Snowed In: Trapped In a Ger in Central Mongolia

I have lived, dwelt, worked, and breathed Mongolia now for one year four months and eight days.  From the inspiringly uplifting to the teeth grindingly frustrating.  I’ve spent the majority of that time doing things I never imagined myself doing.  Living in ways I never imagined myself living and forging relationships with people I never imagined meeting.  I’m in my second year so when a member of the Peace Corps staff dropped by for a site visit he exclaimed that visiting second year volunteers was a lot easier.  We seem less stressed, more settled in, more savvy.  I’d like to think that true for the most part, fires start a little quicker, conversations are a little less confusing, goat innards are a little more tasty (not much), car rides are a little less frustrating.  For all Mongolia has given me it still tests me everyday.  Its one of the aspects of living here that makes it all so rewarding.

October in New Jersey was always mild.  Sporadic windy days that sent the golds, oranges, and browns swirling about.  As a kid I remember jumping in the leafy piles and flailing about spastically trying to pluck the colors from the air.  In Vermont it was even more spectacular, colors that painted landscapes and mountainsides.  I remember working on the ferry gazing out the window as we chugged across Lake Champlain, streaks of red and gold dripping down the Adirondacks.  I remember thumbing through a book about Aztec history as the tourists from down south, the “Leaf Peepers” fired off photographs.

Omnodelger doesn’t have trees.  Well we do but there is like four, and they were planted, and all the same color.  So it isn’t exactly the color show of rural Vermont.  October usually brings on the first of various snowfalls that would mark winters coming.  I awoke this morning, throat scatchy, body aching.  One of many imminent winter colds, my own personal mark that winter was coming.  I also awoke to a peculiar sound.  Like the tiniest most minuscule of pebbles being softly dropped on glass.  Frequent gusts rocked my ger and my stove pipe clanged.  I got up and dressed, warmer than usual.  I knew what the sound meant.  Mongolia couldn’t pull a fast one on me this morning.  I exited through my ger door, then through the door of my wooden shed I use for storing wood in winter.  Outside the wind blew, snow fell in a swirling fury with each gust.  The wooden planks of our hashaa’s fence swayed, snow caked in its weathered cracks.  I sighed into the snowy abyss.  Not yet!  I’m not ready!   It was warm and sunny only days ago.  Winter had come and snatched Omnodelger in its grip, I knew it would be a great long while before it let go.

I taught my classes.  Attendance was pitiful.  The further dwelling students not wanting to brave the trek.  Still feeling under the weather I immediately went home after teaching.  The blustery blizzard still raged on.  I made a fire.  I took a nap.  I awoke in the early evening.  Pulled on some boots and a jacket prepared to make my cross hashaa journey to the outhouse.  I exited my ger into my tiny supply shed.  Into almost a foot of snow.  The winds persistence had sent the tiny flakes blowing through every crack and crevice in the wood.  My wood was snowy and frosty, my ger door entombed in a white blanket.  I sighed and kicked through the powder to the sheds door.  Unlatched it.  Pushed.  Resistance.  I tried again.  The door opened a crack then stopped.  The wind had formed a snow bank outside my door, higher and deeper than my waist.  I was trapped in my own home.  Snowed in.  I stuck my head through the crack and saw movement in the yard.  Dawkraa was trudging to the family car in an old worn grey deel.  “Dawkraa, help!” I yelled sticking an arm through the crack to wave him over.  He trudged towards me chuckling at my predicament.  He started kicking at the snowy bank with his boots.  “Go get a shovel!”  I demanded.  He kept on kicking, “There is no shovel.”  I laughed and rolled my eyes, “of course.”  Finally freeing me from my house, he pried the door open and upon seeing the snow accumulation in my supply shed made a disapproving groan and went about kicking the snow from my wood back outside.  We both flailed about kicking snow and ice until the shed was as snow free as two men can make it using only their boots.  As Dawkraa turned back towards his own home he asked, “Are you okay?  Is your ger warm.”  I thanked him and told him I’m fine.  “Good, come to my home tomorrow.”  he added, “We’ll eat marmot!”  I laughed as he walked back towards his house, of course we will.  Closing the door against the biting wind and snow,  I shook my head at the damp wood and icy door.  Man, I still got a long way to go. 

Now late in the evening the clock ticks towards midnight.
One year.
Four months.
Nine days.

I wouldn’t give a single one back.

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Categories: Mongolia | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Snowed In: Trapped In a Ger in Central Mongolia

  1. Justin, you may have a long way to go, but you've certainly come a long way too. You have such an amazing spirit. Your positive attitude and good sense of humor serves you well. I'm praying the winter ahead will be mild. God Bless

  2. This is a wonderful post. I have read your blog through from winning the Peace Corps lottery to traveling to Cambodia. Many of your posts bring tears to my eyes, they are so moving! I have been invited to volunteer in Mongolia starting this June. I am 66 years old, and I try to imagine myself in the situations you describe. I hope I am as gracious and loving as you are. I hope I harvest my experience as richly as you do! Thank you!

  3. Thank you so much! It's an honor to hear you have followed my service from the beginning. You are coming to an amazing country, full of amazing people, and rich culture. My words certainly don't do Mongolia justice but I hope they have painted you a picture to get you excited. I look forward to meeting you this June. If you have any questions at all before your departure please don't hesitate to ask.

  4. I have lots of questions. I have found you on fb. Should I write to you there?

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