March 14, 2010

Back in M.o.n.g.o.l.i.a

I must have the best air travel karma around. My 14 hour flight from Chicago to Beijing couldn't have been better. I sat with my back to the restrooms, and for some reason my row had one less seat so there was even room to stand up without being in the aisle. Sat next to Bruce Wang, a Chinese-American on his way to China with two business associates. We talked a bit about this or that. The whole trip was just pleasant, but long, very long. Beijing airport was huge, no doubt built for the mass of travelers during the Olympics, but now seemed cavernous because of so few people.

Arrived in Ulaanbaatar safe and sound. For all the travel I've done over the years, and I have yet to miss a flight or loose a bag, although I thought that wasn't the case this time. Lucky for me, my bags were the very last to come off the plane. And, amid the throng of people waiting at the gate, there was Norov ready to carry my bags and get me back home. He's such a great guy to be there on a late Friday night to pick me up. Unfortunately for both of us, neither speaks the others language, so the long drive from the airport is frustratingly silent. But it did let me notice the foul air of the city. They say breathing a winter of the air full of smog from the coal fires is the same as smoking for six years. I usually don't notice it much, which is scary, but I sure did on the drive back into the city.

I was gone less than four weeks but it already seemed like I was in a different place again, full of culture shock. While I was gone some things didn't get done, but then others did surprisingly, and others were waiting for me to do 'right now'. The biggest problem was the lack of returning students registering for my classes. As Tsetsgee tells me, families often go in debt preparing for Tsagaan Sar and the month after is often lean times for too many people. She thinks that's why so few were able to sign up for my classes just three weeks after Tsagaan Sar.

I did test about 25 new students and Tsetsgee had another 15 coming up from her Pre-Intermediate classes, so in the end, I had a full roster of 100 students, with even about 12 on the waiting list. I'm excited this semester because I have so much planned. But after my time away, I decided that I needed to actually do less, but have it planned better. At least that's the plan. Besides classes, I'm organizing an English Club that will work on our online lessons called 'Video Vocabulary' and 'Medical English', plus movie night starts with 'Pirates of the Carribean' this weekend, will start on the next Anglihel CD, hope to start a monthly discussion group, and last but not least, I need to start organizing a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) course to be given in June.

The biggest shock of coming home was the cats. Yes, they're still here and healthy as ever, but they seemed to have had a personality change, Mani especially. You know Mani, the evil cat from hell, who would only let you touch her so she could get you close enough to bite a chunk out of. Well, now she's a sweet lap cat. I can't believe it. I even found her sitting in Khulan's lap while she worked. I mean I've never seen her do that, even with Ani Gyalmo. The only thing that worries me though is they both have cabin fever and go out frequently, sometimes overnight. But when I wake up to feed them, they usually find their way back into the center. Thank goodness for the ladies who come early to do the water bowls.

I think Khulan found a new friend, Mani

And for something completely different, for all those of you outside of the USA who can't get Pandora.com online, I found a nice alternative called FlyFi.com - they even have lots of mp3s you can download for free.