Saturday, August 29, 2009


“How do I go to the bathroom when it won’t stop raining?

Hello faithful readers! I apologize for the lack of ridiculously long and intriguing posts to test your love and your patience. But you need not wait any longer. I have a decent playlist going on my computer (Elvis Costello, Arcade Fire, The Ramones, The Young Dubliners, Buckwheat Zydeco, The Pogues, Pearl Jam, Rufus Wainwright, The Bodeans, Flogging Molly…), my feet up on the obligatory Mongolian little plastic stools, and my laundry drying optimistically outside my ger in the sun. They are hoping to dry fully before it rains again and I am humoring them.
Question: How can I feed myself when I barely know how to cook in the states and I don’t have an oven nor ingredients I am familiar with, nor lean pockets?
Arvaikheer is a swell little Mongolian town. It lacks neither on sky nor on indistinguishable little delguurs (shops) every 20 meters or so. I have found both yarn and vegetable crackers so I want for very little. (lie, lie, lies! I will spare you the extensive list of trivialities that I want, for things that can actually be sent please see the list to the left.) There is one ATM in town in the building with the 24-hour delguur. There is a couple internet cafés, neither or which is as nice as the one in Zuunmod that we go to use during training, but c’est la vie poo poo. (Hi mom!) There are some places to shower, which I have yet to use as I brought a solar shower. (Thanks Aunt Kate!) My hashaa (yard) is a 15 minute walk from most things and a 20 minute to my school. So far, I really enjoy the stroll. I can put on my ipod on shuffle and collect my thoughts. I love hearing a song and remembering where I got it, tons from my mom, Aunt Kate, my dad, and Uncle Dave, a few from Aunt Sue, Kat, Joe & Brie’s daddy, and some from my young adulthood. Almost every song makes me smile and new contributions are always welcome.
Question: Is it better to have flies everyone or be very very cold?
Ask again in a couple months when I have experienced both.
I mentioned my hashaa earlier and feel it deserves more of a description. Mongolians, if not in an apartment, often live in a hashaa, which is surrounded by a tall fence of wood or metal sheets. Inside a hashaa you will find a house and/or a ger, an outhouse, and varies other requirements. Mine has a brick house, a wooden structure (dwelling? shed?), 3 gers (the grandma’s, mine, and one made of metal which I have never seen before and have no idea what it is used for), an outhouse, a shed, a woodpile and various pieces of metal. Almost every hashaa comes with a hashaa dog, and mine is no different. His name is Aslan which means lion which is really interesting if you are a CS Lewis fan. He seems uninterested in biting me which is great and actually seems to like me, but I don’t throw rocks at him so there you go. I am hopefully going to get a cat in the next few days from my counterparts sister. Mongolians tend to name their dogs Aslan or Nahoi, which means dog. I was discussing what I was going to name my cat with my counterpart (Tungaa) and she suggested Moor (which means cat) or Aslan. She said it would be ok even though the dog’s name is Aslan. I think I am actually going to go with Tomc which sounds like the name of the fawn in Narnia and means potato in Mongolian. This may have been the funniest thing my counterpart has ever heard.
Question: How bad is it that I love in a felt tent with a wood burning
stove in the middle and my smoke alarm won’t work?
School start Monday morning. I am apparently giving a speech in Mongolian to all the staff and students. I anticipate it being a very short speech. I hope it is sunny for at least an hour or two tomorrow so I can let the water in my solar shower heat up so my shower won’t be miserable. I am supposed to dress up for Monday and I suppose a shower wouldn’t hurt.
Question: Are cucumber and mayonnaise sandwiches a balanced meal?
I have almost watched the entirety of the West Wing…again. I am almost done with my second book since arriving in Arvikheer. I have watched 4 movies. Listened to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire AudioBook. I should find more to do, like maybe learn to cook. I have been basically surviving on cold spaghetti sause type stuff and the afore mentioned vegetable crackers. I really need to get some material to help me learn to play the guitar I randomly bought.
Fact: Mongolian milk hot with Russian chocolate powder makes me sleepy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Doug Smith

My uncle Doug passed away yesterday. He was a really great guy with a really great family. I wish I could be in Steamboat right now. It is really hard being away from everyone you love, especially at a time when you need each other. School starts next week, which will keep me busy, but I will have more access to a computer, which means longer posts, more pictures, and a happier me.
PS. When I get home, I am going to put on my last brand new clean pair of smartwool socks. I love you Aunt Casey. You are all in my thoughts... love, C

Friday, August 21, 2009

The cutest ger in all the land!

I made it to Arvakheer and to the most adorable of all gers. It is a five wall, which was a welcome suprise and it was very hot and cozy when I arrived. I am super happy with it and am extreemly hopeful and optimistic for my winterly survival. More to come later. love, C

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I has phone!

