Weather: Autumn is here and the weather has turned cold. By cold, I mean that it snowed briefly on Saturday morning. Today it is in the 40's, will be 70's by end of week, but then cold again next week. The nighttime lows are often below freezing and there is usually a very brisk wind, which makes it feel much colder.
Utilities: In Mongolia, the heating is provided from a central heating location via hot water lines to major buildings, including apartments. In our town, there are 3 coal-fired hot-water plants that heat and pump the water out. One of the plants is about 300 yards from our apartment. Buildings all have radiator heat and most individual houses/gers are not attached to the lines. Since the water is centrally controlled, there is no thermostat, so we have no ability to change the temperature in our apartment. Some buildings are hot, some are cold. It probably depends on the distance from the pumping station. Since it is centrally controlled, the local government determines when to turn on/off the heat. I was told that October 15th is a popular "on" date and it stays on until March 15th. Unfortunately, it is already fairly cold in many of the buildings, so another 3 weeks may be difficult. I am wearing a coat while I type this. I have observed that most buildings have 1 waterline for the radiators and 1 for the potable water. The potable water over the summer was very cold, but I was told that sometime in October that water also becomes warm. Our apartment is equipped with a ~10 gallon water tank that can be heated to a certain temperature (the heating process takes about an hour). However, most apartments/buildings do not have a hot water tank, so people shower/bathe using whatever water comes out of the tap. Bathing in the winter in cold water does not sound like fun. On a positive note, we heard that our place is warm. Gers and houses typically burn wood, coal, or dung, depending on the location in the country. In our area, coal is the most popular. Ger/house dwellers typically shower by either heating water on their stove and taking a "tumpun/sponge" bath or go to the local bathhouse. They typically cost ~$1.50 for 30 minutes. I have not been to one yet, but I hear that they are very nice.
Over the past 14 days, we have not had electricity during the day on 9 of them (it is restored at night). We were told that the first 3 days were planned outages, then 3 telephone poles fell in front of our place and we lost power for 2 days. Then, we have just had sporadic outages, which negatively impact homelife and work. Also, when the electricity is out, we have no running water from the mainline. I assume that the water pump for our building is electric. Last night, the electric went out around 7:30pm and came back on around 9pm, but the water stayed off until 1pm today. Our headlamps have been invaluable over the past few months.
Hospital Anniversary Party:
This past weekend was the 85th anniversary of the hospital/health department in our city. The hospital/health department put on a large 3 day event which included training, concerts, and dinner events. Ashley participated in most of the gala. She also sang at the dinner on Saturday night. I was not feeling well on Saturday, so I did not go (I wish I would have). The participants stayed in a make-shift ger camp setup on the outside of town and it was referred to as a "mini-Nadaam". That means wrestling, archery, horses and copious amounts of food/drink.
Our town has multiple bakeries, which means amazing bread. The loaves are big and doughy and without preservatives, last about 4 days. We typically eat a loaf every 3 days. We have found soy meat and tofu in town. Also, this past week was prime harvest-time, so there are a lot of people selling produce on the side of the road (onions, carrots, beets, potatoes, cabbage, garlic, turnips, a few tomatoes, peppers, etc). We also bought a kilogram of grapes, which ending up being a lot more expensive than expected. Needless to say, we have consumed a lot of vegetables this week. Also, some friends gave us fresh greenbeans. We have also started growing lettuce, sprouts, and some herbs on our window sill. They seem to be growing well. We still have not cooked meat at our place, we only get meat when we eat out. Eggs are also available at reputable stores, so we make omelets 3-4 days per week and incorporate the veggies mentioned above.
We received a futon from my office, but it needs to be reupholstered. Therefore, we have disassembled it and are looking for new material and a staple gun. We were very fortunate to have a futon given to us because new couches are very expensive $400+. Also, a local carpenter made us (to specification) a new kitchen prep table. We were using the window sill, which was not ideal. The carpenter lives in a ger in town and has a very impressive woodshop in a house behind his ger. The table is very nice and very functional. Overall, I am pleased with the table and if we need any more furniture, I plan to go back to him.
Leisure Time Activities:
I have been playing volleyball ~3 times a week with the local World Vision staff. I'm also trying to get into yoga and potentially judo. Supposedly, this is a big judo area and one of the world vision staff members found me a teacher. On a side note, Mongolia won a gold medal in Judo at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. With the weather turning, I want to find activities that I can do indoors and still stay fit. I try to read most days (working on another novel) and we have been watching shows/movies on the computer. Ashley takes brisk morning walks every day with a fellow PCV. She has been spending most evenings reading, cooking, or writing.
Guest Editor: Since all of the readers are used to my droning, next week Ashley will be contributing to the blog. Let's be honest, she is much more poetic and descriptive than I, which will be a pleasant change to this blog. Have a good week.