Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Just about there.

Hello All,

I simply have to make it to Saturday at 11:30 am and I will be a Peace Corps
Volunteer. I wanted to send a message out to all of the people that I could
think of to say hi, let you know what I'm up to, encourage all of you to
pass on my address, and to let you all know that I would like to hear from
you too. I know that this list of email addresses is not complete, but I'm
hoping to fill it out as I have more time and hear back from people.

I'm in high spirits as I wait to leave for Uliastai, Zavkhan. Uliastai is
the aimage center, while Zavkhan is the province. I am part of the group
that is heading as far west as Peace Corps is sending Volunteers from our
group. I will get to fly Air Mongolia to begin my job at a branch of Orkhon
University. I was pretty surprised to see that my job description is almost
identical to what I wanted. I'll be working with the future English
teachers of Mongolia. There are three other people from my group heading to
the same site for various jobs and two who have been there for a year
already. I'll be living in an apartment with a radiator and a wooden stove.

We all received our language proficiency scores yesterday. About 10 people
out of 51 scored at the Intermediate-Mid level. I was very pleased to reach
Intermediate-Low. The language training is pretty good. As a group we
scored higher than any group of trainees in the history of the Monolia

A notes to individuals:
Ari- "Sain bainoo" is the typical greeting and literally translates to
"hello, how are you?"

Mom and Dad- Keep an eye out because I'll be sending you some real pictures
that a friend gave me. I'm sending one to grandma and grandpa as well.

A.J.- I got your letter today. I'll be replying soon.

Shannon- A picture should soon be heading your way too.

Ethan- Thanks for the card. I'll be replying soon to you as well.

Bill- Thanks for your help and feel free to copy and paste this to the blog.

To everyone else-
I hope that the summer has been good for you. It's already getting cold
here. I haven't talked to some of you in a long time, but there's something
about being away from home that makes me want to reach out and see who's
there. If you're interested in a postcard or letter from Mongolia, just
drop me a line with your address. I'm happy to spend some time with pen and
paper for a more detailed account of what's going on here in the land of the
"Blue Sky."


Monday, August 08, 2005

Thoughts from Mongolia

Winter and cold will come all too soon, I know, but at the moment a bit of a cool off will be appreciated. I can't jump into the shower, being that I lack running water, so these hot summer days are kind of a pain. I'm always coated with a layer of sweat. I can only imagine what I'll smell like after a couple months of building my own dung fires.
I finished reading these two fantasy books "A Clash of Kings" and "A Storm of Swords" (each about a 1,000 pages) and have had to turn to the other literature that I brought with me. Right now it's a book by Stanley Stewart. I believe it's called "In Search of Genghis Khan." I find myself wanting to find him and kick him in the nuts. His book won several awards, but I feel that anyone who spends any time in this land would find his comments and criticsm a pile of shit. He mocks the delapidated soviet structures, makes statements with little knowledge to back them up, and makes it clear that his book his more about him having bragging rights about riding a horse across Mongolia than actually learning anything.
A short bit of ranting, but now I've got to run. I have a study date with a few friends.


Monday, August 01, 2005

Hello All,

I had meant to send more pictures, but the computer was being especially weird about uploading attachments today.

This was taken at the 'Lady' Tree just outside of Sukhbaatar. The real tree burned down last year, so this is what's left in its place. It's a pretty cool buddhist place. The blue prayer scarves are everywhere. In some places you can see old scarves that are disintegrating on the ground. I made an offering of money to a collection box while my grandfather and other relatives threw milk and vodka into the air. Vodka gets thrown around all the time though. Any time that I have drank with my family or friends here, the first shot gets offered to the gods. The air was thick with the smell of old milk. While I was there, a large
herd of goats happened to pass by. You can't go too far without
encountering some sort of livestock here.

I was told that this place is where you're supposed to make wishes, so I made sure to make a very special one. I'll follow birthday wish rules here, however, and keep it to myself in the hope that it might come true.
Although, I fear that most of the magic has left the world in which we live.
Dreams seem so insignificant and silly when placed next to global economic development.

Hopefully I'll get a good computer the next time I go to UB, so that I can unload some of the pictures I have. I think that I can get some digital photos developed there as well. If I try to do that in Darkhan, they charge you a lot of money and simply print them off on a low-quality printer. That could be in a few weeks or several months depending on how the rest of the summer goes.

I hope that you are all well,
Chris Roecker M16

p.s. Doc, I got a picture of Ben Ost and me, but it turned out pretty
dark. I'm gonna try get a better one of the Hope grads to send to you

Thursday, July 28, 2005

my blog must be one of the most boring on the internet, but the last time i sat down to add an entry, the post office lost power twice. i gave up instead of chancing a third power outage. what do you expect though, i'm in mongolia.

my life has become much busier lately. i'm still in language class for three hours each morning and now have to teach a class each afternoon as well. teaching is pretty fun. i'm teaching my students a song off of the billy bragg and wilco album 'the mermaid avenue sessions'. i forgot the name so i call it 'the lonesome lover'. the teenage girls who fill my class seem to like it. we were finally getting so volume behind the singing today. i only have two more classes with them, but i want to teach them 'my little buttercup' from THE THREE AMIGOS.

