Since Saturday is an inauspicious day to travel, we planned on leaving Sunday for Ulaanbaatar. I had pushed for going by machine to UB and my CP, Aruna and the hasha mother in law agreed for monetary reasons (plane 27,000 vs machine 10,000). And so with most things that defy common sense for a good reason, I could only say "It sounded like a good idea at the time", when answering shocked friends after my 28 hour journey. On November 5th, Sunday morning, the machine pulled up at about 9am. With stops at other homes, the machine office and pumping up the tires, we didn't leave till 10am. The trip started out well. I got a place next to a window. The steppes stretched out with muted colors. I thought "can't see the grass for the steppes." It was an interesting monotonous feast for the eyes. I saw herds of camels, horses, sheep / goats and wild gazelle. We stopped occasionally for a pee or puke. Finally we stopped at a soum and ate brutz at a gwanze (little restaurant). The poor woman had to work very hard as the 13 of us suddenly showed up, probably more customers than she'd had all month. I pleased some by providing cards to play hootzer. We were all friends by then. Two of the men were very funny and kind. At one point, much later, one turned to me and started talking then laughed and tossed up his hands as remembered I couldn't understand a word. I find language so powerful and interesting, more so in the fact that you can communicate so much and know so much about a person without a common language.
By the time we got to Mandalgovi my butt was hurting. Four of us were squished into the backseat and I was sitting on a bar, on a very bumpy ride. We drove into a fierce snowstorm and it lasted all the way to UB. What I could see of the outside world, where the ice had been scraped from the windows was only whiteness. The van occasionally stopped. The husband of the driver would get out and crank the engine or lift the front seat to tinker with the engine. Or we would get stuck and some of the men would get out to push. They found my gee-jig gal hairtsey (small fire box), which is a small hand warmer that uses charcoal sticks a friend bought for me from an outdoor store, interesting at first û then necessary when returning from pushing the van gloveless. We were further slowed when we stopped at a ger camp to wait for dawn. We ate soyvhun and I was not allowed to stand û though sitting was painful, as everyone offered me a chair several times each. And saying "my backside is tired" didn't work. I don't know how to say "hurts like hell" else I would have.
We slept in the van for 3 hours. I got out my sleeping bag and they ran the engine a bit to run the heater. I offered the smokers some cloves I had and after understanding they were asking if it was marijuana, I said no. But they didn't like them. It's ironic, I'm culturally forced to eat many things I don't like, and here these men were fighting to conceal distaste as they smoked. Finally we made it to UB.
11/6 The snow covered the filth and it looked pretty. My CP was dropped off first and all were surprised I was able to give clear directions in Mongolian to the Peace Corp office. Though at first I would say "turn left" and one man would "translate", but he only said the same thing I had. But he stopped. I walked into PC with a cold, a little dazed from the ride and in dreamlike shock as I saw so many people, and familiar ones at that. Some of us met up to go to Millie's and held a stereotypical, loud conversation. I'd forgotten how funny Jeff was. He even held a taste test of Heinz and the other brand, successfully. We got tired of waiting for a bus, so hailed a car û the man flipped a bitch to pick us up and drove daringly, but had us laughing with attempts to communicate and correct our pronunciation. Jeff enjoys building his vocab and amuses Mongolians with the random things he knows how to say. About 7 of us ended up sleeping at Jeff's apartment û which is 2 offices in the Business school he teaches at. It was big, warm and well decorated. It was also a place to sleep.
We crammed into a bus next morning and had to crawl over people to get off. The Peace Corp had a bus to take us to Nuud, the hotel our seminar was at. Walking around UB, it was so cold, one's nose hairs froze. So when at the seminar I meant to take walks, but I never went outside. Meetings were down the hall, cafeteria downstairs, lobby with comfy chairs and conversation a few doors away. I could go outside and revel in the cold later, for now I was content with the freedom to wear only flip flops and be with Americans. The hotel was so nice. It had ruby red slippers, militant like stripped bathrobes, soft fluffy towels, a water boiler, clean carpets and divine comfy beds with real pillows. One volunteer headed off to bed saying she wanted to take more advantage of this comfort. The accommodations were a shock to all us ger dwellers.
