November 22, 2008

11/22/08 A Typical Day

Well, didn't really have anything 'exciting' to write this week so I thought I'd show you what my typical day looks like. (I know, real exciting stuff!) [laugh]

Because I've probably stayed up way too late the night before, I usually don't roll out of bed until 7:30. Which isn't really that bad when you consider that the sun is late coming up and it is so cold outside. After getting dressed, I wander down to the kitchen for a simple breakfast. One weekends I might have a full breakfast but during the week, it's usually just some toast and a hot cup of tea. While I'm sitting at the dinning room table, I can usually hear the women chanting downstairs in the water bowl offering room. They come every morning to fill the water bowls and then come back in the evening to empty them. To me, the chanting is a wonderful sound in which to start the day.

Then I put on a heavy coat and gloves and head outside to clean the stupa in front of the center. Because almost everyone uses coal to heat their homes, the air quality of Ulaanbaatar is considered one of the most polluted in the world during the winter months. Every morning there is a fine layer of soot on the white stupa. I have a broom that we only use for the stupa to clean it all off. If I miss a day, you can actually see your hand-prints the soot is that much. But I like the feeling I get making it clean for everyone who stops by.

After that, I head to my desk which is now in the Translation department which I share with Khulan and Daria. Tsetsgee prefers to use here classroom as her office but I'm glad to finally be out of my bedroom office. From 9 to 4 I work on creating my lesson plans. Thank goodness for the internet as I use it a lot to search for explanations and exercises for the grammar I'm teaching that day. I can honestly say I've learned more about English grammar in the last two and half months than I learned in my many years of school in my younger days.

About noon, I have Mongolian class with Tsetsgee for about an hour. This week I'm working my way through numbers from 0 to 9999. Still, it's the strange sound combinations that still makes it so difficult for me to learn Mongolian. Then I have English class for Tsetsgee. She is reading an English translation of the Dhammapada which I thought is very difficult because of it's almost poetic verse but that's what she wanted. She has a Mongolian translation of the Dhammapada so she can check her translation just in case.

Usually after the language classes, I stop by the Stupa Cafe for lunch. Naraa finally came back from vacation, only to change jobs. Instead of cooking for the staff, she now works full-time in the Cafe kitchen. I think I'll start taking pictures of my meals just to show you what I eat here.

At 4 I get dressed for class. Even though I would love to dress casual, most Mongolians dress nice, much like Europeans, so I try too also. I have two classes that run 90 minutes each. After those, I also have a thirty minute tutor session where I help the students by going over the lesson again or helping them with their homework. Sometimes they bring work from their regular school, and on occasion one young monk comes by for reading practice (he's reading a mystery novel).

So, by 8 or 8:30 I'm done and can relax a bit. If Naraa isn't still cooking in the kitchen I try to make something easy for dinner. I might try and read afterward but usually I'm back on the computer. I'm either working on more lessons, catching up on my emails, updating my both this website and my Facebook page, or reading a few of the other blogs I follow. Besides all that I have been working on a new class for next term plus quite a few other proposals for the English department.

Which takes me to late into the evening, usually close to or past midnight.

Weekends don't differ much. I'm still working most of the time. On Sunday I also teach Geshe-la Tenzin who is a Tibetan monk living here to teach Buddhism to Mongolians (He lives at Gandan Monastery). So, before he gives a teaching, we usually work together for an hour. I told him that maybe some day he can teach me Tibetan.

But the highlight of my weekend usually is when Ani Deki and Ani Tenzin come to the Center for the weekend (from the nunnery) because they usually cook wonderful Indian and Nepali food. They might be returning home soon so they took time this weekend to teach me some of their recipes. On Saturday it was tupa, a soup with home-made noodles. Sunday they took me out to show me where to shop for the ingredients and then cooked dal for lunch. I will definitely miss their cooking.

Ani Deki cuts while Ani Tenzin washes

Ani Tenzin makes what I call 'pinch-off' noodles

The finished tupa (in which I ate three bowls full)