Posted by: soupysays | June 10, 2006

My host dad can beat up your host dad.

The best way to sum up my experience thus far is this: a giant pendulum swings back and forth from feeling total exhilaration to feeling completely overwhelmed.

After LA, we rode on the fabulous Korean Airlines. I enjoyed bimbimap but saved the red pepper paste for a bland day. During a two and a half hour layover in Seoul, I managed to eat kimchi soup, found some reasonably priced dried squid, but was unable to find anything with red bean paste. After a short flight, we landed in Chinghes Khan International Airport. With one terminal and two baggage claim carousels (only one that functioned), the name is much more intimidating than the actual place. After collecting our bags, we were greeted by a mob that appeared to have just robbed a thrift store (leopard print shirts, sombreros and more). That mob just turned out to be current volunteers. A glimpse into what I will be a year into the future? Time will tell. We got on buses and headed to a ger camp just out of town. We arrived at the ger camp just past 1AM. My ger camp mates and I enjoyed some cookies and crackers that sat waiting for us before we went to bed.

The next morning I woke to Mongolia. Green rolling hills. Endless blue sky. Grazing horses and camels. Beautiful.

We spent two nights total at the camp. There were some introductions, first forays into Mongolian food, hiking and sleeping. Everyone enjoyed the decompression time. After the camp, we headed north to the second largest city in Mongolia, Darkhan. On the drive, we got a chance to see the outskirts of UB and some soums (small towns). I can't describe how I felt seeing it all. Let's just say it was quite a different feeling than the camping trip-esque experience of the ger camp.

We have spent the last three nights at the Darkhan hotel. I have enjoyed the hot showers. These days in Darkhan have consisted of mostly informational meetings. You are thinking “Yawn” but, I have throughly enjoyed almost all of them. However, have can you not have a good time when your Medical Officer says phrases like, “If you are a tick freak, go ahead and collect them” or “There are no dogs here. Just ass biters.”

Last night I stayed out until it got dark at 10:45pm playing frisbee. Or as I will now call it: "The International Game of Friendship." A Mongolian boy no older than 10 joined us in the game. He started out barely being able to throw, but by the end, he could out throw most of us.

I feel like I'm on vacation. I think that will change tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I am going to my host family with four and half hours of Mongolian language class under my belt. I have sinking feeling it will all leave my brain as soon as I walk in the door. I will be living in a wooden house (no indoor plumbing, of course) in a soum near Sukhbataar, 20km from the Russian border. I have two younger host sisters and a younger host brother. My host mom is a librarian, and my host dad is a firefighter. My host dad also wrestles during Naadam. He goes by "the lion."

Until mid-August I will be training with my fellow health volunteers. We will have four hours of language class (two classes of four) followed by technical / cultural training in the afternoon. I am quite sad to be see all of the 57 volunteers split up between different soums. However, the PC trainers have said they will pass notes to other volunteers in different soums so we can communicate with each other. It's like high school but with cars.

Last week feels like it exisited in a different time. This morning the Country Director of Peace Corps Mongolia told the group that he wanted to update us on some world news: the US killed Zarqawi in an air strike. In that moment I felt so disconnected with the world, and I've only been gone a week.

Oh, and horse is a delicious, delicious meat.



  1. Soooo freaking cool … gah, I can’t wait for updates.

    The Zarqawi thing is yet another ruse, and this time, not too much later, the press is already waffling on how to cover it. We hear all sorts of conflicting reports, and you can’t avoid seeing his dead body on mainstream internet news sources.

    For all the Zarqawis of the world, there are 100 to take his place.

    I miss you!

  2. Sounds amazing… good luck with everything! And, btw, it looks like we’re both going to border Russia! I’m headed to Ukraine in September; hopefully we can meet up somewhere!

  3. hey you! I just finished writing you a letter & was online trying to print off your addy when i found the link to the blog – don’t know how i missed it the first time, sheesh, Erin. anyways, i’m glad to hear that things are going well so far & just wanted to add about Zarqawi – the news blurb I heard was so typical…. “Good news for U.S. oil prices…the death of a bad guy!” [sigh….] hope to hear more from u soon!

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