Letter to all, 11-03-00


To All:

December 2000

To All (for my Xen Bay)

My dog won't be coming home. Each day I had held the hope that maybe she'd be there, running up in her clumsy over excited way to greet me. But I saw the dead dogs today. Two laying here and I might have thought them sleeping, but it's too cold and dangerous for dogs to lie around. And I could see blood. It was so shocking. I knew it would happen, but when. And it made me confront the reality that the pack that hung around school that Xen Bay played with is no longer there. I tried to stay distant from her because she was a hashaa dog, not a pet. But her absence has made me so depressed. She was a friend in a way I don't know if Mongolians can relate to. The unconditional love is something I think volunteers need in the odd loneliness we experience, even though surrounded by people. And she didn't just die, but was shot as something they thought no one cared for. And the "what if's" and "if only's" plagued me. Maybe if she'd had a collar. Why didn't I tie something around her neck? And the predictable anger why didn't my hashaa family do something? Why didn't they know? So, I'm experiencing the harsh realities of life here. But I miss her and just wish she'd come home.

December 4th

I wrote this not to put my emotions on display, but because I needed to get it out. I still want this to be read because it is important for anyone who reads this who travels (as future PC's may) of the different way animals may be viewed. I am glad to have had my dog, but the worry is an emotional strain. Pat's puppy died of sickness, another PC's "disappeared" and another man in DZ said he has had a few, but all were shot. And I was told of a PCV who evacuated because her two dogs were shot and I could relate to that.

I feel I learned a harsh lesson about procrastination, but was unbelievable lucky that it was only a warning. Aruna came to my ger Friday after I spent almost 2 weeks feeling pangs every time I saw a collared dog. A need to follow packs and check the individuals and tears at corpses, to tell me XEN BAY WAS ALIVE!! I almost didn't believe her and wanted to cry with joy. She had followed Lxa when he left for the shodoe, so he put her in his sisters hashaa. We couldn't find the sister, so I bought yarn and braided her a collar. I wanted it to show effort so it would be known someone cared for her. When we finally got to the sister's hashaa, it was locked and I could see Xen Bay. I called to her and she looked confused at first then ran to the fence and stuck her little nose through. As soon as I got her out I put the collar on. I'm so glad she is home, but must now deal with the burden of her being a female but I'm grateful to have the hassle at all. And now she's fat because I feed her everyday.

On Monday, November 27th I was left to teach alone because of a family issue of my CP's. I don't like teaching beginners alone and marvel that is how most of the PCV's do it. Discipline is only a slight issue because I've been working with these kids. But even trying to explain Baker is one who bakes, even with a little Mongolian, seemed impossible and then I couldn't be sure they "got it". I admire those that can, but I suppose if I had to I'd figure it out. Just like bucket baths. I first thought "NO WAY", now I prefer them to avoid the hassle of the bathhouse and the walk. I went to the Post Office later, they'd hung up signs, but with incorrect translations and spellings. I wonder why they didn't ask for my help. I'm lucky because I get along well with them all.

On Tuesday I gave a test that my 6th graders bombed. Maybe I push them too hard, and I still can't judge at what level of difficulty to make things. But they never seem upset, but very frank about their grades. I gave then an extra credit piece to write. I had worried of cheating and grade exchange requests, but now I am the lenient teach who bends as much as seems morally right to help my students grades.

Later I went to school #1 to visit their Soros Center. It was put there because #1 is the largest school. It is a very nice place for teachers of all subjects to get resources. They have cassette tapes, magazines, reference books, reading books, a copier and computers. I would like to help add to this center instead of trying to make a separate one at my school which would be better for the community, but will all projects I now feel a pressure to "earn my keep" with my host school. I was later chilling at home, after a tech review class, and Aruna came over. Lxa has gone to the countryside with his wife and son and she was all alone and scared. So I walked with her, using my fire gal machine (flashlight), to the student dorms. All the children from the soums who are attending school stay here, and this is where Lxa's nieces are staying. I went into their room that is wall to wall bunks for 8 girls, but they really enjoy it. So we fetched one niece to come stay with Aruna. I had offered her to say in my ger, but I guess Americans need their space or something.

On Wednesday I had my moirn khuir lesson and we played an American song. It was so funny for me to say if it sounded right, while he read the notes and found them, then taught me to play a song that was so foreign to him. He kept tossing in Mongolizations to the tune (the moirn khuir is often played with dragging or warbling the notes.).

