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12/27/04-01/02/05

Back To The Grind

Monday and Tuesday were verrrry....uhhh.....interesting. I spent both days working on the computers in my office most of the time. There was training going on for the Phoenix Initiative, but I don't speak Mongolian, so I worked on the computers. As for the computers, all I can say is, (without being kicked out of Peace Corps), I am very disappointed in the quality of electronics here. (Let me clarify a little though, the electronics are not made in Mongolia). Monday I got everything working with some new parts we received, and then WHAMO, Tuesday morning, problems. What the HECK?! Did gremlins sneak in over night and screw with stuff. It's a never ending cycle. I won't bore you with details, but I got it all figured out. Good thing Shauna cuts my hair so short so I can't pull it out. hehehe.

Weeknight Schmeeknight

One thing about Mongolians, when it's time to have a party, they don't care what day of the week it is. Tuesday night we had our Christmas/New Year office party. Only problem was, the health dept where Shauna works decided to have theirs the same night. Wha? Oh well. So we partied separately. It was a lot of fun. There was good food, vodka, beer, champagne, wine, etc.., and a lot more people than I anticipated. One of my coworkers, Daanii, drove Shauna and I to our parties. I was definitely underdressed cuz all the other guys had suits and ties, or nice dells. I wore dress pants and a fancy sweater. We ate food and had some drinks and chatted for while. I even made a toast in Mongolian (To your success). I know your impressed with that, but it's only 2 or 3 words. Then the games started. First there was a raffle, in which I didn't win, but, my counterpart won the best prize; a really nice rice cooker.

The other 3 games were hilarious. First, they picked random men and women from the audience. The men were all given a long piece of string and told to weave it up the woman's sleeve and all the way thru her clothes till it came out the pant leg. (As you can tell, we are definitely in a male dominated society. The funny thing is 2 women picked the games). There are a few pictures on the pics page. The really funny part was when they announced what the guys had to do with the string. Apparently nobody knew this game, and most of the people were married.....but not to each other. I think the ladies with dell's had an advantage. Ok, so for the next game, they picked a bunch of guys, gave em a balloon, a piece of string with something small and heavy tied to the end, and made them tie the string around their waste with the heavy thing hanging down in back like a long tale. The object of the game was to race by knocking the balloon between your legs on the floor to the finish. (see the pics, it's hard to explain). The last game involved placing a balloon between two people and popping it by queezing together. For example, the most dangerous idea was, they had my counterpart and I pop a balloon between our faces. I cheated a little tho and bit it cuz i was getting nervous I would smash my counterparts face with my face after the balloon popped. I don't recommend using faces to pop balloons. The others were pretty funny tho; Pop between butt's; Pop between hips facing each other; etc.

Later, after dancing and drinking more toasts, they asked me to be a judge. "Of what?", I said. Well, each table was to give their impressions of "Vodka" in Mongolia. (My counterpart translated what I couldn't understand).. It was actually a very tough decision. One, because I had a few drinks in me, and two, cuz all their statements were very good. Overall, they all believed vodka was not a problem unless it was used constantly and in excess.

Can You Say...International Incident?

Ok, it's not that bad, but around 1am at the party, I was standing talking to someone.......while waving my hands and arms around like normal.....and I didn't see one of the herdsman walk up with a shot of vodka for me. Well, there I am flailing about talking and WHAM, I knock the vodka out of his hand onto the floor. UHHH, WHOOOPS. Even tho they believe too much vodka is bad, it is still a big part of their culture, and spilling it all over wasn't a good thing. However, spilling a milk product would have been much worse. Anyway, I said I was very sorry and..and...and...so we walked over to the table, and they poured me another shot. Phew, I was kinda worried I wouldn't get another shot.....uhh....I mean, I was kinda worried I had offended them. I think it was an "end of the party" shot cuz we all left right after. Hmmmm, now I wonder.....Am I a party killer??

Could You Please Stop Thinking So Loud

Wednesday was a verrry long day. Yowzers, I went into work late, and there was hardly anyone there. Hmmm, wonder whyyyy? I actually didn't feel that bad, but I definitely stayed up too late. The funny thing was I got to see almost everyone in my office, looking their best at the party, and looking...uhhh...not there best at work the next day. I am sure I didn't look like any prize pony either, but that goes without saying most of the time. ehehe.

Why I Can Only Count To Nine Now

Thursday we found this GINORMOUS firework. It's one of those that you need a permit for back in the states. Not the ones you need to dig a hole in the ground for, but pretty darn big. I doubt there is any place in the states you could by this off the shelf. New years eve night was the big night to light it off. (I worked all day Friday on the computers at work updating them and and......I know I don't want to be a network admin now....sheesh.) Since it gets a little "chillier" at night here, we decided to light it off around 7pm. The funny thing about the firework was that it had a warning on it that said, "Incorrect use of this product can lead to smaller appendages". Ok, not really, but wouldn't that be funny? It ended up being ok, but not as spectacular as we expected. I will be putting the video of it on the site next week. (I am going back to UB for business for a week).

As we were walking home, a car drove up and 2 people got out. We were thinking.....OH Great, now we get to deal with some random drunk people. I know that's not good to have as the first thing that pops in our heads, but live here a while and see what you think. (We do like it here ...... it's just the random few bad apples that create stereotypes). It ended up being one of my coworkers, and Shauna's counterpart. (They are married). They gave us a ride home and we invited them in for a glass of wine and to chat. It was fun just hanging out and relaxing.

Weekend Weather Update

Saturday: It was soooooo nice on Saturday. Not too cold, and no wind at all. We stay inside almost all day. Darrrr.

Sunday: Again, not too cold, wow. Oh ya, but hurricane force winds. Ok, I don't know what that means, but when you see a dog running from behind one building to another, you know it's jusssst a little windy. Seriously, I saw it. I have never seen an animal running from cover to cover like it before. Needless to say, we didn't go outside on Sunday either. I spent half the day reworking our web site to make the text only version, picture help, and add some other things.

New Year's Resolutions
  • Stop farting so much.
  • Be the best Mongol I can be.
  • To bathe or change my underwear at least 3 times a week.
  • To take better care of my skin, hair, and nails.
  • Spend more time riding horses instead of just eating them.
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01/03/05-01/23/05

Week 1

If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body.........

There she was, just strolling down the street strutting her stuff. I immediately began to drool, which immediatley began to turn to ice because of the wind and cold. She had a coat that fit her snug in all over her body. At this point the drool ice on my chin began to melt because my body temperature was rising.

**Click Here For More Juicy Details**

HOLA!

Alrighty, talk about a slow week. Well, actually, it wasn't real slow, but I really didn't want to do much. Everyone has been talking soooo much about learning English, I am getting a little burned out. It's the "Year of English" and now they are publishing english words in the newspaper for people to learn. That's great, but I feel like I should have brought my spanish books to study since my Mongolian is not going anywhere and everyone wants to speak English. However, that is about 90% my fault, and since I don't want to hog all the glory, I will blame the other 10% on Shauna. She's always talking and I never get a chance. (Cry for poor me...waaaaa) ehehehe. Needless to say, I sidestepped teaching English for the entire week, and didn't study any Mongolian either. Ain't I special?

Where's Ole Willy When You Need Him?

Left for UB on Saturday for a week long semi-annual business planning meeting with Mercy Corps. We left Mandalgobi around 11am and I ended up at the hotel around 7:30pm. Nope, it doesn't take that long to drive to UB. We got in around 5:30pm and I thought, "Wow, this is great, time to do stuff". Wrong! We spent the next 2 hours driving around UB dropping people and things off. There were only 6 of us total. It's ok though cuz I am used to the Mongolian way of doing things.....plus, I didn't ask about the schedule of events for the trip. However, I must say that I think my office is the most efficient Gobi Initiative office in Mongolia. When they say we are doing something, it is never more than an hour behind schedule....and sometimes we are even early.

Week 2

Did The Paper I Signed Say Peace Corps or Mercy Corps?

After shopping for food and such, and settling into the hotel over the weekend, we began the week long business planning meeting. It ran everyday from about 9am-5:30pm, and was pretty interesting, but definitely geared towards team building, etc, for the Mongolian Gobi Initiative employees. The funny thing was, after talking to the other PC volunteers, it seems like we are all more like Mercy Corps employees than Peace Corps volunteers. We all basically work a "normal" work day/week, plus some if there is a deadline for new business plans or whatever. I think what reminds us that we are PC is the fact we have to check in with the PC office in UB for everything, annnd, the fact that we make a whole lot less than a Mercy Corps employee.

