Friday, December 10, 2010

You say goodbye

I say HELLO!!!
I'll be home for Christmas!!! That;s right folks, I am heading home. It was not an easy decision, but I fell it is the right one. I will miss many things about Mongolia, especially the firends I have made here and my cat. But the time has come, the walrus said. I leave Ulaanbaatar on Tuesday morn and arrive in Rapid City, Rapid City (TACO JOHNS TACO JOHNS!) on Tuesday night. Weirdly enough, I fly out of South Korea and land in Denver at the exact same time on the exact same date. It's freaking me out a little bit. I hope to see more of o sooner than expected and wish you all happy holidays. I cannot wait to see my baby sisters!!!!!!!!
love, C

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Incomparable Camber Carpenter

Holy Ridiculous Awesome Week Batman!!!!

For those of you who do not know Camber Carpenter, people as far away as Mongolia and Texas feel sorry for you. Camber was here for a week and we had ever so much fun. She arrived laden with luggage, which proved to be mostly full of carbs and presents for Caitlin. Apparently she was afraid of starving. Don't worry Mrs. C, she did not. We immediately shared a panini at Amsterdam cafe and then shortly after that we went to Veranda and had pasta. Camber ordered fish which was risky, but I think she liked it. Jenny I shared meaty spicy pasta. And there was some wine. Then we slept, which was boring.
Day 2
We went to Terelj National Park and Camber rode a camel with 88 Bikes volunteer Jenny and sang show tunes. We ate at the hotel I had Mid-Service Training in and they were just as rude as before, so that was fun. I had rice and egg with itty-bitty bits o' peppers, camber had rice and raisins and a tomato and cucumber salad, and Jenny had gross fishy tofu, and we all shared some bing, which is like hard tortillas only not as delicious. I like talking about food. We saw the rock shaped like a turtle and looked for the rock referred to as "Old Man Reading a Book" and may have seen it but it looked more like a lego man without a book, unless it was the stuffed horse licking a foot looking rock. Who's to know? Then we went back to UB and ate at Hazara's. Camber and I shared murgh makhan, or butter chicken, which was awesome and we all ate a crap ton of nan. Then we slept again. also boring.
Day 3
In which our two stalwalt friends head of on their whirlwind Mongolian hoodoo adventure.
After waking up quite early, Camber and Caitlin bid Jenny adieu to yieu and yieu and yieu, and head to Dragooon Tov and board the bus to Tsetserleg, Arvkhangai (the Switzerland of Mongolia) without incident. Well, not really, there are always incidents, but nothing major. Camber got sat on and harassed to buy long underwear while Caitlin taught her things about Cyrillic. Much laughter. For lunch we stopped at Sansar, otherwise known as the Pig Stop, and ate manto (steamed dough) and drank milk tea. And bought awesome cookies that are not gross, mom! Even Camber likes them!
We got to Tsetserleg around 3 and met Tim, another PCV who used to work with Camber's mom. It's a small world after all! We ate at Fairfield, the wonderful inn and restaurant owned by people who know what is delicious. Carrot bread, cake, steak sandwiches, burgers, burritos, cappuccino. I would say "UNFAIR!!!!", but I am a grown-up, so instead I say, "It sure is nice that this is here for you folks." Then we went to Tim's nice apartment and chatted for a while. Then more food. Chicken Kabobs at another restaurant!! Then more chatting. Then the boring sleep time.
Day 4
Coffee! Oatmeal! Then more conversation. Then more Fairfield. Just cake and more coffee though. And some bread to take to Marissa. Then we negotiate for a car. And by we, I mean me. I felt very proud of my minimal language skills. Don't worry Camber! I will not let drivers rip us off or take us anywhere we do not want to go!!! Yea!!! So after waiting an hour or so for more passengers, we were off! We stopped once and Tim ran around like a crazy person. He likes running. Ask him about it. He's good at it. Then we ade it to Kharkhorin, but alas, the meeker would not take us to Marissa's ger, despite my pleas and boasts of being volunteers. So Tim ran after a car to see if they would be our taxi, and fell in a ditch full of snow that looked like ground, but was in fact a ditch full of snow. But he jumped out very quickly and was barely even covered in snow and persuaded a police man to call us a taxi. Meanwhile, Marissa had started walking towards us, so we picked her up on the way. She had to sit on Tim though. We had a lot of baggage. At Marissa's ger we laughed and cooked soup and Mama's Fried Potatoes and played Password which Tim is very good at. Except when he is not. Then we got out Marissa's crack den mattress for Camber, and I made Marissa share with me, and Tim was left to find the softed bit of floor. Poor Tim.
