Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Choi Boy!

I currently live in the outskirts of Choibalsan, the capital of Dornod Aimag (province). The Aimag is in eastern Mongolia and borders China. Upon arrival, you will notice a marked absence of mountains that is oh so pervasive in other regions of the Mongolia. What we have instead is low flatland as far as the eyes can see, as it is home to the steppes of the country. There is no doubt that of its beauty, but when it is pockmarked with Soviet ruins and abandoned buildings, there is definitely a sense of loss of the natural wonder.

As I mentioned earlier, I live in the outskirts of the Aimag center. It’s a 10-15 minute mikro (sounds like meeker) ride on dirt roads for 7-8 km. I will write more about mikros another time because it deserves its own entry. For now, I’ll explain my living situation. I am in an apartment, which in Mongolia is a coveted living arrangement because of one particular amenity: hot showers. Though I didn’t specifically ask for an apartment, I’m glad that I have one. Sure, living in a ger would be fun and something to talk about, but the novelty will wear off when you have to haul your own water, cut your own wood, and make your own fire in -40 degree weather.

In the apartment there is one big bedroom, one kitchen, and one bathroom. Minimal standards to the typical American, but when you know that there is a family of 10 next door living in the same style apt., it gives you a better perspective of what you really need in life. I’m happy with what I have, and I’m thankful for that.

In my little town, there are four general food stores that stock the basic needs like bread, eggs, butter, and some vegetables (potatoes and onions, that’s all for veggies.) As for "landmarks", there is a kindergarten, a secondary school, and a train station. And that’s basically all the public infrastructure that we have.

In the Aimag center, I get most of the major food supplies; meat and other foodstuff that I can’t find at the local store. Oh, and there is also the all-knowing, all-powerful internet. The source of news and knowledge in an otherwise closed out world. It’s always fun to be in the 4th largest "city" in Mongolia because there are PCVs and other volunteers (VSO, French) from other countries in the area. We occasionally have dinner together, go out for some drinks, a time to relax and speak English at the normal pace.


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