I suppose it's good we don't work for MC at this point cuz Laura had to go and make a great presentation on revamping the trade fair into a huge community fair. Talk about taking it up a notch. Sheesh, no more getting by on my computer skills alone. Dang..ehehe. The best part of it all was that the Mongolians were excited about the new ideas, and no matter where you are, the more excited people are about something, the more likely it is to happen. The idea was to setup the annual trade fair to be like an American county fair/festival. Everything from live bands to face painting....oh, and maybe a horse race.

Hey! Who Invited You?

So my bachelors week turned into a bachelors 3 days. Sheesh. Ok, just kidding about the sheesh. It worked out that Shauna was able to do some work with the World Health Organization (WHO) [I SAID THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION!] during the week. Otherwise, she would have had to use in country vacation days to come see me. She came on Tuesday, and had to leave on Friday. No biggie tho since I had to leave on Saturday morn. We did however get to go bowling on Thursday night with all the MC staff. It was a Ginormous 4 lane bowling ally. It actually was fun to bowl in Mongolia. Did you know that Mongolians yell "Fore" when they bowl? Ok, not really. heh heh heh

Just Another Manic Friday

Since Shauna had to leave Friday morning, I had to duck out of the planning meeting for the morning to help with the Thailand trip preperations. Oh, did we mention we're goin to Thailand. Ya, I know, they just had a tsunami, but where we are going wasn't affected. Also, someone made a good point that they could use our tourism dollars right now. Only bad part is we won't have many tourism dollars since this whole trip is pretty much being financed by Peace Corps. We have been super frugal, plus we got an awesome group rate on plane tix. (It's amazing how much you can save when you want to).

So the crazy part was trying to get past the PC office. Our travel dates changed so we had to get everything reapproved and and and.......hack, cough, gag...choking on red tape. (Guess they're just looking out for us tho). We finally got the tickets by 12:30pm and then I found out it wasn't necessary for me to go back to the planning meeting in the afternoon. Cool. That night was pretty fun. We had a nice dinner with all the planning meeting attendees and then I pooped out and headed back to the hotel for a very uneventful night.

1 Jeep, 5-Mongols, 1-American, Lots of 'Stuff', and Weight Equip

Friday night I was told we would leave at 11am the next morning. Most of the time that means at 11am someone somewhere will think about leaving. Not my office though, which is awesome! They were actually 1hr early! So I threw all my stuff together and headed to the jeep. When I got outside, the jeep was cram packed full of stuff. (If you don't live in UB, when you have a chance to go, you stock up on stuff). I didn't know how I would fit my little bit of stuff in there, but they made it fit.

The only problem was, I found out about some weights I could borrow for working out. Just a couple small bars and about 210kilos of plate weight. That stuff doesn't take up much room, but I was still worried. We made it all fit. There were bags and things fallin on our heads from behind, and we had all the weights under our feet. Phewy, what a trip.

Week 3

I'm Ganna Puuump Yooo Up

Woohoo, got some weights and started a little workout this week. Good thing too cuz I was getting really flabby. Not fat, but flabby. hehehe..ugh. Overall, it's been a good week. I have been reeeally sore all week, but have also been stretching, etc. Eventually I am gonna have someone build me a little bench so I can expand my "home gym". I am also planning on making a workout without normal weights since I need some of the exercises, and some people that have asked for workout advice here don't have weights.

I'm Sorry, That Does Not Compute

This week I have spent the majority of my time working on the Phoenix project (young entrepreneurs) business plans. It's a lot of time consuming number checking and english translation correction. Normally it's not too bad, but unfortunately, the standards for formatting and punctuation that seperates numbers varies. I have seen commas where periods should be, apostrophes where commas should be, and periods where commas should be....oh, and spaces where commas should be. It makes checking the financials pretty difficult since I use excel to check the calculations. (looks like I might have to organize some computer training....if I have time)

The cool thing is that a lot of the business ideas look very promising. Everything from a mechanics shop to a fast food resteraunt. (I am voting for the resteraunt....the girl said she would have pizza...mmmmm...yuummmy).

Stock Tip: BUY 3M

Had 2 English classes this week. 1 intermediate and 1 advanced. Everyone that is intermediate (and below) showed up for the intermediate class. I have never had everyone there, it was weird. Overall, I think the class went real good, but then again I am biased cuz I like the teacher.

Friday when I got to work, there were about 10,000 yellow post it notes stuck all over the wall explaining where everything in the office was. [The copier is in the corner. The copier is next to the window. Davaa sits next to Buyanaa. Etc...Etc.... Except they leave out a 'the' or 'is' every now and then]. So if you don't own stock in 3M, you better go get some. My office here will have their stock up in no time at all.

My 2 Cents On Taxes In Peace Corps

Guess what, we found out that since we are married in the Peace Corps, we get an automatic extension on our taxes. Huh? What's that? The fine print? Oh, here it is....... If for any reason you actually "owe" money to the IRS, you start getting charged interest and penalties from April 15th. WHAAAA? That's not an extension. Sheesh, talk about bait and switch. Ok, looks like we better get on the ball jus in case we have to pay. Sheesh.

"Ode To Soft Bread" by .H sivarT

Oh soft uncrumbly bread, where have you gone?

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01/24/05-02/06/05

Office Ergonomonomonics

I don't think I mentioned before, but I gave kinda a crash course in office ergonomics a while back. Basically all I did was raise everyone's computer monitor about 6-8 inches. Prior to this, I noticed many of my coworkers constantly rubbing their necks and looking uncomfortable. Nobody really ever complained though. After raising all the monitors, everyone was very happy and said their necks didn't hurt anymore.

So at my advance English class on Monday with my counterpart Davaanyam and Saruul, I got a interesting surprise. Saruul said she wanted to learn all about office ergonomics and teach other people. That is really cool, because that is something, that if you work in a big office in America, you can take for granted. Mongolia doesn't have ergonomic specialists to come in and adjust your work world, so everyone just does with what they have, the way it's originally set up. So I am going to start doing some research and see what info there is in Mongolian, and what I can't find in Mongolian, will be a good English exercise for Saruul since she will need to translate it into Mongolian.

Population & Economic Development Open Forum

There was a pretty interesting meeting at the local government building about the population & economic development of Mandalgobi. All the government officials and NGO's (Non Governmental Organizations) were in attendance. Basically anyone that had any influence on the local economy was there. The big topic of discussion was concerning the number of people leaving Mandalgobi to live in UB, and the number of businesses that are 'not' being started each year because of this. I think the overall theme was, how do we keep the youth from leaving, and then increase the economic stability of Mandalgobi.

How Do I Spell Responsible? M-Y O-F-F-I-C-E

Well, I am not sure if my entire office is real responsible, but I do know that my counterpart and a few others are. Twice in two weeks we had to visit herder businesses in the countryside. The herders are always very cordial and very business like when the time is right. However, when the business talk is concluded, they almost always break out the vodka to say "thanks". Oh ya, and it doesn't matter what time of the day it is. Never had vodka before 10am till I came to Mongolia...ehehe. Ok, anyway, we visited two herder businesses in two weeks, and both times they broke out the vodka. If you have been reading Shauna's journal, you know that it is very rude to just completely refuse a drink. All that is necessary is to touch it to your lips.....And that is basically all my coworkers did, just a sip and thank you, we have other work to do. I am not saying I was surprised, but I figured a couple of my coworkers would at least do 1 shot. Nope, just a sip to be cordial and that was it.

One herder household we visited was in full swing making these bread pastry things that are very big during Tsagaan Sar (White Month). These herders had eleven kids.....YIKES! Not all were present, but they were all rolling dough and preparing this traditional bread pastry. I have pictures on the picture page. It was pretty interesting to see since most people just buy there's at the store.

PINE Young Entrepreneurs

This last week has been busy with approving and reviewing and interviewing the young entrepreneurs that Mercy Corps is helping. We have biz plans ranging from hair salons to restaurants to auto mechanic shops. The biggest problem was with inconsistency in the business plans, so I have decided to make a template that anyone can follow. Everyone gets training on business plan development, but how they implement that always has a little twist. It makes proofing the plans a little hectic.

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02/07/05-02/27/05

Week 1 (Tsagaan Sar)

Would You Like Some Vodka With Your Vodka?

Tsagaan Sar (White Month) was a very interesting time. It is a celebration of the lunar new year. In the past, the celebrations would last an entire month, but since Mongolia is becoming more westernized, most urban people only celebrate for 1-2 weeks. Many herder families however, are still able to celebrate the entire month. My office worked on Monday and Friday, so Tue-Thur was the time to visit family and celebrate. Many families spend an average of $300 to prepare, which is amazing because for a large majority, $300 is equal to 5-6 months wages. Obviously it's a very important time. They make thousands of buuz (pronounced 'boats'-the sheep meat dumpling), and buy airag, vodka, pastries, etc., to share with family and friends.