Day 5
It was pretty cold in the morning, but Camber was a trooper and a big helper. Marissa made us breakfast and her Mongolian Dad went to find us a car (What a nice guy!!) and we played more Password! Then the car came and for a minute I was like, "wow! We will not be squished!!" Then I realized that was dumb. Our driver took us to the monastery (Erdene Zuu) and drove off will our stuff. I was completely confident he would come back...almost. We looked around and I bought a Buddha necklace and some pretty earings because my hair is still pretty short and I wear earrings to be more girly. Tim bought a really old prayer book. I told the lady who sold me my necklace to wear gloves, so she put some on. I am a good influence. Then we went outside the compound to wait for the car and discovered some Mongolian dogs are nice and giant wood doors to a Buddhist temple are fairly decent heat conductors, and feel awesome when you put your face on them. Also, it makes Mongolian laugh. Then our car came with 4 more people in it and we will off!
After some Password in the car and much giggling which I am sure Tim appreciated being in the middle of, we stopped and dropped off one of passangers on the side of the road, and Tim moved to the back to sit next to Stinky McDrunkerson. Once in Arvaikheer, we dropped all out stuff of at my ger and went to sitemate Babila's apartment for a 5 course meal. Yum. He bought an exercise bike that I look like a midget riding. All 5 resident PCVs were there, plus Erin from a tiny soum, Marissa and Tim. Most of the VSO volunteers, and a few Mongolians. Much fun was had by all.
Tim, Camber, Joyce, and I took a cab to Joyce's apartment to get Babette la chat, then continued on to my ger, sans Joyce. Then we had to go on a wood hunt adventure and found wood and coal! Yipee!
Day 6
It was not cold in the morning due to the coal. I made french toast and then the 3 of us went to climb up to the Russian Friendship Monument, which was pretty, and windy. After climbing down and finally finding a taxi we had to convince the bus man to sell us tickets for the bus the next day, which he did not want to do. But did eventually. More food at Loving Hut and much more laughter ensued before once again boring sleep.
Day 7
Tim got up early was driven to the bus station by our good friend Oyunchimeg so she could explain that he only wanted to ride as far as the Pig Stop. I was confident in his ability to fanangle a ride back home. Which he did no problem. Camber and I went to Bookbridge which was closed, my school which was boring, and the museum which was awesome. Then more food at the new fried chicken place. And back on a bus. This time for lunch at the Pig Stop we ate the Spicy Thai Tuna thing my mom sent me with crackers, which was awesome. And bought more awesome cookies that are delicious and not awful.
We arrived in UB around 8 and ran into my monk friend Baatar (MONK HERO!) who gave us a free ride to Mongol Steppe guesthouse and helped carry our bags up the 3 flights of stairs! He really is a monk hero. We dropped our crap and immediately went to American Burger & Fries (AB&F) for some american burgers and fries. And ice water. ICE! Back at the guesthouse we showered and exchanged significant looks at the weirdness of our fellow guesthouse guests. Not a fun weirdness like we possess but more like I hope he doesn't kill us in our sleep weirdness.
Day 8
He did not kill us in our sleep, which is good, because Day 8 is
First:Coffee. Need Coffee. Just me though. Camber needs no coffee. But I like her anyway. And PANCAKES! We both need pancakes. Then Peace Corps. Then Chingiss in the square, which my mom says is more of rectangle. Then an art gallery and a drunk man who said he was the artist, but we did not believe him. Then souvenir shopping. Camber bought postcards and magnets. I bought a hat to remember are time together and to keep my ears from falling off.
Of course, then it was time to feed again. Salads for both of us at Granville Irish Pub and then foot massages, which Camber treated me to, because she is extremely generous. Yea Camber!
We looked around the market for a bit and took some funny pictures by the Beatles and b a penguin and polar bears. A little more shopping and it was time for PIZZA, Camber's last meal in Mongolia and probably Caitlin's 837th to last meal in Mongolia. That's math! Then for desert we had apple huushuur, a traditional Mongolian food, except for instead of fat and mutton, there are apples and cinnamon, with ice cream on the side. Perfection! Thus Camber's visit ended, not with tears at the sorrow of parting, but with the laughter of ridiculous girls. Excuse me: Ladies.
love, C

