Monthly Archives: December 2011

A delicate, cottonlike snowflake has fallen on your face, my dear

Happy Holidays, e’erybody.

We had a traditional Erdenet Christmas, with a little bit of this:

And then some of this:

And finally a dash of this:

As Christ himself intended.

So what is the title of this post, you ask?  ‘Tis a rough translation of the first line of the song I had to sing at my school’s Shin Jil party (the rest of my verse went something like, “The snow is cold; nevertheless, it has melted, honey”).  I was the fourth singer in the foreign language department’s multi-song medley.  Four minutes of a hastily rehearsed, mistake-ridden winter song mashup, with a mid-medley interlude of rapping and awkward group dancing.  The microphones, they screeched with feedback; our singers, they fell behind the beat (or, in my case, mispronounced things). I asked my training manager to take a video of the whole thing and now the file sits on our camera, waiting for me to watch it and share it with you people.  One day, I will have the balls to do this.  But today is not that day.

Afterwards, we retired to our table and did the only thing you can do after embarrassing yourself in front of the whole school: Drink and take a million pictures of yourself.

The photos started out classy:

Got a little bit sassier:


And then, finally, people stopped paying attention to the camera:

Until Batja (the saucy lady being whispered to, above) seized the camera from me and spent the next two hours being the Erdenet Complex School Shin Jil Event Photographer.  The next day, my lens was smeared with gunk, the camera body had been glitterbombed, and I had roughly 500 extra photos on my card (that the whole school will be wanting on their flash drives come Monday).

But it’s cool, because she took some good shots of me!  Me, baby, me:

Speaking of glitter, check out Khishgee’s ‘do:

She don’t mess around.

Here is a photo of Erdenebayar and me (I don’t know why I’m so worried about that apple):

And here are Erdenebayar’s quotes from the evening:

  • “Katie.  Is my hair stupid?”
  • “Katie.  We did not drink beer together this month.”
  • “Katie.  This is your last Shin Jil.”

Girl, don’t remind me.

Happy 2012, everybody.

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This is my jam

A bowl of oatmeal: It is my jam.

Savory oatmeal, that is!  All day every day.  Drizzle some soy sauce and some sesame oil on that bad boy.  Add some canned tuna.  Sprinkle on some green onions.  Take away the mushrooms if you’re going to be a big baby about it, I mean, that’s fine, listen, I don’t care what exactly you do to it as long as you FUCKING EAT IT.

I tried this for the first time recently, and I’ve been going crazy on it ever since.  I had it for dinner two nights ago.  I had it for breakfast yesterday.  I had it for breakfast today.  At noonish I rolled myself off the couch and mumbled, “more oatmeal.”   “You can’t seriously be eating that again,” Ryan said.  Ha!  That’s rich! This from the man who has toast with jam for breakfast roughly 349 days out of the year!  Ugh, god, savory oatmeal; I can’t wait to go to bed so I can wake up tomorrow and eat it again.

I realize I sound insane; it’s just so rare for me to find something I can make here that a) I intensely enjoy, b) is not time-consuming to prepare, and c) requires only ingredients that are cheap and readily available at any old shop (as opposed to ingredients that are only available at the pricey supermarkets in the Russian district, or at that Shangri-La of produce and cheese and sauces, Mercury Market in UB).  Speaking of availability, I love how the epicurious blog post I linked to up there has a cheery list of “other oatmeal variations to try,” all of which are useless to me:

* Chopped ham (no) and shredded cheddar  (no)

* Wilted arugula (hahaha) and extra virgin olive oil (okay)

* Marinara sauce (yes) and grated Parmigiano Reggiano (actually, yes!  But for a price)

* Sauteed mushrooms (yes) and Gruyere cheese (what)

* Sauteed sausage (not the kind you’re thinking of, sister) and onions  (yes)

* Shredded roast chicken  (sure) and roasted or sauteed leeks (pfft)

* Diced avocado (please don’t) and salsa verde (I said stop)

* Diced tomatoes (sure!) and feta (see Parmesan comment)

Am I whining again? Sorry.

It’s weird that I’ve never blogged about this, because I think about it all the time: I am, in fact, grateful for the way Mongolia has curbed certain appetites that were just making me fatter and fatter back home.

I lost 20 pounds my first summer here, see, and through some miracle it’s stayed off.  And while I have a lot of theories about the initial, mysterious weight loss (stress; a couple bouts of Chinggis’ Revenge; the abandonment of my  stupid hunger-inducing exercise routine; my host family’s food, which was fine in the grand scheme of things, but still, I never wanted to eat any more than the absolute minimum required to make Eej happy; and let’s be real I was kinda tubby to begin with), I’m pretty sure the maintenance of the weight loss comes down to two things: Cheese and beer. I used to consume these things daily.  Now I can’t afford to.  And so I don’t.  The end.

