November 7, 2008

11/7/09 Two Month Anniversary

Can you believe I've already been here two months. Time flies. Sometimes I worry that the year will fly by and I won't be any closer to learning the language or getting to know the people and the culture. Just have to find that balance between work and non-work.

Well, I've gotten on the FaceBook bandwagon. I'm not sure why exactly, but thought I'd give it a try. Maybe I will find other readers interested in my travels, specifically my volunteer work in Mongolia. It was a bit of work to set it up, but now it should run automatically, so you can view my post there if you're on FaceBook. My public site is or you can ask me for an invite for my private profile page. Kind of surprised me all the people I found out I know on Facebook. Wow.

One of my favorite cousins, Cynthia, and her cool husband, Jean-Yves, are getting ready to embark on a huge tour of Asia. They leave next week and expect to keep traveling until February through Nepal, India, and Thailand. Yippie! You can follow all their adventures on their blog Voyage en Orient.

Tsetsgee and I seem to go out to lunch about once a week. One day she surprised me by taking me to a vegetarian restaurant. With us was one of our students who knew how to find this elussive restaurant which we were told was 'the best.' I think I can find it again but getting there was a bit difficult. First you go behind the MobiCom (one of the big cell phone companies in UB), walk through the gate and up some stairs. Inside you climb to the third floor and go into the clothing market (probably 20 vendor stalls selling all sorts of clothes), wind your way through to the back and there is a very small doorway with a cardboard sign overhead, you're there. Inside were a few tables, but the food was very good and very cheap - mine cost about $1.30 for a full lunch. Not sure I could go there by myself as no one spoke English and the menu was in Mongolian. But you never know, it was good enough, I might chance it again.

Khulan, the head of the translation department, took me out for dinner because I helped her with some tricky translation work. We did the work for free but the grateful person whom we translated for still insisted we accept a small gift (of cash). So we went to a nice restaurant (means the entrees were almost $10). I had a good time and the food was excellent too. Unfortunately I can't remember the name or even how to find it again since we walked there in the dark.

Speaking of translation, another translator who worked here at the center a few years ago came buy asking for help translating a construction project document. Even with Tsetsgee, Oogii and a few other Mongolians who spoke English, I still had a terrible time translating it. And that was with the advantage of me having been an engineer. Finally we decided the original Mongolian was the worst writing which doesn't surprise me when you remember that an engineer wrote it in the first place. The translator who needed it done finally came by and between the two of us, we had it done in an hour, and that was only for one page. One of my biggest difficulties was that I was not only trying to translate the text, but I was also trying to improve the writing. The translator kept telling me 'Too much."

I know I should have known it was going to happen, but every time I get a great class going, the power goes out. On Thursday the lights went out about 15 minutes into my first class. My classroom is in the basement so no light from outside. The small emergency light only worked for a bit but kept fading almost immediately. But everyone was having so much fun, we kept on going. We were practicing the 'voiced' and 'voiceless' TH sounds. I know, I didn't know they existed before I started to teach them. And Mongolians have a terrible time with any sound where the tongue comes out of the mouth. By the time the second class started, my students were using their cell phones to light their papers and my whiteboard was illuminated by candle light. Everybody, including me, seemed to have a lot of fun despite the circumstances.

And just to prove it wasn't a fluke, my Intermediate-2 the next day (where we had power and lights) also had fun with my pronunciation class. Feels great to finish the week on a high note.

And I still have a lot to do this weekend, most for work. Next week we start a Friday English Movie Night that will run every two weeks. We will show a movie that is in English and/or has English subtitles, and I'm in kind of in charge of putting this together. And to also ease some of the crowding in the Stupa Cafe by students, I'm opening up my classroom during the day as someplace anyone can study. I need to get the room ready so who ever uses it can be there unsupervised. And there's always more lesson plans and next week the Pre-Intermediates have a test. Guess it's good to be busy.

But there is one event happening just for fun. Saturday night (Sunday morning for me) a bunch of guys I went to grade school with oh so many years ago are going to have a reunion concert back home in Kansas City Missouri in the ol'US of A. Yes, concert. It's turning out to be an un-official grade school high school reunion of sorts. Jesse (whom readers might know from my AT thruhike journals) is setting it up so I can view the concert via Skype while also allowing folks to text me while the music is playing. How cool is that!