Friday, December 25, 2009

I am a nerd

brace yourselves, this one is going to be a doozy

Wednesday: I woke up at 6 am, got all ready, and headed over to my hashaa family's house to see if they would give me a ride to the bus stop. After communication was established, they agreed and invited me to sit in the kitchen until departure. The door of the house opens into a little entry way of sorts which has two doors leading off of it. The door to the right opens up into a room about the size of a standard hotel room minus the bathroom. At least 3 adults and 2 children sleep in that room. The door to the left opens to the kitchen, about the size a king sized bed. Two doorways (sans doors) each lead to a small room, think the length of a hotel room, but the width of a large hallway. The room straight ahead leads to a 3rd bedroom. On this side of the house sleep 7 adults and a baby. It was amazing to see all of these people get ready without getting in each others way or on each others nerves and without a bathroom. Seeing my director kiss on her grand baby was pretty much the cutest thing ever.

Anyhoo, they drove me to the bus, I got my big backpack put in the undercarriage compartment, and got my seat, which was right up front since I bought my ticket so early the day before. Then a teacher from my school got on the bus and had something she wanted to communicate to me, i think about her bag she brought, but I am not really sure. All through this she is standing next to my seat and I have my cat in a cat bag on my lap and people are trying to get past her to get on the bus. She keeps leaning over me/almost sitting on me, while I am trying to figure out what she is talking about and trying to prevent the squishing of said cat. It is also dark and freezing. Eventually everyone gets to their seats and the bus departs.

The bus always stops around halfway between Arvaikheer and UB, either at a small town or at a hotel/restaurant a little ways outside of the small town. Wednesday it was the hotel, which I like better, due to the indoor toilets mostly. I got a fried egg and a small bowl of meat for my princess kitten. After I ate, we went outside so she could eat. This attracted much attention, mostly good, from the men milling around, smoking and peeing, outside. Soon we were all on the bus again. Since the door was still open and it was very cold, I put Phoebs the Cat in my sweatshirt with her little head poking out. I thought departure was eminent, but then large Mongolian man, a wrestler? the proprietor?, came out of the establishment with a traditional blue scarf (Hatdeg, i think they are called) and some other items and evidently wanted to present them to someone. Most of the men get off the bus again and one of the waitresses is sent on the bus to get me. Unable to stow Phoebe back in her bag before I was pulled of the bus, she remained in my shirt. The man then presents two decorous metal objects and the scarf to the driver and many pictures are taken. The large man and the driver, the man and a group of passengers, the man and me, the driver and me, a little boy, possible large man's offspring, and me, the man and my cat, the boy and my cat. After some small chat in which I stun the men by telling them i live in a ger, we re board. As everyone shuffles past my front row seat, they touch the nose of my cat. Finally as the bus starts rolling, a man across the aisle puts his finger in his mouth and then puts the finger in Phoebe's ear.

Upon arriving in UB, I shake off around twenty drivers trying to get me in their cabs, grab my bag, and head into the ticket office to procure a bus ticket to Darkhan. I discover that they are not selling tickets right now, but a bus leaves to Darkhan every hour and I can purchase a ticket once I am on the bus of my choosing. I then put my trust in a nice young Mongolian girl to watch my bags while I run to toll toilet. 100 tugruks to use, another 100 for toilet paper. Thankfully, by bags, including the one with my cat, are still there when I return. I find a cab and head to the peace corps office.

At PC, I find that a PCV who accidentally took my flip flops back in August, has placed them in my box. (woohoo! Thanks Amanda!) I drop off some paperwork and say hi too the people working and ask for suggestions on food that is nearby, fast, and yummy. One of the Mongolians I ask offers me the half of her sandwich she couldn't finish for lunch. What a peach! It was a chicken club and it was very nearby, fast, and extremely yummy! Best thing to happen ever.

A little while later I walk with fellow PCV Alice to the duty free store to make a Christmas purchase and then to the main road to get a taxi. She heads to Big Burger and I get a cab and head back to Dragon Center to hopefully find a bus.