We had language sessions that were fun and laid back. They offered a chance to ask questions and build up our speaking confidence. In a group we all introduced ourselves and counterparts. There were both M10's and M11's there. Some people are doing really interesting things. Cindy is working in an Enlightenment Center; Travis is setting up web / internet service and will later have a web page design class; Rebecca is teaching monks English; one is truly free to make this whatever experience they want. I'm thinking that I should focus on English projects. That is what I know and language is my passion. I shouldn't stress about finding varied community projects, that's not why they asked me here. This seminar gave me and my CP many new ideas to try out.
Which reminds me, several people back home asked if I need anything. I don't need stuff for myself, but anything for my class / school (supplies, tapes, holiday items, food). The meals Nuud provided were good and a balance between Mongolian and American. Our seminar was not lectures, but open spaces. We chose topics to discuss and had several different times where 2 û 3 discussions would go on at a time. It was very helpful to exchange ideas and topics. Tea breaks were also a great time for this and venting when needed, very little empty chit-chat went on.
We had more medical sessions with Gilee and the new PCM0, Paul. Both have traveled all over, Paul has even served in Papua New Guinea. Both are so casual and laid back, yet still show how much they know and how helpful they will be. We learned the #1 reported PCV health concern worldwide was diarrhea (and Burkino Faso is #1 in cases, way to go Scotty!) But Mongolia has it's claim by having the most upper respiratory problems, which is #2 on the worldwide list. #3 is mental health issues, and this is the #1 reason worldwide for medical evacuations. We also got some tips from one of our own, Adreans, on hypothermia. One thing she mentioned, "hearing your name is a powerful thing". I wonder why. But it is true û it snaps us to the present moment existing outside ourselves.
On Wednesday we felt the building excitement as Lee popped into our sessions with updates of the Presidential race. He was calling PC and asking anyone there who was watching CNN in the lounge. When we were told Bush won, the majority of our group was very upset. As Dave said, "he's the guy who suggests we drill for oil in our parks", doesn't sit well with hippie PC freaks.
Side thought: my power is out again. I write by candlelight. A candle needs air to burn, but if you try to help it and ply it too much it will go out û maybe I'm being over symbolic.
After dinner we had a "Women in Development" meeting, though the name is being changed to a more appropriate name û Gender and Development. We discussed sex-ed in the schools and that often it's left to the biology teacher û usually without enough training or if they have been given the materials, culturally they are uncomfortable using them. After this we had a "talent show". Songs were sung in Buriat, Kasakh, a children's song about a boa constrictor and Itsy Bitsy spider û prompted by a human body trick a Mongolian did with lacing her fingers over and over. Some sang "Country Rose" with Stephanie belting it out so well and Dave sang the well timed "Patriot" with hoots and hollers at the "I'm not a Republican" line. Such a good song, but overall the TS was very comical. My CP even got up and told a funny antidote from our class. We had other human tricks: Jeff played the Lone Ranger on his bottom lip, giving an intro explanation of the different sounds (horse on a dry ground, horse going through puddles). Our Dave could wiggle his ears and tried to teach us how, then he amazed us with his ability to name every capital of any country û many I've never heard of. People just shot them out and he usually didn't even pause. One he didn't know and without pausing answered 4 others and the one he'd forgotten! Amazing how the brain works. I can't even do two things with my hands at the same time. Nadia was able to lift her lip like a horse and Sarah can make a 3 leaf clover with her tongue. Andrea told a personal story and Lee told a moralistic one of 3 wise men in "special English " speaking slowly and acting it our hilariously. Sean sang a very touching (sarcasm) story of his lost sheep in Irish fashion. Ariuel showed us a dance called Capuara and we finished with a Birthday cake for a CP and Chris teaching salsa dance and we all stared dancing.
On Thursday we got a visit from Soros and Ministry of Education. Soros offers some wonderful programs and scholarships to the states that I'm trying to help my student participate in. The Ministry of Educations was frustrating as questions were always not her responsibility, but someone else's. Many schools don't have their books, I see them for sale on the street corners. Is it wrong to think there may be some chain of command we can address, or chain of who handles the book transfers that we can follow? I'm surprised at the apathy I hear. I know I can't change the whole system, but just to say "oh, well. Forget it. I don't need books" is not why I'm here. I found this seminar to be helpful in so many ways, not just all the great teaching ideas. And though it was helpful, especially the talk on discipline, teaching is so difficult. And all these other issues must be dealt with (poor diet, disinterest, no supplies, discipline, school politics, etc) but maybe that is truly the education. The act of learning is more important than what is leaned. Later we did our goodbyes to CP. I'm glad mine got this vacation. Later we tried to listen to a short-wave or a fuzzy TV news to hear of the election, but at this point I only know there's a recount. I await my Newsweek to hear what's going on out there. When we got back to PC there were more familiar faces and a party in one of our staff's apartments. Jeff, the $ man, lives above PC in a very American looking apartment. We discussed the need to travel and how now that his staff, it's so different from when he was a volunteer. He also mentioned it get's harder to travel after PC because one is no longer satisfied with short stays.