Tsagaan Sar eve we spent at my counterparts apartment eating and talking and having a couple drinks. The next couple days were crazy though. People were everywhere and we were going to neighbors houses and then having them over to our aptmnt for some American food. I think we were the only house that didn't force vodka down your throat. We didn't even have any. One day we went to Shauna's counterparts house for another nice low keyed meal and drinks. On the way home, our neighbor in the apartment building next to us literally grabbed us both, one of us in each arm, and physically dragged us to his apartment to meet his family. (I thought to myself, now this is what I was expecting. Not what I was wanting, but, expecting.) So, as you probably already guessed, he was a little on the toasty side. Plus he is a much older man, so he is set in his ways. We ate and drank a little with him, but when Shauna wouldn't finish her shot of vodka he got upset and twisted her ear. It was funny, but not. Luckily his kids intervened and we were able to sneak out.

EEEE AAAWWW EEEE AAAAWWW

Wow did I feel like a horses arse. One tradition is to give gifts and/or money to your elders or whoever your visiting. Well, we were thinking that we just needed to do that for our counterparts since we didn't really know anyone else. NOPE. Everywhere we went someone was giving us gifts. I got everything from playing cards, to cigarettes, to vodka. Oh, and what did we give them.....DARRR, stupid us, we didn't have anything. Only thing we had goin for us was the "Stupid American Card". So we played that the whole time. ehehehe.

Hey Kids, If You Like Halloween, You'll Love This!

Another interesting tradition during Tsagaan Sar is to give 10 tugriks to all the random children that knock at your door. We thought, ok, we can do that. So we gathered up all our 10 tugrik notes and prepared for the hundreds of kids that we expected to knock, and sometimes literally pound, on our door wanting money. A couple times we were a little taken back by there tenacity. The funniest part was when we ran out of money, we started giving out American candy. They would look at the candy, then look at us, then look at the candy, then look back at us like... Who the heck are you people? What is this crap? Where is our money? ehehehe.

Week 2-3 (Thailand)

Thailand or Bust

We set off for Thailand with 2 other pcv's on Monday afternoon. We were all jazzed and ready for warm sunny weather. The flight to Korea didn't take too long, but our layover was 1 night, so Shauna and I took a bus tour around Incheon island before getting on the flight the next day. We also had MCDONALDS.....mmmmm. I don't even like McDonalds, but OH was it good...garrrrrlllllurrrr. Once we got to Thailand, we checked in at a guesthouse and then proceeded to walk around the streets. It was crazy, people didn't stare at you, or think you were from Russia or anything. Probably because Thailand is one of the number tourist destinations for all of Europe. It was insane how many Europeans either were living there or just graduated from college and were traveling. We met quite a few interesting characters. One man was married to a Thai woman....that's not odd, buuuut.....he was carrying around dead cockroaches for her to sell or something! YIKES. Ya, apparently they like to eat cockroaches, and they were the ginormous kind too. He said they taste like shrimp. OH, if that's the case, sign me up for a dozen of those lil buggers that carry disease and whatever else...Blech. We ended up teamin up with 2 Australians and 1 American. They were "showing us the ropes". Around 1am tho, Shauna just couldn't hang anymore and needed food and sleep. Sheesh, talk about a party pooper...eheheh. So we got her a burger and then went to bed.

The next day we all just walked around and checked out sites around Bangkok. We ate "fresh" pineapple and other yum-didly-umptious fruit that we can't get in Mongolia. Every time we saw a stand we would buy some. There were street vendors everywhere. Also, 7-11 was like a cult, wherever we were there it was, and it would just draw you in. 'Cooome yoounngin's, Coooommmme'.....kinda freaky huh? MMMMM, but the big gulps and slurpies and and and....were soooooo good.

Hlavka's And The Temple Of The Emerald Buddha In The Grand Palace

This place was amazing. They are still doing a lot of restoration work, but it was still really interesting. We spent 2 hrs walking through listening to an audio tour guide on an mp3 player they gave us. I had to put a deposit of 100 bot down for a pair of pants to wear over my shorts. They don't allow any shorts, and in the temples you cannot wear shoes or hats. I think this will be best explained thru pictures.

The Lil Tuk Tuk That Could

After seeing the temple, we were headed to see the largest Buddha ever built, or maybe it was just the largest 'standing' Buddha. Anyway, as we were leaving, this very nice Thai man started talking to us and was telling us all about the different sites. He said he was on vacation, ya right. Then he said how easy it was to get around in a tuk tuk. (Tuk tuk's are those little tiny cars with only 3 wheels that run on a motorcycle engine) Just then, like magic, one appears. So he 'helps' us tell the driver where we want to go for only 20 bot (about 55 cents). 3 stops, then back to the hotel is what we wanted, but it wouldn't happen. We went to the first stop which was another temple. A similar thing happened at that place. A very nice man showed us around the temple and explained the same things the other nice man explained. (Oh, he was also just "vacationing"). He said we should definitely see the garment district and a couple jewelry stores because they were all having big deals on account of the tsunami. Sounded interesting, but I wasn't in Thailand to shop.

Back into the tuk tuk we go, but the man says the giant Buddha (stop 2) was closed so he would take us to see some "things". Ok, ya whatever. So we went along with it. He proceeded to tell us how if we just look around the store he could get free gas. Wanting to kill time, and help, we agreed. We went to 2 stores, and when he said there was another, I said no, take us to the Buddha or we are getting out. We got out, caught a cab, and headed back to the hotel. One good thing about the crazy trip was we got to see a lot of Bangkok, including the UN building.

Help, We've Become Trekies!

At this point we had split up with our co-tourists Amy and Adrian. Shauna and I headed north by train to see Chaing Mai and ride some elephants. The train trip was 12 hrs, so we wasted a day but we did see a lot of the countryside. The next day we headed out for a 2 day 1 night 'trekking' tour. It started off with us driving about 3 hours north sitting in the back of a truck. Luckily it was a small group younger people. A married couple from Britain, and a guy from California. The first day involved a pretty good hike and an elephant ride to a remote Thai village. Once at the village, we just looked around and hiked a little bit. That evening our guide cooked us some delicious food and built a fire outside for us to sit around and watch the women perform a traditional dance. (Oh, this was the tribe hoop people or something like that. They were all wearing some kinda silver hoop around their waste.) After the dancing was over, the guide pulls out a guitar and starts playing all sortsa American music from John Denver to the Beatles. We stayed up reeeeally late just singin and talking.

After breakfast the next day we headed out on foot to meet up with the truck for the next leg of our journey..... Waterfalls! The waterfalls were amazing. They were solid limestone. It wasn't the kind of waterfall that is a river flowing off a cliff, it was just a bumpy steep waterfall. The most interesting thing was all the limestone deposits. Wherever the waterfall was running, there was a build up of limestone. It looked very slippery, but you could walk up and down it no problem. By the time we returned to the hotel, we were beat and didn't want any more long travels, so we decided to fly to Phuket, our next stop.

I'm A Human Catapult And I'm Ok....

I almost forgot, before going to the waterfall we went on a bamboo rafting trip. It wasn't super exciting, but it was fun. We just meandered down a slow river standing on some homemade bamboo rafts. Shauna and I jumped in and made like bamboo outboard motors holding onto the back and kicking to move along faster. We both even helped push along with the long bamboo stick. Ya know, you have a long bamboo pole that you push yourself along with because the river is pretty shallow. The funniest part of the entire river trip was when Shauna was "helping". Heh heh heh. Yep, there is a reason that the "natives" push on the "SIDE" of the boat. I would imagine after hundreds of years they have determined that is the best and most efficient place for propulsion of a bamboo raft. Welp, Shauna was just trying to stick that pole wherever and push. Then she stuck it in front of the raft and FLING.....hahahaha.....she was a human catapult. She stuck it in and instantly, FWAP, she's flying through the air into the water. I wish I could have got it on video.

Beach Bums

Phuket was incredible. White sandy beaches and clear water. The tsunami damage was not as bad as I imagined. They have really got the place cleaned up. I think 90% of the tourist destinations are almost completely repaired. We stayed 2 nights there in a 5 resort area that seemed to be secluded from everything. That was good because everything was so fixed up, but bad because it was not close to town for just strolling around. We spent all our time there hangin on the beach and laying around. Very relaxing.

