Before getting my site placement, I had wished for a simple life living off the elements of the land, somewhere in the countryside of Mongolia. How I had wished to wake up at 6 AM to make fires, chop coal when it 40 below, and bathe in a tumpin of cold water (no really, I did). I had hoped for the "real Peace Corps experience," the poster dirty volunteer riding a bike through the soum.
What I got was, a rather large city, that is in terms of Mongolia. Olgii has roughly 40,000 people, smaller than Blacksburg, yes, but perhaps the 5th biggest city in Mongolia. I live in an apartment with running (albeit cold) water, central heating, a partly functional toilet, and for the most part, electricity. Not only are there apartment buildings, we have a rather large theater in town, a bunch of public and private schools, post office, and several restaurants and bars.
So the city is fairly big, and I live a fairly modernized life, but that doesn't make it less difficult. What I've come to realize is that there is no real PCV experience, easy or even standard PCV experience. I have two sitemates who led completely different lives than I do.
Everyday I wake up around 7:30 AM. I have a cup a coffee, can't start the day without it. I usually teach around 4-6 classes in the morning with counterparts, take the occasional tea break with togash (sweet bread snacks). If our cafeteria has food, it's a good day. I eat. Then more classes, clubs, competition preparation or Mongolian/Kazakh language tutoring in the afternoon until about 5 PM. I work a lot, but that's by choice. I like my school and I love my students. If I don't work, my students come to my apartment. They have a 6th sense of my whereabouts at all times. There's no point in not opening the door, the will knock until their hands are bruised. No joke. In the evenings, I usually visit my Kazakh family, speak in my terrible Mongolian, am completely lost for 4 hours when they speak in Kazakh, and lesson plan for about two hours before I go to sleep.
I can't tell you last time I ate a piece of fruit. There is fruit here, expensive, but here. I eat what and when Kazakhs eat: Meat and flour products at 9 PM.
My schedule and my life here is quite different than other PCVs outside the country and within my own city.
I haven't got to travel to much yet. All the volunteers in Bayan-Olgii went to Hovd over a break in the fall. And just last week, Adi and I went to Tsaganuur, a soum about 2 hours north of here to visit another volunteer for the Mongolian National New Year, Tsagaan Sar.
|My 9th grade students.|
|Leo walking on the frozen Hovd River.|
|My student, Altintaz.|
|Leo, I and our counterparts at IST in Terelg, Mongolia.|
|My Mongolian sister from my training site, Dulaankhan.|
|My Mongolian Language Teacher, Orgio, and Chris, a fellow volunteer.|
|An English Teacher, Anar, and two 5th graders.|
|Some of my favorite students-- 3 5th graders, 2 9th graders, and a younger brother. We play basketball at every possible opportunity.|
|Altintaz, my student, and Adi, a soumer. We took Altintaz to our Turkish Restaurant for her birthday.|
|Adi with a baby in Tsaganuur Town for Tsagaan Sar.|
|Leo's director with a baby in Tsagaanuur.|
|Leo, the man, cutting the meat.|
|A typical Mongolian Tsagaan Sar table.|