Later some of us hung out in PC. Amazingly I was able to buy a cake, though the frosting had a marshmallow quality, at a late night store for Rebecca's birthday. We used a match for a candle (singing very quickly) and almost used a Popsicle stick for a knife, but the Geiger had one. Then another staff person let me crash at his place. There were 9 of us. 3 had to sleep in the kitchen. But I got to know all of them much better over the next 4 nights of late night talks. On Saturday we all woke up late. I had breakfast of soyvhen with Steph, Dave and Chris as we made peanut gallery comments about the MTV videos playing in the restaurant. I did some shopping. Just random stuff. But at the State Dep. Store I saw 3 street boys. One put his open palm up to me, but barely waited for me to say no as he moved past. This was not the usual harassing I'd gotten before. A woman passed carrying boxes and garbage, the boys peered in and asked a question, she shook her head offering the boxes for inspection, but she showed no irritation or pity. I assume they asked if there was anything to eat, buy by the manner they could have just asked "what is that?" So I asked the one boy if "you need fruit?" I have trouble with the want suffix. He quickly said yes. I took them to a counter to choose. I bought them 3 apples and they said "Thank you" several times (in Mongolian) and went off. I don't say this to say "look how great I am". I only abated hunger for maybe an hour, but because the scene was so different. I once offered a sandwich to a beggar in San Francisco, but he didn't want it. Maybe it is justified fear of poisoning. Seeming homeless, or at least very poor, is surprising here because of the culture that existed before, but was reaffirmed by the long socialist reign.
But life goes on ... sounds so selfish, but I am not the type to entirely give up myself for others. I spent a lot of time in the warm friend filled PC lounge. We all watched movies galore. UB even has an English video store, cram packed with videos. PC has a lot of videos, but we rented Lost Boys and Sliding Doors û just what I need; a movie that makes me question existence even more with paths not taken created by what ifs. While in UB I felt more relaxed. Little pressure to speak Mongolian and I could walk around with less stares û foreigners, gada whoon (outside person) are becoming more common. I planned to leave on Tuesday so on Monday I had to hurry to get a ticket, a staff person was going too, but couldn't so he had someone take me in a car, but I had to go to the bank first, and so did Chris. We joked about how important we were that we had a chauffeur. Even more important than the 2 men who looked like they were withdrawing the whole bank. Chris is totally fluent and it was helpful to have his help buying plane tickets. But he had trouble getting his because he didn't have his MIAT card, though MIAT has a copy and he had a reservation, which means they saw the card once upon a time and one of the ladies knows him. But, noà they are trying to be more professional than is usual for Mongolian style. Se we split up and I went off the Black Market I'd been avoiding. It was about a 45 minute walk. While there, it started to snow. But I needed a winter dell. I didn't see a ready made one I liked, so I bought material completely ignorant. The people are helpful and most seem genuine. Only one lady had a beautiful blue silk with dragons. Then by making eye contact with one, I was surrounded by 4 women selling me small balls that act like buttons. They helped me choose what would look best. And then the liner. My CP said I got good quality things and will help me find a seamstress in Dalanzadgad. It was snowing hard and getting dark so I left with out getting winter coats. That night I went with a couple of friends to a Chinese restaurant. The waitress hovered over me making meal suggestions. We sat in a special private room. And were checked on often, never having an empty cup or cold tea. This is an example of businesses knowing about PC. They know if we like the place then every other volunteer will go there too. Customer service is often a foreign concept. Sometimes you stand at the counter until the clerk has finished her conversation with her friend.
