Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Small Talk

"We are at the Sky Theater," he said louder that the last three times, "We are going to the Big Department Store now."

Obviously they were confused, or we were confused-or, as is nearly always the case-we were both 50% confused.

"Where are they?" I asked

"At my hostel," he said obviously irritated that the problem proved what we both feared: our language ability was less than amazing.

"I told them that I have my stuff with me."

We crossed the street one lane at a time waiting for the land rovers, new compacts, and Russian jalopies to go by. The sounds of honking cars, though directed at us, was a pleasant change of pace after months of only animals noises (goats being my favorite).

"She's calling again," he said digging in his dirty green corduroy pocket for his Peace Corps issued Nokia.

The phone conversation was a repeat.

"No. No. We're coming to the Big Department Store," he said in Mongolian with unintentional measures of silence.

We kept walking. Now along a busy chilly street. Plenty of cars. No talking.

Maybe ten minutes later (at around six PM) we were reaching the Big Department Store. His phone was ringing again.

"Ok. Yes. Tree. Yes. I see."

"We will meet them by the tree."

"The tree" was an attempt (successful to be defined by the viewer) at a Christmas tree: a green cone with blue flashing lights (my interior decorator father's arch enemy). An overly-excited amount of tinsel.

"Is that them?" I asked, already certain it was.

He beat me to them. Necessary greetings were exchanged and we were finally on our way.

I thought we were. You would think that I would know better by now. We had planned to leave at two and it was already after six - of course we weren't going to leave now. Which only disappointed me slightly. I was done with this city: bought the food I can't buy elsewhere, saw the people I might not see again, and now wanted to get home (to one of them anyway). But I said only slightly. It is surprising how quickly a person can lose any sort of will when your situation seems out of your hands. Which happens quickly when you are not fluent in Mongolian.

We loaded our things into the van and discovered that other passengers were still shopping. We would wait for them of course. To a restaurant. Green tea put in front of us.

"No, no. We ate."

"Four beers."

"I don't drink."

"You should study how."

"I studied. Thank you."

"Three beers."

"This tea is good, huh?"

Attempts at chit chat. Lots of calls to his host mom's phone. Now one from the driver.

"Don't get it," his host dad said as they slammed the rest of their beers.

"Should we go?"


Sunday, December 21, 2008


...isn't as bad as I made it out to be when I first came here...Not that it's beautiful but it's manageable. The smog isn't as bad as I have been told and there isn't someone waiting to rob you around every corner.

Training went well: two days of useful information for English teachers and one day of quasi-silliness that is required to write a successful grant. Volunteers and their counterparts were isolated in a resort a little ways out of UB which greatly reduced my expected in-city time. During (I mean, after of course) one of these fascinating sessions Peder and I started a limerick write-off. He won by a landslide which caused me to flee to my area of hopeful victory: music. It turns out that Peder had never heard the limerick song. I figured out the chords and forced a volunteer who I know from Javkhlant sing the limericks at the talent competition: a huge success (1st place). I also managed to play a lean version of "Mad Rush" by Phillip Glass (which got me second place).

After coming into the city I thought that I would leave for Javkhlant on Sunday: no-go. The buses don't leave on Sundays. Then, Peder's Mongolian mom called to say that she will be coming into the city on today (Monday). This means: free, non-drunken, minimized awkwardness ride to Javkhland tomorrow!

Coming back on Saturday I expect, then do a little seminar for the college where my landlady's daughter works. Then I will pick up some goodies for my family in BK and head home on Monday the 29th.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Yes, the holidays...

I have previously mentioned my Christmas plans. New Years? Well, my school celebrated a bit early this year. Here is how the party went down (in fact, this is how every party at my school goes down...):

1) Start at least thirty minutes after the said starting time.
2) Have two MC's who speak in an exaggerated manner.
3) Sing songs: in groups, solo, duets (never are harmonies present...)
4) Watch dances (which are mysteriously the same ones you saw at the last party...)
5) Do "disco" which means any dance that isn't a waltz.
6) Have a director of a school speak.
7) Eat food (lots of meat, some oily carrots too if you are lucky).
8) After the students leave, sit around the table with the other teachers and drink all the alcohol in the building.
9) Ask for a ride home (it is cold and dark by now...).
10) The End

I get to do it again when I get back from UB.

Right! UB. I am leaving today and will be there for a week. The following week in Javkhlant with no communication.

