… My arrival in Sukhbaatar was so dramatic (in the leaving for Peace Corps, moving to Mongolia sort of way) that I had to divide it into two parts (to gather my thoughts and think about my first day in a more enlightened way)… anyways, after the ball pump/needle battle with the four year old (who it turns out is three in American years due to the Mongolian belief that a person is one upon birth) I proceeded downstairs, where I was fed (yes again) and learned the phrase for full (VERRRRY IMMMPOORTANT). The mom (who had come back by this point) came up with me to my room and instructed me (very sternly) that I should have unpacked right away (or at least I assume she was yelling at me for this). After unpacking, when I returned to the downstairs area, I sat with the very curious three/four year old as he proceeded to try and wipe off my tattoos. Overwhelmed as I was, I retired to bed for the night.
Only in Peace Corps…
There are certain things that ONLY happen in Peace Corps (or maybe just Peace Corps Mongolia). I will list and describe them for you:
So you know you are in Peace Corps Mongolia when:
1) You get bathed at some point: In my case, it was by my host mother. I do not believe that I have ever had such intimate contact by a 40 + year old woman. I also believe that she did something right because my hair is extra squeaky clean. (she really is a very sweet lady, so do not judge)
2) You eat 3 tons of candy: The Mongolians, in general, love candy, they pretty much eat it all day. If you go over someone’s house, you will get a piece there as well (like trick-or-treating).
3) You crave veggies: No joke, my host family uses one half carrot, and one half potato, and some onion (like a fourth) for a whole meal (I have NOT seen green in many days)…
4) You see lots of skin: there are no dressing rooms and you bathe in the kitchen. Also, people breast-feed in public—nuff said…
5) You see the cutest children ever: I am serious, they have huge cheeks and love saying hi to foreigners. So adorable.
6) You talk poop: This is not taboo among Peace Corps volunteers, you either do not go at all (like me, for 2.5 weeks) or you go constantly. It is on everyone’s mind (do not judge).
7) You nap, a lot: during training I have seen that napping is very much part of the day. I am ok with this (actually, I was ordered to nap at one point)
8) You become two again: see number 1 and 7. I have to ask to hang out with friends again.
9) You suddenly realize that toilets, toilet paper, and bathroom doors are underappreciated: In Mongolia, they use “squatty potties” meaning a scary-deep hole in the ground with an outhouse structure around it and a door that may or may not shut (or locked, as I found out when I walked in on my host mom’s sister: we laughed). Also, most public restrooms do not have toilet paper, we bring our own to school.
10) You get chased by a dog: they are not so nice here, but they are afraid of rocks so do not be afraid to throw them.
11) You wonder WTF when it comes to weather: when weather was being sorted out for the earth, Mongolia got the spare parts… it can be three different seasons in one day and two of them will make you hate life.
12) You will like using a tumpin: the showers here are rather miserable, and a tumpin (basically a bucket used for both bathing and laundry) will allow you to actually have hot water (you just have to heat it up first.
Those all may seem silly and strange to westerners, but although the Mongolians are a little different, they truly are the most beautiful people. They have blue sky year round, smiling faces, wonderful mountains, are patient (with my horrible Mongolian language ability), and are the most hard working people in the world (seriously, they draw their own water, chop their own wood, and do it all in extreme temps (-40 to 80+) without a complaint in the world).