Monday, November 8, 2010


Just a quick update friends!
88 Bikes stage 1 of Mongolia villages project is complete. I was really nervous that everything was not going to be perfect and it all would fall apart around my ankles and it would be all my fault, but of course it didn't. It wasn't quite perfect (bikes held up in customs) but it was pretty darn close.

100 kids in my town got bikes! Each child had to photographed at least three times, holding their 88 Bikes donor card with the pic of their bike donor, and the bike number had to visible in the photos. Also, donors like it when the kids who get the bikes look happy. This proved to make everything extra fun because Mongolians do not traditionally smile in photos. All my training with CB Photo from high school came rushing back. Someone had to explain to the kids who the funny Americans were on their cards and show them on the back of the card where America is on the world map and where Mongolia is. I learned very quickly (and very poorly) how to say, "This person gave you this bike. They live in America. You live in Mongolia. See?"

Some of these kids helped to paint 4 murals which were then hung up near the center of town on a large, 4-sided billboard.

ok, now ir is time to go to UB, so I will finish this later.
love, C

PS Jenny, the 88 bikes volunteer is AMAZING!

Sunday, October 17, 2010


by Robert Rauschenberg. No, just kidding. by me.
Instead of talking about how busy I am and what is stressing me out, I am going to talk about going to bed. It's my favorite part of the day. Well, going to bed, sleeping, and getting up are actually my favorite parts of the day. Maybe later I will tell you about getting up for the day, but probably not today, because this hard stool is already making me not want to sit here anymore and my coffee is almost gone. I will not tell you about sleeping because I am assuming you have done it before.
The "Going to Bed" process ideally starts around 9 pm. I love sleeping. Especially now that it is cold. What is the point of doing pretty much anything else? Step one is make tea. I just got chamomile tea in UB when I was there, but I also like peppermint. While the tea cools, I fill up my dipper with the rest of the hot water from the water boiler and poor it into the the reservoir above my sink. The reservoir is basically a small metal bucket with a faucet mounted above the sink. Hey look, running water! I wash my face with my Deep Clean Neutrogena Face Wash that my Aunt Sue sent me with the warm water that is a result of the freezing water left in the reservoir mixing with the boiling water just added.
Then I put the first layer of my pajamas on. They are the silky long underwear that are way to big that m dad gave me before I left. At first I did not know what to do with this 3XL long underwear set and was worried that my father either thought I was a giant or was unfamiliar how long underwear worked and thought perhaps it should go over the snowsuit. But then I realized they were prefect for sleeping. Ideally I would also have a small fire going at this point, probably for the last several hours. This is when I start letting it die (sorry fire, but if I go to bed when it is too warm I don't layer properly and then start to freeze around an hour later) and hang pajamas layer deux on the line next to fire between the two ger poles. Huge Mongolian faux pas, btdubs. Never supposed to have anything between those or hanging off of them. This makes for rapid reorganization if any Mongolian people who might be offended drop by. But by that time they are probably already offended as my door is locked when I am in it and that goes against the spirit of hospitality. Sometimes, not understanding it is locked, people will just pull and pull on my door thinking it is just stuck until I am afraid they are going to pull the whole thing down.
