Just because I didn’t have the day off on Thanksgiving, doesn’t mean I didn’t celebrate. At school I made a poster with some brief descriptions of common Thanksgiving traditions and foods. Some of my English Club students helped me decorate it with hand turkeys on which they wrote what they are thankful for. After work my site mates from the aimag center got together to have burrito night. We made the burritos with some of the horse meat one of my Mongolian colleagues gave me. I know horse meat is quite taboo in America, but it is rather delicious.
We had the traditional Thanksgiving celebration on the weekend and boy did we celebrate! Not only were the five usual suspects there (more about them later), but we were also honored by one of the Chinese volunteers who lives here and Anna and Perrin, two PCVs from the next aimag over. Everyone contributed in one way or another. We were cooking all day with a nice mix of pots, pans, and cooking utensils pulled together by each of us. It was quite the production.
We don’t have access to all the traditional Thanksgiving foods here in Bayankhongor so we improvised in several ways, but goodness was the meal delicious. Mary did most of the work because she’s a saint and I helped out with several of the dishes and made two of the desserts. Instead of turkey we had chicken. Kevin contributed homemade dinner rolls. We made mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, stuffing, gravy, and corn. For dessert I made an apple cobbler and an apple galette/torte. Kathy made churro donut holes.
The meal was a resounding success. As I lay there, stomach rounded and basking in the satisfaction of a meal well made and heartily consumed, I couldn’t help but reflect, not for the first time, on how grateful I am for everything in my life right now, particularly the people I’ve met in this new chapter. It’s a wonderful moment when you realize that without being aware of it someone has become incredibly important to you. It’s one of my favorite things and it struck me just a few weeks ago upon seeing my site mates again for the first time in a few days. Little did I know when I embarked on this journey how much the people I’ve met in the last few months would come to mean to me.
Before Peace Corps decided exactly where we would be placed, we filled out a Site Preference Form. I asked to live in a ger in an aimag center somewhere green with several site mates. I’m extremely thankful that, of the preferences I listed, it was the site mates and the aimag center, not the ger and the greenery, that were granted for several reasons. First, the two volunteers who have already been here over a year were great guides to the town at the beginning of my time here. Second, I miss having roommates, so being able to walk over to Mary’s apartment to cook dinner together is wonderful. Last, but certainly not least, they’re all a little weird and by a little weird I mean really, really weird. I cannot stress just how weird they are. In short, they’re my type of people. Please, allow me to introduce them.
First, meet those who came before me.
Mary, 25, Community and Youth Development
Likes: talking about bodily functions
Strengths: pumping up the club, patience with my constant presence at her apartment
Weakness: not a morning person, but hey, if that’s the worst thing I can say about her, she’s doing pretty well
Nikolas AKA Nikipooks, 25, TEFL
Catchphrase: нэгийн сая
Likes: his stomach unencumbered by fabric
Weakness: very limited music taste – Michael Jackson, Jimmy Buffet, and Disco. That’s literally all he listens to.
Now for my cohort.
Kathy AKA Kaisha, 23, TEFL
Likes: when her site mates use her spare key to scare her pants off, have we mentioned how sorry we are?!?!?
Strengths: good at any sport, her Mongolian is fantastic
Weakness: literally not a single one, you would know this if you saw her on the dance floor.
Kevin AKA Tortilla Man, 28, TEFL
Strength: finding really eclectic and niche films
Weakness: staying focused when he literally has ONE JOB!
Can’t forget our honorary member.
Tsengue, 28, Chinese Teacher
Likes: arranging shoes
Strength: bringing гоё juice to every gathering
Weakness: limited wardrobe
Together we make up Bayanhugs. As much as I want you, the reader, to know them, I have come to accept that I cannot do them justice with the written word. Please understand that they are 1,000 times more amazing than I’ve made them seem.