my family slaughtered a sheep in my backyard today. i arrived to find animal parts all over the place. my mom served me seven hohsher before inviting me to feast with them in the backyard. she claimed that the hohsher was far too small a meal to fill me. the broth i drank tasted of organs and my hands still smell like i just left a biology disection. i ate some of the meat, but passed on the heart, blood-filled intestines, and other delicacies. i usually would have tried some, but i still had to teach my english class in a couple of hours and didn't want to be running out of the room sick.

it's weird to hear about things like the london bombings and the blast in egypt while over here. i got an old copy of NEWSWEEK INTERNATIONAL that gave me all of the details of london, but this is my first major event while separated from 24-hour news networks. i find that i don't care much about it here. my life has become so much more about where i am and what i'm doing.

i head to my permanent site on august 20. i won't find out where it is until the 15th. i am very excited to find out where i'll be headed. i had my heart set on erdenet because i could have worked with the national swim team there. yes, mongolia has a national swim team. alas, there are no placements for teacher trainers there this year. if i can get to ulaanbaatar in the spring, though, i may be able to compete in there national swim meet. one of my new friends here did just that this year.
they were happy to have a foreigner join the fun.

my family may have no running water, but my parents and grandfather have cell phones. it's often weird to see the ways in which mongolia is modernizing, while remaining antiquated in others. i have joined the cell phone crowd as well. this way, if i happen to get run over by a yak, i can contact my peace corps doctor fairly easily. otherwise i may have to set off to find the post office manager in the middle of the night so that i could make a call.

hopefully i'll have a few interesting pictures and some interesting tales to send before i head out to who-knows-where.

chris roecker, pct

Sunday, June 26, 2005

A Letter Home

A letter to my girlfriend whom I miss dearly. Have you ever been 7,000 miles from a loved one? I'm trying to do my best with it. Often I feel as though joining the Peace Corps is both the best and worst thing that I have ever done. Contradictory, yes. But maybe you'll get my point after reading this

Hey Beautiful,

It's good to hear what you're up to. The twins are lucky to be with you in class this summer. Luckily, I'm quite far from the desert in Sukhbataar. However, the dust storms kick up sometimes and you can hardly see. The drive down to Ulaanbaatar (UB) yesterday was pretty cool. The trains were out due to work on the rails, so we took a long sweaty drive in a van. The whole trip was lined by green rolling hills on both sides.

We went to the Detroit American Bar last night. It was a great time. I wish you could have seen it. It's right beneath the BD's Mongolian BBQ, which is the first American chain restaurant in this country. I couldn't believe how comforting it was to see Tigers, Pistons and Red Wings stuff on the walls. There were even some license plates on the walls. A Mongolian girl sang American covers. She was very talented. There were a bunch of English speakers there, and I've gotten to hang out with a bunch of people that we haven't seen since orientation. Even though that was only two weeks ago, we've all been fairly stressed with language class and adjusting to our families.

I think you'd like visiting UB. There are a lot of Americans working in this city. Opportunities abound for native English speakers, especially those with knowledge of Mongolian. There are a lot of Peace Corps Volunteers who work here after their service is done.

I didn't have a chance to buy a phone card today. Every time that we were at a place no one could give me a solid answer on where I could use it or what to buy. However, I am not going to leave without buying a cell phone, and I am not going to do anything on Tuesday morning until after I have a phone card and call you.

I mistakenly told you the time difference was 15 hours, when it should be 12. So, if I call you between 9 and 11 on Tuesday morning, it should be between 9 and 11 on Monday night for you. Since our leave for UB was very rushed due to the travel change, I had no time to change my clothes, shower or pack properly. I left your phone number at my house. I remember it close, but not exactly. The perils of using my cell phone at home too much. I'm going to call my parents first to say hello and get your number. If you get a chance, call them to make sure that they have the right number and area code. And, perhaps you could let them know that I'll be calling. I think that someone should be home at that time. If for some reason both of them are going to be gone, please see if they'll let you come over to take the call on Monday night.

Missing you more as absence makes my heart grow far more fond of you.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

First Report from Mongolia

Word up! Kalamazoo Voice.  I'm writing from Sukhbaatar in northern Mongolia,
a mere 25 km from Russia. I'm officially a Peace Corps Trainee at the
moment. I have to make it to August 20th to be sworn in as a Volunteer.

I'm living with a family here. They are very nice, but the language barrier
can be tough sometimes. They're feeding me well while I try to get a handle
on a very tough language.

I'm in a land of change. This is a developing country that has some very
old traditions, but is embracing the new as well. Some of the funniest
things that I've seen are t-shirts with English on them that makes no sense
at all. It's really just gibberish. They do have a lot of current items
here. My host father wears a DC Shoe Co. shirt. That caught me a little by

The people here are great. I've experienced no anti-Americanism at all. I
know that this isn't much of a story, but I have to be cautious about how I
say things because I am a representative of the Peace Corps now. This is
one of the few government organizations I am proud to say that I am
associated with. It kind of amazes me that our government supports the work
we are doing.

If I make it through the summer, I'll be in an aimag (provincial center)
training teachers. Hopefully I'll have more to pass on to you later.

Enjoy your summer and remember that there are some of us who look forward to
when we'll next be able to take a shower or use a 'real' toilet. But trust
me, that's not a complaint. This place is awesome. I don't think I could
have asked for a better country in which to be placed.

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The contents of this web site are mine personally(Christopher Roecker) and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps