Living Abroad: Mongolia


The school opened with a lot of ceremony and fanfare.  All the children showed up in uniform and stood outside the school under flapping banners, and colorful ribbons.  Children sang songs and gave mini performances while a man with a keyboard (the dreaded Casio)  played pre recorded gameshowesque “Come on down!” type music whenever a new speaker got up to the podium.  Finally my director gave a lengthy speech in which I understood very little until the end when I heard a couple key words “…new English teacher, Justin!”  He then made a sweeping gesture with his arm pointing directly at me.  Teachers pushed me up to the podium from behind, and a microphone was thrust into my hands.  Oh, God they want me to give a speech.  So my directors fifteen minute talk was followed by my forty second Mongolian oration.  “Hello everyone, my name is Justin.  I am from New Jersey.  I am the new English teacher.  Happy new academic year!”

Classes immediately followed, I taught one, 5th grade.  Entering the room all the children stood up next to their desks, in their shiny new black and white uniforms and in perfect unison said “Hello, teacher!” culture shock indeed.  It went well, ABC’s, numbers, singing, and being silly.  I looked forward to the next day to see what some of the other grades would be like.  I got more then I could ever ask for.  The next day was spent being tugged back and forth between my three counterparts.  All of them seemed to think I would be teaching with them for all of their classes.  I taught five classes straight and was pretty exhausted.  I swaggered into the teachers lounge and found one of my counterparts, Saruul sitting waiting for me to teach her next three classes with her.  She looked very under the weather, “Yasan be?” (“What’s the problem?”)  I asked.  She said she had a fever, would it be ok if she went home and I taught the next three alone.  So she went home, and I taught alone, 8th grade.  Being tugged around all day with no heads up or schedule I was not exactly prepared to take on a bunch of 8th graders alone.  They knew this and took full advantage.  After some classroom management, involving kicking the desk and moving kids around I got them to listen to most of the lesson.  This was the same for the next two classes.  Afterwards I was thoroughly exhausted, home, beer, bed.

So after my action packed first week of school I was ready to relax on my weekend off.  Saturday, I went to the delguur, grabbed my favorite beer, grabbed my music and headed off on another hike.  This time I headed in the opposite direction, out into the flat steppe.  I followed the road out of town, children ran alongside of me asking what I was doing.  They stopped and gave me perplexed looks wondering why I would want to walk out into nothingness.  As the haasha’s and houses gave way the road became blocked by a herd of goats.  A man followed in their wake shooing them along with what appeared to be an old flintlock pistol.  I said hello and resisted the urge to ask him if I could look at the pistol.  I walked out into the flat expanse for a good hour through grass of varying heights and barren soil.  Finally I reached a cracked and vast stretch of land that I could only assume used to be a lake, now dry and desolate.  I stopped dropped my backpack and did a 360.  The town looked small and far away but it seemed as if I hadn’t actually gone anywhere, I seemed no closer to the mountains on the other side of the valley, the only landmark I could decipher for miles.  While a dried up lake was interesting, I wanted a special spot to sit and enjoy my beer.  So I set back towards the way I came walking slightly off at a different angle going towards the town from a different side.  I walked and walked, listening to music about walking, about traveling, about going places that makes your head spin with their unique beauty.  Just like that my spot came to me.  It came in the form of a rusted hulk, a shell of some long forgotten automobile.  Stripped of everything but its metal skeleton, it sat in the middle of the steppe, its cab pointed towards Omnodelger, a destination it would never reach.  I was ecstatic. I climbed up on top of its roof and cracked my beer.  I watched the clouds whisp across the sky, the grass shudder in the breeze and goats grazing off to my side.  I sat on the car, my little embassy for mankind, enjoying my beer and music when a boy on horseback thundered by and did a double take when he saw me perched a top my sanctuary.  I laughed, finished my beer, hoped down, snapped a picture and started to head back into town.  Once again, content and relaxed, I knew that this was a place I would return to soon.

Categories: Mongolia | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Living Abroad: Mongolia

  1. Ya know maybe the old Jetta of ours was a keeper after all!

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