Monthly Archives: May 2011

Cinco de Mayo in Erdenet looks like this:

Ay yay yay.

It used to be sunnier, though.  Look at us last month, out on our balcony, in our shirtsleeves, without a care in the world:

What a couple of rubes.

‘Twas our sixth wedding anniversary, the day I made us pose awkwardly for that picture.  That means it was almost ten years ago that me and this lovely lady wandered into the studio of our campus radio station, announced ourselves as Ryan’s new interns, and left him with no choice but to let us play our awful emo music on his awful metal show.  We all had very terrible hair.

Gee now that I’ve started this post I sure do wish I actually had something to say about marriage in general, our marriage specifically, or marriage in the Peace Corps — but I don’t, I don’t have anything to say, I refuse to reflect!  So there.  A couple weeks ago, one of our Medical Officers asked us whether we thought our relationship had been strengthened in our time here.  In response, I think we drooled and slumped over.  I don’t know, I can’t tell if we’re just very, serenely secure in Ourselves and Our Relationship and Our Decision To Come Here, or if we’re just too distracted by our jobs and Six Feet Under to really give that much of a crap.  I remember hearing foreboding stuff during the application process — that Peace Corps is “hell on marriages,” that married couples have relatively high Early Termination rates (i.e., we quit more often)  — and I remember not really giving a crap about that stuff, either.  I mean, I know bad things happen; they just happen to other people.  Right?  Yeah.

Anyway, after we took the picture we went out for Korean food and beers.  It was all very romantic.  I should end this by saying that my profound lack of insight into our Married Persons Peace Corps Experience is partly due to the fact that thinking about the two of us is sort of boring, and almost beside the point; marriage is about more than just the people in it.  So to all of our friends and family: We like you.  Thanks for being so nice to us.

The last photo I want to share with you is from last weekend.  It was a Sunday afternoon, and we were hanging out with a few other volunteers, making crepes, as we do.  Old New Yorker magazines get passed around a lot here, and somehow we got on the subject of Peter Hessler’s article about an RPCV who served in Nepal.  Specifically, the photo that went with the story.  The American volunteer, wearing some vaguely safari-ish jacket, walking the dirt roads of a little mountain village, surrounded by curious, delighted children:

HA HA YEAH RIGHT WHATEVER, we snorted.  That’s what everybody thinks our lives look like, but they’re wrong; we are cold and isolated and alone and children are never delighted to see us and all we have to keep us going are these delicious crepes, god.

But then we went outside, and it was a beautiful day, and we played frisbee and basketball with adorable, polite youths for an hour.

So I guess the joke’s on us.

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Things I haven’t been telling you

Very often these days Ryan and/or I find ourselves sitting on the couch, saying the most pathetic thing ever, which is: “I really need to blog.”  Then we accidentally watch seventeen episodes of Mad Men, notice it’s late, and retire for the evening.  I see I’ve missed the entire month of April, here — one twenty-seventh of our entire Peace Corps Experience, gone, undocumented, lost to the ages. So many boring, tedious details of my life that you will never know about.

Unless I sum these things up right now!

1.  You Will Listen To Me Talk About The Weather

Hey, look at this:

Is this a months-old picture from the winter, you ask?  No!  No indeed it is not!  This, sister, is a picture of Erdenet on April the 29th.  There was an actual blizzard on the 28th — a big, angry storm that pissed down snow all day long, with winds gusting at maybe 20 mph.  The roads were pretty treacherous, so taking a taxi wasn’t really an option, even though it was the one occasion where I had a legitimate reason for not walking the 20 minutes to school (My usual, non-legitimate reasons for taking a taxi include:

  • Oops, too much time staring at the internet and now I’m going to be late
  • I’m carrying my laptop and it’s heavy…kind of
  • JUST GOT PAID I’M RICH
  • I’m wearing heels, wah
  • Oh look, it’s my favorite taxi driver
  • It’s Friday, and Friday is Katie Takes a Taxi Day
  • Gee it’s colder out here than I thought it was going to be
  • etc.)

So I spent a total of maybe fifty minutes trudging around in the storm – walking to school, then walking to the Russian supermarket to buy my sad little bag of overpriced frozen chicken breasts, then walking home.  My stupid boots were soaked through by the end of it. Do you feel sorry for me?  Probably you shouldn’t; I can, after all, buy chicken breasts in this magical city.

2. Privilege, Cont’d

Speaking of ways in which my Peace Corps Experience is cushy relative to others’, look at these adorable children singing and dancing:

They were celebrating the fact that we recently became an “E-School,” which means we now have at least one computer in each classroom, and all those computers are hooked up to the internet, and there’s a new online system that the teachers use to post grades and attendance records and the like. The internet connection is so slow as to be almost useless, but still.  The whole thing is pretty amazing.  Also, I had nothing to do with any of it.

So anyway, some teachers from an E-School in Darkhan came on an official visit, and the above singing and dancing was for their benefit.  Guess what was also on the entertainment docket for that evening?  Why, A Speech By The Foreign Teacher, of course!

Here is my speech, translated, in case you’re wondering what my Mongolian is like (when I’m given a couple hours’ notice, that is).

KATIE:

Hello, everybody.  My name is Katie.  I am a Peace Corps Volunteer.  I am from Washington, D.C., in the U.S.A.  Uhhhh what else, okay, I came to Mongolia ten months ago with my husband.  We, with other volunteers, spent two months studying Mongolian language, Mongolian history, and Mongolian culture.  Then the two of us came to Erdenet in August.  I work with the English teachers.  I think I’m a lucky person–

AUDIENCE:

(HUGE, ABRUPT APPLAUSE)

KATIE:

Ummm ha ha thank you?  I think I’m a lucky person because our teachers are hardworking, and smart…and we have fun, too!

CRICKETS:

(CRICKET NOISES)

KATIE, REALIZING SHE HAS MADE SOME KIND OF ERROR, SOAKED IN FLOP SWEAT:

Soooo uh thank you all for coming to our school.  Thank you for…for…uh…(turns to English teachers) hey what was that word again?

ENGLISH TEACHERS:

Sharing!  Sharing!

KATIE:

Yes thank you for shhaaaooouurrring your ideas with us.  Thank you, and good luck!

AUDIENCE:

(BIG BIG APPLAUSE)

MY DIRECTOR:

(WEEPS WITH PRIDE, OR POSSIBLY SHAME)

KATIE:

(RUNS AWAY)

Sigh.

Anyway, if you’re interested in my other, even dorkier internet endeavors, I’ve been trying to get my teachers on the blogging bandwagon — EFL in Erdenet is our teachers’ site, and Erdenet Writing Club is for the kids’ writing (the latter gets a lot more hits than the former, possibly because the kids just like reading their own writing and/or looking at the pictures of themselves).  I’m not sure what my long-term goals are for these things; I’ve had the teachers comment and add links, and before the end of the school year I want everybody to upload at least one lesson to the teachers’ blog.  I know this is all very boring to you, but announcing it here means it’ll be embarrassing if I don’t do it.  So shame me into doing my job, everybody, please, thank you.

3.  Speaking of my job

I forgot to mention that Ryan and I applied to be trainers this summer, and we were both accepted as first-half trainers, along with five other volunteers.  For people back home: This basically means that, at the end of May, Ryan and I will relocate to Darkhan (another biggish city in Mongolia) and spend the next six or so weeks working with the new batch of volunteers-to-be, who will be living in little towns around the city.  Also, we will probably be insanely busy and stressed out the whole time, and I will definitely not have the time or the ability to pout about it on this here blog.

For any M22s who might be reading: Hello!  I like you already, and I will see you soon.

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