Monthly Archives: December 2010

Conversations Ryan and I have had today

I.

RYAN AND KATIE, SITTING ON THEIR VAST SECTIONAL SOFA.  RYAN READS KINDLE. KATIE INTERNETS, WEARING CASHMERE SWEATER THAT RYAN’S MOTHER SENT HIM FOR CHRISTMAS.

RYAN, EYEBALLING SWEATER
How’s that sweater working out for you.

KATIE
Oh, pretty good.

RYAN, GIVING STINK EYE
.

KATIE
It’s nice and soft.

RYAN
I bet it’s warm.

KATIE
Yeah, but not too, you know?  Just right.

RYAN, EYES NARROWED
Perhaps we can share it.

KATIE
Joint custody!  That’ll be good practice for later.

RYAN
.

KATIE
I’m going to blog about this conversation!

II.

RYAN SITS ON SOFA, READING. KATIE GETS UP, EMPTY BEER MUG IN HAND, AND STARTS TOWARD KITCHEN.

KATIE
HEY where’s the rest of dis beer?

RYAN
What.

KATIE
This beer!  You poured me!  Where’s the rest of it?

RYAN
(sighs, gets up, walks past KATIE into kitchen)

KATIE, FOLLOWING RYAN INTO KITCHEN
What?  What?  Where is it?  Where’d you put it? I don’t see it on the counter.  Is it in the fridge?  Did you put it back in the fridge?  Oooooh I wanna drink my beeeeer my beer my beeeeer WHERE IS IT I WANT IT NOW NOW NOW NOOOOOW MAH BEERZ

RYAN
(draws curtains)

KATIE
Whaddya doin?

RYAN
I must kill you now.

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Language skillz, b-ball skillz

November 19

So.  Today is the last day of our school’s fall break.  My daily schedule during the break has been mostly this: Wake up (late).  Get ready for the day as slowly as possible.  Go into school for an hour or so.  Sit around with teachers while drinking tea, munching aruul and counting how many words per conversation I understand.  Leave school.  Wander around.  Maybe buy stuff, even though we’ve been overspending these last couple of months and I need to stop pantry-stocking (It’s weird, how there are things — like keeping a stocked pantry, or cooking at home, in general — that are solid money-saving strategies back in the U.S. which are emphatically not money-saving strategies when you’re a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mongolia.  As a for instance: Making yourself a serving of pasta with tomato sauce and shredded cheese costs about a buck fifty, whereas buying a couple of fried peroshkis goes for about 33 cents)(and I know I could cut back by not buying the psuedo-fancy, gouda-like cheese but what else am I going to put on my pasta, jesus)(plus it’s not even close to being the most expensive kind of cheese available here.  The jarred feta is, far and away, the priciest.  And I have refrained from buying said feta, thank you, do you see my sacrifices now?  God).

Other sidenote: In one of my wanderings this week I met a herder, and we had a pleasant conversation about our lives and jobs that I understood maybe 80% of.  So that was real nice.

What I meant to write about today was this: There was an endless amount of sports competitions among the teachers over the break.  Billiards competitions, volleyball competitions, chess competitions.  I was beginning to think I’d successfully weaseled my way out of participating in any of these things, but then somebody remembered my excuse for not playing volleyball (“I’m really much better at basketball!”) and so it came to pass that I was made to participate in the basketball competition.

We, the English Department Team, played two games.  We prevailed over the Janitors Team, but lost bigtime to the Mongolian Department Team.  And I don’t know how to put this any other way: Shit was dirty.  Real dirty.  I was bleeding from a scratch on my hand by the end of things, and I saw at least four serious verbal/physical confrontations occur on the court.  During one time out, I panted, “Why isn’t the ref calling any fouls?”

“Calling any…what?” came the reply.

“Any fouls, any fouls!  People are hitting each other!  I…people slap my arm when I try to shoot! THIS IS CRAZY!”

“This is just how we play,” my supervisor said.

“Huh,” I said.

“You should play that way too!” she suggested cheerfully.

My pride prevented me from committing any blatant fouls, but I think I did mutter a few obscenities under my breath before the games were over.  And then afterwards we all retired to a classroom to eat cookies and talk trash, so.  All in all, a good day.

