Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wet Hot Mongolian Summer

If you have seen the movies CAMP or Wet Hot American Summer, then you have a pretty good idea what my 3 days at camp were like (only not really because I am in Mongolia). Our time at camp was supposed to be this last weekend, but as it turned out that there weren’t going to be any kids there until Sunday, our fearless leaders (Leslie and Uugana) wisely decided to have us not go to camp to get experience working with kids until Sunday, when there would be actual children there. As it was, there was supposed to be 70 kids and there were 30. This was great though as we were able to get to know the kids a little bit better than we would have if there had been twice as many. The camp is in a region called Terelch, which I have no idea how to spell but is apparently the Yellowstone of Mongolia. It was about a 2-hour drive (through UB!) from Zuumod in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Awesome rock formations, green grass, and more sky that I thought possible. We even got to see some camels on the side of the road on the way there and back. Camel by the way is Timee in Mongolian for all you South Park fans out there.
Sunday we had a scavenger hunt with the kids. The list was in Mongolian and consisted mostly of getting pictures of group members touching something specific (like a cow) or doing something ridiculous (such as 3 people doing cartwheels or making a human pyramid.) The kids (mostly teenagers) really enjoyed being the boss since they knoe Mongolian and knew therefore what we were supposed to do. Mostly they would just position Megan, my partner, and I, and then grab her camera and take a picture of whatever we were doing while we really had no idea what was going on. One of the tasks we had to do was explain s’mores to them in Mongolia. Luckily one of the kids in my group knew what a marshmallow was. We had no idea how to describe that! (I said it was a small white food ball that was sticky…I think.) Our description put it between two cookies with a small piece of chocolate. I also explained that you should only have one or two or you will get sick, which made me miss my Super Smart Sassy Sweet Small Sisters. We also played sand volleyball for a while and ate lunch, tea time, dinner, and bed time yogurt.
Monday, four people taught life skills classes (i.e. Communication, Stress Management, Planning, Decision Making, Empathy, HIV/AIDS, Relationships, ) while the rest of us observed two sessions and hung out with the kids. The kids also put on talent show that consisted of songs, poetry reading, monologues, skits, and dances. The skits were short scenes that the “director” would stop and tell them to do it with more emotion or faster or funnier after which they would do the scene again only with everyone laughing, or crying, or in top speed. A very talented young girl did one monologue with a pillow under her dirt and complaining the father leaving her and her baby crying for a father in her womb. A gifted young man sang a song, alone on the stage without accompaniment and seemingly without being embarrassed in front of his friends or being nervous. The show ended with a great group dance to a Michael Jackson medley including Beat It and Thriller. It was highly entertaining and we all loved it! More volleyball was played, more conversations were attempted, and more food was eaten. Honestly the lovely camp staff tried to feed us every 2 hours. 9 (ish) breakfast, 11 (ish) was tea, 1 (ish) lunch, 5 (ish) was tea, 7 (ish) dinner, and 9 (ish) yogurt. Our first day our fearless leaders asked the little girl that I think was the daughter of one of the kitchen staff what time breakfast would be the next day so we could make sure we were up. She replied that breakfast would be when she blew the horn in such a sassy matter-of-fact way that it made me wonder if there was a “duh!” equivalent in Mongolian. And indeed every meal happened when she blew the horn, which was a bugle type instrument that sounded vaguely like a cow farting. It was great. Between dinner and yogurt, we built a fire and made s’mores for the campers (on which was spent our entire petty cash budget for camp). We used some vaguely graham-ish crackers as well as some that turned out to be lemon flavor, some decent chocolate called Alpine Gold, and marshmallows, half of which turned out to be strawberry flavored. After s’mores we all sat around the fire and sang songs (mostly The Beatles and Mongolian songs with a little Madonna, although I did bring a little Janis Joplin to Mongolia in the form of a song of great social and political import). It was a truly magical moment sitting there with Mongolian teenagers, enjoying our lemon strawberry s’mores and each other’s company. Mongolians are very comfortable with each other, sharing chairs and leaning on each other and having there arms around each other and other small signs of intimacy. It was so heart warming to see a 17 year old boy leaning back in his a chair to lean on his friend, with his friends arms around him. There is literally no homophobia here and boys are just as touchy as girls.
Tuesday, 3 others and I taught our life skills lessons and played more games. The camp director, who is a famous Mongolian wrestler, came out as well. After two meals, two snacks, and a little more volleyball, it was time for us to say goodbye.
On the way home to Zuunmod, we stopped in UB for dinner. I had an ICED! mocha, another cup of ice, and barbeque chicken and bacon pizza. They also filled my water bottle with ice, which is still ice this morning, and I was able to buy two boxes of Kraft Mac and Cheese. I went 45 days without ice and I was so happy! Seriously, I almost cried. Pizza, coffee, and ice. Plus the promise of Mac and Cheese. I was so tried and dirty and content. (Although I was pretty caffeinated for the hour ride home and apparently slightly annoyed my lovely training mates with my stimulating conversation (constant chatter). love, C


kate said...

Yay! You're back! I missed you, checked your blog every day. I love your descriptions and narrative of what is happening in your life. So fun. I'm glad that you get those treats, I know how much it means. I remember trying to get vegetarian food in Argentina (ha!) or coffee in SE Asia, land of tea.
I have one more day of work, then vacation. I don't actually fly to Boston until Sunday, so Friday and Saturday it' guessed it, Home Improvement projects! Ted, a Fabulous Fairee, is moving in on Saturday. I hope he waters the lawn while I'm gone. It's been raining alot, perhaps this trend will continue and he won't have to water at all.
I ended up working Rocky Grass, the relentless Bluegrass festival, up above Boulder last week-end. I need time more than money, but the stage manager pleaded with me, was short, so I ran for the hills. I'm very glad that I did, I love those guys. Not much sleep, though. There was a parade at 4 a.m., and a picking circle on the hood of my truck.
I got to talk with Claire yesterday on her cell phone, from Steamboat, but they were playing Parcheesi (sp?) so she was quite distracted.
Did you take pictures of this oh so beautiful place? How are the vehicles that you ride in? Was somebody riding the camels, or were they used as pack animals? All these questions and more. Thanks for blogging! Love to you!

Camber Carpenter said...

Great post, Maitlin.
I feel like I was there...
You are a rockstar

And I know what you mean about the lack of homophobia--my male students do the same things, only sometimes it gets out of hand and I have to tell them not to touch each other's "jay jays".

And how did that girl put a pillow under her dirt?
That's a talent right there.

Deirdre said...


Deirdre said...

I had a problem getting on line. But here I am now. Cooolio on the camping trip. That sounds like awesome on a stick. I am so glad you got to bbq chkn pizza. yeah baby.

I am sorry if I was short on the phone this morning. We were not having a very good night. I was a little sleepy and anxious and overstimulated. Member the time I could stay up all night all the time. Yeah. Me neither.

I love you. I miss you as much as you like bbq chicken pizza. Really all that and more.

love always and forver, your mamma

Caitlin Rose said...

Kate's questions: We rode in a small bus to camp with seats for about 20 and about 30 of us with all our luggage. We rode in a meeker (microbus) on the way back with seats for 11 and there were exactly 11 of us with all our luggage. There were some white people riding the camels we saw on the way there, but they were just grazing on the way back. love, C