Homestay

Last weekend we had the option of taking part in a home stay, which is staying with a local family in the city for the weekend, i happily accepted with an open mind and at 10am on Saturday morning i was picked up by my foster mum and we shared a lift with another family and going along some main road, we stopped and myself and foster mum got out and hailed down a taxi, but taxis in Mongolia are just people in their car with space so it was some old guy with an even older car which stalled several times in a couple of junctions and i just hoped and trusted that it was all going to be ok. We did eventually get to her home, on a 1st floor and i was showed to my room, the living room with a bed, now the bed was great but it seems that Mongolians put those floor rugs on beds and even sofas i later discovered as decoration so i was sleeping under a floor rug. So when we got in she explained to me that she had to go out to the dentist and that she would be back in 1 and a half hours and that i could have breakfast, which i had already had but i ate my thich pancake with sausage and honey with a coffee, i couldn’t however finish it and i really tried so i had to find a way to get rid of the rest so i put it in a plastic bag and went outside to find a neighbours bin as i didnt want her to find it and be offended. While i was waiting for her to come back i went into my room and turned on the TV and found Mongolian Avatar and i saw out of the corner of my eye something moving, i just ignored it but i saw it again a micro mouse, i jumped up on my bed and spent the next hour following its journey around my bedroom. Finally 2 and a half hours later foster mum returned and i contemplated not telling her about the mouse but i did and she told me she knew and that she had a trap, but i felt like i shouldnt really mention it again and that i should just grin and bare it, after all i had lived with a mouse a few times before and it wasn;t really a big deal. The main thing that made me get on with it was that i was in Mongolia and my fellow vso s around the world were living with snakes, poisonous spiders and tigers in their homes so a micro mouse i just had to deal with.

I was wondering what we would be doing the rest of the day other than hiding from a mouse and she told me her neice had just graduated as a doctor and that there was a big family celebration at her brothers house outside the city. So her brother, his wife their son and daughter can to pick us up and the two of us got in, it was very, very,very cosy, not exactly enough room for 6. Now im not sure if i have mentioned before but Mongolians are OBSESSED  with the Beatles, there is even a monument dedicated to them in the centre of UB and a mural in a club etc, anyway the uncle put on the Beatles in the car for me and everyone knew the words, there was also alot of BeeGees, they even asked me if my town was near Liverpool, it is not, all of this was translated through the son who was fluent in English. We drove out of the city and again dodging the pot-holes, dogs, cows and people and arrived at the other uncles house, an actual house in a small camp,

The Camp

The Camp

we went inside and the WHOLE family was there sitting around a long table on the sofa and chairs, there was an assortment of salads and fruit on the table and i sat down and was told to help myself.

The whole family

The whole family

Now this was a day where i learnt more about Mongolians and their country/traditions than any other it was fascinating, everything i had mearly read in my guide book was true and demonstrated to me this Saturday. The first was giving food/drinks and gifts to eachother with the right hand with the left hand supporting the right elbow, you also accept this way, right arm supported by left hand, the second was feet touching, this is extremely rude but obviously it happens easily, the way to counteract this is the shake their right hand, this happened with the aunt to my left and she did shake my hand. I thought that if this was the way in England then i would have spent all my tme shaking hands with Scullion who sat infront of me at work, she has long legs. So i was introduced to some of the family and the new doctor and then she dissappeared to go and get her medical certificate and badge, this was passed around the family with alot of ooooohing and ahhhing, then another certificate appeared which was the uncles who had just be made an engineering consultant, more ooooing and ahhhing.

Blurry vodka photo

Blurry vodka photo

We then toasted the neice and there was a pseech and it was also the beginning of a long day of vodka drinking. The 2/3 litre bottle of Chinggis vodka was opened and the first shot was thrown out of the window and offered to the sky, this is done as part of a shamanistic ritual i think, the sky being the father. We then all were offered a shot and it was yummy. Then the sheep was bought out, not the meat but a plastic bowl of the sheeps insides, the intestines, kidneys, the liver, the whole stomach and other things i would never recognise. I ate what i was given which was slices of liver and intestines, the liver was easy enough to eat but the intestines were hard work, i really had to concentrate on not letting it touch my tongue as it was way too much like eating intestines and not just meat, thankfully that was all i was offered.

The Mutton

The Mutton

Between the insides and the outsides being served there were several more vodka shots, you must have a minimal of 3 and then only odd numbers so 4 is bad, you need another then you are discretely given a 6th which is bad and you need a 7th, i think its just an excuse to drink, but it is very good stuff this chinggis vodka it really heats you up and what with the amount of mutton we then had to eat you barely get drunk and strangely enough they go well together. Another ritual is the meat from the shoulder blade is divided up for all to eat, i guess for good luck too. The rest of the day involved eating and drinking more and more, cake, vodka, coffee, vodka, aloe vera juice, vodka, wow!!!!!

Endlessly laughing

Endlessly laughing

Later on we drove back to UB, well the son drove back as he had been sleeping off a hangover all day and hadn’t been drinking, the drive back was more adventurous then the drive out as there were just as many obstacles but without street lights, when we got back to the apartment the uncle pulled a dead mouse out of the trap set it again and within 15minutes it had snapped again, with 2 mice down i slept better that night.

The following morning i had breakfast and wandered what we were going to do and around midday a family arrived at the front door with a Dutch teenager who looked Mongolian, he had arrived for a Mongolian lesson, his Mongolian parents in Holland had sent him over to Mongolia for 2 months to stay with the aunt and to learn the language. I unknowingly had to participate in the lesson, whoopy Sunday morning 2hour lesson!!!!!

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About rdamm

I am about to embark upon a V.S.O. placement for one year in UB, Mongolia. I shall be working as a textile designer at Mongol Nekhmel, a textile company that produces cashmere, yak and camel hair clothing and homeware. I shall be sharing the skills i have gained in the last 10 years as a designer, creating connections and helping to open-up the products to the European and Japanese markets, therefore hopefully assisting to bring herding communities out of poverty. The views expressed in this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of V.S.O. www.vso.org.uk www.vsointernational.org
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