WHAT TO SAY, WHAT TO SAY

July 2, 2010

I’m in a guest house in UB now, after having moved out of Arvaikheer permanently, and everything’s a little too close and cluttered for me to say how I feel about all of that at the moment. I will say, though, that my final bus ride was less emotional than I would have liked it to be– mostly on account of the catholic nun seated next to me who wouldn’t stop cursing (isn’t there some kind of rule against that?) and expressing how upset she was that we kept breaking down. I suppose my surprise at her choice of language and the way I had to strain to stifle laughter actually kept me from sharing in her frustration, so that’s good.

Or maybe I was just all cried out. Saying goodbye to my community was way harder than I expected; being in Arvaikheer this summer, and not  America-ing and then training in UB like last year, allowed me to nurture some of my older friendships in a way I wasn’t able to before. I got super, super close to a lot of people at the last minute as a result.

And now for some scattered photo documentation.

Laura dancing on the way to Elsen Taserhai (ps– peep our flooded river)

Rocks at Elsen Taserhai

Laura running toward the dunes at Elsen Taserhai. My camera died for the most stunning part of this trip, so I’ll have to steal and upload some pictures from my friends later. This was kind of our last adventure before leaving– hot sand and beautiful sunlight and good company.

Ding Dong, with a keen eye on my going-away party supplies

Car 1 of my going-away party caravan. Back to front, L to R: Handaa, Oyunchimeg, Jargal, Uugana, Batmaa, Oyunaa. We went to the same river as the frozen one featured in my first ever post two years ago and had a huge sheep barbecue.

The  going-away party barbecue men, before the clothes came off. L to R: Tuvshoo, Baagii, Ukaa, Batbaatar, moi (but I wasn’t in any position to be handling fire, so they did all the work)

Somewhere between vodka shot #1 and vodka shot #16, I ended up in the river.

At some point the clothes went back on and the barbecue commenced

Two of the guys went to this dude’s ger nearby and borrowed some tongs from him, so he joined the party

And then the ladies started getting thrown in the river

Batbaatar, the guy who runs the gym I go to

Baagii, the guy who cuts my hair. I guess the clothes came off again.

Uugana, gearing up to own Baagii with two fistfuls of mud

I guess Baagii rubbed mud all over me. He also kicked me in the head and broke one of my toes when he threw me into the river. That dude is strong. Anyway, there were twenty or so Americans, Aussies, Brits, and Mongolians at the party. It was a really, really fun time– the  kind of party where you wake up the next morning and can relive the good moments through the physical pain you find yourself in.

I think it’s kind of cool that my first and last posts from this two-year experience have had wild party pictures taken at the same river. I’ll miss it– still not quite sure what else to say about that.

Two days after the river debauchery, my friend Oyun celebrated her birthday and the opening of her newly constructed house. Here are some photos:

Chimgee and Oyunchimeg

L to R: Oyunaa, Oyun’s sister-in-law, Oyun’s aunt, Oyun’s mom, the guy who built the house, and Chimgee

L to R: Oyun, Oyun’s brother, and Oyun’s sister-in-law

The only other thing I’m loading on here as of now are pictures of my school’s completed library (and yes, I did, in fact, finish it on the 28th–the day before I moved out of Arvaikheer.) I’d recently returned from UB with six boxes of books from the US Embassy and Asia Foundation, a brand new computer, and some other supplies. This stuff, in addition to the previous installations, was all removed and locked away while the room was being painted. I was afraid it would stay barren, so as soon as the walls dried, I threw the whole thing back together in three hours. Tada!

View from the glass/wood office partition. The side from which this photo was taken is the librarian’s office and the future site of the school’s non-foreign-language book section.

Some shelves are still empty, but I figure the next volunteer can do his or her thing with them.

Amber and Esu threw me a fabulous birthday bash at my favorite Indian restaurant in UB last night, and my camera was also batteryless at that time. I’m worthless with cameras, essentially. But I got a Madonna CD, a beautiful yak cashmere scarf, a bottle of wine, the complete works of Oscar Wilde, awesome time with 15 friends, and some delicious cake out of the evening. Luckily, Amber let me use her camera, so I’ll have some photos of that and the sand dunes pretty soon as a supplementary upload. I’m not gonna do another post, though, I don’t think– this is the last.

On that note, I have no closing thoughts for now– none, at least,  other than a bit about my ever increasing inadequacy to make sense of my experiences through words. I look back at my old posts from two years ago and think, “what a tool that person was”– mostly because I tried to compartmentalize and understand everything based on the contrasts between my own personal culture and that of my surroundings here in Mongolia. That’s not the right approach, I’ve learned. I no longer try to illuminate things for myself through contrasts, because no matter how sensitive and politically correct we think we are in doing so, to write about those contrasts is to inadvertently elevate ourselves above our material. At least the way I was doing it. I like to think, then, that my experiences have reshaped the way I view myself in cultural context, and this is one of the  most valuable changes I think I’ve made. I guess what I’ve learned is that my personal culture is more a product of my personal surroundings, as opposed to something separate that can be juxtaposed against my environment and observed. Or something. I’m just sad to go. And happy to go home. I’m sure I’ll have more to say later, but I don’t yet know where I’ll post it.

I’m gonna miss this place  more than I know how to say.

Thanks for tuning in, friends.

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9 Responses to “WHAT TO SAY, WHAT TO SAY”

  1. Mari McAvenia said

    Awwwww. I’m feeling for you, man.
    Thanks so much for posting the pictures and telling your stories about Mongolia. It has helped me to understand, better, what my son is seeing and experiencing at this time. Unfortunately, he does not have a camera and doesn’t blog at all.

    Your vision and personal voice have done so much good, Patrick, whether you know it or not.
    The library is GORGEOUS! If I was a kid, over there, they’d have to bolt the door and probably tie me up to prevent me from getting at those beautiful books. So enticing to a curious mind….

    Your life is just beginning again, my friend, and I
    have every confidence that you will continue to do wonderful things for people, everywhere you go.

    With Respectful Gratitude,
    Mari McAvenia

  2. Susan said

    Your words always amaze me, even as you struggle with them.

    I can’t wait to see you.

  3. June said

    Hi there, I just came across your blog whilst researching for an opportunity in Mongolia. Coincidentally, if successful, I will be traversing UB and Uvurkhangai. I look forward to reading all of the posts. Your observations are very insightful. Would be great to know where you went after your time in Mongolia.

  4. Elma/Mongolian said

    I am Elma from Arvaikheer. Just accidently I found your blog. Well, I goodle to look at my hometown. ( I do it when I miss it). Thank you for helping my community! You did a good job!I used to live there and taught English. Uuganaa is my bset friend there. By the way I have seen many people I know while I was reading it. I made me feel homesick. I am in Oakland, CA. You can reach me at elmabataa@yahoo.com Thank you.

  5. peace0825 said

    Haha, it’s funny how i came across your blog after 3 years just by typing Brashik in google search. It’s been way too long time since I left my country to pursue some education here in the States. As a result (sadly), I’m forgetting some things, such as brashik. I couldn’t even remember what brashik was. I couldn’t remember if it was made out of raisins or other berries. Well anyways, i really enjoyed reading your blog entries. I hope my people treated you well and if there were times someone treated you badly, i apologize. Keep up the good work and good luck with everything you’re doing 🙂

    • I miss Mongolia and its people every day! I’ve never met a warmer, more welcoming community in my life– even if I often had frustrating safety issues from time to time. I want to go back so bad! [And I miss Brashik, as well!] Thanks for reading!

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