My hashaa family taught me how to make "lazy buuz" last night and enquired about my hunting skills and marmot eating history. Ummm. In pleasant news I convinced them that they wanted to try putting some of my spices in the buuz meat: curry, cumin, chilli powder, etc., etc. Yeah!

Oh, I had an appointment to make snowpeople in the hashaa but our new snow (which is drop dead beautiful on the surrounding mountains) is too dry. The entertainment substitute: thai kick boxing until three in the morning. A limping Tysen was the result.

I'm sure I will have plenty of stories to tell upon arrival in Bayankhongor. Until then enjoy your holidays, stay warm, and drink lots of hot chocolate.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

An Ode to the Glory that is Powdered Milk

That's right my friends, I feel that it is time to explain to humanity what it may be missing. Peace does not come through meditation, contentment, or control of vice but through sufficient amounts of that wonderful white powder combined with the water you bought this morning from a man with a very tired looking horse.

The reason is simple: milk is not pasteurized, and as a result it may cause minor to fatal stomach and other health problems... As we all know, people with stomach problems are prone to violence, and thus things non-peaceful. Simply by drinking a glass (or bowl as there is no word for cup in your language of residence) of milk may prevent such misfortunes.

Now, I hear some parental voices accusing me of hypocrisy at this point as I occasionally complained in my childhood about the wonder of this holy drink. I think that the problem was this: WARM powdered milk is perhaps as dangerous to the human psyche as unpasteurized milk. This ceases to be a problem when you live in a country that doesn't get above freezing for six months of the year.

In other, perhaps less interesting news: I can't wait for my training in UB on December 15th! I need a little break from teaching. Students are teachers alike are tired out and I am seeing some less than amazing work turned in these days... Yana (yikes....). I am putting together a program for this spring with Leslie and our friend Zulaa. The vocal works will include Wolf's Kennst Du Das Land, and maybe even some Clara Schumann, still working out the other details. On the solo end of things, this is how things look right now:

Gerschwin: 3 Preludes
Joplin Maple Leaf Rag
Gottschalk The Banjo
Adams China Gates
and a Mongolian traditional song arranged in a rag style by some guy from UB!

Already thinking about next years program too. Right now I am thinking:
Bach: Italian Concerto
Mozart: C Major Sonata
Chopin: Scherzo
Gerschwin: Rhapsody in Blue (solo arrangement)

I didn't feel so hot yesterday so I did some reading: Camus The Misunderstanding and more from Thus sprach Zarathustra. Nietzsche strikes me more and more as a little over the top angry at things. There comes a point at which it seems he should have just let some things go: yes, people ruined your life and corrupt youth, but being angry for the rest of your life (and in every other paragraph) gets a bit tiring... Maybe my opinion will change once my health returns...?

The copy maschine at work used to speak Chinese. By that I mean that tiny little screen that yells at you used to be in Chinese. In this way, when something was wrong we could just press random buttons angrily until it started spitting out paper. Alas those days are gone. Oyuntugs (my counterpart) figured out how to change the language to English. Now I am assumed to be an expert on Xerox copiers, shoot! I am the biggest luddite and now I get called in to troubleshoot this thing three times a day! Yana! No good, I predict that I will have totally destroyed the maschine before the new year... I will keep you posted.

Peder has just got a gig tutoring a doctor who wants to study to be a surgeon in America. Comes with a free meal every night... Meanwhile my ger tutoring has expanded. Mamu and Tsedevjargal come 3 or 4 times a week to make fun of my explanations of English grammar in broken Mongolian... They are fun and good students, so I actually look forward to seeing their smiling faces after trying to wake up and teach mostly tired and disinterested faced during the day.

Fahd and I are working on reviewing every restaurant's tsuivan in the city. Check it out at tsuivan.com. It will one day be expanded to cover all of Mongolia! How much fun is it? Guess.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Menu in Bayankhongor...


Mashed potatoes (variety)
vegie salad

Oatmeal cookies
Pumpkin pie

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How to teach the Hokey Pokey

So this week has been a relentlessly busy one so far. Besides the regular class load I helped teach a seminar to fourth grade English teachers meaning I sang songs for and extra four hours this week. In other teaching news I offered to teach my second year English class outside today. They took me up on the offer and we headed outdoors bundled in a minimum of four layers. This seemed like a perfect time to teach the requisite English song: the Hokey Pokey. At first they were a little embarrassed to be singing in front of the school building in the cold (especially when "you put your left hip in and you shake it all about..."), but it eventually reached the silly level at which point they started to enjoy the song and dance.

