Archive for October, 2008

Elections in Mongolia and a Ger Camp

       Note: Am going to post this on October 24—so a lot has taken place in the last couple of weeks—including single digits for the temperature and 6 inches of snow a couple of days ago.  I’ll send a blog update on that soon—but meanwhile here’s the one I prepared a while ago and haven’t been able to get on the internet to post….Pictures at the bottom I think…

  I got to go out of town on Saturday, October 12th, for the first time since I’ve been here.  A few weeks ago I attended a conference put on by the local Tourist Information Center.  They had invited people involved in the local tourist organizations including businesses that would appeal to tourists.  Their focus was on how to attract people to Moron and keep them here for a few days instead of just staying overnight on their way to Lake Huvsgul, a very large freshwater lake a couple of hours north of here.  There was a translator named Bat at the conference who sat by me and kept a running commentary on what was being discussed.  He told me he owned a ger camp that was on the way to Lake Huvsgul and featured fly fishing and hiking.  I offered to be of any help I could on English promotional materials.  Recently I saw him on the street and he said he was going to the ger camp the next day and wondered if I would like to see it. So the next day another PCV and myself along with Bat’s wife and little 2 year old daughter drove out to the get camp, about 26 kilometers from Moron.  Here’s the website:  

            At the bottom of the first page is a picture of Bat, the man we went with.  The ger camp is called Harganat and you can see pictures of it on the website—see the top left bar.  It was a beautiful day and I was glad to get out into the countryside and see a lot of animals (even yak cows—a cross between yaks and cows), sheep, cattle, and horses.  On the way, we stopped to see the deer stones—see info about them on the Besud Tour website.  We passed several gers along the way packing up for moves to better protected places for the winter.  The gers contents were all outside being loaded up in whatever vehicles they had.  We stopped in to see his uncle’s ger next to the camp and had some blood sausage from a sheep.  Tasted pretty good!  Bat explained that it is important that a sheep be scared when it is killed in order for some “hormones” to be released and affect the taste of the meat.  He said that he once ate meat form a sheep that had been killed by lightning and it didn’t taste right. 

            The ger camp is on a bluff and a meandering river runs along the foot of the bluff where you can go fly fishing in some of the deeper pools.  The water here is very clear.. There’s a picture in the dining room of a big fish one of his guests caught.  The location is typical Mongolian countryside: a vast open and mostly treeless plain with mountains all around and a very big sky. You can see herds of animals here and there in the distance and perhaps a horse and rider among them.  As  Bat indicates on the website, a sweet little dining room provides views in nearly every direction.  At this time of year (we haven’t had rain for weeks), it is very dry.  There are few trees although some of the mountains have some evergreens but they are very are dry and brown right now (is it larches that turn brown in the winter?).  Bat says it is very green in the summer.  I look forward to going back next summer.  The cost per night is $35 and includes three meals.  If you want to go fly fishing or hiking, the cost is $60 a night and includes guides and equipment as well.

            There were local elections here in Huvsgul the following day on Sunday, October 12.  I’ll put a couple of pictures on my blog showing you the polling place and some voters.  There are two things about elections here that I wish the U.S. would do.  One is to hold elections on the weekend rather than a weekday.  Seems to me it makes much more sense.  The other is that people here are proud of their right to vote and actually get dressed up to go to the polls.  On that Sunday, I was helping the Program Director at World Vision (a big Christian charity that operates worldwide on behalf of the poor) prepare some planning materials.  Her office looked out over a school where voting was going on.  It was fun to watch people arrive all dressed up in their deels.  We took a break around noon and went over to see the actual polling place. People acquire their ballots and then are directed to little tables where they fill in the ballots—not as private as at home.  Then they put their ballots in boxes.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to see Americans get dressed up to go and vote.  I like that idea!

            My supervisor was running for a position—I think it was a local representative for some sort of local council.  As I understood it, she won as a candidate for the Revolutionary Party—which is the old communist party.  The other party is called the Democratic Party and apparently it lost ground considerably in this election.  I’ll have to find out why. 

            By the way, I found out that my deel (see photo last blog posting), is to be worn around the house in the winter like a warm bathrobe.  It can also be worn outside—I often see women and men in deels on the streets now as the weather gets cooler.




October 24, 2008 at 10:32 am Leave a comment

Winterizing Judy

This was the week to get the house and now me ready for winter.  My woodpile is growing, the windows are getting better, and now I’m being winterized too.  Last Tuesday, two of my co-workers and one of my language class students went to he zaak with me.  We bought materials to winterize my windows and then we shopped for boots.  There are many little places to buy boots—the big knee high ones.  I tried on many of them—trying to dind ones big enough.  I wear a size 8 but that is really big for Mongolians.  Finally we found a pair that I think will let me wear a couple of pairs of sox.

            From there we came back to my house and everyone worked on my windows, putting, putting in panes of glass, even washing the windows.  The only problem was that they had bought some tape to put around the edge of the inside windows where there is a good size gap and about ½ an hour after they put the tape all around, it simply fell off!  Don’t know if it was the wrong type of tape or faulty tape.  So I am seeking another solution.  Meanwhile, they’re better than they were before.  Oh for those snug double pane Anderson windows!

            The following day (Wednesday) we again went to the zak and I was taken to a sewing shop where they make deels (pronounced “dell.”).  There I picked out fabric for what I think they call a winter inside deel.  There are all kinds of fabrics and colors but they are all very rich looking—satiny with cold or silver designs on them.  And everyone takes an interest in what you are choosing.   The pattern is a traditional style and the deel is lined with a quilted flannel-like fabric.  On Saturday I picked up the deel all complete.  It’s quite beautiful although it does nothing for one’s figure.  Looks as if the person wearing it weighs twice as much as she really does.  We also bought a belt and I’m glad to say I didn’t have to buy a sash that some people wear.  The sash gets wound around you about 20 times.  You’ll see pictures of me in this blog. 

            There’s only one problem—I’m not sure yet when and where I’m supposed to wear it.  For one thing, I can’t button it completely by myself though I think I’ll get the knack of it at some point.  All the buttons are the frog type button like you see on some Chinese clothes.  The deel is too nice to simply wear around the house but I find it hard to believe that I’ll be wearing it at the office—and even then I’d need some sort of coat which will never fit over it (it actually fits snugly enough around the chest that you can’t wear anything much under it.   Hmmmm.  I’m sure it will all be revealed to me at some point.  I’ll just be patient.  Anyway, my friends say I am now really a Mongolian woman with my very own deel.

            I’m also posting some photos of some people I took pictures of at a business festival a couple of weeks ago.  A lot of businesses set up tables on the town square (just outside my office) displaying and selling goods or foods they make.  It was easier to ask if I could take some of their photos in that setting so I got a number of them.  It was suppoed to be a 2-day festival but the second day the weather turned very windy and chilly.  I’m told it was postponed but I’ve not seen anything more about it. 


October 9, 2008 at 9:02 am Leave a comment

If you can’t take the cold, move to the kitchen!

Close up of man at the business festival

Close up of man at the business festival

Part of my wood is now stacked and part is in the house all split.  Another load arrives today!
Part of my wood is now stacked and part is in the house all split. Another load arrives today!

If you can’t take the cold, move to the kitchen!


As the nights get chillier, keeping warm will become more and more interesting!  We are now having hard frosts at night though the days often warm up into the 60s.  This weekend, the process of getting ready for the winter began.  A big load of wood was delivered to my house on Friday night (Peace Corps pays for my wood). Pictures below.  It’s the right length but needed to be split.  On Saturday, my supervisor and counterparts were supposed to come and help me “winterize” my house.  But only one showed up.  Her name is Jagaa and she’s as big as a minute—but sure knows how to split wood.  She brought an axe and split wood while I carried load after load of it inside and stacked it in a shed that is part of my house.  Mongolians basically just hold a big piece of wood on top of a stump with bare hands and swing the axe.  Their aim is right on target—though the axe comes with inches of their hands and fingers.  And there’s nothing tentative about those blows.  I can barely stand to watch—it looks so dangerous.  But I’m sure they’ve had a lot of practice.