Taxis in Mongolia are everywhere. Almost anybody will pick you up and take you to your destination, not just people who drive for a living, but really anyone if they have the time. And if you are a foreigner, especially one with bags, people really want to get you in their cab. The trick is to confirm that they will charge you 500 tugruks a kilometer and now approximately how much you should be charged for the trip. Dragon Center to around PC is about 4000 tugruks. It also helps to speak Mongolian and let them know that you live in Mongolia and are not just a wealthy tourist. It is alot easier to convince them of this in the middle of December. I always ask them if they live in the city, ask them how their job is, ask them if they know Overhunghai (my a state), tell them I live in Arvaikheer, and then clench it with telling them I live in a ger. They love this. A woman living in a ger alone never happens and a white girl doing it is hilarious. They usually ask me if my ger is cold and if I am an English teacher. Not only does this usually prevent hassles about the charge, but they usually help with my bags and are really nice.

Arriving at Dragon Center is hilarious. About 15 guys are trying to get me to go to wherever their vehicle is headed. Once I say Darkhan, a few grab my bags and head towards their meekers. A meeker is a small van type vehicle that are everywhere here. I try to insist on going on the bus, which are a safer bet, but they tell me a bus isn't leaving for another few hours and the most insistent driver tells me his meeker will leave in 40 minutes. So I have my first traveling by meeker for more than an hour experience. It actually was fine. We were not that crowded (only 15 people, I rode in one this summer with 22) and the we made no stops along the way. There are many stories of drivers stopping in the middle of the countryside at a ger for some socializing, vodka, and what not. About an hour in the guy sitting next to me with two large boxes between his legs turns to be and asks in English if I am going to Darkhan. He turns out to speak fairly good English and is a very nice young man. About 2 hours in the weather starts to turn bad. Blowing snow and high winds. I want to tell the driver that, from someone who grew up in South Dakota, it is actually better to not have your brights on during blowing snow since it just reflects off the snow and makes it even more difficult to see, but my Mongolian isn't nearly that good so I just had to hope for the best. It turns out that my meeker friend lives across the street from Steph and Ryan, so we were able to share a taxi and I finally made it to their apartment. 6 hours on a bus, 3 1/2 in a meeker, and Phoebe and I arrived! woohoo!

Wow, this is a long post. Descriptions of Christmas festivities will have to wait. Happy Christmas I love you all! love, C

PS thanks for the note Camber's mom! Happy Holidays!


Deirdre said...

It was so good to talk to you on Christmas. You are a light in any place, and are missed.
We are still having the blizzard of aught '9. Crazy. Like otherworldly. Our house is packed full of cool stuff and boxes and boots and outerwear and stuff. And cats and a dog and kids and an auntie and me. And dirty laundry and stuff to go back over to Mom's and stuff to go to Sallie Ann's. And a Christmas Tree, but not you. Dang it.
Still no Road. Dang it.
I am going to take Mom to FNB, but not this weekend. Brrrr...

love, ma

kate said...

Great descriptions! Haha I love those bewildering, chaotic experiences where language is not shared and you just have to go by intuition, trust, and courage. I had alot of those, and they almost always worked out wonderfully. Except in Egypt.
I got completely feted for Christmas. I must have been very, very good. Wow. We'll see Don and Kim tomorrow, if we can dig the front door out of the drifting snow. This storm is really like a cartoon, you just can't believe it. But you grew up in SD and live now in a ger, I'll bet you can imagine.
I love you so!

Gabb said...

Wow, that was impressive. And hilarious. How does a cat react to a wet willie?
Our much hyped snow storm has ended. Aaron and I got stuck in Brandon Wed-Sun because they closed the interstates down. We got about 20" of snow. I shoveled the roof of my parent's garage and made a pile so big that we were all able to jump off the roof into it. We did the same with the deck. We weren't able to make it to Morris.
This week Aaron is staying with me because the company he is contracted to has the week off. We're going back to SuFu to stay with friends for New Years, where I will salute you with Malibu and pineapple juice. I've gotten most of them to salute you with whiskey and water in the past, but I don't think they'll do that again.
Emily is en route to California via bus with her marching band to wow the west coast with her snare-drum skills. They are also stopping at the Grand Canyon and Sea World. This leaves Susi alone with my parents for a week. I laugh in her general direction.
I miss you terribly. Hope you had a wonderful holiday!