So anyway, with pajama layer one on and tea now a perfect drinking temperature, I read and drink tea while listening to my mellow "reading" playlist of iTunes, which consists of mostly Emmylou, Edith Piaf, Nanci Griffith, Jewel, Thelonius Monk, Sting's more mellower songs, and Belle & Sebastian. This is not the time for Rebel Hearts: Journey within the IRA's Soul, but something light and not at all scary. Currently I am reading the Little House collection that Aunt Casey sent for Book Bridge. Although sometimes they make me mad because Mary is so damned good, and poor Laura thinks she is so naughty. Also because they have things that I don't. Like an oven built in their wood burning stove so Ma can bake cakes. And an ice house. And Pa to chop the wood and build stuff and play the fiddle. *sigh*
By the time the tea is drunk, the ger has started to cool. So I convince myself not to have a 2nd cup of tea because I will regret it around 3 am when I can see my breath, brush my teeth, pee in bucket (don't judge me, it's cold!), check email and go offline on Skype and Facebook, and don pajamas layer deux,which are slightly warm from the fire. Layer deux is flannel pants and my Prairie Home Companion long sleeve tee. (As an aside, cool that I am reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and wearing a PHC tee, right? I miss SD.) I also put on giant man's socks my dad sent me (really, he must think I am a giant) and my grey hoodie, we'll call this pajama layer deux.5. I then carefully move sleeping kitty Babette and get into bed.
My bed is hilarious, I laugh at it every day. Originally it is basically a wooden frame with a piece of fabric over the wood. I can literally knock on it. It reminds me of that super thin carpet on the really hard floors at like a hospital, or a daycare. It resembles a bed only in appearance. So on the back half of the bed is what I actually sleep on. My "mattress" consists of a Mongolian bed pad which is like 1/5 of an American futon, 2 comforters, 3 emergency Peace Corps blankets, 1 wool blanket, camp pad my dad sent me (not giant but normal sized and awesome), and a ripped open sleep sack for a sheet. This creates a sleeping surface that is about 2 1/2 feet wide 6 inches off the "bed". I might be more comfortable with some of the blankets, especially the wool on, on top of me but they are not mine and I have no idea what has happened to them in their life before they met me and they give me the skeeby jeebies.
Ok so I move Babette, and wiggle into my sleeping bag. It is rated for -40F, but that must be just keep you alive at -40 and definitely not comfortable at -40. I move one of my extra pillows (that I made a pillow case for because of the skeeby jeebies) under my head turn on the rechargeable emergency torch the Peace Corps gave me which hangs from the hammock frame behind my bed. I settle in and read until the rechargeable light loses power and goes off, or I get tired, usually around 10:30. The pink microplush blanket gets put over my top half as I zip the sleeping bag up all the way, up over the pink blanket and over my head, and Velcro the top of the zipper together, to prevent accidental skin exposure. Then I have to slink one arm out and pull the top thin blanket up the rest of the way, which is tucked around my "mattress" tightly to hold me on the mattress and prevent the draft that comes through the zipper of the sleeping bag. The other arm replaces the cold one outside the covers to retrieve Burt's bees chapstick from hanging on the light switch directly above my head by it's duct tape holder for one last application. The hoods of both the grey hoodie and the sleeping bag are drawn up. If I am not tired enough or if I am too cold to sleep I pull my book and flashlight in with me and read one last chapter. Babette makes her way into the sleeping bag with me and settles in under my chin. I fall asleep while fighting my conflicting impulses to burrow down to the warmth and keep my nose exposed to breathe fresh air.

The whole going to sleep operation takes about 2 hours. 2 hours going to bed, 9 hours sleeping, 2 hours getting up and getting ready leaves only 11 hours to do other things. -3 hours for cooking/eating. -2 hours walking to and from my ger and any other place. -3 hours on the Internet. My useful day is basically 3 hours long.
Books I've recently read:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot ****
Although a little too scientific at times for my taste, it was broken up by the adventures of the author in search for the truth alternatively aided and hindered by the Lacks family. I generally liked it and felt smarter just carrying it around. Loaned to me by Amy, our wonderful Peace Corps Medical Officer.
Popism: The Warhol Sixties by Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett **
A strange string of anecdotes that makes everyone look shallow and crazy, especially Warhol, who seems to think he is superior because he is the only one not strung out. Funny a moments but left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
Bridget Jones 1 and 2 **
Funny at times, but once i looked up what a stone was and realized that most of the book was her complaining about her weight without justification, I was just annoyed.
Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins *****
I love Tom Robbins. This one and Another Roadside Attraction alternate being my favorite depending on which one i most recently read. Did anyone else hear him on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. Perfect.

love, C

PS The capris you left me mom are so flippin' comfortable I refuse to stop wearing them because it is winter. The boots you sent cover the part of the leg the pants don't anway.

PPS Sorry I made fun if the giant clothes you gave me dad. I really do appreciate them and I think you are swell!

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Sitemate Joyce and I hanging out at VSO volunteer Ihab's birthday party.
Friday I went with sitemate Jo to the monastery across the street from my hashaa (yard where my ger is set up) to honor her daughter, Victoria, who died in a car crash four years ago. She gave money and matches to the monks, while our friend and monk Bataar explained. The monks were chanting and a few were playing some instruments. It was exactly music; Jo described it more of a "joyful noise unto the Lord." It was really nice, peaceful and beautiful, and I am glad Jo let me be with her. We spent the rest of the day just chatting and eating and baking a cake for the evening.

Saturday, an American Buddhist monk was visiting Arvaikheer, so we all went to his lecture at the theatre. Sitemates Jo, Babila, and Allison and myself got to speak with a few minutes prior to the talk. All during his guided meditation people's cell phones were going off. Turning off cell phones or even not talking while something is happening on stage, whether it be a monk's lecture, musical performance, or competition, is just not one of the social norms here.

Yesterday I had a laundry marathon. Jo has a Korean washing machine and has been nice enough to offer its use to me. It's so nice to not have to wring out bigger items, so I took her up on the offer Sunda afternoon. Sunday morning I did the light laundry by hand and then around noon took a sweatshirt, my pajamas, 2 duffel bags that have cat spray (not from my cat, she's a girl!) on them, as well as the two micro fleece blankets my dad sent me forever ago and have never been washed (ew)! You should have seen the water that was coming out of the machine. Pretty frickin gross. Jo has an apartment with running water of course, but laundry is still a bit of an effort. First you have to fill up the machine with water by filling a dipper of water and pouring the dipper into the machine about 40 times. Then the clothes and the soap. It takes about 40 minutes to do a full cycle, alternating between slight agitation and soaking. Then you have drain the machine into a tumpen (shallow large basin) my lifting the drain hose back and down repeatedly and stopping to dump the soiled water down the drain befrore it gets too heavy to lift. .Then you fill up the tumpen with clean water and rince the clothes one of the time before putting them, again one at a time, into the spinner. After hanging all the clothes, you must again drain the machine. Better than hand washing perhaps, but it uses far more water and of course I have to haul the clothes back and forth to Jo's place, a good 10 minute walk. I was so appalled by the water coming out of the machine, I can't believe I have been sleeping with those blanklets. They smell amazing now!

Tonight is another meeting if the Harry Potter Book Club! I can't wait! I also got 2 (TWO!) packages today from my wonderful Aunt Casey (Maureen to her grown-up friends). I so appreciate the People Magazine, the books, the food, and especially the SHAM-WOW!s HAHAHA!

It's been really warm the past few days, which is exciting, but it makes me slightly apprehensive. Like the calm before the storm. Winter is coming! However, my favorite store just got peach yogurt, so I am hoping they keep getting it throughout the winter, so I can eat frozen yogurt. Plus I will make ice. And make huge fires and drink iced coffee.

love, C

PS. There is a recipe for a Healthy Cobb Salad. I spent a good couple of minute laughing after I read it and realized the only ingredients I have access to are black pepper and water. Pepper water sounds pretty good! hahaha!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Harry Potter Book Club!

