Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Learning Mongolian

For the past two weeks I've been trying to pick up Mongolian as a sixth language, yes 6th. Its funny how sometimes when I think, words in Khmer, Vietnamese, English, and sometimes even Japanese and Spanish pop in my head. So adding another language into the mix should make it even more interesting. But I digress...

Mongolian is different...very different from all of the other languages that I have learned thus far. So I'm starting new again, even learning a whole different alphabet. Just like when I was learning Japanese, when first encountering hiragana and katakana I was taken back. Same can be said for the Cyrillic alphabet, but just like learning the Japanese characters it was all about repetition and time. I made a bunch of flash cards and practiced daily, and with time my friend, I am happy to say that I've pretty much mastered the Cyrillic alphabet. Know I know my A, Б, В. Now on to reading and deciphering what it actually means.

Oh, and if you want to listen to what Mongolian actually sounds like, take a gander through the link.

[source: Wikipedia]

Cyrillic Name Transliteration
Cyrillic Name Transliteration
Аа а a
Пп пэ ( p )
Бб бэ b
Рр эр r
Вв вэ v
Сс эс s
Гг гэ g
Тт тэ t
Дд дэ d
Уу у u
Ее е je/ye
Үү ү ü
Ёё ё jo/yo
Фф фэ~фа~эф ( f )
Жж жэ ž/
Хх хэ~ха h
Зз зэ z
Цц цэ ts
Ии и i
Чч чэ č
Йй хагас и j
Шш ша~эш š
Кк ка ( k )
Щщ ща~эшчэ ( šč )
Лл эл l
Ъ ъ хатуугийн тэмдэг
Мм эм m
Ыы эр үгийн ы y
Нн эн n
Ьь зөөлний тэмдэг '
Оо о o
Ээ э e
Өө ө ö
Юю ю ju/yu

Яя я ja/ya


Monday, March 10, 2008

Dude, Where's Mongolia?

I've been talking a lot about Mongolia, but haven't actually given any substantial information about the country. Let me take this time to formally introduce you to the "Land of the Blue Sky." See that speck of land surrounded by Russia and China? yup, thats my home for the next 2 or so years.

A History Lesson: Wedged in between Russia and China, Mongolia have always been tied to its two neighbors. Most recently, it was part of the Soviet bloc and relied heavily on the USSR for support. But with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Mongolia's state planned economy was revamped and a new capitalistic economy is now emerging. What the future holds for the country is unknown, but the state is trying to move towards a free and open market, and the first goal in achieving that is by opening the society. And thats why folks, I will be going to Mongolia.

800 years ago, the Venetian Marco Polo traveled to the court of Kublai Khan. At that point in time, the Mongols were feared conquerors stampeding through the steppes destroying everything in their path. Today, the land in which the Mongolian inhabit is much the same, but the world is quite different. There is a noticeable difference between the city and the countryside, the stationary and the mobile. While the capital of Ulaanbaatar is a certified city, much of the country and its people still heavily rely on livestock. They move with the changing of the land, from one fertile grazing ground to the next. This is the life of a Mongolian.

Major Facts and Figures:
  • Ethnicity: 94.9% Mongols (Khalkha)
  • Religion: 50% Tibetan Buddhism
  • Language: 90% Khalkha Mongolian - Cyrillic
  • Literacy: 97.8%
  • GDP per Capita: $2,900
Fun Facts:
  • Lowest population density of any nation (3.9 people per square mile)
  • More cell phones than land lines
  • 2nd largest landlocked country in the world

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Accepting my Invitation

Called up Peace Corps headquarters yesterday to accept my invitation. Went over preliminary details with the Placement Officer on staging, passport, visas. Yes, more paperwork from them. I also have to send in an aspiration statement and a revised resume specifically for my line of work, which isn't too bad because I had time to prepare for these in advance. After that, I can only wait for staging on May 31st. 80 something days left right?

So I guess its official, can't back down now. To Mongolia, land of my boyhood idol: Genghis Khan! It will be an interesting experience to say the least. Over these last few days I've been searching far and wide on the internet to find anything that pertains to the country, and the more I look, the more I am excited to go.

Things I'm looking forward to doing in Mongolia:
  1. Ride on those tiny horses that homeboy Genghis Khan and his Mongolian horde used to conquer more than half of the known world.
  2. Take in all the beautiful sights and sounds; the miles of open grassland and mountains.
  3. Mongolian wrestling, you've seen it on the travel channel.
  4. Real Mongolian BBQ, basically any offering of meat: goat, lamb, horse.. whatever they dish out, I'm willing to take it.
  5. Living in a Yurt/Ger.
  6. Learning the Mongolian language, take a gander... this will take time.
  7. Meet my host family and immerse myself with the culture.
  8. Teaching... thats what I'm there for right?
Things I'm not looking forward to while in Mongolia:
  1. Negative degree weather is never a good thing.
  2. Learning yet another language, lets see... Khmer, Vietnamese, English, Spanish, Japanese.. now Mongolian? I find myself mixing too many languages together already, now its going to be even more dysfunctional!
I guess the Pros outweigh the Cons. If I think of anymore, I will add to the list. And here's a picture of the tiny horse I was talking about: