Archive for September, 2013

“Hello, Judy”

I had just arrived in Ulaanbaatar, settled into Zaya’s Guesthouse and was walking down a crowded street.  “Hello, Judy,” said a 20-something Mongolian walking with a friend in the other direction.  I stopped in my tracks, stared at him and pointed to myself, “You know me?”  “Yes,” he nodded with a smile and walked on.

I still don’t know who he was, perhaps someone who worked at Peace Corps, but I do know it made me feel I was home, back in my adopted country, Mongolia.  And when I flew on to Muron the next day, my home during my Peace Corps years, friends welcomed me at the airport and later, as I walked around town, I kept hearing, “Hi, Judy!” as other friends saw me and stopped to say hello. This was my sixth summer in Muron.  It feels like home.

A rainbow greeted me my first day back in Muron

A rainbow greeted me my first day back in Muron

Sarangoo is a year old now!

Sarangoo is a year old now!

 

 

 

I spent the month of July in Mongolia this year.  As I did last summer, I stayed with my friend Enktuvshin and her family along with a Swiss friend also there for the month.  Enkhtuvshin’s daughter, Sarangoo, is now a year old and started walking the day after we arrived.  She is adorable and is more adventurous every day.

What I brought with me

I always try to bring some little gifts to share and sometimes I get requests.  This year the requests included a saddle for my friend, Esee, a guide who takes people on horse treks.  Since Mongolian saddles are wooden, the English style saddle is more comfortable as well as being a size appropriate for the smaller Mongolian horses. I have to admit it was a bit of a challenge to find a way to pack it!

I also brought a big bundle of children’s warm wool hats and scarves donated to me by a little knitting group from the Swampscott library next door to Marblehead.  World Vision in Muron will give them to children from the many poor families in the area.

One wedding and two birthdays

Entuvshin’s brother was married while we were there—it was fun being involved in the preparations‑-like peeling mounds of potatoes as part of the food preparation for the wedding feast.  And then there were two birthday parties, one for Enktuvshin where we ate, karaoked and discoed, and one for Bataa whom I have known since my first days in Muron and who is now married with a little daughter.

Enkhtuuvshin's just made a wish before blowing out the candles.

Enkhtuuvshin’s just made a wish before blowing out the candles.

Bataa, his wife, and baby daughter

Bataa, his wife, and baby daughter

 

The view from the bluff

The view from the bluff

Bat-Erdene’s Ger Camp

Early in this trip I  spent a few days at a favorite place, Hargalat Ger Camp, about an hour west of Muron. It sits high on a bluff with one of the most beautiful views in Mongolia: a broad valley with streams running through it, herds of goats and sheep and cows and camels and horses passing back and forth. Distant mountains, magnificent clouds, and fantastic sunsets. Starry nights and utter peace. Magic!

How’s business…

As I was a business volunteer in the Peace Corps, I am always interested in what is happening in that area.  The little summer souvenir shop I helped start some years ago was open again but in a new location and not doing so well.  I tried to help raise the visibility of the shop but after I left August 6 I heard it had closed.  Perhaps it will go better next year.

On the other hand, a couple I had known before with a tiny knitting business have been able to get some funding and purchased some new one-person knitting machines.  They are turning out some beautiful yak and sheep wool sweaters and I’ve ordered some to sell, along with some other local products, at a couple of craft fairs here leading up to the holidays.

Gurvan Naiz Kindergarten

I mentioned Esee, a local guide, earlier.  Since I first got to know him and his lovely family, he has wanted to take me out to the countryside where he was brought up. In between his guiding trips this year, we did it—he and his wife, Moogie, and his three children and I drove out in his SUV miles and miles and miles out through the hills and valleys to meet his relatives in their summer grazing grounds.  About 20 families of herders live scattered in gers across a broad valley looking after their flocks. I loved meeting the families and seeing this beautiful place.  That evening I sampled my first marmot and my first yak vodka.  Yum! I wish I had photos of the valley but unfortunately we had a lot of rain. It prevented us from riding horses but could not dampen our spirits.

Have some marmot (see the little head at the back of the bowl?)

Have some marmot (see the little head at the back of the bowl?)

Two fresh-killed marmots

Two fresh-killed marmots

On the way back the next day, Esee told me he had a dream—he wanted to start a little summer kindergarten for the children in this valley.  As we drove down a road through what I can only call an extremely rocky gully between two high hills, I mused on this and then said I too had an idea—I would like to help him.   Esee, Moogie, and I shared some ideas and they suggested we call it “Judy’s Kindergarten.”  I didn’t want my name on it, but as we talked, I came up with an alternative. “Let’s call it ‘Gurvan Naiz Kindergarten” which means “Three Friends Kindergarten” in Mongolian.  Perfect.

Boys returning from getting water from the stream--candidates for next year's kindergarten

Boys returning from getting water from the stream–candidates for next year’s kindergarten

When we returned to Muron, I told my friend at World Vision about it and she said World Vision perhaps could help if we got a proposal together.

So now I’m back home in Marblehead working on the proposal and talking to all kinds of people about ideas that will help make it a success.  We’ll need a couple of gers where the classes can be held, some modest furniture, a teacher, and some supplies.

It will probably be just a few hours a day but I’m trying to think out of the box.  I’m soliciting ideas from everyone I know (YOUR ideas are welcome!) An educator friend suggested finding ways to introduce the children to children of other cultures. Another suggested using puppets so the children could make up stories and put on little plays. I hope we can find creative ways to explore the incredible nature around them and learn more about how to take care of it.  I hope we can foster creativity and learn about working together to solve little problems.  I have started collecting colorful books about children in other cultures and soliciting knitted puppets from some of the knitters I mentioned above.

I well know from experience that not every project turns out the way you expect but I’ll do my best and, hopefully, will have a good report next summer. Meanwhile, I treasure the month spent in Mongolia with my Mongolian family.

A sunset taken facing east with a rainbow slicing through the middle!

A sunset taken right before I left facing east (not west) with a rainbow slicing through the middle!

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