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