Glub Glub Glub

After Phuket, we went to Krabi. Krabi was also verrrrry nice. Most of our time there was also spent at the beach or by the pool. Then Shauna found Laura the baby elephant. For 3 days we had to see Laura at 9am and 4pm. That is when her handler would bring her to the hotel, or the beach to play in the ocean. It was very interesting to see an elephant playing in the ocean. Oh, and you guessed it, Shauna was right in the middle of it all. Playing and playing and playing with the elephant. I had to hear Laura this and Laura that, the entire time. She was a character though. One time she pulled off a guys hat and put it on top of her head. (Laura, not Shauna. ehehe). The other cool thing was that she could play the harmonica. Ok, maybe not play, but she could make noise.

On our last day in Krabi, we went on a snorkeling trip. Wow, all I can say is.... Thailand makes Cancun look like the Okie Fanokie Swamp. The water was soooo crystal clear. We spent all day traveling by boat to different areas while stopping in three separate places to snorkel. They even took us to the place where a movie call "The Beach" was filmed. (Personally I have know idea what this movie is, but everyone was talking about it). The highlight of the day was when we were snorkeling and I laid back in the water to relax for a bit, but all of a sudden the silence was shattered by screams through a snorkel tube. eheheh. It was Shauna being nibbled on by all the fish. It was hilarious. I guess she is too sweet to be snorkeling.

Square Pegs, Round Holes

Have you ever felt a little out of place? If not, here is how you do it: Get a membership that allows you to stay in the nicest hotels Sheraton owns; Join the Peace Corps; Travel to Thailand with only a big hiking pack for luggage; Check in wearing old shorts and your back pack. Yep, I failed to mention above that we were able to stay in 5 star hotels almost the entire time because of our deal through Sheraton. It was ridiculous. They did everything for you. Open doors, order pizza from pizza hut, buy bus tickets and go get them from town, setup snorkeling trips, etc, etc. In Krabi our room was about 50yds from the main desk area, but every time we started to walk, like magic a golf cart would show up asking if we needed a ride. I was almost afraid to blink in fear that they would think my eyes were dry, whip out some visine, grab my head, tilt it back, and give me a couple drops. Seriously, it was that ridiculous. (but also verrrry relaxing). Oh ya, and the check in area at Phuket and Krabi were basically outside. It was and indoor setting, but with only a roof and some shutter type things in certain areas. Strange, but interesting. Krabi is also the hotel where Laura the elephant would come everyday.

Ode To Laura by Travis for Shauna

You come and you go at nine and at four,
Doesn't your owner know you want to see me more,
Oh baby elephant your so big and so cute,
Why must you grow to such a big galute,
You play the harmonica, and that's quite a feat,
Overall I think your swell, nice, and neat,
In the ocean you frolic and play,
If Travis wasn't here I would sneak you away,
We'd go to a land where no one would be,
and play on the beach drinking long island ice tea.

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02/28/05-03/13/05

B-B-B-Back Below The USSR.....

The trip back to Mongolia was a somber one to say the least. I think we were all ready to be back, but would have liked to stay another week at least in Thailand. It was so warm and nice and.....ok, I better stop now. Anyway, we made it back just in time for our PDM (Project Development & Management) seminar with Peace Corps. It was at the same nice hotel in the hills outside UB that we had our last conference, so that was good. Overall I would say the conference was good. My counterpart learned a lot and was the star at most of the meetings because many of the topics they were teaching she already learned through Gobi Initiative or on her own. It's always good to have a refresher though.

How Would YOU, Yes YOU, Like To Stay 3 Extra Days In UB?

During the PDM conference, I found out that John (friend and fellow GI biz guy) was working on a camel wool project in his aimag and was thinking a website would increase exposure. So he asked if I wanted to help. "Sure, I'm in." I didn't really want to stay in UB, especially since Shauna was leaving early, but I knew it would be good to see what he was doing and help out. I spent some time researching the internet and compiling information for the website, and was also able to tag along when the went to speak with possible technical trainers. The people spinning the camel wool and making woolen items need some assistance on perfecting the process and on quality assurance. It was a good few days, but I was glad to head home on Wed.

Lossst Innnn Spaaaace....Or Is It Mongolia

On the way back to Mandalgovi, we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere because it looked identical to the north slope oil fields in Alaska. White out conditions where you couldn't see 20 feet in front of you. However, in the oil field there are "actual" roads. It was a little unnerving at times because it felt like we were driving in circles. Then at one point we drove into a heaving snow drift and got stuck! (Like my use of heaving there? ehehe) Fortunately we were able to get unstuck without getting out and doing any digging. It took us 12 hours to get to Mandalgovi because we had to make a stop in another aimag on the way. I think if the weather had been nicer, it would have only taken around 7 hrs.

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03/14/05-03/20/05

A Proper Warm Up Is Vital

I don't think I mentioned that last Tuesday the 8th was national 'Women's Day', and this Friday was apparently 'Soldiers Day', but the women of my office decided to celebrate it as a generic 'Mans Day' on Monday. It was a big secret though because they had all sortsa grand things planned for the men of the office. After work, they took us to our conference room area where there was a bottle of vodka, a bottle of Mongolian whiskey, and a beer for each of us. They also had little finger food type snacks for us. Everyone had a beer and 2 little shots (1 vodka, 1 whiskey). After our little snack and some booze, they took us to the technical college gym. Once there, they preceded to run us through the gauntlet. Shauna taught us aerobics for about 10 minutes, then we had language games (them English, me Mongolian), and finally we had a little strength competition. I brought the few weights I have and we had a contest to see who could do the most military presses. I won the military press contest amazingly cuz there is this one guy in my office that is pretty big and I figured he had it without even trying. After they were finished punishing us, we all played volleyball till almost 10pm. Talk about tiring, wow.

Nothing Like A Little Dedication

Ya know, it's always nice to see a person that is dedicated to something, but have you ever seen an animal that is just as dedicated? Me either until now. I was walking home one day this week and there was this dog standing in the middle of the street barking incessantly. (For some reason, dogs around the world just love to bark at nothing....ALL THE TIME....argh). While I was trying to see what he was barking at so intently, a car came around the corner and almost ran this dog over. It was one of those...WHOA...moments. However, it didn't phase rover in the least. The car comes barreling up, the dog is bark bark barking, then the dog notices he is about to die and jumps about 3 feet in the air. BUT, he didn't miss a beat.....bark bark....car....bark bark....jump away...bark bark...sheesh, now that's dedication. Seriously, the dog was barking while in the air. There was no pause between barks. None at all. He just kept barking and barking. Ya know, like those people that just ramble on and on. Yep, just like that. Bark Bark Bark. You shoulda been there, it was funny. So funny.

Hey Mannnn, Is That Freeedom Rock? Ya Mannn! Well Turn It up!

One nice thing about our town is the local theatre. We always get a chance to see interesting Mongolian singers and dancers and what have you. This week we were able to see another famous singer. Unfortunately, it seems that all the famous singers sound so similar it's hard to tell the difference between them. This similarity has made some concerts a little boring for us, so we have decided to only attend traditional singing and dancing events. The first thing you would notice if you attended a famous non traditional singers concert, is the decibel level. Yep, if you have earplugs, you better bring em. To help you understand, I will reenact a portion of the evenings events before and after.

Scene 1: Before the big concert.

TRAVIS: Shauna, honey, are you ready to go?
SHAUNA: Yes my dear, I am ready when you are.
TRAVIS: Ok, thank you sweetheart, let's go now. If you would like.
SHAUNA: Your welcome darling. Yes I would love to go with you now.

Scene 2: After the big concert.

TRAVIS: THAT WAS A PRETTY GOOD CONCERT WASN'T IT DEAR.
SHAUNA: YES IT WAS SWEETIE, BUT A LITTLE LOUD.
TRAVIS: YOU ARE VERY CORRECT MY LOVELY WIFE.
SHAUNA: MAYBE WE SHOULD BE MORE SELECTIVE ON WHAT CONCERTS WE ATTEND HONEY.
TRAVIS: YOU ARE VERY CORRECT MY LOVELY WIFE.

Besides being a good example of before and after a Mongolian concert, the above is also a good lesson for all of you men that are newly weds, or are engaged. Pay close attention to how I phrase my sentences.

The Great Seating Chart Fiasco

Another interesting thing about concerts, at least in our theatre, is the seating arrangement. As an example, let's say the theatre seats 200 people. That's fine except the event coordinators sell probably 500 tickets. Seriously. So if you get a ticket early, you get an assigned seat. I am not sure what the tickets say when they run out of physical seats. Maybe it says BYOS (Bring Your Own Seat). Some people really do bring a little stool to sit on. Other people just squeeze in next to, on top of, underneath, or wherever. Even the stairs between the seats become seats. It's pretty crazy. If there are 10 seats in a row, it's not uncommon to have 15-20 people smashed in there. Sometimes you will have an entire family on one seat. Dad on the seat, mom on dad, and the baby on mom.

