Monthly Archives: February 2010

What time is it?  Dinnertime!

I thought it would be a good idea to start documenting our meals in the lead-up to our departure so that one day, when we’re in the depths of our two-year mutton diet, we will be able to look back on dinners past and weep.  So, allow me to recommend these things to you: this rice-lentil-onion-pilaf-thing, and this chickpea-swiss-chard-thing.

In other news: this morning, I found myself near a department store with loads of time on my hands, and so my Mongolian Wardrobe Spending Xtravaganza continues apace.

Although not with this awful coat, oof.

With this one!  It had a furry hood and was about 80% off.  Who could resist.

I gotta wrap this up; Ryan and I are watching The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and I can’t concentrate.  Did you know that “Spaghetti Western” means “Western movie filmed by Italians and dubbed in English?”

We didn’t.


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And how did you spend your eighteenth day inside?  Me, I made some progress with “The Uniform Part II: Casualwear Edition”

(But imagine that the shoes in these photos are actually the boots mentioned below, which cabin fever compelled me to buy, and which will be delivered into my hot, trembling little hands just as soon as the world stops ending)

We just watched Zombieland.  Today I dragged my cart through the snow to Giant.  I exercised at some point yesterday.  I think that’s all I’ve done recently.

That, and homework.  I’m all caught up on reading assignments because doing my reading is more agreeable than starting on my papers.  And you know, whenever Ryan’s sitting on the couch, using his fancy new Mongolian language iPhone apps and getting spittle everywhere while he practices his voiced alveolar lateral fricatives, it makes me feel like I’m already falling behind.  This is basically how I felt when we first got to Korea – he bought a couple of language books immediately and was all over them like scum on a pond, while I just kind of floated along for the first month, wondering what all the signs meant and mumbling some kind of sad, apologetic English-Konglish-Spanish patois of my own making.

But!  I realized that I don’t have to feel this way.  I may not be getting a jump start on the language but I am earning a master’s degree in TESOL, damn it, and this is preparation enough.  Right?  Yes.  That and outfit planning.

Anyway, some of the stuff I read yesterday seemed relevant re: our upcoming situation, and I thought I’d share.

Until recently the method used to improve chances for successful intercultural communication was just to gather information about the customs of the other country and a smattering of the language.  Behaviors and attitudes of its people might be researched, but almost always from a secondhand source.  Experts realize that information gained in this fashion is general, seldom sufficient, and may or may not be applicable to the specific situation and area that the traveler visits.  Also, knowing “what to expect” often blinds the observer to all but what confirms his or her image.  Any contradictory evidence that does filter through the screens of preconception is likely to be treated as an exception and thus discounted.

A better approach is to begin by studying the history, political structure, art, literature, and language of the country if time permits.  Even more important, develop an investigative, nonjudgmental attitude and a high tolerance for ambiguity — which means lowered defenses.

(Barna, “Stumbling Blocks in Intercultural Communication”)


As most societies are male-dominated, this loss of control can often be much more unnerving for men: they feel they need to take control, to guide, to make the decisions — but in the foreign language they can only go “…ah…glub, glub, ah…er.”  This may be one reason why in general, women seem to “handle” foreign languages a little better: they have more experience being in vulnerable situations where they have little control.

(Brady, Culture Shock and Self-Esteem)


The presence of anxiety/tension is common in cross-cultural experiences due to the number of uncertainties present and the personal involvement and risk.  Whether or not the reaction will be debilitating depends on the level of activation and whether the feeling is classified as being pleasant (thought of as excitement or anticipation) or unpleasant (anxiety).  Moderate arousal and positive attitudes prepare one to meet challenges with energy, but high arousal, caused by a buildup of continued moderate stress, depletes the body’s energy reserve quickly and defense must be used whether or not the person wills it.  If the stay in a foreign country is prolonged and the newcomer cannot let down his or her high alert level, the “culture shock” phenomenon occurs.  Illness may result, the body forcing needed rest and recuperation.

(Barna again)


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Putting aside for a moment the virtues of frugality and shopping in one’s own closet, I’m pretty sure I need these:

Am I right, or am I right?

I’m right.

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So how did you spend your day inside? Me, I did some laundry, cleaned up in a half-assed way, watched Coraline, experimented with a new hair-washing technique that may serve me well in Outer Mongolia (I rinsed with vinegar, and now I smell so tangy. Will this cut down the oiliness, as advertised? Only time will tell), and then started to think seriously about The Uniform.

Deciding what to do with our stuff, getting a head start on learning Mongolian, dealing with paperwork, making a schedule of what needs to get done in the next four months: none of these activities appeals to me. But figuring out what I’m going to wear for the next two years? Yes please! Where’s my mirror and my camera?

So according to various sources, Mongolians dress to impress in the workplace, and they also wear the same three outfits again and again. This sounds like an inspired sartorial lifestyle to me. We should all have our priorities so straight.

Originally I had delusions of buying a whole new wardrobe for the Peace Corps, but then American University cashed my tuition check. Oh right! I don’t actually own that money anymore. Let’s see what I’ve got in my closet?

What I’ve got in my closet, though, is a lot of crap. Polyester crap, ill-fitting crap, thrift store crap, crap that doesn’t go with anything else crap. The items of clothing you see here are pretty much the only things I have that fit the following criteria:

a) not made out of synthetic materials that will become stinky after dozens upon dozens of wears
b) can be mixed and matched
c) are office appropriate
d) are not horrible to look at or wear
e) stand at least half a chance of not falling apart in the next 27 months
Man, I can’t wait to fob off the rest of my junk in a yard sale.

Anyway, I’ve had a few beers this afternoon and I apologize for making you look at my outfits. I think this is interesting! Don’t you? Clearly the most important thing to do when joining the Peace Corps is to obsess over your clothes.

And finally, I think we should address the matter of my guns:

That will be all. Good night.


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