Festivities: This past week was one of our sitemate's birthdays. So, we had a birthday/Cinco De Mayo party. It was Mexican themed with regards to food/drinks. Tequila and cheese were purchased in UB, we made tortillas and chips and salsa. Someone from the embassy provided garbanzo beans, so Ashley and I made homemade hummus (not Mexican), but it was tasty. Anyways, we invited the other PCVs and some friends from the community over to our apartment. We had 4 nationalities represented (America, Mongolian, Korean, German) and conversation was often in 3 languages (English, Mongolian, Korean). Overall, it was a fun evening and everyone had a nice time. Many people tried new foods/drinks and we all ate well.
Fashion: This is an interesting topic in Mongolia and worthy of a lengthy summary. Most of the rural herders wear deels (traditional mongolian clothes), with big leather boots and large, brimmed hats. Many UB residents and business professionals wear suits, or business casual clothing. The intriguing fashions come when these two styles converge, or when other styles are incorporated. High heels (on leather boots) are a fashion and health requirement. (Ashley was warned that cold heels lead to frozen ovaries). It is common to see men in dress shirts and workout pants (windbreakers). However, overall, there is the sense that you can't be too dressed up. For example, we went to go pick-up garbage behind the apartment with some neighbors/coworkers and many of the people showed up in suits (or female equivalent). The men painting the curbs last week had on nice jackets and pants, though they were covered in white paint. The cleaning ladies at the schools often wear heels to work. The use of accessories and make-up is also required. There is a word here called "goe" (rhymes with boy). It can be used as a noun, adjective, or verb. It is similar to bling, though less metallic (more plastic) and equally as shiny. Women get "goed" up for almost anything, including aerobics. There is a woman that wears pearls and make-up with her track suit to the gym each morning to workout. Another interesting conversation was had regarding the British royal wedding. Typical comments were that they were disappointed with the gown and jewelry because there was not enough "goe". The women that we talked to expressed expectations for more bling (jewelry/colors/etc).
"Fat": Recently, a few of the Americans have been asked by their friends/coworkers if they are pregnant or just fat. Speaking about being fat is a common discussion topic. It is not rude here for people to inquire about your weight or to tell you that you are "fat".
Futility: Recently, there have been 2 occupations in our town that have drawn my attention. The first is the street cleaning crew. There is a large group (maybe 20-30 people) that clean the streets each day. However, you have to keep in mind that there are only 3 paved roads and we live in a VERY dusty area, with high winds. Also, the members use hand-brooms to sweep the street, which requires excessive bending. Unfortunately, as soon as they finish a street, they have to start over again due to the dust and wind. Secondly, I was informed that there are 18 people that work at the local airport. Interestingly, the airport is closed for commercial traffic (domestic and international flights don't land here), so only emergency or private planes would land. Since this is a poor area and there are no large businesses (or mines), we have no private air traffic to our aimag. We live probably 2 miles from the "airport" (which is a dirt runway) and I have never seen or heard a plane in the past 9 months. As a matter of fact, both the prime minister and president of Mongolia drove to our town on recent visits from UB.
Health Update: The past 2 weeks I have been ill with persistent headaches, intermittent nausea, fatigue, joint pain, and lethargy. I am going to UB for blood tests and consultations with the PC medical office on Monday.
- Bear caught a bird (it was low flying and Bear was right behind it until the end). Another dog carried it away. We were disappointed with her success.
- We had an english-speaking visitor for 24 hours. A tourist from Belgium (Elisa) was on her way through and needed assistance, so we helped her on her way.
- A restaurant can now make pizza in our town. It required pre-ordering 2 hours ahead and we went with our aerobics coach and foreign visitor. The pizza was good, but a little heavy on the meat products. Next time, we will request no meat. Also, the conversation was interesting because our coach speaks no english and the visitor speaks no mongolian, so we were translators.
- Ashley received two last minute requests from Mongolian friends in college to write their final papers for English literature classes. Ashley declined to write them, but offered to edit when they had produced a draft.
- A co-worker/neighbor went to Cambodia and came back with a lot of jewelry for sale. Ashley bought a nice silver ring. The funny part is that this "collection" traveled to multiple workplaces and people stopped working for many hours to try things on. This type of "sale" happens fairly frequently, such as this week, one of Ashley's co-workers opened an Esprit "shop" in the health department for 2 days. It seems as though many people are involved with different types of sales, either cosmetics (Oriflame), supplements (Herbalife), or clothing/fashion. Her co-workers joked that the stores come to them, so there is no need to go shopping.