FUEGO FUEGO!

Leaving the theatre is a completely different ordeal. Sheesh, the people that were there acted like the place was on fire. It was a little unnerving. I was literally being smashed because there were hundreds of people pushing to try and get out 1 small door. It got so bad that I think I almost hurt a little girl (probly 10yrs old) because they were pushing so hard I couldn't move my feet and i fell right into her and she went flying into a small open corner. That didn't phase anyone though. The most annoying thing was that everyone was in such a freakin hurry to get out that they would push, shove, and step on, the young, the old, or whoever, but once outside, THEY JUST STOOD THERE! Arrgh! AND, it was COLD outside. So what's the point, sheesh.

Proponderances
  • If you live in Mongolia and a dental office always sends you junk food, do you think they are expecting business to pick up when you come home?
  • How long do you think you could get away with not doing dishes by telling your wife you are afraid of water?
  • Is a pinkie toe really necessary?
  • Can someone tell me....Where is the "School of Thought"?
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03/21/05-03/27/05

Our Little Doggie Universe

One of the Peace Corps medical officers (PCMO) came to visit our town this week. She was doing a checkup on all the medical facitlities in our area. I suppose PC Washington requires they keep tabs on local hospitals, etc, just in case there is an emergency. Anyway, Shauna was walking with her to our apartment and screamer dog came running up from behind. (We have named several dog's around our apt. Screamer dogs has a high pitched bark and she barks a lot. Grumpy dog is actually very nice but he looks old and grumpy. Momma dog had puppies once....real original name there huh?). I guess screamer scared the PCMO pretty good until Shauna started petting her (petting the dog, not the PCMO). Apparently our town is an anomoly in Mongolia. She was telling us stories about almost being attacked by dogs and seeing lots of other people attacked. Normally the dogs best method for biting you in the arse is to sneak up from behind. Literally. I have never seen any dog in this town attack anyone, and all the dogs around our apartment are very nice. They are also very annoying cuz they bark incesently at night. UGH. Anyway, the worst thing I have seen a dog here do is bark a little mean a someone. That was one time only though. The other interesting thing is we very rarely see any drunk men stumbling around. We have heard some very "interesting" stories about drunks everywhere else. I think we live in a small vaacuum or something. heheh..vrroooooom. They should rename this place Bissel-gobi. hahaha.

My Skin Feels Funny

This week I actually walked to work without wearing any long underwear. WOOHOO! Since Wednesday, I haven't even needed to wear my heavy coat. It is great, I think the temp has been between 30°F and 40°F and not too much wind! However, my body feels quite odd now. I am not used to my outer clothing actually touching my body. hehe. You should try it some time. Here are the steps. It's real easy.....

Step 1: Wear long underwear everyday, everywhere you go, for almost 6 months solid.
Step 2: Stop wearing long underwear.

That's it, follow those steps and you will understand. Oh, but during the 6 month time frame, it's required (while wearing your long underwear) that you visit a couple people in there ger where they keep the temperature around 4000°F (ger's are super warm when a fire is going!). You can do it, just get started. The first step towards success is just starting. heheh. AND, just in case you think your sooo smart, you must wear your long underwear in addition to heavy winter clothes. I don't want to get blamed for a bunch of Americans running around the streets in nothing but long underwear.

Hey Sweetie, I Dreamt About You Last Night

We played volleyball for a few hours one night this week which was great, but afterwards I was beat. Only problem is I am on a good schedule now and I missed a couple of items on my daily "to do" list because we didn't get home till 9:30. Well, I wasn't gonna let that stop me. Plus lately I don't go to bed till around midnight. After stretching, reading, etc....it was around 11pm so I started studying some Mongolian. Then, WHAMO, I fell asleep sitting up in my chair. Next thing I know, I am having a dream that I fell asleep in the chair that I am sitting in. The best part is, while I was dreaming about falling asleep, I also dreamt that I was drooling all over myself. Since I was sitting up (in reality and in my dream), my head had fallen forward. In my dream, I wake up and think, holy cow, I fell asleep, and wow, that's a lot of drool on my shirt. Well, right at that moment I actually did wake up.....and guess what? Yep, my dream was real! Yikes, that's a little scary. Plus, it was a little after midnight. I had been crashed in that chair for at least 45min. hehehe. Guess it was bedtime and I didn't even know it?

Are You Littering? Can I Help?

I am not an environmentalist or anything, but I definitely know there is only 1 earth and it's nice to make progress towards cleaning it up and keeping it clean. Not sure why, but for some reason Cass beer (made in Korea and somewhat popular here) has decided that the standard flip tab style of opening their beer isn't for them anymore. In February I noticed Cass beer in the old old style cans. You know, the pull off tab style that they did away with in America a long time ago. I figured it was just some crazy fad...hehe...ya right....not, the cans are still here. Not a standard flip tab style to be found now, only the pull off tabs. It's kinda perplexing to see a company take a step backwards from an environmental perspective.

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03/28/05-04/03/05

Canon Business Helper Guy

Not sure if I mentioned it before, but a copy machine here is called a "Canon". I assume because the first copiers were from Canon. Anyway, we went to Erdendalai soum for 2 days so that we could work with one young entrepreneur and some non herder businesses. My main responsibility on this trip was to make sure all the new computer equipment worked properly for the Cannon business. A Cannon business is kinda like a Kinko's I guess. They make copies, take digital photos, allow printing of materials, scan photos, and print photos.

They are still trying to find a permanent location, and they just bought all the equipment, so the first day they brought all there stuff to our hotel room and we set it up. The young business entrepreneur had his buddy (maybe brother) come along. This guy was actually very impressive. He knew all the keyboard shortcuts and tricks and and and..... I ended up only being needed for new software or very strange errors. That is great though because now I know that this business has a tech guy handy to help with problems.

My First Mongolian Clothing Purchase

My sweat pants disappeared during the time we were in Thailand. I don't know where they went because I didn't take them to Thailand. So, I needed a new pair. Shauna said she had seen some in the market here in Mandalgovi. We went to check it out and found a decent pair, but wow did they fit funny. (plus they made my butt look big...ehehe) There was another pair of exercise looking pants there that I ended up buying. The best part of the buying experience is when the sales lady shut her little shop door and let me try on the 2 pairs of pants.....while she stood right there and watched. hehehe. She gave me a very nice compliment in Mongolian. No, not for that, get your mind out the gutter.

New Discoveries

Have you ever heard of this thing called "Pineapple"? A US Embassy worker from UB brought us some of this very delicious fruit. (I think it's a fruit). MMMMM, it was soooooooo good. If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend trying some of this pineapple stuff. It's like a flavor explosion in your mouth. KABOOOM!!! Seriously though, it's like the greatest food on earth I think. Ok, maybe not, but it's a definite close second to Beef. MMMMM....BEEEF

Mary Poppins On Crack

Sheesh, have you read Shauna's journal? "I am doing this, and that, and next week I will be finding a cure for alcoholism, and then I am gonna get the most giantest broom in the world and clean up the Govi Desert so no one will have upper respiratory disorders in the spring anymore." Ugh....Dang honey, leave a little of the world for the rest of us to save why dontcha. Guess that's what happens when you take away a girls toys, mountains for recreation, and friends. When we end up leaving, I think this town will be kidnapping Shauna and trying to pay me so they can keep her. Plus, I am sure they would find the only limo in the country to come down here and pick me up to take me to the airport. Just to make sure they have Miss Mary P. all to themselves. hehehe.

DOH!! Emotional Shortcomings DOH!!
  • When throwing rocks at dogs, you should always pick a rock in direct proportion to the size of the dog.
  • When your wife asks, "Do you love me?", you respond, "I think your cooking really rocks!"
  • After taking candy from a baby, you should at least leave them the wrapper because then they will be preoccupied and not cry right away.
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04/03/05-04/17/05

The Gobi Is Moving

I lived in Las Vegas for a while, and saw some pretty bad sand storms, but I don't think anything could compare to what we had for almost 3 days. YIKES. One day was so bad you literally could not see more than 20 feet if you tried. I only tried once, and spent then next hour attempting to get the sand dune out of my eye. Ouch. I think all my coworkers thought I was crying or something because apparently sand blowing in the desert at 500MPH doesn't have any effect on their eyes. My eyes were watering terribly.

It's amazing the amount of sand that blows around. I wonder where all this sand blows to. Are there some mystical sand dunes somewhere around here just south of us we don't know about? Around 7 hrs south of us there are some beautiful sand dunes I hear. Is that where all this sand goes? (or at least what is not buried in my eyes?) ehehe.

