Beyond Accustomed

Today is Sunday. The day of relaxation, and also the time to finish up weekend chores. Yesterday I chopped wood and coal for two hours to stock up my supplies for the upcoming week. Today is reserved for sleeping in late, buying water and cleaning my ger, body and hair.

To get water I must first empty out my two containers by filling up my dry sink basin and water boiler to their limits. Then I scrounge up sixty tugriks (the equivalent of thirty cents) and put it into the front left pocket of my plaid work-coat. The water wheelbarrow sits in front of my family’s house so I walk along my khashaa path, take a hold of the frozen handle and drag it towards my ger. I set the handle down, grab my two containers, and place them strategically onto the wheelbarrow. The 40 liter metal one must sit in the back, allowing the yellow 20 liter plastic container upfront so that when full the wheelbarrow does not tip over. Continue reading

Oh, Gossip.

People talk about me all the time. This statement may come off as horrendously egocentric. But, it’s also true. As one of two white people in the land of asians, I sorta get noticed a lot. It’s not my fault- light just tends to bounce of my skin a little more than the others living here. Anyhow, I don’t understand the majority of what people say about me. But sometimes I catch on. What’s understood is more often than not the usual- “Why does that foreigner walk so darn fast?” and “That white person actually speaks Mongolian!?” or my personal favorite: “That foreigner is so pretty with her huge nose!”.

But once and a while a really good one comes along. Continue reading

A Realization

It’s 12:30 at night. As I rise from an over-sized chair in preparation to brush my teeth, I notice that my bad water bucket is nearly full. I groan, foreseeing the quick yet chilly trip outside to empty it.

I pull on my mom’s thick old grey ski socks and shove my feet into my fur-lined hiking boots. Grabbing the blue bucket from underneath the dry sink, I unlock the two deadbolts, shove my door open and trudge outside. While I quickly cover the white ground towards the fence, my khasaa dog barks twice at a phantom burglar, then snuggles back into her self-made hole. My shoes plunge into the hardened snow creating a crunch that echoes throughout the surrounding yards. I splash the contents of the bucket onto the white snow, spin around, and walk briskly towards my ger.

As I take my last leap over the snow, a realization hits me. This is that time in my life; that epic period that I will recount to my children and grandchildren. How in the middle of a snow covered world, I made a life. I am in a village, in the middle of Mongolia, heading towards my ger. I am experiencing something that can never be replicated.

These everyday tasks usually feel normal. But right now I have been gifted for the briefest moment with the realization of just how exceptional my life is.

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…) Continue reading

Ger Life

I love living in a ger.

IMG_2140During pre-service training (all the way back in the summer of 2014) we had site placement interviews. We were asked our preferences: city, provincial capital or village, east or west, apartment or ger. The interviewers said they couldn’t promise anything, but they would try to take our answers into account when deciding our final site placement. I told them that I needed to live in a village or provincial capital; city pollution and asthma do not mix. I preferred west, but most volunteers do. Lastly, I wasn’t sure what form my housing should take. Living in a ger appealed to my sense of culture and history, but apartment living would be so, so much easier. Continue reading


I looked at my phone, begrudging the 1:00 am time stamp. My bad water bucket was about to overflow and even though my trusty clock told me it was well past midnight, I had to take care of it or risk a puddle of icky liquid oozing onto the floor. I pulled my doorknob inwards with one hand, using the other to drag my two rusty door bolts aside. A fresh wave of air raced into my ger, and I grabbed the once white handle of the bucket now permanently stained an intricate design of dirt tie-dye. I steadily drew the pail upwards, careful not to spill. Continue reading