We started taking the comparative/superlative quiz with the students sitting on the non-functioning fountain when one of the students asked, "Tysen bagsh (teacher) are you cold?" Not wanting to look weak I decided that the best reply would be, "No, of course not" but then, at the spur of the moment I decided to follow up on the response with another question, the famous, "...are you?" Being Mongolians I assumed that the -9 degree Celsius weather felt a bit balmy (people still aren't wearing hats here... I usually wear two on top of each other). But how wrong I was! Haha! They wanted to go back inside to finish class! I win!

Or not...this winter will be telling. It's really not bad until the wind picks up, at which point it doesn't seem to matter how many layers you are wearing...

Bathing has become less entertaining of late. Let me explain (the youth of America are advised to avert their attention away from this blog for the next few moments...). The process of taking a tumpin bath is a complicated one. At least it is for Tysen. You see, a tumpin is a giant Tupperware, maybe two feet in diameter.

Step one: make a huge, and I mean huge fire in your stove. I recommend stuffing the thing with so much wood and coal that you can barely get the cover put on...

Step two: turn on your Peace Corps issued heater. On high. But not too high less you blow your ger's fuse (again...).

Step three (actually performed simultaneously with steps one and two): boil water in your tea kettle. You won't need much.

Step four: pour one scoop (maybe 4 cups) of cold water into your tumpin (you could use more if you are less frugal about your water supply, meaning you don't sleep through the morning delivery every time you run out...). Add a little of your boiled water. WATCH OUT! Do not put too much boiling water into the tumpin. Your tumpin will not melt but your head will not soon forgive you...

Step five: tip the tumpin towards you and bob your hair into the pooled water. You will need to splash some water around since you are not using much (remember your Peace Corps budget friends!). Apply shampoo and rinse. At this point many people get new water to wash their body. Take a wild guess about whether or not Tysen does this...

Step six: wash yourself. Start with your top half kneeling over your tumpin. Then stand/squat in your tumpin and wash your lower half.

Step seven: reach for your towel and dry yourself in the tumpin (don't get your ger carpet wet, it is hard enough to clean the way it is...). GET DRESSED QUICKLY LEST YOU DIE A QUICK BUT PAINFUL DEATH.

Mash sain baina! You have just taken your first (and most likely last tumpin bath, if it is not your last, please seek counseling). Most Mongolians use the shower houses here and find tumpin bathing Peace Corps Volunteers a bit odd and provincial. But, hey, you know what, I don't have a good response to that one yet...

I should mention things political. Or not...

Enjoy the weather!
Peace out from Mongolia
(7:27 PM on Wednesday, November 12).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Their was an existentialist...and Camus was his name-oh!

That's right friends, I did a little Bingo remix while doing laundry at Leslie and Nathan's today. They then made me pancakes. Yeah. Then, at one o'clock some of my students made me tsuivan. Yeah squared. Now I am full, but need to plan lessons, prepare for a seminar, and try not to let my German fall into the abyss that my Ancient Greek is lying in... Yana!

Other news, it seems that my ger can be at one of two temperatures: cold or super hot. I am working on the correct in between. Neither extreme really bothers me but guests spend about half the time telling me either "Wow, it's really cold in here!" or, "Wow, that's a really warm fire...". Discovery of the day: a TV makes entertaining guests about 1,000,000 times easier than trying to keep up a conversation. And, one can always ask silly questions about the show. Like the reality TV show about city kids working on a farm. My first three comments went like this:

1) There was a shot of some kids putting potatoes in bags. No talking, no music, just kids putting potatoes in bags. "What are those?" I asked. I wonder...

2) Next, after the break, some people on the show were waking up. "Wow, they look tired!"

3) Finally, after another 10 minutes of this amzingness, I ask what seems to be a pertinent question, "Do Mongolians watch this show?" Followed quickly by, "Why?"

Getting ready to have an awesome nerd fest in UB with Oyuntugs! We made a list of museums to visit and are working on a list of books to buy and scholars to bother! Yahoo!

In important news I played piano for the closing ceremony of the aimag's Olympics. This performance led to the realization that, while I am beyond excited to have access to a piano and do a concert with Leslie! (yahoo!) I made the right move to leave that career choice behind. I think.

Other important news: the snow has melted. We need snow to cover the dirt. Which puts me in a precarious position of hoping. Please let it snow which indirectly calls for colder weather, which indirectly asks for me to be very cold on my 20-30 minute walk to and from work as I still do not have a winter coat ("Buy it in UB, not here, there are no good ones here...all from China." Hmmm.).