Polo Polo Bo Bolo Banana Fanna Mo Molo

Went to the countryside to do some business monitoring (Shauna got to come too) and luckily there was a camel festival going on at the same time. On the way to the soum where the businesses and camel festival were, we stopped at a cave where apparently a monk sat for a verrry long time (think the Mongols said weeks?) without food or water and just read a special book. There was ancient script written all over the walls and it wouldn't come off. Trust me, my coworkers gave us a good demonstration.

That night we went to a dance they were having for the camel festival. If any of you grew up in a town of around 1000 people, you can probably relate to the size of the dance. hehehe. The next morning when we woke up, they said, it's snowing. I thought, "woohooo", I miss snow. (We didn't get much snow here in the desert over the winter). I figured it was just flurries or whatever, but when they opened the door to the ger....WOW....it was dumping outside. Giant flakes too. Not a lot of it stuck, and by the end of the day it had warmed up and melted off. It was nice though. The Mongols thought Shauna and I were crazy because we were so happy to see the giant flakes. It was very calm at first too. Then the wind picked up.

After ooing and awing over the snow, we went to the grand opening. At this point, the wind was blowing hard, it wasn't really snowing, and it was freeezing cold. Still, it was very interesting to see the children and adults reading poems and other things without coats. EEEK. On the main table during the opening, they had an airag bowl on a table that the town government was sitting at. They all took a traditional drink during the opening. I was thinking, wow, mmm, hope we can get some airag. After the opening we went back to the ger hotel to wait for the official beginning of the polo game. Once at the ger, we saw the giant bowl of airag. I was excited for about 1 second until I smelled what kind of airag it was......Camel Airag....BLECH! Horse airag is awesome, but camel airag smells very strong and tastes very sour and smells icky and eeeewwwy, yuck. heheehe. Anyway, I don't like the stuff.

After that, we were summoned away to watch a camel race. It was interesting, but not action packed by any means. Then, the camel polo started. It also was not super action packed, but overall, everything was REEEALLY cool to see. I mean, when can you see a camel race and camel polo all in one day. I think the pictures explain it all better. I even got video of it.

Spanish Anyone?

I have decided that studying Spanish is going to be much more productive during my time in Mongolia. Ya ya, I know, but everywhere I go (since I am a biz volunteer) there is at least one person who speaks a little English, OR I am with Shauna, and she just loves to talk period. Also, I know enough Mongolian to get around and 'stuff'. Plus, Spanish is soooooooooo easy. It's ridiculously easy now after learning Mongolian. WOW. Now when we come back to America, I will know more of a language that I can actually use and people will actually understand me.

Have You Kicked A Puppy Today?

We were invited to play volleyball one night which was great. Shauna went before me, so I was walking by myself to the school. I passed a woman walking the other direction in the schoolyard and immediately after we passed I thought I heard some talking and then, YELP YELP YELP. "What the heck was that?" I turned around, but only saw the lady still walking away. This time though, I also saw a tiny little puppy about 5 feet behind her following along. Ahhh, how cute. So I turned and started walking again. (Dogs are always barking and yelping around here, so I figured it was somewhere else.) Then, I thought, "Hey, wait, that's odd." So I turned around again, just in time to see the lady kicking the tiny little puppy, and hearing it YELP YELP YELP. Apparently she didn't like the puppy following her. SHEEESH, this thing looked a couple weeks old and she was kicking it.

Maybe the countryside is different, but don't be fooled by anything you read in Lonely Planet or anywhere else. I have not met one person in Mongolia that appears to "genuinely" love dogs. I know a few people own them and are nice to their dogs, but that's it. I think the problem is that the dogs all run wild and in 99% of the country the dogs will actually attack you. That's gotta be why they are so mean to them because I have not seen any "revering" of dogs here.

Time To Face The Facts
  • I realized the other day it's not possible for me to ever have kids, but ya never know, doctors are making new medical advances everyday.
  • I will never be the queen of England. I could however, be a queen in England.
  • Perservering and Procrastinating do not go hand in hand.
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04/18/05-05/15/05

Wow! Did We Have Some Bad Gas

I don't remember mentioning, but we have started eating a lot more fruits and vegetables. That is one of the great things about our town. We can get apples, oranges, tomatoes, carrots, onions, potatoes, garlic, and cabbage. (Some people only get potatoes in there town/soum. I think some places don't even have potatoes tho.) Every week we go shopping for groceries (mostly Shauna shops cuz she has more time). Welp, we went to our normal spot and bought our normal stuff in the normal way.

After getting home we started cutting up all the veggies for salad. While I was cutting the carrots, I kept smelling something weird. After about 5 carrots, I picked one up and sniffed it....WHEW!!! Smelled like someone dipped it in gasoline! Then I tasted one of the other carrots that smelled ok.... It wasn't. Almost every single carrot was contaminated with gasoline. It must have happened when they were being transported. Unfortunately we didn't get back to the store any time soon so we couldn't take them in and show the people. Shauna did mention it to them the next time tho. --Moral of the story: Sniff a carrot today to keep the gasoline away.--

Finally Decided To Quit Smoking

WOOOHOOOO, the town decided to quit smoking. Unfortunately it wasn't based on anything Shauna or I did. Every year around the end of April they quit smoking. "That's great", you say. Yes it is, but it's great in a different way. The smoke I am referring to is the black smoke that is belched from the towering smoke stacks in our town. This is where the hot water comes from in the winter that heats our apartment building. There really isn't a problem with the smokestacks per se, but there is a problem with the location of our apartment. Even though we are in the best apartments in town, we are directly downwind, and it gets pretty warm inside our place.

You say, "Well stupid, it's -400°F there in the winter, you shouldn't be opening your windows anyway." Yep, your right.....however, like I said, the hot water heating is VERY good....tooo good sometimes. So, it's hot, and we open a window. BUT, then the wind decides to pick up and blow all the smoke from the stacks into our apt. I think our apartment is a vacuum because every time we open the window, 5 minutes later, we are gagging on black coal smoke. So it is either, choke on smoke, or fry like July. Anyway, they finally shut the hot water off so we don't have to worry about the smoke anymore. The problem is now, we don't have any hot water. Bathing is a real beach now. hehehe. Also, now you won't get to hear me whine about it. Bummer for you.

The Office Wellness Program

I think this is the coolest project type thing I have done here so far. My job is interesting an all, but it's a lot like a job. If you have been keeping up on my journal, you know about the office ergonomic initiative. (That's not what I originally called it, but sounds cool now huh?) My coworkers loved the ergonomic changes we made so much that I decided to try some other 'stuff'. I will try to summarize everything, but it's kinda hard to piece it all together without writing a novel.

Something never really dawned on me (for some reason) until now. I guesstimate that over half the population in this country must be chronically dehydrated. 1, you can't drink the tap water; 2, many people are herders living in the Gobi; and 3, many people just aren't educated in personal health. That also led me to think about the fact that many towns, and people living out in the middle of nowhere (herders), never eat any fruits or vegetables. Anyone ever heard of scurvy? I think scurvy still occurs here in rare cases.

So, I figured since the staple diet here is meat and dairy, maybe it's time to introduce some 'water' and 'fruits and vegetables'. I had 2 willing guinea pigs in my counterpart Davaa, and our finance officer Saruul (now our office health expert to be). I made the "test" available to anyone who wanted to join in, but Davaa and Saruul would be my main test subjects. Now, the recommendations for consuming water, fruits, and vegetables is considerably high compared to what the average Mongolian is used to, so I started with a happy medium. Plus, didn't want to scare em to death. I am trying to help em be healthy, not kill em from fright. hehehe. Anyway, I told them the most important thing was to drink at least 1 liter of water each day. Then, the next on my list was to eat at least 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit each day (and I explained a "serving"). I created a basic spreadsheet and put it right above the time sheet log so they could fill it in daily with the amount of each item they consumed. I also signed myself up to make sure I am accountable.

Another thing that is interesting is how in shape and active the children here are, but the adults are generally not in the best physical shape. (That is pretty much standard around the world I think tho....grow up...not as active...etc etc). The elderly people are a whole other story. I see what appears to be osteoporosis in a large majority of the elderly. (I am not a doctor tho, so just goin off my health/fitness knowledge).

Saruul has been studying a lot about ergonomics. Along with the ergonomic information, I found some office stretching information. The kind of stretches and things that you should do for everything from your legs to your eyes. The great thing is that she has implemented this stretching program and the office is doing it almost daily at a set time in the morning and afternoon. It also gives everyone a chance to practice their English because they take turns giving directions from the sheet. This is much better than actually teaching an English class for me.