On Tuesday I set off early to catch a taxi, giving him my last $ to get to the airport. I met Suren, the Chairman Government working group on IT Counselor, Dept of Multilateral Cooperation form the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Very nice man, spoke very good English. He was going to my soum because we have an Internet site and Mongolia is participating in a world wide survey to see how and where the Internet reaches. When I got to my town, I started to walk home with my bags. A van pulled up and offered me a ride. Funny how that's the stereotype for what a "stranger" does in the states. But he didn't offer me candy or ask me to help him find his cat, so I got in. When I walked into my ger it was cozy because Lxa had built me a fire. I opened my school supply box and my mom had stashed some macaroni and cheese in before mailing them. So I was in high spirits as I set off to class. Only to find they had been moved to the morning and with only 6 sections instead of 7. And my favorite class, the 6th graders, were now only 4 hours per week instead of 6. I met the new director. Seems like a nice guy, but I have to prove myself all over again. He worries about me living in a ger. Can I make a fire? Can I cook? The smoke from the coal is so dangerous, etc. I'm not dead yet. I, knock on wood, have not even gotten very sick - yet. He talked of moving me into the school. Into the room that is currently my classroom.
On Wednesday I showed off some of my supplies I bought in America and the teachers oohed and aahed. The idea of a store full of such things was a foreign concept. Even the stapler was interesting because it is big. My CP asked if the crayons were candles, she'd never seen them before. Even though I am daily bugged to show a lesson plan that is never quite what they want (we have a new section director also û she's rather picky, but that's good), I really enjoy teaching. I'm also settling in other aspects. The little shop one hashaa away offered to buy things for me in UB if I give a list and the one woman always try's to converse with me and we eventually communicate ideas.
I woke up to a light frosting of snow on the 16th. It looked like that white stuffing one sees in stuffed animals that have been dragged across the ground by wind, catching on rocks and things. It was very thin and stuck to my shoes. But I was warm û hot really û in my ger. The stove was so hot I lit a match by just touching it to the stove. But with the cold I stay in my ger more. Occasionally I bundle up to watch the sunset or take a walk. But without these, the intensity of thought seems to have abated. Or maybe the curse of settling into a lifestyle is that I make myself busy and I have little time to just sit around and think.
On Friday I went to Aruna's 8th grade English class for the first time. I think I will go more. And I spoke to them about a Soros scholarship. Then I went to my friend Inktuzo's to talk to her daughter about it. She's only in 7th grade now. But there are 3 different programs that support a 9th grader to spend 3 û 12 months in the US or England. It sounds like such a wonderful chance, she's going to bust her but for the next year to hopefully get accepted. Later I laughed with Aruna, who comes over often now. But I think she unknowingly played a bit of witchcraft. I have had no mice, but she was telling me they killed (?in a Buddhist culture?) 4 in her ger and at that moment we saw one scurry from behind my fridge û curious timing. Maybe it heard us talking about it. I stayed up late this evening to finish "The Handmaids Tale". So tattered the last page is, folded and stuck elsewhere in the book. It was a very interesting book with many political views on women especially. Set a bit in the future, and extreme, but believable. I mention it because later I opened a Newsweek and saw that in Jerusalem they are reinstating the strict laws and have lines at the markets separated by gender. The Handmaids Tale has self commentary that all it's outrageous sounding policies are not unique and sites actual historical occurrences.
Then the weekend. Which is taking on more of a separate feel. I hung out at Lxa's ger for a bit, something I too rarely do, but it was just his wife, 2 nieces and Aruna. It was nice. The wife is a woman's doctor and I asked about the many small graves I saw. I'd assumed illness or poor diet while pregnant, but she first mentioned falling off horses and also mentioned motorcycle and ger accidents (children touching the fire, etc). I had gone over to ask if I could "borrow a scale from the hospital". I was doing a lesson on "how tall are you?" "How much do you weigh?" and people don't have personal scales (in Ulaanbaatar sometimes people are sitting on the street with scales and you can pay to check your weight) but I was told I couldn't borrow one because the whole hospital only has one.
Sunday was still relaxing and we had snow again. It was a nice day, but on the way back from lesson planning I met one of my 6th grade students. She may be moving to UB and 2 of my other 6th graders may move to different schools because the new director split up their class into other 6th grade groups and they are all unhappy. I was very hurt by this idea so the student I was walking with started saying maybe they won't leave, she doesn't know. I like my students and most of them like me. I walk into class after they start, they all stand up to say hello. It is genuine. Unlike when the director barged in one day and they all popped up to attention.