Currently the weather is ok, enjoying the chilliness. Below freezing in the mornings but not below 0 F yet...

Made pudding for students today. It was deemed "goe" (tasty). Thanks pudding senders!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

When a random man stops your friend on the street and tells him to bring all the Americans over at 6:40... This is the result...

No lie. That's what happened today. I got a text from Peder that read: "Some important looking dude invited s somewhere at 640. You guys down?" So we met at Leslie and Nathan's and decided that this would be the perfect setting for a horror movie. It was dark, we were supposed to meet him outside the bank. So we meander over to the bank and meet the fellow, heavy set but wearing a suit.

"My name is T---. What is your name?" Some brief introductions followed by, "Come this way." Wander through some alley looking thing, through a back door, and into... a new internet cafe. Yes, this man has developed a sense of good business unparalleled in this city. Who will use my new internet cafe? How about the odd foreigners who are always in the internet cafe at the post office? Indeed sir, indeed. He wanted us to use his new computers for free that night. On him. "No tax."

Guess where I am posting this from...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The snowball fight.

Hey there! So in the latest environmental news from Mongolia Tysen and Mamu moved his pile of coal from the driveway to between two of many sheds in the hasha. I like to think of this lovely black pile as my little piece of global warming. After the shoveling (a blast of a time I assure you), I decided that Mamu needed to be hit with a snowball (as he had mentioned in tutoring the week before that, and I quote "I like to have snowball fights in the winter.") This quickly escalated into a all out snow war with Tysen and the four under 10 children pitted against Mamu. We definitely had the last laugh when I instructed two of my comrades to grab Mamu's legs while I put him in a head lock. The other two kids proceeded to smash about 5 bazillion snowballs into his face. I should note that this was our only successful battle of the war: I was wrestled to the ground about, oh I don't know, 7 times. Each time Mamu thought that both snow and dirt should get into my mouth...

In other news school is CRAZY busy, but in a good way so far. I've decided that I will start some silly Mongolian translation projects like translating Yesterday into Mongolian and some Mongolian lyrics into English. I will keep you posted. I also hope to revive my 501 Mongolian verbs plan (like the famous 501 German verbs, French verbs, etc). Amazingly, no one has written the Mongolian one yet...

Stay warm and take care!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Za, za, za

Ah, the infamous three za's! (ok, ok, ok). This, my friends, is what you say when you run out of Mongolian vocabulary and have already stumbled through all the grammar you "learned" this summer. Or, it is what your visitors say to you after they have finished their obligatory cup of tea and are done attempting to stoop to your linguistic level. Friends, a good day to you all!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Snow fell this morning! Wonderful to see. Nathan and I were chatting on the way over to the Internet cafe and we decided that what Bayankhongor needs is a good coat of snow. Can't wait! Electricity is out right now in my part of town but it's not terribly difficult to get around: made a big pot of soup at Leslie and Nathan's and had it for dinner last night, lunch today, and supper again tonight no doubt. Tasty stuff: turnips, carrots, rice, onions, garlic, bouillon cubes. You can't screw up soup (unless your name is Quinn and you burn it...), and it hits the tummy just right on chilly days like these so it looks like my future will contain more of this grand liquid/solid ambiguity.

Work continues to go well: I've discovered that centering the lessons around ideas makes life more interesting that focusing on individual competencies. So for example: I look in the book to find out what the content is, then think about what interesting topic could be discussed using this content and then make some activities. Working so far...

Halloween celebrations coming up at school. The new English Club will be sponsoring the event which will include costumes, dancing, and candy (naturally). Should be a good time.

Is it time for a new Mongolian recipe? How about making some Huushuur (pronounced Hoe-shore)? First, decide if you are in the mood for meat. If yes, get some ground meat. Make mashed potatoes with lots of great spices (thus making my recipe not Mongolian...). Boil some carrots and turnips with those taters if you feel so inclined. Use plenty of garlic and onions! Ok! Now make some dough: just flour and water is fine, a little salt too is a good idea. Roll out your dough nice and thin and make smallish circles (about 6 inches in diameter). Put your mashed concoction on your dough circle and then fold the dough in half and pinch it shut. Now fry that sucker in some oil. Let it turn light brown so it's crispy. Yahoo! You have huushuur! Good stuff but it might kill you if you eat it too frequently...

I found out where the local cemetery is, and learned some burial customs (the body isn't always buried for example). Peder and I might check it out with Mamu sometime soon (but not at night, says Mamu...).

