Archive for July, 2008

Finally…more news from Mongolia

Mongolia celebrated the Mongolian holiday of Naadam last week (check out Google for more details). We went in to the main part of Sukhbatar on July 9 to see some of the celebrations: big town square, lots of marching around, singing Mongolian style, speeches, and later some wrestling and archery. I don’t think these versions are going to make the Wide World of Sports but it was interesting. Didn’t get to see the horse racing. Maybe next year.

Judy and Chinggis Khan at Naadam celebration (plus a friend's host family mom)

Judy and Chinggis Khan at Naadam celebration (plus a friend's host family mom)

Naadam is celebrated over several days, apparently each community choosing its own. After returning home, I finaly got to ride a horse—in fact, it was my second time. The first time the horse was on a lead—they of course had no ideas I could ride and I had no idea how spirited the horses might be. So the picture on the blog shows the horse on a lead. The second time, two boys on horses (same ones as the first time) came to the shop. I went out to see the horses and Enkha (Tstetsgey’s daughter who runs the shop) asked me to take her picture on the horse. Then I managed to suggest we both take a ride (not knowing if it might be possible) and it was! So she and I had about a 10 minute ride—without a lead. When we came back, I bought 2 of Tstetsgey’s frozen yogurt cups for the boys—hoping they’ll show up again and let me ride.

Judy rides!

Judy rides!

Right after the ride, Tstetsgey had me put on a nice shirt I’d had on earlier when I was taking family pictures and then we all got in a taxi (every car is virtually a taxi) to go to Tstetsgey’s daughter’s friends house way out in the hoodo (countryside). Can you believe 10 people and only 2 were children in the back seat and 3 adults in the front seat of a 4-door car driving down the highway and then cutting cross country for about 45 minutes? Seat belts? Are you kidding? And the car would only start if headed downhill.

Mongolia during Naadam

Mongolia during Naadam

Once we got there it was beautiful—see the photo looking out over the countryside. A very simple home. We brought some food and the woman whose home it was (she had a husband and several children) set out cooked vegetables and mutton meat in hunks. But first we each were given a greasy hot rock. Apparently it is cooked with the mutton and then each person gets one and has to toss it back and forth in her hands (sooo hot) and touch it to various parts of your body. It’s good for you well being. You touch various parts of your body with it. Then a plate with some meat on it was given to Tstetsgey (I was sitting next to her in the one of the 2 chairs they had). It took me a moment to figure out what it was and then I got it: A sheep’s head. Tstetsgey promptly cut off several pieces from the check and put them on a plate for me. I think it was supposed to be an honor. I tried not to think about it—just ate it, mostly fat.

Naadam celebration

Naadam celebration

Although my language is almost nil, I felt at home with these people. We ate and laughed a lot. We were there 3 or 4 hours and I began to wonder if we were staying overnight (we’d arrived late in the day). Finally, the woman’s husband rode in from taking care of the cattle and after he ate, he drove us home around 10 o’clock. Fortunately it’s still light here pretty late and fortunately the man seemed sober and a good driver. Peace Corps warns you not to be out too late during Naadam (lots of drinking), but every car I saw seemed under control. On the weekend there were big celebrations in UB on TV showing wrestling Mongolian style, archery, and lots of horses. There are 2 TVs here—one in the house and one in Enka’s little room in the store where she sleeps. Both are pretty fuzzy. An out door antenna is always being jiglled but it still looks as if it’s snowing pretty heavily, no matter what the scene.

Monday after Naadam, we were back in school. It is now really crunch time. The business PCTs have a presentation to make, a symposium to organize and present to local business people, and our local PCTs have a community service project to organize and carry out, plus various reports to write, and of course language, language, language. I frankly don’t know if I will be able to make the grade here, but I think Peace Corps will be a little more lenient with me. I just don’t pick it up as quickly as the 20-somethings. But I’m not fretting!

Meanwhile, I help at Tsetsgey’s. I water (daily, by hand) and weed the garden, chase the cows, chop and carry wood, clean up the cow pies, wash the dishes, learn to cook Mongolian style, and whatever else I can help with. They’ll never be able to say I was lazy! And just taking care of oneself is time-consuming. Clothes are all washed by hand, you bathe in a basin occasionally, keep your water purifier working, and study a lot. Not even much time to write blogs…


I hope to post this today—it’s Saturday. The presentation I mentioned above was supposed to be yesterday. We were all prepared (I’d even worn a dress and several of the guys had a shirt and tie and our team had prepared a PowerPoint presentation) to deliver a presentation to a group of handicapped people who have formed a handicraft cooperative. But when we got there, most of them weren’t there—they had gone off on other business. The word was they were mixed up about the time, but our PC Trainer says it’s not unusual. Time is very flexible here. You just have to adjust. But we worked so ahrd on it!

