On Independence Day, I was given my Mongolian name:
It means #1 or winner.
Now, whoever said, “Don’t pack shorts! You’ll never wear them!” should be strung up by their toes. The summers here are sweltering. I’m thankful that I brought a pair of running shorts that I always pull on once I’m back from school. At least the sun has given me an incredible tan that is offsetting my blonde hair.
Currently, my host mother’s university friend and her 8-year-old son are visiting from UB to avoid the Nadaam crowds in the city. She told me that she works for “Монгол Сайхан” – “Beautiful Mongolia” – a 30-minute show illuminating Mongolia’s nature and beautiful scenery.
In search for more information on this show, I found a CNN article, “18 jaw-droppingly beautiful Mongolia moments,” that you should check out.
Nadaam, consisting of the “Three Manliest Sports” that are archery, wrestling, and horse riding, began on 11 July. Only recently have women been allowed to participate in only archery and horse racing. However, very few do. Nadaam in my soum will start on the 20th. I will be wearing my brand new deel.
On 9 July, with my host mother and two other PCTs, we took the minibus into Darkhan to go deel shopping. There were a plethora of stores that you could enter filled from top to bottom with lively and vibrant colors. Being almost 6 ft. tall and slim, I was the last one to finally find a deel that fit without any major adjustments made to it. It felt like I was shopping for a prom dress. You can just ask my parents how long that took. There were no changing rooms so we were changing in any empty corner we could find. Now that I have my first summer deel, I can’t wait to buy my winter deel. We wandered some more around the markets. I kept my backpack pulled tight to my stomach to avoid any fingers that could squirm into any pockets.
I have also recovered from my first bout of food poisoning.
The cause of it?… ICE CREAM.
On 16 July at 1:30pm, my host mother came home from the supermarket with popsicles. Within 10 minutes after eating mine, it felt like little mice feet were skittering about in my stomach. For the entire day, I felt nauseous and was knocked out cold. To make it even worse, we drove out to the countryside to the grandmother’s house to swim and eat dinner. After swimming, I fell asleep for three hours as everyone was tiptoeing around me. The following day, I was attacked by diarrhea. Every 10 minutes, I had to trek out to the outhouse. At one point, it felt like I was squatting in there long enough for me to carve my name into the wood. But my host mother whipped me up some rice water.
- 1/4 cup of rice
- 3 cups of water
Boil 1/4 cup of rice in 3 cups of water for 30 minutes. Leave to cool for another 30 minutes and then sprinkle in some salt.
This really helped in my recovery but I had to force it down. In the end, I emerged from my little house to live another day. But enough of this.
Finally, it is strawberry picking season and the berries are so itty bitty tiny. I helped to make 8 jars of the most delicious strawberry jam. First, I had to pluck off all the stems and leaves. Then my host mother placed a large pot over the fire and poured in a small ladle of water followed by 4 kg of sugar. Then we poured in 4.5 kg of strawberries. The whole process only took 20 minutes as we took turns stirring the sugar and jam until it liquefied into a delightful aroma of fresh home-made jam.
Here are some more succinct highlights:
- We had a mock language test to prepare ourselves for the real test at the end of training. I wasn’t awful but I wasn’t good.
- We began practice teaching at the beginning of July. It’s very similar to our micro lessons except we teach for 40 minutes with more thorough planning. Currently, we’ve been on a two-week break from teaching because of Nadaam.
- The river is our only reprieve from the heat. Like a Viking, I go jumping into the cold water.
- I finally finished watching Game of Thrones season 6. That finale!
- All of our host families came together and had a volleyball tournament. It was also a sneaky way to get us all together and remind both host families and PCTs of the 8pm curfew.
- I have replaced my Illinois license with my new Mongolian ID, a Certificate of Alien Registration.
- After two weeks of the same breakfast, two sausages and bread dipped in egg batter, my mouth was salivating at the thought of oatmeal with lingonberry, Swedish pancakes, and toast topped with my favorite cheese. Luckily, my host mother has become attuned to my thoughts and bought me Choco Chip cereal. Now, I haven’t eaten cereal in over a year, but I rejoiced in the change. She also gave me two jars of peanut butter. I’ve never been a fan of peanut butter but I’ve got to eat what is available.
- I taught my host siblings and their cousins, “Round a round a circle like a teddy bear…” It’s what my Granny always use to do to me when I was little and now I’m constantly having all the small children running towards me with their palms stretched out yelling, “TEDDY BEAR, TEDDY BEAR!”
- Now what do I do in my free time when I’m not bogged down by PCT work? I’m reading the 8th Outlander book, “Written in My Own Heart’s Blood,” off of my Kindle.
I hope all is well back home!