Just Another Night in Mongolia

It’s 10:30 at night, and I’m talking with another Peace Corps volunteer over the phone updating her on my day. I tell her how yet another teacher is pregnant (surprise!), and that I got roped into participating in a Mongolian dance for this year’s teachers’ concert. My phone beeps twice, signaling that another incoming call awaits my attention. I see it’s my host father and tell my friend I’ll talk to her later, pushing the green button twice.

Host father: “Ariel, my home.”

Me: “Odooiimo?” (Should I come now?)

Host father: “Odoo.” (Yes, now.)

Me: “Za…” (Okay…)

By the way, my host family doesn’t speak English. Recently my father has started saying one or two words in English, and it’s awesome. Anyways, I quickly stripped of my work clothes (I’m still wearing them, as I just got back from school thirty minutes beforehand) and don a comfy shirt and red plaid coat. I don’t need pants; the long underwear that bulked up my previous outfit is warm enough for a quick hop over to my family’s house. I walk in, see my parents in the kitchen, and walk towards them in greeting.

My mom tells me to sit and shoves a decorated bowl towards me. “It’s camel milk, from the Gobi”, she explains.  Now I’ve never had camel milk, so this was kind of cool. It tasted completely different from cow milk, as I guess I should have expected. It was a bit thinner and slightly sour but still remarkably tasty. Sitting down I slowly drank the hot milk, alternating between slurping and regular sipping, and appreciated family time.

The baby poured his camel milk onto the table and then fell over, flat on his face. My father used my phone to call another Mobicom number- since I have free calling. While my father was preoccupied, my brother (Sukhbaatar) stole my father’s bowl and quickly drained the remaining quarter while I stifled a laugh. At school I do my best to embarrass him with hugs and kisses, and he does his best to run away from me. But at home, we get along great.  I questioned him about his day, and he recounted everything he learned-almost none of which I understood, but I nodded my head in comprehension anyways.

My sister scrambled into the room, pestering me with questions regarding why I wasn’t teaching her English anymore. I told her that I’d teach her English now, if she wanted. We reviewed numbers up until eleven, where she got stuck. Sukhbaatar, two years her senior, helped her out. The next number came, and puzzled them both. They gleefully repeated after me “twelve thirteen fourteen” and promised to memorize them for next time. Then I stood up, and said goodbye. I told my sister to give me a kiss on the cheek, but I found myself receiving a raspberry instead. Apparently that’s a cross cultural thing. Then she promised to give me a real kiss, and gave me another raspberry.

I love my family.

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