Tuesday and Wednesday:
I started out my day by doing a little city exploration, and I just happened to stumble upon the Choijin Lama temple museum. It was beautiful and interesting to learn a little about Buddhism and its history in Mongolia. According to the lady who worked at the the museum, the Choijin Lama temple was one of the only ones to survive the Soviet period.
After a few hours of exploring the city, I headed back to the apartment so we could all leave for the countryside!
The Mongolian countryside is very beautiful. There isn't much in the way of shrubbery, but instead they have never ending rolling hills and blue sky. We stayed in Baljmaa's grandmother's ger while we were there, and there were tons of other people camping out. Apparently it's very traditional to leave to the countryside for the last half of Naadam.
There were some cool things, and a few things that were very... interesting :)
Obviously traditionally Mongolians had to make all of their foods for themselves, so during the summer time probably 85% of what they eat is milk based, so I got to try a homemade yogurt, butter, cream, and hot milk-water, which is most of what they drink. They also make a special "cake" from the first milk a cow gives after it has a baby. I wasn't brave enough to try that one :)
During the winter, Mongolians mostly eat meat, so they can keep warm and healthy. While we were in the countryside, I got to experience real Mongolian barbeque! It wasn't quite what I had expected.
To start off, obviously you have to kill the lamb. If I'm remembering right, to do this you lay the animal on its back, cut open its belly, then rip out its main artery. To cook it, you find large rocks and heat them up until they're red hot, then you use those to boil the meat. After everything has been cooked, if you hold the still hot rocks in your hands it improves your health(allegedly anyway). Mongolians are very good about using every part of an animal, so when eating bbq, they eat it all. Liver, Kidney, large chunks of blood, straight fat. It's very impressive honestly. For myself, I just stuck to the usual meat.
Thursday and Friday:
Back to work at the orphanage! I started playing with the kids as soon as I got there on Thursday morning, and lo and behold, five minutes later three of the other volunteers showed up! Apparently they'd been moving back and forth between the older kids and the younger, and it just so happened that they didn't work either of the days I did last week. It was a huge relief to have three other people there who spoke English!
Friday night I ended up going out with one of the other volunteers to get some money changed at the state department store, and since we were out we decided to go to dinner, so we walked around a huge swath of the city for about an hour and a half until we finally found somewhere that sounded good :) I am definitely figuring out my way around the city, and I'm proud to say I haven't gotten lost once (knock on wood)!
Ah I love the weekend. I started it out by visiting this HUGE monastery in the middle of the city. There were lots of tourists and local Buddhists there, so I got to see some of how they pray to 40 foot statues, and I also stumbled upon some sort of ceremonial water pouring with lots of loud chanting. The monks were chanting incessantly for at least ten minutes while I was there, and when I left they showed no signs of stopping. If nothing else, their lung strength was VERY impressive.
After a good tour of the monastery, I decided that it was as good a day as ever to buy souvenirs for my family. That occupied me for the next few hours, until I reinstated my loathing for shopping and went home to enjoy a quiet evening by myself, sice my host family was out. After a crazy busy week it was nice to go home and just relax :) I also decided I missed the great US of A a little tiny bit, so I went to go get some Pizza Hut. Just in case you were wondering, Asian pizza just isn't as good as American pizza.
Church! The missionaries were sweet enough to show me how to get to the English ward, so I can go for the next couple of weeks. We came about an hour earlier than the English ward starts, because the missionaries had a meeting, so now I'm sitting in an empty classroom listening to the congregation sing "I'll go where you want me to go" in Mongolian, and it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. The spirit is amazingly strong, and I love that I can be halfway across the world and still feel that and know that it's true. I don't have to understand the language to know the truth of what these people are singing or speaking. I really missed going to church last week.
Well that's been my week! Sorry it took longer than usual to post, but I had a ton going on :) I love all of you, and I can't wait to tell you more!