Last night we had our second meeting of the Advanced English Book Club. Around 15 people participated, which was an increase from last week's 8 or so. Last night we finished chapter 1, The Boy Who Lived. Everyone took turns reading aloud and everyone seemed to get what was happening. Even people who originally claimed to be too shy eventually were peer pressured into reading. This is one of the things that I am really excited about here in the beginning of my second year. We hold the club on Monday evenings in Book Bridge Library at my friend Uugaana's NGO, the Youth Development Center. The library has 4 copies of the first book. 2 are the American editions and 2 are the british, which doesn't make much a difference beyond a few word changes. During the club, 3 or 4 people gather around every book. So if you know anyone who had to buy a copy of the HP books for each of their children so they wouldn't have to fight over a single copy, but now really only need 1 around the house, we could definately use some more. It is so amazing to have a group of people come to something that you organized and want to be there and participate.

Other things I am excited for include:

88 Bikes Project! 100 Bikes have been ordered for kids in Arvaikheer and will arrive around Oct. 15s to be given out end of October or early November, when a rep from 88 bikes can come. A second project in Hojirt soum is already being planned.

Monglish Night:
Tuesdays at Loving Hut Vegan Restaurant. People can come and practice English and we (PCV and VSO vlounteers) practice our Mongolian (sort of!) Good food, good relationships, fun times.

Site Mates:
Awesome people!

love, C

Sunday, September 19, 2010


And so school begins! This is a little past my half-way point, but it is really the beginning of my second year as school is starting again. There has already been some successes and frustrations.

The bike guys, Dan and Jared of 88 Bikes, came at the end of August. They LOVED Mongolia and could see this becoming their "flagship" project. They will either come back themselves or send a volunteer in October to give 50 -100 kids in my town of Arvaikheer bikes. They are also working with a partner NGO to establish a bike shop and are planning on doing a second project in the nearby soum of Hojirt, which is where my frined Brandon lived for the past 2 years. Super excited about all this as you may imagine. Just a reminder, you can visit their website to learn more or donate. It is only 88 dollars to donate a bike and you recieve a picture of the recipient and other cool info.

My school got a flat screen tv from somewhere. They hung it outside of my office. There are no outlets in the hallway, so the drilled a pretty large hole in the wall to run the cord through into my office. It is loud. :(

Tonight will be the first meeting of my Advanced English Book Club. I am really excited about this. I feel that there are plenty of resources for people in Arv who want to learn English, but there are few resources for those people who already speak English, but want to get even better. There are some English Teachers, World Vision Employees, and others that I think will get a lot out of this club. We are going to read Harry Potter. A Harry Potter Book Club in Mongolia! I love it!

My new sitemates are amazing! I am having so much fum with them! We have three new PCVs in Arv and one new soumer who lives in a small town Guchin-Os a few hours outside of Arv. Jo is from Ohio and works at 1st school in town. She has two grown sons back home and comes from a social work background. She is hilarious, swears like a sailor, and has a lot to offer "based on her vast years of experience" Joyce is right out of college and is working as an English Teacher at Merged School, which is near my school. She is full of hysterical self (and others) depricating humor and we get along great. She is from Florida and so, I am sure, is looking very much forward to winter. Babila is a business volunteer from Baltimore. He is also uproariously funny and quite a good dancer! I think he is already working too hard; he is going to make me look bad! They join Allison and I in Arv. Erin is our new soumer. I haven't got to spend much time with her yet, but so far I find her sweet as pie. I think she might be coming into town today for the first time since heading to site!

Some other things I have going on are a "Monglish" night a vegan restaurant Loving Hut with sitemattes and anyone interested in practicing English/staring at foreigners. 2 Life Skills Clubs and one Life Skills class. A possible dance club and tutoring the students who will compete in the english olympics As well as an English Teachers group, time in the disabled stidents room, and actually some french tutoring! I will keep you updated as these things progress.

I hope you all are well. I want to give a shout out to Jennie Clare, my forever friend, who just married a wonderful man. (Justin? I LOVE Justin!) I can't wait for more pics!

love, C