On Tuesday Shawn Burke came down with Dulam (he is the regional director for me and she is the receptionist at PC and a translator) to sort out stuff with my new director. During the meeting it was a roller coaster of uncertainty. Me thinking yes at one point and no at another to whether I have a place to live or even a job. As it stands today: I have both until August of next year for sure. And my plan is to wind their hearts over so completely they eventually beg me to stay a third yearà or at least feel they can put up with me for 2 years. All the questioning of my ability to make a fire at first seemed silly, it was so easy û but that was early in the season, when things were warmer and dry. And my few well constructed, but unsuccessful fires have made me pay more attention. I already avoid upsetting the fire gods by tossing "dirty" paper in, and I often toss my loose hair into the flames. I now understand the appropriateness of saying one builds' a fire (not makes). It is a slow progression form easiest to hardest to burn, but burning the hardest (coal) is the goal. Paper is a precious necessity. I'm still a packrat, but all cut pieces, no matter how small, are saved. The fire, once started, is slowly fed coal and more wood. Sometimes redoing the whole process because the first flames only heated the stove and were smothered by the coal. It is a constant living thing that is prodded with the fire poker. I huddle close watching the flicker behind the fireplace door with silent prayers that they will hold. But I'm getting better and my ger is usually warm. The embers smoldering all night so I can barely see my breath in the mornings. It is cold. And a ger puts one a bit intimately with nature, but I've never heard of a volunteer dying form the cold.
Speaking of fire, I usually don't trust the men I meet, especially the young men (I'm getting to the connection, even though small) because they are mocking. So I didn't even try to listen to a guy who called to me as I left school just said "I don't speak Mongolian" in English and only ø way home did it click that he was only asking for a match for his cigarette. So, even though stereotyping is often justified, I am reminded that it is not a rule. This was emphasized by coming home to my happy hashaa dog and watching Lxa pet her and talk in a tone the same as American use. This is very unusual for Mongolians to do.
It was Wednesday, so I had my teacher class that night. I taught "family". The Mongolian for family is ger bul. Ger is the word for home and bul "members of the same family" (also alone it means "first cousins who's mother's are sisters). I realized interesting things, for me at least, because the words that a culture uses reflects underlying things. There is no word for "parents". It is just avage (dadmom). They have equivalents of mom, mommy and mother. The grandchild by the son is different than by the daughter. I also learned there is a different word to refer to a sibling that has died. And the word for husband (nokhor) looks to be made up of dog (nokhoy) and special unifying word for aunt and uncle. And no gender specific word for cousin. I also don't know what to call my grandfathers brother, but I'm not sure if Mongolians do either. And maybe I shared some of this in the States, but only in teaching it now did I notice the amount of words for only a small portion of the family tree diagram on the board.
I never realized either what a wonderful way to pass the winter by having a holiday each month. I feel I just did Halloween and now it's Thanksgiving time. It was also my day to be observed by the section director. Oyunbily had been observed Tuesday and I had sat out, but I needed her for translation of the history. I had a labeled map and pictures to show while Oyun talked. Because even with translation they have a different idea of Indian and don't know what a turkey looks like. I had them trace their hands to make turkeys like I did in grade school. Then taught colors and had them write what they were thankful for in Mongolian. Some examples were being thankful for their mother, father, teachers, me and Oyum, and English class. I think they enjoyed it and how Americans celebrate ( I also moved their desks in long table fashion).
I later stopped by the Internet place to get a message to my parents and check out info on an International TEFL conference and I met a Frenchman. The Internet place is where you meet all the foreigners. But being winter I figured he must live there. So we met up for a dinner at the Bobi Bear Bar. Nice place, they even have a dance floor and colored lights. He's a historian, been all over and is currently working on researching monastery ruins in the desert. He was wonderful to talk to and knew so much about the desert. People living out in the steppes, yet having huge gardens and wells. He left and Tom and his girlfriend Jennifer got in from Khurmei soum. We toasted and gave silent thanks. We walked to a guanze as the door was being locked. But asked "khole bain oo?" Is there food? And they said yes. Opened up and served us. So I had fried eggs and potato salad for Thanksgiving. Later, back at the bar, Pat, Shawn and Dulam joined us. The bar had been ours, but later Mongolians came in, but left after awhile as a scuffle broke out amongst the men and was taken into the hall. But, I wondered, Since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, maybe it's more appropriated to celebrate it by American time, which Pat, Tom and I planned to celebrate on our Friday anyways.