            Later in the day, a couple of women who had been here sorting carrots all day, started stacking the unsplit wood  neatly along our hosha fence. I had helped sort the carrots earlier in the day and got acquainted a bit with them.  They were amazed when they learned my age—as I’ve said before, 65 is considered really old here and people that age tend to be bent over, walk slowly, and have deeply lined faces.  So they don’t know quite what to make of me.

            My co-worker, Jagaa, came again on Sunday, and this time brought a friend, a fellow who is a TV cameraman locally.  He was the chopper, and Jagaa and I carried the wood inside and stacked it.  It seems to me there is a huge amount of wood now that’s chopped and stacked—but it will probably only last a month or two at most, according to Byron, one of the PCVs here in town who has stayed on an extra year. Jagaa and her friend worked so hard and I finally got them stop after they’d been at it for several hours.  Then Jagaa suggested we all go play pool.  There are quite a few pool and ping pong facilities around—I guess it’s a good indoor activity when you can’t go outside for long stretches.  I hadn’t played pool for many, many years so I was terrible—but I did begin to get a little better as time went on.  I’ll have to get out and practice.  Any pool sharks out there who have some suggestions?

            When I got back around 5:30, the two women who had started stacking the unsplit wood on Saturday, came around to my side of the house.  I think they had finished with their day’s work (sorting potatoes and bagging them) and they came to help me finish stacking the unsplit wood.  So just in 2 days, that big pile of wood has been either split or stacked. I am so grateful for how helpful everyone has been.  I offered to pay Jagaa’s friend or at least take them out to lunch, but Jagaa wouldn’t even let me pay for the pool time.  And the women were equally generous—they showed up and just did it.  And it’s not easy—lots of the pieces are very heavy.  And they do it with such joy—we all laughed a lot—even though I don’t understand much of what is going on.  Laughter takes you a long way in this world when you can’t speak the language!

            The other winterization project I did was to move my bed into the kitchen area, with Bold’s help.  It’s a long room but everything fits, if a bit snug.  Snug is good!.  I need someone to tell me how to seal off the rest of the house so only the kitchen needs to be warm.  Plus the windows are still very drafty.  On each of my 4 windows there is an outside and an inside window, but a small pane is missing in each window and none of the windows or the glass in them fit tightly—big gaps around them.  Hopefully that will get done this week.

            One last tidbit of winterizing:  Bold came in this weekend and brought some cardboard for me to put under the newer part of the linoleum.  He indicated this will stop drafts coming up through the floorboards below.  The gaps are pretty big.  This made me think of reading about homeless people who use newspapers for insulation when sleeping on the street in the winter.  Guess the same principle applies here!

            Of course, along with the wood comes the need to build a fire.  I’m getting better at doing it in the little wood stove.  When I first arrived I had a little wood but no kindling.  Knowing this would be essential for winter, I started gathering bits of wood I saw along the street, discarded paper and even plastic candy and cookie wrappers. And there is a plethora of ice cream sticks! I have an outside pocket on the book-type bag I take to work and keep a plastic bag in it to collect these items. I must look pretty funny to the Mongolians since every few steps I bend down and pick up something from the ground.  I even bring home empty cardboard boxes when I find them and tear them up for kindling.  (Unfortunately or fortunately, there is a lot of litter.)  A fellow PCV says I can make kindling myself with my Swiss Army Knife—but so far my results are dismal.  Perhaps next time there is a wood chopping event, I’ll ask my helper to make me some kindling.  Meanwhile, I’m reducing litter a bit and getting plenty of bending down exercise.

            Lastly, among today’s photos are a couple of a man at a Business Festival that took place last week.  More about that later.

            P.S. After I wrote this my windows were fixed by my co-workers.  Since snow is expected for tonight and last night was really cold, I’m pleased.  If this blog is coming through strangely, I apologize.  Tried to uploa 6 pictures but I only see 2 displayed…will try to get help figuring it out.


October 2, 2008 at 7:37 am Leave a comment

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