This morning I plan to go to the town to use the internet, print some pictures for the family if I can find the photo store, and had thought I’d get my hair cut (I spotted a beauty salon the at the market recently). But Duulya (Tsetsgey’s younger sister) who has been here a couple of weeks) indicated I shouldn’t. Even though women apparently die their hair here all the time (mostly a red wash over their naturally black/darkbrown hair), people seem to like my white hair. Oh well.

As we were having breakfast, a thunderstorm came up—and it hailed, marble sized or smaller. I think Tsetsgey was worried about her garden—she put her hands together in prayer (I think the family is loosely Buddhist and Shamanistic). Lasted about half an hour, then moved on.


One day last week, Tsetsgey’s other sister sat in the hosha (big fenced yard surrounding the house any outbuildings and garden) all afternoon and into the evening straightening old rusty nails. I think she and her husband are going to build a new house and so are salvaging nails to use. Everything is used, reused, and reused down to the last shred. So you’d think there would be no litter, but it does exist. Lots of broken glass, piles of worn out stuff—old shoes, miscellaneous unrecognizable stuff. I find I’m always watching the ground as I walk, not just to avoid cow pies, but also for items one could use, even for a piece of wood one could bring home and add to the pile. Tsetsgey cooks everything on the wood stove in a big heavy wok, though some other people have hot plates or even a real stove. The wood they use comes from various sources. Some is left over from making lumber–basically the edges of the trees. Some is just junk wood–pieces of wood apparently from a house that’s been torn down (there are plenty of derelict homes in this area). You have to be careful chopping it up–lots of old rusty nails and plenty of splinters. Burns up very fast.

Apologies for not being able to answer questions from those who send them. My time on the internet is brief—people are always waiting. But I do enjoy hearing from everyone. When I get to my own site, I think I’ll have more opportunities to respond.  Also, I’m still not up to speed publishing photos–hope the ones I refer to in the blog come through.  Love to all from the opposite side of the world!


July 19, 2008 at 4:55 am Leave a comment

July 1 update

Today was voting day. Tsetsgey got dressed up in her deel (pronounced del) and took her voting identification and went off to the school to vote. Apparently, most people get dressed up to vote and even have special food on voting day (though we didn’t). She came home and showed me the ink mark on her forefinger showing she had voted. For once, a lot of hustle and bustle in town. As I understand it, there are representatives from 4 parties running for office. Tsetsgey’s other daughter was here overnight and explained this to me mostly in sign language. There have been teams around for the past couple of weeks in baseball caps with party insignia and all dressed up visiting all the residents. Two or three just show up and come right in to the house (nobody asks permission), I was there when 2 of the groups showed up. They are served tea and a bowl of candy and there’s a 15-minute conversation and then they move on. Sorry I can’t tell you what they are saying. There are also party headquarters with flags flying and posters and a few rallies and cars with speakers on them driving around. This has been going on for awhile but will end today.

We were having lunch today under the only tree in our hosha (our fence-enclosed property). Lunch was milk-rice soup with milk tea. It’s our main meal of the day. While we’re sitting there, Tsetsgey pointed at the hill in the distance. “Judy, horses” she said in Mongolian, of course. Sure enough, some six horses were galloping along a trail and bringing up the rear was a motorcycle. I guess you use whatever transportation you can get. I haven’t seen a lot of horses though I did see someone driving a herd down the street in front of our school this week and I usually see several riders each day, often far away. The land is so open it is so easy to see at a great distance.  The week after this is Naadam (look it up on Google).  Big celebration: horse racing, wrestling, and archer–the 3 big Mongol sports.  We hope to see some of it–celebvrated all around the country.

This week has been very busy. Language of course which continues to be a major challenge. I know lots of words now, but putting together sentences with correct verb tenses (lots) and noun endings (lots) and also understanding what people are saying to me is difficult. Greek now seems easy!

Our business group visited a small business that employs the disabled (mostly deaf people). It makes a number of craft-type products: purses, animal carvings, mittens, car seat covers, beaded jewelry, all very nice quality. It also makes and repairs clothing and pillows, using used clothing it is given or buys. Our business group is supposed to analyze the business, prepare a business plan and make a presentation to the group on ways they can improve. We will break into 2 groups to do so. I asked our trainer if we’d be combining our ideas before the presentation. No, she said, we would make 2 presentations (Powerpoint!) and, even if the suggestions are contradictory, they can then choose what ideas they want to pursue. It’s an interesting approach. They are currently operating out of a large room at the back of the local hospital which wasn’t being used. It was in bad shape and they’ve fixed it up (even a few plants). They are hopeful that the hospital’s director will find a way to provide heat for them this winter.

Am running out of time–will post pics on next blog.  For more information about my area check out this blog:  Nathan is in my group–in fact, he’s sitting next to me at the internet cafe right now.

July 1, 2008 at 9:08 am Leave a comment

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