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.