The day started with Pat's adorable fluffy puppy, who was also very sick, going to a better place. We walked out to the steppes to bury her, as a Mongolian suggested. We went our separate ways for a bit then later met up to shop for food. I saw a beautiful white camel in the market place. I had to teach Friday morning. I was talking to my 5th graders when the new director with someone from the Education Center barged in. Didn't say hello to me and interrupted my class without an apology. He just stared asking stuff, such as why the walls looked beat up in one spot If I could speak, I would remind him that they are made of sand and fall off when you bump into them. Then he asked how we taught together û not a quick answerable question. I felt all this was very rude and inappropriate to be in the middle of class and in front of my class. My CP was bothered by it also. But I also did a Thanksgiving thing for the 8th grade class. Comparing the turkey leg to the sheep's tail.
When I got home I trekked out to the opposite side of town to buy a pumpkin. My CP wasn't around, so her husband took me to the veggie ger. I was so pleased that I could actually converse with these people, especially the wife, about the veggies. She got the seeds from Canada. Very nice people. Pat and Tom came to my ger and I hosted my first Thanksgiving ever. We had canned peaches, made pizza in my togoo; topped with canned pineapple and a concoction of stove top stuffing, gravy and canned turkey made by Tom from things Pat's mom had sent. I made a pumpkin pie / bread stuff for dessert. We drank beers and lounged back stuffed and talked of watching football to complete the occasion. It had a touch of Mongolia as we had to open the door because the fire was so hot and eating by candlelight because the power was out again. The next morning I completed the memories of home by having a cold piece of leftover pizza.
Oddly my family back home also held off and celebrated on Friday, so I got a call from them Saturday morning. It's getting easier being here. It's still hard to hang up the phone and feel the physical wall drop down that severs the momentary feeling of being so close while talking. The rest of the day I vowed to do nothing. I read and worked on this letter. I think being so busy is what has lifted my spirits. But I often lay my head down at night wondering where the day went and realizing another week has rushed by. I miss home and look forward to returning, but enjoy my time here. But I see these two years going so quickly and can easily believe that when I'm 80 I will lay back and wonder what happened to the past 20 years that seemed only yesterday. But even with loving life, then I wonder if I shall also look forward to where it is now. Or at least a recent now that I'm trying to share with you and make you a bit part of. Speaking of now, a character in Horse Whisper says 'forever is but a trail of now's and the best a man can do is live each one fully in its turn. '
So Saturday night I went over to Pat's for dinner. It was a last minute call as maybe Tom's jeep would come late, but as I showed up so did the jeep. It was nice to hang out with Pat a bit more. Even though you can see your breath in his kitchen. His other room is heated by the PC issued heater and is ok. He also brought a ton of CD's. I enjoy listening to music, not just for itself, but all the memories and emotions it invokes from association (who and where you listened
to it). On Sunday I and Pat went to Inktuya's for lunch and had antelope bruutz. She has a little kitten named Mishka. Later I met up with a woman who is going to make my winter dell and she offered to do it in exchange for a Blue Sky textbook. This upset me because one of the reason teachers, including myself, don't have enough books for their schools is because people use them for personal gain; like this woman was asking me to do. I also see the books for sale on street corners in UB. They are supposed to be distributed to the school, but often never make it. So, my dell will cost 8 û 10,000. … of my music teachers salary. Later I tried the bathhouse, but it was packed, so I went to my CP's for lesson planning. Her son has had a fever on and off for a few days. When I walked in they were lighting pieces of paper and putting them in a glass jar. When the fire died the jar was applied to the arm to suck the skin. I had mixed emotions. Who am I to say this is wrong. I don't understand it, maybe it has some positive effect. The boy whined, but didn't cry out in pain. Traditional medicine still practices such procedures in accepted hospitals. But I was bothered to watch it.
So we discussed school stuff; like the director wanting to move my class. And then the fact that my hashaa dog has been missing for 3 days. But she only laughed and said she's a girl. I was not happy to hear this either, but found I was in a better mood when I got home. My worry of the hashaa dog has been a small gnawing as I walk around looking in all the ditches as I pass. So that brings me up to my now, but as you read in your now, it is far past for me. I listen to a goth tape Tally was sweet enough to drop in my box at PC. It only barely drowns out the barking dogs û not mine. And I sit comfortably in only one layer of clothes, my sweats / jammies, as my coal comfortably glows, slowly bringing my water to a boil. Times like this are good. Only I feel the slight need to keep writing, just to faintly hold onto the time lapsed. But still the present connection it gives me to home. But tomorrow is a school day and I should be productive.