Two homes, both precious

November 3, 2014 at 2:03 am Leave a comment

I’m an American. But since 2008 when I went to Mongolia as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I feel I’ve become half Mongolian. I even have two names: Judy and the Mongolian one my friends gave me: Jargalmaa meaning Happy Mother.

And though I’m no longer in Peace Corps I have returned each year to Mongolia to visit my friends who now feel like family. I’ve watched as some got married, had babies, changed jobs, built homes, and sent those growing-up babies off to school. And yes, I’ve seen some sad things during those past six and a half years: illness, divorce, disappointments and death. Two different cultures but all one family.

Overall, it is a joyous reunion each year (usually July) when the small propeller plane sets down at our little Muron airport and friends are at the gate to welcome me back to my Mongolian home. This summer was no exception. Many people knew I was coming and those who didn’t know would spot me later on the street and we would exchange warm greetings.

Gurvan Naiz happens!

If you read my blog from last summer’s trip, you’ll know that my Mongolian friends Esee and Moogie and I talked about working together to establish a little summer pre-school kindergarten for a group of herders in Burentogtokh far out in the countryside in their summer grazing grounds. We planned to call it “Gurvan Naiz” meaning Three Friends, but by the time it opened there were many people involved: the Burentogtokh school district, two teachers, World Vision, friends from America who contributed in various ways, and me.

BurentogtoghKindergarten

Parents, teachers, World Vision people, Judy and the little Burentogtogh children

The view any direction you look

The view any direction you look

Inside one of the gers

Inside one of the gers

Fortunately, I was able to attend the closing ceremony for the little school along with parents, teachers, and people from World Vision including its country director. No one celebrates better than Mongolians. The teachers helped the children prepare and we watched as they sang, recited poetry, and danced in the middle of this vast open valley. We laughed and clapped and even shed a few tears of joy, and then we shared in the khorhog feast to conclude the ceremony. Hope we can help again next year.

Mongolia is growing…flowers and vegetables I mean

While I’m in Mongolia I stay with my dear friends Enkhtuuvshin and Otgo whose sweet family now numbers four—two daughters, 2 years and 6 months last summer. Their new little greenhouse sheltered cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and even a surprise poppy plant! And flowers were planted everywhere—a lot of watering to do in a dry climate.

A surprise poppy among the vegetables in the greenhouse

A surprise poppy among the vegetables in the greenhouse

Cabbages and more cabbages

Bold and Tsermaa, the couple who owned and lived in the other half of house where I lived during Peace Corps took me out into the countryside to show me their fields of vegetables including the cabbages from seeds I had sent them (and which grow well in short seasons and that they can’t get there). I was so impressed. These will keep well into the winter along with other root vegetables that they grow. They’ll sell them at the local market.

Bold and Tsermaa among their cabbages.

Bold and Tsermaa among their cabbages.

Two Naadams

The major summer holiday is called Naadam when the three manly sports are celebrated: wrestling, horse racing and archery. I got to go to two this year: one in the town of Burentogtogh and one in Muron—this year a big one because of a major horse race for stallions drawing horses from all over Mongolia.

A big Naaadam ceremony in Muron this year

A big Naaadam ceremony in Muron this year

Of course, no visit would be complete without going out to Bat Erdene’s camp west of Muron with the glorious view out over the valley of the Delgermoron River. In addition to the many animals that graze in the valley we spotted “Seven Swans A-Swimming”—well, actually eight, 2 adults and 6 cygnets.

Beautiful Mongolian valley and the blue sky

Beautiful Mongolian valley and the blue sky

Swans

Swans on the Delgermuron River: Mom, Dad, and six baby cygnets out for swim.

Back in UB

I had a little extra time in Ulaanbaatar this year before flying home. So I could have dinner with Alta whom I have known since Peace Corps training in 2008. And I got together with a new friend I met through a friend in Muron. Erdene is a guide and took me out to see the VERY BIG Chinngis status. You can even take an elevator up to the horse’s head and see many kilometers in every direction.

ErdeneJudyChinggis

And finally, I came across a few amusing signs I thought might make you chuckle.

Protect circumstance

“Protect circumstance begin with me” is on the front of this trash bin. Maybe it should say “Protecting our environment begins with me.”

Baby on Board

Seen in the back window of a car in UB. I think someone needs to grab the baby out of the road!

Since 2013

The sign for Gusto Restaurant reads “Pizza Pasta Friends Since 2013”. So, they have been around for a whole year!

Spike heels

Mongolian women do love their spike heels but I think many of them might find the heels on the white pair of shoes a bit challenging!

OhmyGod shop

Yep, it really does say “Oh My God Shop”–it wasn’t open when I was around.

Then, off to Tokyo, Chicago, and Boston and home to Pond Street, jiggety jog.

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