Adjusting to New Surroundings

It’s been awhile since I have updated my blog, but rest assured, I’m alive and kickin’ it!

This summer was super busy – mostly filled with language learning, technical sessions and cultural misunderstandings – but it’s finally over!

On August 8th, I had to pack up my ger and say goodbye to my wonderful host family, which was way harder than I had imagined.


My host family and I in our traditional Mongolian deels. 

I spent two months living with my loving host mom, hilarious host dad, and three amazing sisters. We made so many fond memories together, ate soooo much Mongolian food, watched all of the Korean movies I could imagine, and took thousands of pictures – which were all printed and given to me as a gift upon leaving. I’m so thankful that they agreed to host a random American for a summer, and I’ll cherish the time I spent with them forever.


My host sisters and I, enjoying slimy cucumber face masks after a long day of language and technical sessions.

After leaving them, I headed to Darkhan for a week where I would find out my permanent site placement (!!), attend conferences with my new supervisor, say goodbye to the people I spent the past two months with, and swear in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer.

I was the most anxious for site placement, because I was afraid to be placed in a soum on my own, in a ger (again), or in Bayan-Olgii, where I’d have to learn the Kazakh language (the predominantly spoken language in that region).

Now, I can’t give out the specific location of my site placement but I can say this: I was placed on my own, in a village, where I will be living in my own wooden house next to a hashaa family. I’ll be using an outhouse to do my business and bathing in a tumpin for the next two years, but I couldn’t be happier.


My very own wooden house! I have a mud room, an un-insulated room (refrigerator room), and a large (insulated) room to live in.

I was initially terrified of being placed on my own, but after arriving to my village, I feel so much better about my site placement and I can completely see why the Peace Corps placed me here.

On August 14th, in the wee hours of the morning, I arrived to my permanent site after traveling 10 hours by bus and two hours by car. In a daze and half asleep, I was greeted in my village by my new hashaa mom and a mountain of steamy buuz (Mongolian dumplings)! Her and my supervisor helped me get settled into my new wooden house, and then let me get some rest.

For the first time during my Peace Corps experience thus far, I felt completely on my own.

I stood in the center of my new house, looked around, and realized I was home. That night, I fell asleep to the sound of a crackling fire feeling very happy.

When I woke up in the morning, I realized I had no idea what my surroundings looked like. I instantly jumped up out of bed, looked outside, and was in awe of my surroundings.


This picture was taken while I was standing on “wishing rock,” a tiny island in the middle of the lake, where most boat tours stop for people to take pictures, leave a small donation, and make a wish.

If I stand at the front of my house, I can see mountains in every direction and rows of wooden houses. When I look to my left, I see the tallest mountain top in my village and usually a swarm of seagulls flying in a circle over the lake. The mountain blocks my view of the lake, but if I walk about 10 minutes towards the center of town, I can see the crystal blue lake in all of its glory.

I’ve spent the past week at site hiking, exploring, cooking my own food (!!), napping, getting to know the delguur (shop) owners, meeting with my counterparts, and just enjoying being in the moment.

So far, this experience has taught me to go with the flow and try not to have too high of expectations. Things will work out the way they’re supposed to!

If there’s anything you’d like to know about Mongolian culture, food, language, etc. leave me a comment or send me an email and I’ll be sure to write about it in a future post!


The True Mongolian Experience

I dropped the keys to my ger in my outhouse…five minutes after receiving them.

Imagine how hard it was for me to explain that to my host family using only nonverbal signals after just meeting them. 

There were lots of confusing looks followed by hysterical laughing and that’s pretty much how almost every conversation between us goes. It’s a constant game of charades and makes every interaction interesting.

During my first week in Mongolia I learned how to master the squat outhouse and I’m confident my legs will be made of steel by the end of the summer.

I also learned how to make a proper fire in my stove and how to (not so) effectively shower in a tumpin – a fancy word for a slightly large bucket. 

I’ve traded shopping malls for mountains, and traffic jams for cow crossings, but I think I’m finally getting used to this place.

I look forward to going home after class and spending time with my family each day and retreating to my own little oasis in my ger every night. 

Apart from feeling like I’m camping and killing a million spiders a day, I can thoroughly say I enjoy the ger life – for now!  

It’s a simple way of living but a lot of work, which I hear gets even harder in the winter. I don’t know if I could manage but I guess I’ll find out at the end of summer when I get my permanent site placement! 

And of course, my favorite part of living in Mongolia so far: Tommy! 

I was initially surprised by how many Mongolians dislike dogs. Most people see them as wild animals, only good for protecting the house, but luckily my family treats Tommy pretty well.

Other than that I’m alive and well!