Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Year, New Experiences

Happy New Year! It’s been a while since the last post, so let me bring you up to speed.

New Years: We were invited to Ashley’s coworkers for dinner on New Years. We took pizza and apple cake. They made traditional Mongolian food including horse buuz (horse is much better than mutton) and mayonnaise salad. We had dinner, drank, sang songs, then it was time to go….at 10pm. (The family was going to relax and go to bed early.) So, we went home and watched a movie, then watched the city fireworks at midnight. It was a very fun evening.

Weather: According to Mongolians, the winter is broken into 9 groups of 9 days (total of 81). Winter starts on December 22. The 3rd and 4th Nines are the coldest, and we are in the middle of the 3rd. We have not noticed a substantial change in the weather, and actually, a few days last week felt balmy. Balmy means that it reached ~-5F, which constituted no scarf or double gloves. I actually took Bear on a short walk and didn’t even wear a coat (just a tshirt and fleece) with hat and gloves.

Tsagaan Sar: Tsagaan Sar is the major holiday that marks the beginning of spring and due to the lunar calendar, falls in the first week of February this year. It is one of the 2 biggest celebrations of the year and most everything is closed for at least three days. Families visit each other, exchange gifts, and EAT. Many families and stores have already started food preparation. Most families will make hundreds or thousands of buuz (steamed meat dumplings). Since Ashley and I are currently unable to make acceptable buuz, we will be learning/assisting her co-worker in their preparation. It is the man’s responsibility to cut the dough and the woman’s responsibility to form the dumpling and “seal” it correctly (pinching the edges in a certain way).

Jobs: Many of you are aware of the job challenges that I was struggling with. This week, World Vision has agreed to be my new host agency and to take over responsibilities for the relationship. Starting next week, I will be a World Vision Mongolia staff member (volunteer). I will be working on economic projects (consulting), teaching English, and hopefully child welfare/health projects. I will also be available “as needed” for my former agency. Thanks to everyone for your support through this difficult time. Ashley is still working hard for the health department. She has been teaching a lot of English, but also assisting in grants and preparing material for physical therapy classes for disabled students.

Dentist: Over the weekend, I had a dull toothache. After a few days, I called the medical office and they had me go to UB for a dental evaluation. The PC contracts with a dental group in UB. Local dentists typically don’t meet the requirements to treat volunteers. I went to the dentist and it was discovered that I had a cavity….my first cavity ever. It was drilled and filled and I’m waiting the mandatory 2 days before I leave UB as I write this. The office and dentist were great and very clean/organized. Overall, I was impressed with the care.

Bear: she is still growing and becoming more independent. While in UB, I picked up 4 vaccines for her, which Ashley or I will administer. We do not have a vet for dogs in our city, and there is a great vet in UB. We will bring her to UB in February for spaying.

Exercise: With the cold weather, it is hard to exercise outside. Therefore, I joined the local gym and Ashley does videos on the computer. Unfortunately, the gym hours are very sporadic and thus, I'm not using it as much as I would like. So, I try to "walk" with Ashley every night. "Walking" means that we put on an episode of Glee, then keep moving for the entire show (40 minutes). Some jogging, jumping jacks, tae-bo, etc....whatever keeps us moving. Sometimes it just turns into keep away with Bear or chasing Bear around the apartment. Frankly, I get bored doing this, but it keeps us moving. I'm looking forward to the warm weather and doing stuff outside.

Shelves: We had a local carpenter (moojan in Mongolian) build us shelves for our apartment. My agency was supposed to provide shelves or a dresser, but did not. After months of discussion, Ashley and I ordered them and paid for them. I was finally able to unpack my suitcase after 7 months of living out of it! Our apartment looks so great and is organized.

Packages/Cards: Thanks to everyone that sent us cards and packages! Your thoughfulness is amazing and we appreciated everything!

Christmas Cards: We mailed many Christmas cards in early/mid December and unfortunately, no one has received one yet. I suppose that the mail is taking longer than usual.

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