Hello, Ulaanbaatar!

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We have been in UB for a week now**. Jet lag seems to be pretty much gone, we haven’t had any major culture shock–yet–and in spite of a few sizable blisters from all of the walking we do every day, we are otherwise doing very well! It is wonderful to finally be settling into our new home after so many weeks of limbo.

Speaking of our new home, we really could not have asked for more! Our apartment is on the eighth floor of a building that is south-central in UB, just past the end of Peace Bridge. It is an easy walk into downtown and the main office as well as an easy walk to our school. With a few supermarkets close at hand and a convenience store right next to our building, not having a car won’t be a problem for us. Also, our apartment is at least twice the size of the place we were living in back in Seattle and has a washing machine. Yay for no more laundromats! 🙂 The one quirk of the apartment is our water–even when it goes through the Brita, it has a sooty, rubbery aftertaste. Odd, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it in time.

This first week in Mongolia has been a bit of a whirlwind. We’ve done a lot of walking, as I said, and much of that walking has been our orientation to UB, so our guides–fellow teachers and staff–have pointed out landmarks, stores, markets, banks, restaurants, etc. One of these aspects has been pointing out different brands in the supermarkets that, as Westerners, they prefer. There is such a wide variety of products available here in the city from all over the world. I’ve found a few brands from the US, but it just makes me chuckle a little to sit down to a meal with ingredients from Russia, Germany, Mongolia, China, and Korea. Mongolia definitely feels like a melting pot!

The other part of our orientation to the city has involved a class that is geared towards introducing us to the culture, giving us tactics to deal with culture shock, and throwing us into a crash course in Mongolian. We can now hold a very brief conversation with an ok accent, count to 10 (theoretically to 100), give directions, ask what something is, ask how much something costs, and identify office/school supplies. I can tell you all the letters in the Mongolian Cyrillic alphabet, but I still have a hard time reading word because my brain cannot yet smoothly associate sounds with their characters. Five hours of language is enough to help us survive, but we definitely are looking forward to more language lessons in the future!

During our class, we took a field trip to Gandan Monastery, a Buddhist monastery and temple in UB. Rather than describe it, I’ll just include a slide show of pictures because pictures speak louder than words, and I’m not sure I really have the words to describe the experience. Educational and eye-opening? Yes.

 

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In a little while**, we will meet up with the rest of the teachers and staff to head out to Terelj National Park for a training retreat. I think originally we were going to stay in gers, but now we will be in a hotel. Perhaps we will find time to ride horses or take walks in the park. I’m not sure what the schedule will look like! I do know that we likely won’t have internet, so no more updates for awhile.

Баяртай!

**I meant to post this on Sunday morning, but our internet was being funky. Better late than never!

Goodbye, America!

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Sitting in the living room of the small suite we’ve called home for the last few weeks and realizing that in 24 hours we will be sitting in Denver International Airport waiting for our flight is a little surreal. We began this journey last August and have been working toward departure over the last year. There have been hard conversations and second-guessing along the way, but as I write this, the doubts are gone. Mostly, we are both excited and looking forward to getting settled into our new home so we can discover a new rhythm to life.

It is hard to leave the US. Even though I grew up overseas, I’ve spent the last eleven years in the Seattle area and now consider it home. That’s more than double the amount of time that I’ve ever lived in one country. Uprooting, familiar as it is, is a little harder this time because I’ve had the chance to build relationships and familiarity that I never really had before. Yesterday, I spoke on the phone with my parents–who are currently living in the DRC–and cried when I hung up the phone. I can honestly say that I don’t know when we’ll see them next. Seeing pictures of our niece and nephew on facebook made me remember that they will be two years older before we get to hug them again. Later in the day, a phone call with my sister made me worry about leaving her. It is so hard to leave all of this behind in a cloud of ambiguity, but somehow it’s still worth it.

I know that adjusting to life in Mongolia will be tough. If past experience is any indicator, I’m sure we will both encounter days of frustration and confusion and dismay. At the same time, I know that working with our future students will be rewarding. (We know now where we will be teaching, although we do not know the specifics of our classes–grade level, type of course. Even so, it is fun to wonder and hope.) Having the opportunity to learn Mongolian language and culture is something that not many people have. I count this new season of our lives a privilege and am thankful that we get to go.

We will be hitting the ground running in UB, so I really do not know when I’ll be able to post again, but the next post will be from Mongolia. Until then, баяртай (bayartai)!

Fort Collins

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On Sunday, we were able to take a trip in to Fort Collins–a nice break from being on campus pretty much 24/7. 🙂 Clicking on the images below will pull up full size pictures.

UNC – Greeley

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View of campus from our dorm window. This place is beautiful!

View of campus from our dorm window. This place is beautiful!

How to spot the folks from Seattle

How to spot the folks from Seattle

What can I say except that we are easily amused??

More to come!

Rocky Mountain High

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A week ago, we flew from Seattle to Denver to start our training and orientation prior to the final move to Mongolia. Like the genius that I am, I decided to wear a Seahawks sweatshirt into Broncos country. (Fortunately, Eric remembered before we got off the plane so I could take it off and avoid getting burned at the stake.) Saying goodbye to the folks at the curb was really hard. There were tears all around and hugs that I didn’t want to end. Once inside the airport, a couple of the young men from our local fellowship came to see us off, so we got more hugs and well wishes there. It was nice to see everyone one last time before we made the super long trek to our gate.

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Nothing too exciting happened on the plane ride from Seattle to Denver, although the guy sitting to Eric’s left was snoring. The flight was not too long, and we had minimal turbulence. I think the worst part of the flight was realizing once again that airplanes for domestic flights just aren’t made for anyone who isn’t a petite 5’4″. In general, I think we were just too excited to get to the next phase of this move that it didn’t really matter!

In Denver, we connected with the rest of our future team, which was great! It was fun to meet up with our new colleagues and get to know each other a bit. In total, there are seven of us heading to Mongolia–four young women, a young man from Australia, and the two of us. We are a diverse group, and I can already tell that we are going to get along well!

Currently, we are staying at the UNC campus in Greeley. We have a pleasant little suite in the dorms to ourselves with a nice view of the campus. Most of our days are full of classes and informational sessions. Completing the coursework for TEFL certification and learning all the ins and outs of moving to Asia takes a lot of time! The last week has been challenging, but a lot of fun. Being surrounded by so many like-minded people who want to teach overseas has been a blast!

Wrapping Up

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IMG_20140712_190215We are in the midst of a rest day here in Colorado, so now is a great time to catch up here on the blog! With the gracious help of friends and family, we were actually able to wrap things up in Seattle by the end of the 26th of July. It took about two weeks straight of sorting and packing to get everything done. We went through a lot of stacks of boxes like this to get everything out of our apartment! It really is amazing how much we were able to fit in a place that was about 500 square feet.

Our biggest task was definitely packing up our six full-sized bookcases. Leaving the vast majority of our library behind in the US was hard. For book lovers, it feels like leaving necessities behind. We are shipping a few boxes to Mongolia, but for the most part, our books are going to chill at Eric’s folks’ place in Oregon while we are gone. Here would be a great spot to take a moment and shout from the rooftops how amazing the in-laws are. Without them, I do not think we would have made it here to the next phase of our journey to Mongolia. Scratch that–I know we would not have made it here without them.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words and there is really only so much else that can be said about packing, here are photos galore for you to peruse to your heart’s content. I expect we will have more content up in the next few days, but enough chatter from me for now.

Ta!