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What’s up y’all, what’s new, how are you?  Good?  Great, that’s great.  I myself am fine.  This is the view out our window at this very moment:

Does this photo make your boogers freeze?  WELL IT GODDAMN WELL SHOULD.  According to my new favorite website tsag-agaar.mn, there’s a low of -32 C in Erdenet tomorrow.  Why, that’s only -25 in Fahrenheit!  Which makes me feel much better about the whole thing.*

If I sound kind of off balance, it’s probably due at least in part to Ryan’s absence: He left for Ulaanbaatar on Saturday to attend a weeklong Peace Corps conference thingy with one of his coworkers.  I think iTunes can sense my isolation; it keeps suggesting I listen to stuff along these lines:

So mostly these past few days I’ve been

1. Hanging out,

2. Trying to resist the impulse to bring stray puppies into the apartment,

3. Taking unnecessary pictures of myself:

soalonesocold

4. Accidentally eating dinner way too early (5:00), and

5. Watching episode upon episode of 30 Rock until there is no more 30 Rock to be watched.

So to keep from going completely Grey Gardens this week, I’m going to give myself an after-work project.  A Type Into My Blog All Of The Random Things I’ve Written In Notebooks When Bored And Waiting Around project.

And here we go!

August 30:

Sitting in the Russian ‘Cabinet,’ not doing much of anything.  There are meetings going on; at some point my supervisor and I are supposed to ‘talk about many things.’  In the meantime, I’m sitting at a students’ desk while a Russian teacher lesson plans in front of me.  The urge to play Doodle Jump on my iPhone is strong indeed.

I’ve already written down my feeble little ‘ideas’ for my schedule, mostly consisting of questions like ‘speaking club and Olympics prep club — same or different?’  I’ve also already read through, twice, all the Peace Corps paperwork I have floating around in my purse.  Now I’m just wondering random things, like:

  • What it would be like to go back to Korea and be a teacher trainer for CDI, our old employer
  • How easy it is to find a cake pan in this city
  • Why I forgot to check the Peace Corps library for TOEFL test prep materials when we were in UB
  • Whether I will ever eat lunch today

I guess this has been a lot like Korea so far, and it’s also been easier in a lot of ways because of Korea.  I can’t really explain it.  Things just seem very routine all of a sudden.  We watch things on the laptop.  We understand little of the language.  We submit to a lot of waiting around.  We discuss other people’s baffling behavior.  We eat large amounts of kimchi.  And I spend a lot of time vaguely wondering how I’ll come to judge my job performance when I’m done here.

September 25:

A wedding, hooray!

So a physics teacher at the middle school took me to a wedding this weekend.  I don’t know this person at all; she just saw me in the teachers’ lounge one day and, sensing that I was starting to doubt that anybody was ever going to show me anything cool, asked if I wanted to go.  Of course I was like “YES YES YES PLEASE” and then later I was talking to some of my teachers and I said “GUESS WHAT GUYS I’M GOING TO ERDENEBULGAN’S FAMILY’S WEDDING THIS WEEKEND!” and they were like “Um, do you even know her, that’s kind of weird?” and I was all “whatever I don’t care.”

Turns out I was just invited to the ceremony and not the reception.  But that’s cool.  Baby steps.

On the morning of the wedding Erdenebulgan and her husband picked me up in their van, and then we drove around the city for a while, fetching various elders.  I don’t think my presence had been explained to people ahead of time, as evidenced by this conversation I inserted myself into:

Grandma
Blah blah who blah blah foreign person?

Erdenebulgan
Blah blah blah English teacher blah American blah.

Me
YES…UM…WE…ARE…CO…WORKERS?

Grandma
(pats my knee) That’s very good.

Me
Hee hee hee.

Then we arrived at Erdenet’s wedding palace, which looks like a big, white, concrete ger from outer space.  We sat around in the van for a while, waiting for the wedding party to arrive from the countryside.  The old people passed the time by offering each other little snuffs from their snuff bottles.  Eventually I was made to snort some, too, and oo girl, oo.  That stuff is spicy.

The wedding was half Western, half Mongolian.  The Western half took place in a small circular chapel with faux stained glass windows.  The bride and groom stood in the middle and accepted various framed certificates and photos from the officiant, and the guests stood around and took photo upon photo (I had been worried about the appropriateness of bringing my camera, but as soon as I hefted it out of my purse people started shoving me to the front of the crowd, tapping people on the shoulder and saying “Hey!  Move it!  The foreigner wants to take pictures”).

The Mongolian half of the wedding was in a side room.  The bride and groom stood at the head of a table that was piled with fried dough, candy and aruul.  Bowls of fermented mare’s milk were passed around, for people to sip; little flutes of vodka went around, too.  An older guy was shredding the horsehead fiddle like nobody’s business, and an older lady was leading the room in song.  I didn’t recognize the tune, so I just stood there and sipped my airag and told myself not to tear up.

It was lovely.  My only regret is not getting a picture of the bride and groom’s baby daughter, who was wearing a wee little wedding dress.

*As somebody who is not living in a tent, it is probably inappropriate for me to complain about the weather at any time; please excuse me if I gave the impression that I was complaining because I was not complaining.  I would never complain.  Verily I sing praises unto thee, Toasty Apartment With Vacuum Sealed Windows.

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