Hahahaha that’s hilarious, like it was that simple, just kidding.  It’s late now and I don’t really have time to go into this anymore, which is too bad.  Because I love — I love — talking and reading about willpower, and how we have a finite amount of it, and how even just making decisions makes us tired. But all is not lost!  Because our willpower is like a muscle, and if we exercise it we can build up our capacity to resist temptation over time.  Fascinating, right, just go ahead and forward me any article you ever come across about self-control research, thank you.

So, basically, my willpower muscle was atrophied and flabby when we got here.  And Mongolia has forced me to use it.  And there were times, O, there were times of pain and struggle.  Lo, I spent many nights gnashing my teeth and rending my garments and howling “I JUST WANT TO HAVE A GODDAMNED BEER AFTER WORK” with Ryan replying “Well, we can’t afford it, so why don’t you just stop thinking about it,” which was never annoying at all.  God it’s so hard sometimes, being the child in this relationship.

For some reason, kicking my daily cheese habit was not such a mental struggle (“some reason” = the fact that cheese doesn’t have alcohol in it?). A while back I came across this hilarious early 90s anti-cheese rant by Courtney Love  (“Orientals”!), and on the rare occasion that I have a leftover hunk of cheese in the fridge these days, I find myself kind of agreeing with her.  Living in Mongolia, you get up close and personal with the whole range of possibilities on the Dairy Product Spectrum, and not all of it is pretty. I don’t know.  I’ve seen cheese’s cousins.  Cheese is…kind of gross?  Now?  To me?

So, there we are.  It has taken me a year and a half to build up this tiny willpower muscle, but build it up I have, and this is my reward: All I want at the end of the day is a bowl of oatmeal and a mug of green tea.  And my fiber supplements, and my reruns of Matlock, and my memories of youth.

But seriously try the oatmeal.

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Third quarter blues

So I was reading about those virtual astronauts a while ago (hey remember how I used to cover [wait for it] space health issues for that weird newspaper a few years ago?).  Were these guys newsworthy back home? The five men who spent a year and a half locked away in a fake space capsule to simulate a trip to Mars?  My coworkers knew all about it.  Maybe because the mission was Russian.  Or maybe because it’s just a bonkers news story — did you see how, after 257 days, they got to “land” and do a “Mars walk” in a giant sandbox?  O!  My heart!

The fake Mars trip came up again recently, when a fellow volunteer told me about the “third quarter phenomenon:” Apparently, people in extreme isolation (astronauts, Antarctic researchers, dudes on submarines [submarine…rs?]) tend to have the most emotional, social and psychological problems in the third quarter of the mission.  Tonight, I fell down an internet rabbit hole for an hour or so and now I have a folder on my desktop full of articles called things like “Psychosocial issues in space: Results from shuttle/MIR” and “Factors affecting human performance in the isolated confined environment of Biosphere 2,” so, just let me know if you want any pdfs emailed to you I guess.

And now I want to tell you something, honestly, person to person: My ass is dragging.

I get really tired at school, really quickly.  There’s this one person at work who irritates the crap out of me, and I’ve been taking evil pleasure in saying snide, dismissive things to this person.  People ask me for favors that I think they have no business asking for, and I am blunt in my refusals.  Weekends don’t recharge me.  Winter extends in every direction around me.  Perhaps most alarmingly, I bought myself a new dress last week and it didn’t help.

This is all despite the fact that work is fine, my teachers are delightful, and my sitemates are awesome.*

I’ve been acknowledging my attitude problem to people left and right (American people, I mean.  Neither my coworkers nor I have the foreign language skills to navigate the cultural minefield that would be this discussion; plus, they get worried when I’m outside after dusk, so), but just knowing the third quarter phenomenon is upon you is not enough to actually get rid of it, it seems?

Fortunately, my calculations indicate that we will enter our fourth quarter of service sometime in January, so that means only one more month of this living nightmare!  I will be merry again in time for Ryan’s 30th birthday, which is good, because I think it would be best if we all kept our spirits up around him as he enters his dotage.

{Editor’s note: After writing this I remembered how I haven’t exercised in a month and so I did some push-ups and I think it kind of helped.  Let this be a lesson for us (me) all}

* I haven’t ever sung the praises of my Greater Erdenet Metropolitan Area sitemates on my blog, and that is wrong.  We have a solid crew here, which is something to be deeply, profoundly thankful for, for reals, especially when it comes to one’s mental health.

Look how much fun we have!  We climb big signs we have no business climbing!

We make and consume donuts!


We stand out on the porch and chop vegetables!

We put on seminars for English teachers!

Basically, Erdenet owns.  Sorry, all other PC/Mongolia cities.

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