Swearing In Ceremony
On August 19, 2009 Mark and I swore in as official Peace Corps Volunteers! Not until joining the PC did I know that it’s quite a process to become an official PCV, thus, it is quite the celebration. Speeches were given by our Mongolia PC Director, the U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia’s government, a few others, but most importantly – Mark! He represented our CED/CYD training group and gave a great speech in Mongolian about our two months of training. Following those speeches we performed our dance! Check out facebook for some great pictures of our costumes. I think we made our dance teacher proud. Hopefully I can get the video loaded on here. Anyway, the whole thing was a big enough of ordeal to catch the attention of the national news media. The filmed all of it and did interviews with all the higher-ups then broadcasted a 15-minute segment about it that night! My host mom even texted me and said she saw me! Apparently they showed a clip of our dance – yikes. I’m so glad all of Mongolia got to see us in our shiny, orange, leopard/zebra print outfits adorned with bells.
Following the swearing in ceremony we packed up and headed to UB for the night. Mark and I went with some friends to a great Mexican/Indian restaurant and spent a ton on yummy food and drinks. We had a great evening hanging out with friends who we’ve spent so much time with over the last two months but who will now be living 10+ hours away from us. It was sad to say goodbye to all our friends but we’re all looking forward to getting together for Thanksgiving.
On the Way to Our New Home
The following morning we packed up again to cram into a meeker and make our way to Tsetserleg, Arhangay. Between all of our stuff and all the people it was a cozy ride to say the least. We were accompanied by our new supervisors, which was really nice, as well as our new sitemate Sarah, who will be an English teacher and teacher trainer.
Now, before coming to Mongolia, I decided one of my top priorities should be to ride a camel. Upon arriving in Mongolia I became even more determined. Up until a few days ago I had only seen one from a distance, but on this epic road trip, my dream came true. Our supervisors had the meeker stop just so I could act like a dorky, cheesy tourist and pay 4,000 tugriks to ride a came around the jijig (small) Gobi – basically an oddly placed small patch of sand for tourists too lazy to go all the way to the actual Gobi to enjoy. Anyway, I took them up on the offer and had an 11-year-old boy lead me around at a snail’s pace, but it was awesome.
Other than the camel ride the rest of the ride was fairly dull. We left UB at 10:15am and after all the pit-stops and dropping off Sarah at hew new ger, we arrived to our new apartment at 10:15pm and crashed shortly thereafter.
Tsetserleg is beautiful, just like everybody had told us! It’s a fairly small town, but one of decent size for Mongolia. It is surrounded by beautiful mountains and has LOTS of trees which is not that common here in Mongolia. It’s really refreshing to have so much greenery around us.
Our first few days here in Tsetserleg have mostly been spent buying stuff for our apartment (dishes, food, rice cooker, and we even found pillows!), walking around, catching up on sleep, and eating good food. We’re really excited to be cooking for ourselves again, even though we’re relearning how to do it without a refrigerator or an oven. We may try to purchase these but we’re not sure yet. A fridge is really only necessary here in the summer, which is almost over. During the fall and winter we can use our balcony as a freezer and unfortunately our apartment may be about the temperature of a fridge.
Other than cooking for ourselves, we’ve gotten some really great food elsewhere. On the evening of our first full day here our other new sitemate Zaneta, who has lived here for a year, cooked a delicious meal for Sarah, Mark, and I. She made a Filipino dish, chicken pot pie, and apple pie! It was amazing and a great welcome to our new town. Also, before moving here, we had heard about this wonderful little café in town called Fairfield Café owned by some British Christian missionaries (I believe) that serves great food. We wandered outside our apt building our first morning here only to discover it is across the street from us! It’s both a blessing and a curse though because it’s really good food but a bit expensive on the PC budget. They have doughnuts, pastries, fresh baked bread, burgers, fries, hot dogs, etc., etc.
Aside from being across from the best café in town our apartment is also a short walk to the rest of the stores as well as our workplaces. It’s spacious, much bigger than we expected. There’s a small dining room (which has a nice view of the surrounding houses/gers), a kitchen (which includes a big food poster – Mongolians seem to love these! It’s a giant laminated poster people put in kitchens that usually displays food that nobody actually eats, i.e. exotic fruit or in our case, a sort of Thanksgiving like meal), a bigger room that is kind of the main bedroom/living room (right outside our window is an abandoned building where we get to see things like 7-year-old boys smoking cigarettes or old men using it as a bathroom), and the “guest” room with a big closet and small twin-sized bed. As for everything else, it’s kind of an average Mongolian apartment with its advantages and disadvantages. So far we have hot water in the kitchen, which is great. And we think we might have a hot shower too, but the water in the bathroom is turned off so we’re not sure yet. The front part of the building is being completely renovated for some sort of office space; as we drove up we were a little unsure about just how habitable this building was, but now that we’ve been here a few days we’re seeing more and more neighbors.
Well,that’s a brief introduction to life here in Tsetserleg! Hopefully we can share more about our jobs soon. We haven’t really started work yet except for a meet and greet and tour of town. More to come soon!
More facebook photos here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=149002&id=504170728&l=8518a34299