Then class. Trying to explain words like "goal" and independent" to my 6th graders. Fun, but challenging. On Friday, I got a package from home and had a warm ger. Such simple pleasures of comfort can bring such joy. So I locked my door and danced around while eating M & M's. I think getting my dog back also helped my general attitude toward life. Saturday was busy with this adventure and chores. I once again cleaned up the garbage that somehow collects in front of my hashaa. I splurged a little on a classroom clock and bought a Snoopy clock, from a little girl running the shop for her mother who couldn't understand my Mongolian. So the other customers "translated" for me.

Later I tried writing the names of the States on my classroom map, but my English atrophied brain couldn't' spell. That night I was visited by a herdsman, one of Lxa's 10 brothers. He was apologizing for being drunk the last time he came to my ger, but I smelled the vodka and saw his way and told him he was drunk now. He protested saying he'd only had a touch / sip / cup ceremonial taste. But Aruna takes care of me and came to my ger because she heard a man's voice. He is a nice man and one of the special rare ones who's Mongolian I can understand, but I prefer not to entertain the drunk.

On Sunday, as I was still reminding Aruna our Xen Bay was home just as my dear Rebecca used to remind of us of shocking reality on our road trips in the U.S. I heard dogs outside and when I looked I saw a pack of dogs. One had an elaborate big red, jester cut style, collar. I thought they must have had the same mindset as me in wanting the effort of the collar to show the dog was loved. But soon the dog's were fighting and this little loved one was being whipped around by the neck in the jaws of another one 4 times it size. I ran out throwing rocks and hollering. A man and boy just watched, but I couldn't just watch this pet be killed what if it was Xen Bay? When all was over I felt like a silly American. I tuned and saw the boy was poor looking. Here I'd just made a big show / effort to help a dog and I was struck that I could do nothing for this boy.

So such events of life slipped another week by. I was set to teach all week by myself for 2 sections because of a teacher seminar. Once again I give heavy praise to the volunteers that are able to do this. But I'm glad I co-teach because I feel then I am productive and doing something. I am not here just to be a replacement teacher and I think the kids have a harder time too because I can't help them very much with questions. This was also a week where all students were to take "big tests". The "secret" test, which I wrote for my kids, couldn't be given the day it was supposed to because the test holder person wasn't around. With the others there was constant talking during the test and eye wandering and opening of notebooks. I've also been hanging out at school more to do work. It's warmer there and ger life if a bit lonely. I leave the door open. It gets opened and knocked on constantly anyways, and I hope that eventually the gawkers will be satisfied.

I moved around classrooms and one day had a perfect view of the sunrise (at 8:30am for the curious) and was distracted throughout class. Out of school I taught the Post Office workers English on Thursday for the first time. There are 5. They are nice people and it was fun. I told the other foreigners I know the dialogue I taught, so they cold use it on my students.

Another outside school note: It is difficult to take pictures here. People just aren't used to it and there are cultural barriers. I took a photo at the meat market and was taunted by 3 boys chanting "photo". People also don't understand why I'm taking photos. But it is a bit easier now because I'm not just another jewelchin (tourist). I'm still a gada huun (outside person / foreigner), but they've seen me around, or see me here in winter.

On Friday I was surprised to see Tom show up. He was here buying books and things for his library. Which mostly required going to peoples homes and offices there are no book stores here. I went off to run my own errands and bumped into Mikhel, who introduced me to Bathoog, who owns the Govi Bear Bar and several other buildings. I at first thought he was French because he spoke English with an accent, but he's Mongolian, but very European looking. But it is not polite to say one doesn't look Chinese Mongol, so I didn't ask about his lineage. I figured errands could wait, so joined them for a bottle of wine. Both are such wonderful, enjoyable conversationalists. I again bumped in Bathoog the next day and spoke some more. He is a good, intelligent man. From a herder family, he has worked hard for many years and is now a successful businessman. He lives in UB only so his 3 daughters can go to the best schools available.

But on Friday I reluctantly had to leave the conversation to teach class. Saturday I resumed errand running to buy much needed boots to teach in. I searched all over and could only find one pair big enough to fit me even though I had several shop ladies helping me out and asking others. I felt a bit embarrassed of my big American feet (size 40 Bathoog's are only 38's!). And I was unsuccessful in getting a coal shovel though one would think it were a common item. After such a trying day Pat and I went over to Mikhel's for dinner. His friend cooked us dinner. So it was the two girls in the kitchen and the men in the "front room". Even such a sexist clich was comforting in its familiarity. For dinner we had chicken! Mikhel had a bunch shipped. And they'd made a wonderful apple mandarin (from China) jelly for dessert. The food was wonderful and the conversation lively and interesting. Helped a bit by the vodka. (It helps to learn / speak Mongolian if you drink Mongolian vodka). We stayed for about 6 hours, just chatting at the table.



Thu Jan 11 16:25:49 PST 2001