“It’s the oldest story in the world. One day you’re 17 and planning for someday, and then, quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today, and that someday is yesterday and this is your life.” –Nathan Scott
My 3rd grade class is reading the book Frindle by Andrew Clements right now. In the chapter we read this week, the main character was dreading 7th period when he would have to present a report on the dictionary. He described how when one is looking forward to something, it seems to take forever to arrive, yet when one is dreading something, time seems to pass quickly. This led to a very interesting conversation amongst my students about the relativity of time, which really stuck with me long after my students dispersed for the weekend.
I can hardly believe I left home a month ago today. In some ways, it feels like I’ve been here a year. I’ve got my routines, my stores, my coffee shops. I’ve been out to the countryside, ridden horses, hiked, made friends from all over the world, and planned a lot for my school year. At the same time, however, I am constantly reminded that I haven’t been here long. I’ve begun to notice the day get shorter, and I can only imagine at this stage what the winter will be like. Talking to family and friends feels like I was there yesterday. I’m still stumbling across new things. Today, for example, we stumbled across an archery competition where everyone was wearing traditional outfits. It was a small reminder that there is still so much yet to learn and see here in Mongolia.
I’ve got a lot to learn as a teacher as well. I teach 3rd grade, and my class currently has 19 students, most of whom are Mongolian. They are adorable (a lot of the time), and I really feel they’ve gotten settled and got routines mostly down. My biggest struggles so far are keeping them organized (the desks in my classroom aren’t great for storage), turning homework in on time, and keeping my own energy levels up. Teaching elementary school is also a lot more stressful than I remember it being, since they have to be taught how to do everything and guided in practice before earning independence in most activities. They’re finally developing that independence in some of the things I started teaching them, which has made me so proud already. They’re avid readers, curious kids, and just altogether generous beings, and I’m lucky that I get to watch them grow during my time in Mongolia.
Aside from family, friends, and my dog, I’m not really missing much here. UB has most of the things I missed in Mozambique, and it is an inexpensive place to live. I don’t feel I’ve met anyone here that I wouldn’t get along with, and have quite a few people to call if I’m bored and want to do something. It’d be nice to be within a day of a beach—even if that meant hitchhiking for 13 hours to get there—but even a month in I find myself amazed by these mountains. Again, we’ll see how I last in the winter. I feel like there are a lot of Game of Thrones references to be made.
The first weekend after school started, the school took us teachers on a trip out into the Mongolian countryside. We drove past camels and sheep and cows and horses and touristy falcons. We drove through winding passes and trudged up mountains. Finally we arrived at our ger camp, where we were escorted in by some men on horseback and ushered to a circle of chairs. We were fed milk tea and milk curds, as per tradition, and then released to spend the day as we pleased. I sat and talked for a while with friends, played a bit of hacky sack, and then went to ride horses. When I got back, I went on a walk, and came back for the party. It was a really fun and relaxing day, and being out in the open gave me a feeling of such control over my own life and comfort in my choices. It was just overall a good day.
We slept in the gers, which are traditional Mongolian homes. They’re built in a circular shape with a stove and a chimney pipe in the middle, and actually stay quite warm while the stove is lit. Each ger had 4 beds and a table in the middle. I actually got a really good nights sleep too. In the morning, we had breakfast, packed up, and left.
Otherwise my weekends here are a lot more relaxed. I usually spend some time with friends from around the city, some time shopping or wandering, and some time drinking or going out with friends here. This morning we went to the Fall Festival at the International School of UB, which was pretty cool. There were all kinds of artwork and clothing being sold, and I got to see some of their impressive school. Tomorrow, a bunch of us teachers are doing a color run here in UB, so that should be enjoyable! I still have some hiking, horseback riding, and traveling on my bucket list before it gets cold, and we’ll see where the days take me in general!
Mongolian word of the day: Баяртай (bayartai) means goodbye