Friday, June 17, 2011

Gers, Tumpens, and Things

Some updates from Mongolia:

I went along to visit my host mother's sister who lives in the countryside (about ten minutes out of town by car). I got to hang out in an authentic ger, eat yogurt out of a jug that was just hanging out on the floor doing its thing (Mongolian yogurt is really really delicious), watch sheep get herded by men on horseback, help take the felt cover off the outside of the ger and re-line the inside plastic sheeting to keep the rain out, and wander around in a field collecting dung to burn.

A cool story: One of my fellow trainees, Ben, has a host father who is a shaman. My language teacher/host sister was over at our apartment when she got a call from Ben's host mom asking her to explain to him in English that his dad was going to be dancing around, hitting a drum, and channeling spirits in the living room so he wouldn't be freaked out. She explained this, and then told him he had to pay attention so he could tell the class about it in the morning - which he did. It was very interesting. Mongolian shamanism predates Buddhism, but dovetails nicely with it now, at least according to Ben.

My Language Teacher Looks on Disapprovingly as Leo Washes His Hair

On Thursdays, we only have a half day of class. (Usually, we have Mongolian language lessons in the morning, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and technical sessions - teacher training - in the afternoons from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.) So after our language class, since our teacher had noticed some of the trainees were looking a little greasy, we scheduled a tumpen-bathing lesson at Patrick's ger. Yep, there were some trainees that had not washed their hair in the week we've been here. (Don't worry, I perfected that skill ASAP.) So they got to bring their tumpens and shampoo in the ger while the rest of us snacked and took pictures. Then we all went to the Nice Bar (Yes, that is actually the name of the bar) to have a beer and enjoy a chance to talk in English for a little while. It was a good afternoon.

Another skill I have perfected is dumpling-pinching. I have now helped my host mother and sister make buuz (small dumplings that you fill with meat and onions and cook by steaming) and hoshur (big dumplings that you can fill with meat, or potatoes, then deep fry). I may not be able to go as fast as they can, but mine look just as good and don't open when you cook them, so I consider myself to have achieved an advanced level of Mongolian food prep.

A skill I have not perfected is doing laundry by hand. I will never, ever, ever, complain about doing laundry with a washing machine again. Ever. (It takes SO LONG.)

The other night, after I finished my homework and went for a walk with my younger host sister's teenage friends (who speak pretty good English, especially with the aid of my snazzy Peace Corps-issued dictionary, quiz me on my Mongolian vocabulary, and are a lot of fun), I came back and chilled with my older host sisters (one of whom is also my language teacher). We watched Mongolian X Factor (yep), munched on dried cheese curd (this fills the role of popcorn and tastes like chunks of Parmesan cheese), and swapped makeup preferences. This is my life in Mongolia.

1 comment:

  1. You ate cheese?!

    That ger looks different from what I imagined... The door is beautiful though!

    I'm glad to hear you're doing well and enjoying yourself!

    P.S. I won't tell you who won America's Next Top Model, in case you're still watching it over there!

    P.P.S. Take care!