Climbed another mountain last weekend: better view of Bayankhongor than the mountain the weekend before provided but alas I forgot my camera at school, will get more pictures sometime in the future.

I forgot my list of blog topics at school...so there shall be more soon.

Take care and enjoy the weather!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sustainable Christmas Lyrics

Yes, friends, it has begun. My students are demanding that we study songs: Christmas songs. In October. And here is their list: Last Christmas and My Love by Westlife. Right. One of those isn't a Christmas song. No problem.

Got some packages in the mail yesterday (thank you thank you thank you!) and one contained my most eagerly anticipated read: Also Sprach Zarathustra. Yahoo! Started digging into it today when I woke up at 4 AM to the sound of a small rodent racing on my sleeping bag. I failed to get back to bed. But, no worries, I had an early morning friend eagerly waiting for my attention. Good ol' Nietzsche!

What else is new? Tutoring Mamu (my hasha little brother) regularely now. He incidently also demanded that we study My Love ("Why!?...."). Really it isn't so bad when you ignore the inane lyrics. My hasha family mentions at least twice a day that I need to make a fire. "Can you make a fire?" "Did you make a fire last night/ this morning?" "Did you study fire-making?" (That last one is my favorite). I assure them that I am not cold and can indeed make a fire. They take good care of me.

Some people (Fahd...) are heading to UB sometime soon (I forget exactly when). As a result the lists of things to get for those of us not going are piling up outside his apartment door. This list includes the following items: cocoa, cornmeal, beans (any and every kind of bean seen by the UB visitor), brown sugar, powdered sugar, Business English books, good Mongolian dictionaries, and sundry other items. I imagine that life in the States will seem strikingly easy for a while when I first get back. "What!? You mean I can buy vanilla extract and make cookies right now!?" Shall be interesting...

Weather still pleasantly fall-like here. Hope is lasts. Thought the snow covered mountains are supposed to be a step up from the dust blanket that currently covers beautiful Bayankhongor. We shall see.

Peace out, take care and take it easy!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Making Tsuivan: for those who are curious...

Here is the recipie:

Fry vegetables (of any variety) and meat (of any variety) together until a little fried. Use plenty of oil (I also add garlic and salt and pepper, use whatever spices suit your fancy). Next add water as if you were making soup. Let this meat and veggie mix simmer…

Prepare some dough for the noodles: I use just flour, water, and a pinch of salt. Knead and add flour until the dough isn't sticky. Roll the dough out into a few circles (like pizza crust but very thin). Now just barely fry each of your dough circles (even less than a tortilla). Cut your circles into quarters and stack them on top of each other. Now cut into very thin slices to make your noodles.

Now! I use a wok to cook here so I steam my noodles over the top of my simmering meat/veggie mix. You can steam the noodles or boil them (either by themselves or in the meat/veggie mix, in either case add some oil to the mix to keep the noodles from sticking to each other). If you cook them together or steam them in a wok it will take about 15-20 minutes. Then you need to stir up your tsuivan and serve with ketchup perhaps.

A lovely Autumn Day... pingtai...

The biggest news first. I was sitting in my ger today making poories (really a strange adaptation of poories with dried fruit and plenty of sugar and honey...yum...), when Dogoo and Mamu (my hasha mom and hasha little brother respectively) come into my ger with a TV! They cleaned off my avter (clothing container) and set it up and showed me their favorite channels. "Mash ikh bayarlalaa!" Thank you very much was the reply of the flabbergasted PCV...

Then about fifteen minutes later then come in again with, a giant rug! Yahoo. Warm, and cozy looking. In other ger news, I got my "ping" yesterday. A ping: little house thing in front of a ger for storing wood and keeping out the cold. Also chopped some wood with Mamu. And by chop some wood with Mamu I mean, tried to chop wood and Mamu laughed at me. I resorted to hauling the chopped wood to my ping. A new challenge. Seems doable. I will have to practice secretly...

Teaching is going well and I've discovered a new way to learn more Mongolian. I am trying to make sure that I know how to say everything I am teaching my students in Mongolian. Also need to learn more songs. Speaking of which, Leslie and I are going to record her song "Mongolia" some time soon and they will post it on their blog. Very cool. More pictures also coming soon. I took some of Bayankhongor and my camel coat.

Leslie and Nathan had a party yesterday night. We had our Mongolian counterparts over. There was a conspicuous lack of alcohol which resulted in Mongolians leaving the party early. Live and learn friends, live and learn.

