Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Ger

Now that I have secured my very own ger, allow me to give you a tour.

The view from my front door shows the back half of my hashaa, or fenced-in family complex. I live next to my school principal's house, and her mother and brother also live in gers in the same fence. There are two guard dogs that are always tied up outside to scare off trespassers. After washing my laundry by hand in my tumpen, I hang it to dry on those fence posts you see. All ger doors face south.

This is my kitchen. I am super lucky to have a refrigerator and a rice cooker, not requirements by any means! As evidenced by the refrigerator, I have 24/7 electricity, another perk. All Peace Corps Volunteers are required to have electricity, but some only have it for a few hours a day.

This is my kitchen table. The chair without the TV on it is the one I sit in to eat and drink my coffee. (Thank goodness for coffee singles!) All of my cooking utensils were gifts from the teachers at my school, including the electric kettle, by which I am able to make coffee and tea, and which is therefore one of my prized possessions. The TV gets four or five Mongolian channels, and although I never turn it on, I probably should because it might be good language practice.

My wood stove is my means of keeping my ger warm and cooking meat and veggies. My current diet consists of vegetable soup with meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, and salt, or a stir fry of the same ingredients over rice cooked in my rice cooker. Yum. Once I've had a chance to scope out the stores in town I might be able to get more creative! As for heat, it's still pretty warm here, but I usually make a fire in the morning since it's starting to get cold at night. A wood fire lasts less than an hour unattended, and that's the only source of fuel here, so I'm glad I have my hardcore Peace Corps-issued sleeping bag for those long winter nights!

Then there's my bed, which is comfortable and has a nice stack of blankets and sheets and a rug on top. No pillow, though! Next to it is my water filter, which provides water I can actually drink.

This is my desk, where I write letters and type things like blog posts and study Mongolian. Above it is hanging a map of Mongolia, where I've marked the new sites of my friends from training, with a big star on my own new site! I also keep my photo album with pictures of family and friends from home right there. My closet has all of my clothes in it, predictably. It also has hooks for my coats and scarves and a shelf where I keep my books, Mongolian language resources, and teaching materials. 

Next to that is my dry sink. As you've probably worked out, I have no running water. The dry sink works by pouring water in the metal basin above the faucet, which then will run out in a stream due to gravity. The drain flows into a bucket under the sink, which I then empty out into a pit next to the outhouse as it gets full. Water comes from the well in the middle of town, but I haven't had to go fetch it myself yet; there are a few children who live in my hashaa who have that responsibility. Another stroke of luck!

Finally, there is the center of the ger. There are two beautifully painted posts holding the roof up, and a round window from which protrudes my stovepipe. When it rains, you have to take the stovepipe down, go outside, and pull the felt cover on top of the ger to cover the window.

And that's my ger!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Swearing In

Swearing In

 It's been awhile since I've updated, and a lot has happened!

First things first, I left my training site on August 15 to head into the city for the end of training conference days. That Monday was an eventful day! We got the results of our language test back in the morning (I passed!), then were on pins and needles until the afternoon when site announcements were scheduled.

After a few sessions on community development and staying healthy that were really hard to pay attention to, all sixty-something of us walked through the city to the giant map in the park where site announcements were set to occur. We all stood around, nervous and excited, as each person was called one-by-one and told where they were going to be living and working for the next two years.

I was called in the middle, and led onto the map to stand in Uvurkhangai, an aimag (province) that is southwest of Ulaanbaatar. It is not in the Gobi, but it does border the Gobi, so camels aren't too far away even if none live in my town! Once I knew my aimag, I was given a packet with all the information about my town, job, and housing.

I am living in a ger! In fact, I am typing this blog post in my ger right now. :)

My Town
As for the rest of the information (yes, I flipped right to the housing section to see if "ger" was checked off before I read anything else!), my town is fairly small. The population is around 6,500 people and 30,000 yaks. I am the first Peace Corps Volunteer to be assigned here, and as far as I can tell, the only foreigner in town. As for the work information, I'll save that for another post about the first few days of school.

Back to site announcements: After I had skimmed the information in my packet, I started looking around to see where other people were placed. None of my training sitemates are in my aimag; in fact, there is a Volunteer from my training site in each of the farthest western, eastern, and southern aimags. Almost everyone was happy with their assignment and excited. And we all went out to celebrate, along with some current Volunteers who came into the city to welcome us to their aimags, at a dance club that night. The current Volunteers from Uvurkhangai even brought us candy!
Our Dance Costumes

The rest of the week went by really fast, with lots of sessions and meetings, including meeting our new supervisors (mine is very nice). In between all of this, there were four of us from my training site rehearsing our traditional Mongolian dance, set to be performed on Friday.

Friday morning, August 19, was Swearing In. We all got dressed up in our dels (traditional Mongolian clothes) that our host families had made us, took an oath, and walked across the stage to receive certificates. It was a little like a graduation ceremony, complete with slideshow! And we all had our pictures taken with the ambassador.

Me and My New Waterfall
Some trainees gave speeches in Mongolian, and then it was time for performances! There were several dances and songs performed by representatives from all of the training sites. I wore neon orange pants and remembered all the moves, and the audience clapped and cheered, so I'll call our performance a success!

After the ceremony, there was a reception with lots of tasty food, and then it was time to leave for site. Many tearful goodbyes later, I piled my suitcases, tumpen, and water filter into the back of my supervisor's jeep for our roadtrip to my new home.

Which is also the home of a waterfall; see the photographic evidence! I'm definitely one of the most beautiful parts of the country.