Thus I have passed my third week in Selenge as a volunteer at school 4 (my host country agency), and my first official day of school (yesterday was the opening ceremony). I have to say that I could not be happier nor feel luckier than I am to be placed in Selenge. I have to admit, although I was apprehensive going in (i.e. to be placed in the same place where I was trained and to start service), I am getting more excited to work as the days pass. The people are friendly, I am near other volunteers (when I get a chance to visit), I have an awesome site-mate, amazing counterparts, a great apartment (hot showers), and I can get ranch (really, what more does one need). Needless to say, I am pretty happy.
So far most of my time has been spent getting to know fellow teachers at the school and making my apartment clean (I am getting quite OCD in my old age). They are great and go out of their way to help me in my adjustment to a new culture where very few other English speakers live (I really still feel incredibly awkward in social settings where I do not know what they are saying.
On the topic of being awkward in social settings, Peace Corps has added new meaning to the term. Normally, I am outgoing and can hold my own in a conversation, but when one is the foreigner with little ability to converse in the predominant language, one becomes hyper-introverted. I take smile and nod to a whole new level. My ability to participate in a conversation is limited to the four or five phrases I know in Mongolian. It takes me back to times when I was in a room where I was part of the majority and one foreigner was in the room and they were quiet and introverted. I wonder, are they as extroverted when they are not the foreigner in the room.
On a much cuter note, the children in Selenge are heart melting. On a daily basis, I get a hello from a student I worked with during the summer, or a little kid who is curious and just wants to practice their English. Or on rare occasions, like the day before yesturday I got a hola from a three year old in the square (adorable). One moment that became a true moment of cuteness was when a little boy (no older than 2) proceeded to hand me rocks and giggle as I took them. When I asked what his name (chine –near –hin bay) was, I got only laughs as he buried his head in his hands.
The older people of Selenge also put a smile on my face. I speak in reference to one specific incident, on one of my first days of arrival in Selenge, as I was walking to the Zak (the market) I was approached by an elderly women (using a cane and who appeared to be around 70) asked me what my name was as she grabbed me by the arm. We walked towards her home as she asked me questions (where I was from, my age, my name). She did this for a while and then we walked in silence until she got close to her home. She then asked where I lived. When I stated that I was headed to the market and my home was in the opposite direction, she released my arm and said goodbye. It made my day.
Above: Me and one of my fabulous CPs during the opening ceremony