Upon receiving my invitation to Peace Corps Mongolia, a few assumptions popped into my head. Of course, it is a well known fact that assumptions are often false, and lead you to act like a… well you know. But it’s impossible not have some, at least it is for me. Here are a few that I had almost two years ago on the fateful day in Israel when I found out that I was going to be spending two full years in Mongolia.
- That my love of scarfs would finally pay off.
Once a Mongolian enters a building, the scarf comes off. Fashion scarves just aren’t a thing (aside from the silky little ones that are frequently patterned with animal print). Whenever you wear one, people ask you if you’re cold. And by people I mean EVERYONE. So after the fourteenth person asked me if I was cold within ten minutes of walking into the school, I gave up on introducing Mongolians to the concept of indoor scarves…sigh.
- That Peace Corps meant no makeup and no showers.
At least the no showers was right. Unfortunately, my teachers wear a lot of makeup… and they expect me to also. Most of the time I don’t appease them, but when I do they get really happy. And it’s nice to get a horde of compliments once in a while, you know?
- That the “natives” around me would be poor, and look it.
Some of my teachers have iPhones. I don’t even have an iPhone. Those things are expensive! That being said, almost all of the Mongolians I’ve met are in the habit of being eternally in debt. They borrow large sums from the bank (as all bank loans are insured by the government- no matter the loaner’s credit rating), especially for special occasions and holidays such as Tsagaan Sar (the Lunar New Year).
Incidentally the Mongolian word for “to borrow” sounds an awful like the word “to f@*# off”; both of which are thrown around quite often at school. This definitely confused the heck out of me for a solid year.
- That I would get hypothermia and die here.
It hasn’t happened yet, leading me to assume it won’t. So that’s good.