At this point, both Davaa and Saruul are very happy with the progress of the water, fruit, vegetable experiement. We are on our third week now and both of them say they feel a Lot better overall. The office stretching is going good also and everyone says the stretches really help. Saruul is so excited, she is going to work with another lady in our office (Togos) to start a Health NGO (Non Governmental Organization). Sounds like it's going to be really helpful and it's actually something Shauna has given Togos some information on already apparently. Right now it's verrry early in the beginning stages. The hardest part will be breaking "bad" habits. Number 1 on the list here is definitely smoking. Number 1½ on the list would be second hand smoke. Apperently very few people know second hand smoke is just as bad.

It's Like The End Of The World, But A Little Different

I sure wish we hadn't used up all our video camera tapes on Thailand and Camel Polo. Heh heh. I guess I could have taken a picture, but then again, I could take a close up picture of some dirt on the ground at night too. Is it the end of the world you say? Nope, just the nastiest sand/dust storms you've ever seen in your life. Have you ever heard the phrase "blotted out the sun"? Well, now I can say I have seen it...or not seen it as was the case. Actually, it was verrrry eerie. I was at work in the office and we were having our normal average terrible 'fill your eyes and lungs with sand' spring storm where the whole town looks likes its in permanent rewind because everyone is walking backwards against the wind. Then out of know where, it got worse. Yep, literally, it turned to night in seconds. We had to turn the lights on in our office just so we could work.

Here is what all of you need to do to 'really' experience what walking around in a sand storm in the Gobi is like.

  1. Get your favorite oscillating fan, lock it in place.
  2. Get one 5 gallon bucket of sand from your local playground.
  3. Now turn the fan on High and put your face 6 inches in front of it.
  4. Have someone dump the bucket of sand into the fan.
  5. You may turn around backwards after the first blast fills your eyes and mouth.
  6. If you turn backwards, then every few seconds you should take a quick look over your shoulder.
NOTE: For the full effect, you must not close your eyes the entire time. Ya got's to see where's ya are goin right?

Interview With A Legend

One day I was at work and I got a text message from some guy I didn't know. He heard Shauna and I were down here in the Gobi and he wanted to know if we had some info on drivers to come down or whatever. I just figured it was an M14 (that's a PCV [Peace Corps Volunteer] in the 14th group. We are M15's) because I don't know all of the M14's that well. Nope, turned out it was a guy working with a college in UB and doing research on herders for a paper he is writing.

So he showed up the next day in our GI (Gobi Initiative) office and we sat down to chat about what I do with Mercy Corps and how Gobi Initiative helps herders. I gave him all the information I had, but obviously I am not an expert on herders, so I asked my counterpart Davaanyam if she would mind chatting with this guy. Wellll, right then I noticed there was a herder sitting there, and Davaa said, "We have a herder right here he can talk to". It was perfect.

Well, come to find out, this particular herder happened to be the master herder of a business we work with in one of the western soums. He is a very esteemed and respected individual and has won many awards for his knowledge and contribution to herding. AAAAANNND, the real kicker.........In 1996 he was a candidate in the Mongolian Presidential Election. WHOA. He was a really nice guy and seemed to reeeally know what was going on in Mongolia. Sometimes it's hard not to stereotype herders since they live such a hard nomadic lifestyle. (It still amazes me sometimes that there are so many herders who have bachelor's degrees in everything from economics to agriculture.)

Knock Knock Knock Knock Knock Knock Knock Knock Knock Knock

While Shauna was away, she received a package from the embassy containing the movie "Field of Dreams". They have what is basically like a month long rental program where you can get movies to show in your English classes. So I borrowed the TV and VCR from our office and decided to watch it. Right before starting the movie, I heard this incessant knocking (banging) on one of the neighbors door. Not sure if I ever told you, but for some reason people in Mongolia must not like to answer their door when they hear knocking (banging). Why else would it be necessary for someone to knock (bang) for longer than 1 minute? In this case, the knocking (banging) started before the movie, and after the movie was over, I realized.....that knocking (banging) is STILL going on. "Field of Dreams" is 1 hour 46 minutes long. So someone MUST have been home and just not answering.

The Peace Corps volunteer that was here in this building before us once told me a story about a drunk guy that knocked (banged) on his door from about 11pm till 3am. He would knock (bang) for a while, then pass out, then knock (bang), then pass out. That is a good explanation in itself why some people don't answer their door. I know we are very selective about answering our door.

Terms Of Abandonment

Shauna went to UB for a little over a week to get her yearly medical checkup and buy some English-Russian-Mongolian Medical dictionaries for the health department. "Sounds" legitimate right? Ya, whatever. I am thinking of reporting her to husband services. Can you believe should would leave me by myself for that amount of time unsupervised. What kind of wife would do such a thing? Apparently MINE.

Everyday I was required to do things like; Cook for myself; Clean up after myself; Clean up 'myself'; Tuck myself in at night; etc etc. Do you know how hard it is to tuck yourself into bed at night? HUH? DO YA??? Maybe you should try it some time! Well then!!! Quit laughing at me!! OK, THANK YOU!!! MAY I CONTINUE NOW??

So anyway, as I was saying....I was abandoned. I almost tye died all my shirts, started learning sitar music, and began smokin some Mary Jane. "Why", you ask. Well, let me tell you.... Ya see, ever since I shaved my head during training last year, Shauna won't allow me to cut my own hair. Needless to say, I didn't get a haircut before she left, annnnd.....can anyone say 'Hippie'....hmmmm. hehehe. Actually, my head looked more like an old brillo pad or a new baby chick. I can describe in two simple words---> FUH ZEE.

I was actually able to get one good thing accomplished though. I put a decent dent in my bible. Normally I have a good schedule of doing this and that and the other thing, but this week I just felt like reading my bible every chance I had. YES, I CAN READ....sheesh. I actually read 12 books of the old testament and have made it all the way to JOB now. I might actually get the entire thing read this go round. Cool.

So she did end up coming back, buuuuut......ya, you shoulda known there would be a but.. She sent me a text message saying something like, "Good news, I got a ride in a jeep. I am coming with some tourists from the guesthouse." I thought, right on, that's nice. (side note: Going in a jeep to and from UB is better because they drop you off right at the door of your destination. Versus the bus that drops you off in some central spot and you have to find a cab or whatever.) Anyway, 8.5 hours later (the trip normally takes 6 at the very most) she arrives. (You'll have to read her journal for trip details.)

I go outside extremely happy that I don't have to fend for myself anymore.....OH....I mean, extremely happy that she is home, and GUESS WHAT? Apparently, "I am coming with some tourists" means "I am coming with 3 Korean tourists and I have agreed to let them stay the night at our tiny apartment." Well, on any other day, I woulda been happy to have some international house guests. However, I had not seen Shauna in about 10 days and I wanted be all namby pamby and hang and talk and chic stuff like that. (UH YA...UH, How bout those Bears?) Obviously that didn't happen, but overall it wasn't bad. They spoke a little English and seemed like nice guys.

I CAN Be Thoughtful When I Want

Since miss fancy pants city girl wifey was gone, and I just got "Field Of Dreams", I decided to make the English lesson for the Gobi office kids a report on the movie. They came over on Saturday at 11:30am. Amazingly, that movie seems to be pretty good for intermediate English speakers. They had a few questions, but overall they got the gist of the movie. (Luckily I didn't have to translate the word 'masterbate'...eeek. That was in one spot where they had a question.) Their assignment is to write a 1 page paper on the movie. We will have them present it to each other at the next class. I told them they could write about anything that was in the movie, corn, baseball, Boston, etc, etc...

And This One Time.... At Computer Camp...
  • We put tape on all the keys of the secretaries keyboards so they couldn't see them.
  • We swapped the counselor's usb 2.0 hub with an identical looking usb 1.1 hub.
  • We turned off word wrap on all the word processing and text editing programs.
  • We set the Default Input Language on all pc's to Russian so whenever they typed anything it was in Russian.
  • We changed all the computer names to their binary equivalent. Like 011001010111.
  • We set the default language for Google to 'Elmer Fudd'.
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05/16/05-05/29/05

Have You Hugged Your Dental Hygienist Lately

The week before we went to China was pretty uneventful. Most of the office was gone to a meeting in another aimag, or off working in the countryside. The great thing was I only had a 3 day work week because my annual medical exams were on Friday.

My physical went off without a hitch....DANGIT....I coulda used a free trip to Thailand. hehehe. (Thailand is where people are sent with medical problems that the Peace Corps medical officer cannot deal with. Plus, Thailand's medical system is apparently MUCH better.) Oh how I miss the sandy beaches of Thailand, and the yummy pineapple, and the....OH UH...Sorry, got on a tangent...