011 + 976 + 95715692 call me! love, C

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Final Center days

OK ok, sorry. I met my counterpart and she said the address in the roman alphabet is fine. No cyrillic for you! Just write the English version.
So yes, I met my counterpart. She is 24 (although because Mongolians often add a year to count the time they spent in utero, she is probably actually 23) Her name is Tungaa and I am super excited about working with her. She is the school social worker, although often in Mongolia that involves more party planning than anything. Apparently my school I will be going to has many children with special needs as well as some children that come from very poor families. I will make sure to update as soon as I get to site, probably on Friday. I miss you all! love, C
p.s. more pics!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


That is in Overkhangai Aimag. Arvaikheer is the capital and that is where I am moving to after swearing in on Wednesday! It has a population of 110,400 people. My mailing address is:

Caitlin Monahan
Secondary School #2
Araikheer City
Overkhangai aimag

2-P CуPГууЛb

Try to write both the english and cyrillic on packages or letters. It may make the difference between me getting the precious things you send or not! It can actually be fun! (weee!) The y ended up looking funny, but can actually be the same size as the other letters, as can the й. Don't alter much else. ie the capital B must remain so as it is actually a different letter than b. Thanks kids!

I just recieved my second care package look forward to getting more at my site! We are in our final days of PCT and are about to swear in to be full PCVs! I am thrilled. It turns out I will definately be living in a ger! It is only a 4 wall, so it will be small, but I am excited to have my own space. I will be a social worker in a secondary school with 3600 students, 98 teachers, 46 other workers, and 13 English Teachers! I am sure I will do a fair amount of English Teaching, but my main job is Youth Development, so clubs is definately something I will work on. The adverage classroom has 45 students. I will add more specific things to the list of wants on the left of my blog, but please make sure to send a note with all packages, pictures are also great! love, C

Friday, August 7, 2009


Here are some public links for the pics I put on Facebook. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My mother’s handwriting

When I saw the small brown package with my mother’s handwriting on it, I almost wept for joy. I wasn’t supposed to look until after class, but I snuck a peek in the meeker on the way in and there it was. A package for me! I smiled all the way through CYD sector training and ran out before everyone else, purple Leatherman in hand. The package had “via China” written on it about 7 seven times and one desperate “China! Please!” I laughed out loud. (I saved the part of the package where you wrote your return address. It just looked so friendly.) Yum yum beef jerky. Yum yum Mac and Cheese. Yum Yum Dino Maple and Brown Sugar Outmeal! A small nylon loop pot holder from my baby sister and a card that said “cakey” Also some Emergen-Cs and some peanut butter. (Which should probably be sent in a plastic bag of some sort…love and learn.) I was literally skipping.
In other news, I have moved in with my PCT BFF Katie Holder. My original family was just too busy to be home much and I am too poor to be paying for food. Katie has a queen bed and a giant room so we are pretty comfortable. They have a shower, which I used last night (It looks like a space pod, beam me up!) and hot water! It’s very “posh” corps. Her family is great. Aaw (dad) is in China, but Eej (mom) and the girls Jagaa (17) and Tuxhoo (11 yesterday!) are you and are sweet as pie. We taught them how to play Yahtzee last night and they loved it. (Remember when you bought me those Yahtzee scorecards, dad? Big Hit!)
Everyone is pretty ready for PST to be over. We are working hard to learn our acts for Swearing In on the 19th. Eight people are dancing and a couple people are singing (I am one of those who are singing.) To give us an idea of what people have done in the past, they showed us the video from last year. The M19s are a talented group of people! It will certainly be a hard act to follow. Only 10 days until we find out our site placement. I have a “perfect site scenario” in my head, which is probably a bad idea because I don’t want to be disappointed, but I can’t help it. I can’t wait to get my address so I can start getting more packages. The stuff in the packages are great, but even better is the feeling I got from being connected to home.
Fact: I got a new tumpen as the old one broke. It is blue. But still plastic.
Fact: Megan;'s mom sent homemade cookies. Baked goods are a go!
Can you believe I have been here 53 days?!?! love, C