Check out the Chamberlain's blog for information on how their apartment was pillaged and then restored within a 24 hour period... Yikes.

Currently reading: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Good read. I hear that if one likes the movie then the book will be amazing. So far, true. Looking forward to reading some Sartre, Derrida, Heidegger, Niezsche, and I hear that I NEED to read The Picture of Dorian Grey. Should be in the PC library in UB so I will pick it up in December.

Oh! Speaking of December, we found out that we will be in UB for training from December 16-19. So, Peder and I will make the trek to Javkhlant after training is over and stay with our host families from this summer. Christmas in Javkhlant! Awesome.

More sometime later, internet is proving to be a fickle thing to come by: the school's internet is often occupied by the 300+ students and my friends internet is intemittant and obviously primarily theirs... But, there is the post office.

One last thing. Yesterday Peder, Mamu and I climbed one of the mountains near Bayankhongor. Beautiful view. Ate some dried fruit and nuts. Answered some cell phone calls (pleasantly odd), and then treked back down. On the way back some kids playing by the river caught me some fish. So I have some pets in my ger. Living in an empty licorice container. Three of them. Any name suggestions? Do let me know, preferably before they die...

All the best!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Approaching Cold...

Hello friends!

Things are getting cold here in Bayankhongor. Definetly below freezing at night: fun to see one's breath in the outhouse in the morning: a great substitute for coffee.

This morning I successfully purchased water! It works like this: A horse drags around a huge barrel of water that has a hose attached to it. Someone (usually a very young lad or a very old man) ride this contraption around yelling "Please buy water, Please buy water." When you hear the call, you throw on your flip flops, grab your giant metal water container and sprint to the hashaa gate as fast as you can, praying to God that they are still out there when you finally manage to get the gate open. There is an added complication for special people like me... It just so happens that an old lady sells milk every morning using a similar method as the water folks. Only instead of riding a horse she just walks around yelling "Please buy milk, please buy milk" which, to a non-native speaker of Mongolian sounds remarkably similar to "Please buy water, please buy water!"... I believe that this milk woman thinks I am crazy because she has seen me racing to the gate with my huge container. She was excited to sell of her milk to one person but confused when I took a non-chalant turn for the outhouse after realizing that she was not the water people... She circled around a few times as I hid in the outhouse. Dogoo (my hashaa mom) asked me if my stomach was ok that night... "Yes, Dogoo, I am well, how is your stomach?"...

In other news, my friends with the internet (and thus, skype) are potentially moving soon! Some issues with locks. As a result I may not be able to skype for a few weeks... I will try to keep you posted.

Teaching is going well. I am quickly learning how to lesson plan better and how to run actual classes. Homework is still only done 50% of the time and about 40% of the daily quizzes result in a 0, but, who doesn't need a challenge every once in a while?

I am officially the recipient of the most packages here in Bayankhongor (thanks friends!) and I have a great stock of dried fruit for the winter (yahoo!). Good fruit is just about gone already: moldy peaches available once in a while... Sad.

In cooking news I managed to melt the bottom out of my wok in an attempt to make bread. I was listening to music and reading after successfully creating dough and starting the baking when I saw more smoke than usual in my ger and smelled a worse smell than I am used to... Oops. I am known among my volunteer friends as the worst cook in Bayankhongor but the most persistant. My goal is to have at least one culinary success before I leave this country. I may be signing on for a third year.

Tomorrow at my meeting with my director I am going to ask about burning dung instead of coal this winter. Burning coal not only leaves its mark on the enviro, you can feel it in the throat after a few days: coughing and all that. No good. We'll see what she thinks... Lots of the gers out here use solar power. I need to do a little research and see if that could save some money over two years, perhaps I will propose this little addition as well...

A people report!
I live in Bayankhongor with four other volunteers: Leslie and Nathan, Fahd, and Peder. You may remember Peder from Javland this summer! Leslie is a music therapist working at the children's center and the theater here. A great vocalist (and guitarist, can you say, free lessons?) and pleasant extrovert, she is married to Nathan, a German-speaking International Studies major. He also happens to sing, often with his wife while he is cooking (very well I might add). Hanging out at their apartment is a predictably wonderful experience. Then there is Fahd, a New Yorker who has been in BK (Bayankhongor) for a year already. A successful volunteer, he speaks pretty good Mongolian and is always willing to show you where to get things that a Westerner needs here in Mongolia: like good tofu...

I need to get back to work... Helping students write letters to some Americans!
More news soon (everything is relative friends)...

A Mongolian hug to each of you!