After the physical, I headed to the dentist. Expectations were high because Shauna said nice things about them, and other PC volunteers didn't mention anything. Phewy, I say, cuz I hate going to the dentist. I show up and only have to wait a short amount of time. The nice dentist lady takes me to the back and takes x-rays and all that jazz. Then guess what? I couldn't believe it!! No Cavities.....WOOHOOO. Since I had no cavities, she began to clean my teeth. at least that is what I "thought" she was going to do. She called it "cleaning", but it was a nightmarish event that involved lots scraping, pain, and blood. I have given Shauna a lot of grief in the past when she has cleaned my teeth, but never again. This lady was so rough I was waiting for the whips and chains to come out at any moment. Ya Ya, I coulda said stop or something, but that would have just prolonged the whole nightmare. So I cowboyed up and dealt with it. It only took a couple days for my gums to heal up. Woohoo!

What's That Noise? Is It The Sound Of The Law Breaking?

We headed to the airport early Saturday morning for our trip to Beijing. Luckily, the UB airport is more like a giant bus stop, so it's super easy to fly in and out. (It's the smallest international airport I have ever seen....but then again, I have only seen a few.) One thing about a small airport is you can see almost everyone in the terminal, which is nice if you need someone to transport something for you from Mongolia to China.......Like my wife for example.

Apparently there was a British news agency that asked her to take a tape to someone at the airport in Beijing. Sounds innocent enough except I imagine they didn't send it through the mail because China would probably not allow it. I don't know, but we did get a free ride from the airport to our hotel, so that saved us about $25 I think. (Oh, and in Mongolia, they don't ask you that simple lil question, "has anyone given you anything?") After this episode, I am curious about something... Is it ok to call your wife a mule? It's a farm animal just like a cow, but you would never call your wife a cow......and be able to live another day that is.

HelloBeCareful

We saw two different places on the great wall. The first place (Badaling) is the "normal" tourist attraction where everyone and there dog goes because it looks nice and is easy closer to Beijing. The other place we visited was called Simatai. It was awesome because there has been no restoration work done and everything is still in it's original form. There is a lot of erosion, but it's still cool. At Simatai, we opted to do the 6-10km hike. The bus dropped us off at one point and gave us 4 hours to hike to the pickup spot. We heard from many tour guides and others in Beijing that Simatai was very difficult and bla bla bla....Whateverrrrr. Yep, it was difficult and you had to be very careful, but sheesh, it wasn't that bad.

The best part (not) was our new friends we acquired as soon as we made it to the wall and started hiking. Two guys decided we needed escorts the entire way. OH, and the ENTIRE time they kept repeating, "Hellobecareful". (yep, it was like one word when they said it.) ARRRGH, it was soooo annoying. We came to this part of the wall to get AWAY from people, not be hounded. Another word they liked to use was "Slowly", because we were cruzing along at a nice pace. Shauna finally told them we will not buy anything from you, no books, nothing. We don't need anything. They got the hint and stopped following us after that. I was having fun though trying to kill em. I figured if they want to bother me, I will just take it up a notch and make em wish they never tried to follow me. HEH HEH HEH. (Shauna Disclaimer: I was not really trying to kill them or be mean, I was just trying to get away. Killing people cuz they annoy you is not nice.) However, my plan wasn't working to good cuz they thought we were great, and even gave us a big thumbs up.

It was great, we only saw, at most, 30 people at one time resting. (At each tower there was one or two people selling drinks out of a small bag or box.) It was very easy to get good pictures with no people in them. Even though there were not many people, we had some guy tell us we were going to fast and to be careful (Thanks MOM!). SHEESH, we just ditched the two annoying China guys and now we have some tourist telling us to be safe.

Tract Palaces

Does everyone know what tract housing is? Ya know, where all the houses are built similar and look alike? Well, that is kinda how the palaces are in Beijing. I thought they were AWESOME, but after you spend 4-5hrs walking around a palace, it all begins to look the same. We were able to see the Summer Palace and the Harvest Palace. The Forbidden City is directly across the street from Tiananmen Square, but we couldn't take anymore palaces so we skipped it. Maybe in the future I will find some detailed literature on each palace, then revisit them and have a better understanding of the entire Palace setup. The little bit I know now just wasn't sufficient enough to keep my interest past 4-5hrs. However, I highly recommend seeing them. Just do some research before, or get a guide when you go.

DZA COMRAD

We probably walked 50 miles while in Beijing. When we didn't have a specific plan for the day, we would just go check out the town and relax. However, our relaxing day usually turned into a 4-5hr jaunt around town. We did find some cool stuff though. There were all sortsa markets and shops and and and.

So, one day we were out on one of our "relaxing" walks, and the next thing we know.....EVERYTHING is written in Chinese and Cyrillic (Russian). Normally everything is in Chinese and English. We kept walking along, and began to notice more and more "white" people. Yep, there were Russians everywhere. I think this place was Russia Town. Every big city in the states has a China Town or Whatever Town, but I have never heard of a Russian district. (Then again I am originally a hick from a small town of 1000 people in Colorado.) As we walked, we noticed a giant department store looking building with many many floors. It was called Alien Street and apparently is the Russian version of the Silk Market. We strolled in, and the entire time, the Chinese merchants were trying to speak Russian to us. Was kinda funny. There was everything from panties to high power rifle scopes in this place. It was amazing.

French Invasion

Welp, we finally ran out of starpoints with our Sheraton dealy so we stayed at a guest house the final 2 days. I really like guest houses, but at this point I would rather have a hotel room. Living in Mongolia is not simple, and we ALWAYS stay at a guest house whenever in UB. Privacy with nice amenities is a great benefit for us now when vacationing. One great reason for using a guest house is the connections you can make with fellow travelers. Everyone has a story about this country or that place or whatever, and it's great to just hang and chat.

We hung out at night on the patio area with a group and the funny thing was, I think almost all of them were French. They were all really nice and we were able to learn all sortsa new and interesting things about Europe. Some of them are coming to Mongolia soon and we invited them to stay with us a night. Only problem is, Mandalgobi is not really a tourist hot spot. If a tourist shows up here, it's usually just to stay 1 night or get a bite to eat and keep traveling.

Places You Will Eat In China If Your A Peace Corps Volunteer From Mongolia
  • Eat Pizza Hut
  • Eat Pizza Hut
  • Eat Subway
  • Eat McDonalds (even if you hated it in the states)
  • Eat Pizza Hut
  • Eat Chinese Food Restaurant
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05/30/05-06/05/05

So This Is What It's Like To Feel Important

Well, this week was not very eventful. However, I did find out that in mid July I am scheduled to travel to 3 or 4 other aimags and "fix up" the Gobi Initiative office computer systems/networks. (I think I am scheduled to be traveling for 2 weeks.) Apparently I have people over here thinking that I know what I am doing or something. Heh Heh. I like to call what I have done....My Office Efficiency Initiative, or "EI" for short. It involves all the health information that I talked about in previous journals, but what everyone in the other aimags reeeally like is the computer 'stuff', and I must admit I have done a pretty good job getting the office working smoothly.

I didn't do anything amazing though. I installed an internal chat program called BorgChat, and installed a program that allows everyone to view the main email account. (I also installed winXP on all the pc's). The other cool thing is now everyone in the office has an internal email account and they can send emails to each other. After being in the office for a while, one of the first things I noticed was anytime someone needed on the internet, they had to kick my counterpart (our office translator) off her computer. It was the only pc in the office that could connect to the internet, and it is where the email was. Now, we can still only connect to the internet through her computer, but anyone can disconnect it from their pc, and they can also read and send emails from there own pc. This way no one needs to bother my counterpart any more except to say, "please sign on to the internet."

Anyway, I am starting to confuse myself now with the way I am explaining everything, plus I am getting a little bored with myself, and it really doesn't sound so amazing after I read it. Overall, the EI program is working great and I highly recommend myself to everyone I know. Thank you.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Come Back To My Journal
  • Who invented the game "Footsie", and is it copyrighted? I have an idea? Shhh, don't tell.
  • The words Mistress and Distress are exactly the same except for one letter. Coincidence?? I THINK NOT!
  • At least twice a day you should stop and reflect on why you want to be more like me.
  • Since we are almost 1 day ahead of most of you in America, should I refer to today as tomorrow and yesterday as today except when it's the same day for 9 or so hours?
  • Why is my fan club being kept a secret? I know there is one out there. There's got to be.
  • If you stand too close to your wife or husband, someone might think you like them.
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