Monthly Archives: April 2012

Kickin’ it in Erdenet

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One night, a few of us were at a volunteer’s apartment, painting the walls of a poorly ventilated room, listening to tunes, as we do.  A catchy song came on.  Somebody complimented it.  Gracie mentioned a fun video that a dancer made for the song, and we all gathered around the soft glow of YouTube to watch it.

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“OH MY GOD THIS IS SO COOL LET’S DO IT HERE IN ERDENET,” we shrieked, possibly high on paint fumes.  “IT’LL BE EASY! IT WON’T TAKE LONG AT ALL!”

That was four months ago.

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But it’s done now, and in case you haven’t seen our posts all over Facebook (heh sorry), please enjoy:

Well!  There you have it.  The (non-Peace Corps Volunteer) dancers are, basically, those nearest and dearest and most likely to humor us: Coworkers, teachers, students, Movie Night regulars, kiddos from the orphanage, hashaa family members.  In the beginning we envisioned having random people in it (which was delusional; did we really think we would just walk up to old guys in deels on the street and have them do the Dougie for us?) but that’s okay, because this video ain’t about randos anyway.  It’s about remembering the people we know, the people who really matter, the people who are awesome enough to let us film them dancing and then post it on the internet.

Now that it’s over, I just don’t know who I’ll boss around what I’ll do.

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All play and no work

Quick!  Another blog post before rushing off to Ulaanbaatar again!

Did we seriously have another round of visitors last month, you ask? And I sayeth unto you that the answer is yes.  Behold!  Ryan’s parents, in Mongolia, at long last:
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It was extra nice to see them, because:

  • This visit was a long time coming and, for a little while there, it seemed like it might not happen at all;
  • When we go home, we’ll have two more family members with a pretty good idea of what our lives were like here;
  • Charlie bought a fancy new camera for the trip and I relish it when people in my life drink the DSLR Kool-Aid;
  • We had yet another chance to do fun touristy things; and
  • Jan and Charlie possess secret magic powers and lucky shit kept happening, everywhere we went.

I shall now give a full account of the lucky shit.

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Here we have Charlie, sippin’ on some fermented mare’s milk during our visit to Ryan’s host family in Zuunmod.  Airag is a summertime treat, and we had warned Jan and Charlie not to get their hopes up about trying some (a visit to Mongolia without airag!  Horrors!)(I am kidding but also kind of not kidding).  But people freeze a bunch of airag at the end of the summer and then thaw it out for the Tsagaan Sar holiday, see, and so this was the very last bit Ryan’s host mom had on hand.

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Sanja got down on some airag, too.

This is what duder looked like two years ago, by the way:

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Aw.  I imagine it is easy for Ryan to get wistful for little Pre-Verbal Sanja, but — and he mentioned this in his biannual blog post —  he did have this delightful exchange with Post-Verbal Sanja during our visit:

RYAN
Hey, Sanja.

SANJA, LEANING ON RYAN’S ARMREST
Huh.

RYAN
How’s my beard.

SANJA, SMILING FAINTLY
…ugly.

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(Ryan and Sanja, watching two-year-old videos of themselves, GAH)

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Look, it’s all my in-laws!

2. The coolest band in Mongolia
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On Megan and Jay’s first night in Mongolia, when they were loopy with jet lag, we made them sit in a hot, smoky, loud restaurant for more than two hours, insisting that it was worth it, that they couldn’t come to Mongolia and not see Altan Urag.  The band never played, though.  Instead, there was a girl band that did Adele covers.  This was bullshit.

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When Jan and Charlie were here, though, we got the best seats in the house, the band went on right on time, and they played an extra-long set.  This was awesome.

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3.  Photo ops with exotic creatures

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On our way into Terelj National Park, we came across Kazakh Eagle Guy, who I remembered as a persistent roadside presence during my training summer in a nearby town.  Here he is, putting a goddamned vulture on Ryan’s arm:

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(vulture photos will set you back a few more tugriks than eagle photos, FYI)

And then on our way out of Terelj a couple days later, what should we happen upon but everyone’s favorite snout*:

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*The Five Mongolian Snouts: sheep, goats, cows, horses, and camels

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When we drove up, the guy holding the reins was hanging out in the ger camp by himself.  Maybe he was a guard or something, who knows.  When we pointed to the animals out in the field and asked him if Ryan’s parents could go for a little ride, he stuck his hands in his pockets and looked around, craning his neck.  “The camel’s owner isn’t here.  How much?” he asked. “How about 5,000 per person?” we said.  “Yeah okay” he said, and then made the easiest money of his life, I’m guessing.

Sorry, rightful but absentee camel owner!

4. Eternal blue sky

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In between the eagles and the camels, we spent a couple sunny, warm days in the park.  The weather was incredibly mild for Mongolian spring.

Plus, there were kiddos who happily monopolized our time:
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(Ryan is an expert hide and seeker)

And there were horsey rides, which I am not supposed to refer to as “horsey rides” per Jan and Charlie’s request but, I mean, let’s get real, children were leading said horsies for us:

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And there was my favorite photo of the trip, which I will call “How many McGibonys does it take to light a fire?”

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4. Random archery competition in Erdenet, oh man just look at these guys

Look at them!  Holy shit!

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Yeah so we came back to Erdenet and all these awesomely-dressed dudes were milling about in a field, having an archery competition.  There were zero spectators besides us, for reasons I will never understand.  We made some friends, as you can see.  The guy in the gold deel with all the medals was 90 years old.  Ninety.

5. Impromptu concert at the orphanage

Our fifth and final lucky thing:  When we showed up to the orphanage on Saturday morning, it was mayhem; kids were running around, dressed in crazy costumes and frantically practicing dance moves.  People from Coca-Cola Mongolia Headquarters were on their way, we were told.  And so it came to pass that we got to sit in on the most adorable dance recital ever.

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You will be seeing some of the kids’ moves very soon, because they have been incorporated into our Super Secret Erdenet Video Project that is almost ready to be unveiled.  To prepare yourself, please watch this:

Thank you.  And now we are off to Ulaanbaatar for our Close of Service Conference, where we will talk about feelings.  Have a wonderful weekend, please.

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