So here is what happened to me two weeks ago:
I headed out to the east side of town with Erdenemunkh, a 16-year-old student at my high school who speaks better English than I do. Earlier that week she’d found me on Flickr and then immediately texted me, asking when we could take pictures together. Since volunteers are to Always Say Yes To Social Invitations, I told her Sunday evening would be fine. Then I hoped that it wasn’t creepy for the foreign teacher to schedule a friend-date with a student.
We went to the edge of the city, to a skeletal, fenced-off, multi-story building that had been abandoned mid-construction. I asked her if she’d ever been there before. She said no. We found our way through the fence and sneaked onto the grounds, through tall weeds and past a ger with fresh laundry hanging outside. I asked whether we were doing something illegal. She said maybe.
I’m such a good influence!
I got a message from Erdenemunkh, asking if we could go to “the forest” and take some more pictures that afternoon with her friends. My weekly teachers’ workshop had just been canceled and I was, in fact, free. If you know me at all you know my first impulse was to lie and say I was busy and then spend a couple hours alone in my office doing some controlled breathing and letting my brain unclench itself and whatnot. But I knew if I did that, these girls would only hound me until I scheduled their Super Awesome Fashion Shoot. And also I wanted to know what counts as a forest in a place that looks like this:
So I said yes. Again with the saying yes! Christ I am such a good volunteer, in addition to being such a good influence on the youth of Mongolia.
So it’s me, Erdenemunkh and her two equally cute lady friends. We get into a taxi; they name a destination to the driver, who seems momentarily dumbfounded. He then proceeds to drive his dusty, battered sedan straight up the nearest mountain, on a road that is less than paved. At a certain point he can drive no higher, and so we get out, pay him, and then continue up the road to the top of the ridge. I was wearing a skirt and heels, which I feel is an essential detail.
We summit the mountain. On the other side we come to a large collection of lovely yellow trees that is indeed forest-like. Erdenemunkh gets out her makeup, hairspray and collection of dresses and starts styling her friends. I text Ryan something like, “Am deep in woods with teenage girls??!? FYI”
So then we had our Fashion Shoot in the Forest, yay!
Erdenemunkh took some shots, too. Hence the photo of me at the top of this post. I think she was telling me to “look up there — and be happy!” Please feel free to use it as your wallpaper, put it on a coffee mug or T-shirt, whatever.
We finished up around 4:30 and O, I was hoping for a magic taxi stand to appear behind a clump of bushes. But alack, we had to walk all the way back to town. And alas, on the way down the mountain I got a surprise text from my supervisor: “Please be at school at 5:30. We have a celebration.”
Soooooo long story short
- I got to school with just enough time to run into my office and wipe the dust and mud off my heels and tights
- Then I discovered that, in the previous 45 minutes, I had somehow lost my cell phone
- It was “World Teacher’s Day,” some kind of international holiday that, according to my coteachers, had never before been celebrated at our school
- I was required to give an impromptu speech in front of all the teachers
- There was a dancing competition, a singing competition, and a competition where each participant had to sound out the vowels of the Mongolian alphabet as though they were having a sexual climax
- Guess which competition I earned second place in!
So then we got a private room at the disco, to celebrate Being Teachers:
I was escorted home around midnight to a seriously pissed off Ryan, because, the thing, where I lost my cell phone? And he didn’t know where I was? Oops!
My supervisor was concerned about my run of bad luck — first a stolen wallet (did I mention my wallet got stolen last month? Total bummer etc.), then a lost cell phone — and so she arranged for us to visit a shaman after work. What? Yes.
We went to the shaman’s apartment and drank some milk tea and she (the shaman) told me my energy was bad, mostly because I was being influenced by a tall, skinny woman with a gray cat. But not to worry, she said. She gave me a little bottle of milk and a little bottle of vodka, and she said that for the next three days I’d need to clean my apartment with the liquids. Then I would need to make an offering of them to the mountains, to ask for help. She wrote down some mountains for me, so I could call them by name. Then she got out a cloth cat-o-nine-tails type thing, and gently brushed my new cell phone, my new wallet, and my person. I gave her 3000 tugs when it was all over. It was kind of nice. She had a very calm, methodological way about her.
Saturday we went to the copper mine, okay? Ugh jeez it’s late and I need to go to bed. One of my coteachers took us there. Her husband works in the processing plant, and he gave us a tour. It looked like this:
I wish I had more time to write about this stuff but man, today was really the first opportunity I’ve had in the last two weeks to sit down and upload pictures and blog and whatnot. Emails are going unanswered; hikes are going unhiked; exercise DVDs are going unplayed. Basically, things have been getting a little busy, work-wise, and it’s all I can do to keep on top of the day-to-day planning and teaching and administrative stuff. A lot of nights I bring work home. I don’t know. I’m sure there are other PCVs with workloads that make mine look small. It’s just that I have a lot more responsibility and a lot less free time than I’m used to, and I am a whiner, as you may already be aware. So it’s difficult to know whether I need an attitude adjustment, or whether I need to start scaling back my responsibilities, or whether I need to start expecting less of myself, or whether I just need a beer to go for a jog. Whatevs. Ryan and I have been co-teaching a community English class on Saturdays; starting this week, at my insistence, we’re moving it to Wednesday nights. I think this will help. No work on Saturdays! I’m taking back my Saturdays! My secondary project? Oh, it’s called Not Working On Saturdays and Sundays and it’s going really well, thanks for asking.
Well anyway! If I owe you an email I promise I will get to it this week. And I hope you all are doing swell, and I bid you a very good evening.