First Year Superlatives

-I am totally stealing this idea from my friend Perrin. You can read her list of superlatives here.-

Today marks the one year anniversary of my arrival in Mongolia. That’s just crazy. So here are some moments that stand out for good or bad.

Saying goodbye to family and Michigan before heading out to Seattle for staging.

Most Embarrassing: Forgetting half the words to Orchlong Hairlaarai at my school’s Women’s Day party because I was so nervous to be singing in front of so many people.

Most Thankful: My counterpart Soyoloo has gone above and beyond to help me since I’ve arrived at site. From helping me run my settling-in errands when I first arrived to inviting me over for dinner every day the week we stayed at school late to practice for our New Year’s dance to answering any and all questions I have, she has been a life saver.

Best Day: Picnic at the Galuut canyon: hoorhog, good friends, and spending a substantial amount of time outside for the first time since winter settled in.

Most Frustrating: The numerous times I’ve tried speaking Mongolian to people I’ve never met before and they don’t even try to understand me, they just find someone who speaks a little English to translate instead.

Scariest:  Waking up in the back of a parked Prius to a semi-truck’s horn blaring as it raced towards us head on. It swerved at the last minute. My life didn’t flash before my eyes, but I did process that I wasn’t wearing a seat belt and neither was the child sitting next to me.

Most Annoying: Anytime someone on the bus to or from UB decides to lean their seat back on my legs. They already don’t fit when the seat is upright.

Sweetest: When little kids have the courage to approach me on their own in the street and engage me in a full conversation, English or Mongolian. This is entirely different than when gangs of youth yell hi at me 50 million times even after I’m 30 meters away which ties for most annoying.

Most Rewarding: Seeing the smiles on the faces of our Special Olympics athletes after they competed in anything.

The Bayankhongor Special Olympics team

Most Sick: I woke up one night with a fever of 104F and realized just how far away from home I am.

Most Confusing: Receiving the Mongolian version of the bird from one of my PST students during a basketball tournament. I still have no clue what I did to deserve it.

Loneliest: See Most Sick.

Hardest: Getting up on winter mornings when the sun won’t be up for another 2 or 3 hours and you have to use an outhouse.

Most Disgusting (read at your own risk): During PST the dog kept on moving the decapitated goat’s head he was given to snack on right in front of our door. There were still patches of fur here and there. I picked it up by the horns one time to move it and unsettled a swarm of flies which had been hiding in the cavities.

Most Posh Corps: Anytime I travel to UB and consume 3 or 4 different cuisines (that don’t include Mongolian) within 48 hours. The list always includes Indian and American, often includes Mexican, and sometimes includes Japanese.

Most Countryside: I faced down a bull that was taller than me (and I’m 6′) with a one year old on my shoulders and a four year old by my side.

The above-mentioned munchkins.

Most Stressful: Applying for a Peace Corps grant.

Coldest: Let me set the scene. It was the beginning of February. We were on our way back from Special Olympics in Govi Altai and the purgon got a flat tire at 11 pm in the middle of nowhere. While the driver replaced the flat tire, I huddled together with one of the athlete’s mothers under a blanket.

Watching the sunrise on Mongolian New Year. Also a very cold moment.

Most Typical:

  • Arriving half an hour late to everything and still being the first person there.
  • Catching Mongolian men and children sneaking up behind me to measure themselves against me.
  • Waiting in the purgon for an hour before going anywhere or driving around town in the purgon for an hour picking other people and supplies up.

Most Unexpected: I like playing volleyball. To a limit. And that limit is when my teammates start yelling at me for my mistakes. Sports are cutthroat here, people.

Most Swoon-Worthy: There was a basketball tournament during Naadam. I was sitting near one of the baskets with some of my PST site mates when a stray ball came flying towards us. A very attractive Mongolian man swiped it out of the air in the most casual manner, without breaking eye contact with us. Nikki and I still talk about it.

Most ‘This doesn’t even phase me anymore’:

  • Eating chunks of fat whole.
  • Not washing my hands after using the bathroom (only when there’s no soap available, I’m not a complete neanderthal)
  • Peeing in a field with a whole busload of people and only a jacket tied around my waist for privacy.
  • 11 hour bus rides.

My first year in Mongolia has been an experience and a half to say the least. Here’s to another year of highs and lows and laughs and cries.

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