Saturday, August 1, 2009

UB visit

Friday was the CYD’s first official visit to UB. (Here in the PC, we love our acronyms! CYD = Community Youth Development consists of 8 young women including myself. Our PST = Pre Service Training is in Zuunmod with the CED = Community Economic Development, there are 7 of them) The CEDs have gotten to go a couple of times before for business trips and some people have gone with there families, but this was my first time besides the quick stop for pizza earlier in the week. One of our LCFs (Language Community Facilitators?) Oogii came with us, so the 16 of us piled into a Meeker (Microbus with 13 seats) and headed north.
Some XC (Cross Culture) staff was waiting at the meeker station to meet us. The meeker station is a crazy dirt parking lot with meekers coming and going and drivers shouting to try and get you to ride with them, regardless of how many times you say you do not need transportation and do not want to go to Darkhan. The XC people split us up and the CYDs headed to the train station. Train, by the way, is Galt Tereg in Mongolian that literally translated as “Fire Cart” which pleases me. Also kitchen translates as “Fire Room.” The train station was pretty typical and not very exciting and apparently without bathrooms. From there we headed to the Dragon Center, which is another meeker parking lot if you are heading west, I think. This did have a bathroom for 100 Tugriks, which was well worth it. We rode city buses to and fro the Dragon Center, but had to walk significant amounts before getting picked up. I do not entirely understand the system, but it is the cheapest mode of transportation, so I will probably just wing it next time I am in Xot. (sounds like Hoht, means city, refers exclusively to UB.)
We were able to briefly visit the PC office, see some M18s who are in the process of COS (close of service) see the collection of books that you can take and return at any time (WOOHOO!) and briefly speak to Jim Carl, out CD (country director.) Here, we were able to use the nicest bathroom yet and convince Leslie to go eat with us. They pointed out some UB guesthouses or hostels on the way to the restaurant, which is where we will stay when we are in the city during our service. We ate at an American-esque restaurant. I had a BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger. I must express my pride in my digestive system at this time. Many people after pizza on Tuesday and even after lunch on Friday got sick. It’s like there systems went into shock after so much time eating Mongolian food to be presented with so much cheese and greens. My system however had no problem with 45 days of no cheese or decent caffeine to suddenly having copious amounts of both. In fact I think my stomach never felt so good in Mongolia than when there was a pound of melted cheese. I think I may actually need cheese to live a full life. (A quick shout out to Cousin Ellie, a fellow cheese lover!)
After lunch we visited Suhkbaatar Square where we saw tourists (Hey look, white people!) We also saw a wedding party and big statue of both Sukhbaatar and Chinggis. Then we went to a museum in a former Buddhist Temple. I need to learn more about Buddhism, I thought they were all about the peace, but the ceiling had all sorts of dismembered body parts painted on it. I had a book as a kid at Grandma and Grandpa’s house about a little Chinese woman the dropped her dumpling down a crack and had to visit the underworld to get it back. (Do you lovely grandparents still have this book? Do you remember what it was called?) The book fascinated me and terrified me, much like some of the imagery in the temple.
Shopping in UB is a bittersweet experience. We went to three different stores, all which sold various American type items next to their more Mongolian counterparts. Swiss Miss around the corner from a pig head. Tongues of unknown origin very near Jiffy Peanut Butter. Many of these things were things I wanted, but out of the range of a PC budget. So, I resisted the purchase of a cake mix (I don’t have an oven, but I could mix it with water and just eat it!) but did buy some cherry tomatoes. I also bought some American pens that work, a snickers ice cream bar, some gum, and a bottle of Diet Peach Snapple Iced Tea. (Alas, there was no Snapple fact, so I was unable to carry on my quest of knowledge.)
By the time we made it back to the meeker station, the CEDs had left so we shared with some Mongolians going our way and said goodbye to our hosts. Two Peace Corps interns had been with us all day and were very worried about sending 8 American girls off by themselves, but we convinced them that they needn’t ride an hour to Zuunmod with us to make sure we were safe, only to turn around and come right back to UB. We got back at 7, dirty and tired from walking a 10K around UB. I managed to do laundry and get to bed by 11. We had language Sat morning. Today is Sunday and my first day off in 2 weeks! I plan to spend it here on the Internet, napping, homework, and I may even take a shower.
Random Facts: Two weeks until place announcement. 13 days until our LPI and TAP, (Language Proficiency something? and I don’t know what TAP stands for but it is our sector training reviews…Training Assessment Performance?) Training is winding down. I am learning a Mongolian song to sing at Swearing In. I met my Host Father’s Sister’s Husband on Thursday. He lived in the states for a while and is super nice and speaks awesome English. I miss you and fruit and cheese and my Super Smart Sassy Sweet Small Sisters. I talk about them all the time. It may annoy my site mates. I don’t care in the slightest. I think about the people I love in Steamboat every day.
Home things on my mind right now: Rushmore Waterslides, Deadwood, My mom, my RCCC kids (hi Morgan’s Mom!), mom’s burritos, Rowan and Tina and Michelle, Tasha, my Super Smart Sassy Sweet Small Sisters, spillway with Allison, Karaoke with Gabb, and much more!
Here things: getting out of bed, eating a cucumber sandwich, brushing my teeth, wearing clean jeans.
It is funny how I am in Mongolia and yet my daily little life activities are pretty ordinary. It is home that has become extraordinary in my thoughts.
love, C