive and told me to get my computer… not sure how frequently I’ll be able to use it but I will revel in this moment of technological comfort. Just as I was feeling settled in here, and so busy that I’m not really thinking about home to think whether I miss it, I read a comment from my niece Rachel that made my eyes well up. But, it was in the best way. My life here is good just as my life there was good. But they couldn’t be more different in the most basic ways. And that’s just fine.

A subset of our group went for a swim in the river today, alongside the horses. Then we stopped by one of our group’s host family’s and watched part of Alladin. This afternoon, I will wash my laundry by hand in my tumpun (my Mongol mom has been after me about this the past few days) and this evening, as most evenings although I don’t usually go, there will be soccer and basketball and volleyball at the field.

I think my connection is not strong enough for uploading pictures and I can’t do the landscape justice with words alone. I can tell you that Mongolia is known as “The Land of the Blue Sky” for a reason. The past 3 days have been sweltering, but not humid at all, so it’s tolerable. We have also had an unusual amount of rain (so we are told) in the 10 days we have been at site, but those were short-lived and once the storms passed, the blue skies returned.

postscript: I was able to upload some photos to facebook. You can see them here even without a facebook account.

Fourth Day at Site

June 10, 2012

I am bewildered at how to capture this experience. There is so much I want to explain/recount/share. I anticipate questions that you, my dear friends and family, may have—they were many of the questions that I had, or assumptions I’d made that I needed affirmed or not—but how do I know where to begin?

Since internet is not available in my soum (sort of village) of about 2300, I can’t possibly update you on everything as it unfolds. The best I can do right now is tell my story and let the details creep in around the edges.

Those who know me even a little probably know that I identify as a “city-girl.” How quickly that is changing! Suffice it to say, I am embracing the Mongolian culture, people, and way of life. And, according to one of our language teachers (Tomee), my Mongolian is really good! How happy that makes me after only 3 lessons!!!

It is amazing how people are able to communicate with so few words in common. We adapt by acting out, developing a sign language, using dictionaries and phrase books… and laughing a lot! Yesterday, my host-sister was struggling with the dictionary and phrase book, so she wrote me a note to communicate exactly what she wanted to say. Unfortunately, I couldn’t read the cursive writing! I had to ask her “please re-write it in the printed letters” using my homework to get the message across. Then, I used the dictionary to translate what she wrote.

Of course, the situations have been pretty basic and we have been intentionally surrounded by those who want us to succeed. It remains to be seen how we do when we get to our permanent sites at the end of August. Then, there will likely be fewer Americans with whom to socialize and compare host-family stories. Of the 10 of us here, 7 of us went on a hike yesterday—our first “day off” since leaving the US. The views are incredible here!

Maybe there isn’t much in the way of information in this post, but hopefully my enthusiasm is coming through.

To UB and Beyond

June 1, 2012

a quick note before our flight from Seoul, S. Korea, to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia:

After 3 months of celebratory gatherings including lunches, dinners, road-trips to see far-flung friends, a beach party, and intimate home-based bon voyages, I left Boston with a final send-off dinner in my Italian neighborhood of 12 years. It was a nearly 5-hour gastronomic event, which included 3 pitchers of sangria! But, really, it was the memories of having truly special people sit next to me for the last-time-in-a-long-time, but definitely NOT the last time. I was a predictably emotional mess and my final night of sleeping in my bed (the whole four hours) was the most stomach-churning I can remember ever having had.

the flight out of San Fransisco was ~12 hours, but it went very quickly. I cannot say uneventfully, though, as a small dog managed to get loose—-in flight!—- and ran barking down the aisle. That was about midway through and would probably be forgotten were it not documented somewhere.

our 20-hour layover in Seoul was notable for two things: meeting an American couple on the train into the city — the man had been a Peace Corps Volunteer in S. Korea 30 years before!, and an authentic dinner in a tiny restaurant where we sat on floor mats and shared a huge fish stew (both the fish and the stew were sizable).

our group of ~70 was alphabetically bisected for the Staging event (where expectations on both parts were reiterated) in SF, so we are still making introductions two days later. (That “two days” is based on having had two nights in hotels, although I really have no sense of what day it is.) So, while I can only give my first impression of the group (a genuine cross-section of America!), I can say that my roommate the past two nights, Jenn from New Jersey, is totally awesome.

Not sure when I will be online next… if internet is readily accessible, I will try to limit myself to once a week. If it isn’t, then I hope to make it once a month. Thanks again to everyone for all the support in this decision. I definitely feel the love!