Just a few word pictures to familiarize you a little more with our new home. Bones: Everyday we see bones; not just bones in general. The Mongolian people do not eat the lower leg of any animal. At first when I would walk past a leg, some still with hair intact, I thought that dogs must have gotten into someone's supper! --or garbage. This is sometimes true too. I also had that cool Old West feel of dust and prairie and an animal that met its end due to the cruelty of nature, or perhaps tribal warfare . . . ok, my imagination kind of ran away with that last one. I would see heads a lot too--this might explain the cowboy fantasies. The difference is, we learned in our first week here, the heads are valueable meat and would always be cleaned to the bone. It was only later I heard that they do not eat the chin/ankle meat. In conjunction with this, we just learned a proper use for these bones. A traditional mongolian game called Shagaag. It is similiar to dice or a funny american game called "Pass the Pigs." Depending on the way the bone lands it is one of four animals, the camel, goat, horse or sheep. They also have another game that involves just horses in a race. We were given a bag of these bones for a gift about a week before Christmas. The goal is to play and collect more and more bones.
Sunshine: Before coming here I imagined Mongolia to be somewhat like Montana--Big Sky Country--and that idea has not proved wrong. No matter how cold it gets here, the skies are most always blue with sun shining--what a gift!!!!!
Dust: Before coming here I never would have believed it if you told me. With temperatures well below zero and perpetual frozenness abounding still there is dust. It brushes your boots and the bottom of your long winter coat everyday. In my mind it is such a strange juxtaposition--the sand from beach and the ice from Siberia in cohabitation!
Knocking: Ok, I am including sounds too. Because everyone here lives in apartment block buildings and these also host most of the businesses including our school, most small convienient stores, salons, clinics etc. I am finding it very different from entering a public establishment in the States. You do not simply drive, park and enter the main door. You walk, try to determine the right entrance and you knock. The reason I mention the knock, is because I am noticing that Mongolian's like to have signature knocks. Let's face it, we as North Americans are out of practice at knocking, we rarely do it. We ring a door bell, enter a automatic sliding door etc. Mongolian knocks are somewhat like drum taps, very rythmic, steady and penetrating. Despite our apartment being concrete to the core, the one thing I can hear as I lay in bed at night is the knocks. They go on and on, sometimes, someone answers after awhile, sometimes after a long while people give up, sometimes it is someone cold and drunk knocking on our door wanting to get warm. As I enter school each morning I am practicing my signature knock. Right now it is a little mixed up and inconsistent. I will keep you posted as to the progress. P.S. I do not think Mongolians knock to see if the WC is in use, the times I have attempted it, the occupant has knocked back!:)