The Light at the End of the PST Tunnel

Well, I cannot believe that I am nearly finished with PST (Pre-Service Training). It "began" the minute I landed in Mongolia on June 5, 2011. It lasts from June 5 until August 19 which is the date we "swear-in" and become Peace Corps Volunteers.  This has been a very long and tough process. Each day brings a new challenge and allows me a lot of time to grow.

The Mongolian language continues to be difficult for me!  The more advanced I become, the more things start to sound the same.  This evening I was eating dinner with my family trying to say that the food was really good.  They kept correcting my pronunciation of the word for food which is хоол.  Apparently my 'o' vowel wasn't quite right.  I couldn't hear the difference in their vowel and mine.  So this is an on-going battle.  Unfortunately, time is not on my side.  We have our LPI (Language Proficiency test) on Friday, August 12.  Someone comes in and we have a conversation, in Mongolian,  with them for 20 minutes and that conversation gets recorded and sent to Ulaan Baatar.  Once in Ulaan Baatar it gets analyzed by people trained in language assessment.  To be sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer we are expected to hit a Novice High Mark.  On a scale of 1-10, we are expected to be at a 3.  According to a book, we need to:

  • be able to ask questions and make simple statements based on memorized sentences.
  • Understand conversation fragments and simple commands
  • Express daily needs
  • Speak in short, direct sentences with some longer phrases if given time to think about them
  • Behave considerately
  • Understand nonverbal cues
At first, this list seemed impossible.  As time wore on, it seems quite achievable.  I feel like I have a good grasp on the language and shouldn't have a problem passing this LPI as long as I keep studying and working hard.  All-in-all, Mongolian is fun to learn and I get a lot of bragging rights by being able to speak it.  :)

Practice Teaching
So as you all know, I am in the TEFL sector of the Peace Corps.  The last week has been spent practice teaching.  This is a chance for the trainees to practice teaching English within the context of a real class room.  As a training site, we held open registration for students in grades 4-12 to come and receive free English lessons.  Four of the trainees took the youngest kids, four took the middle group and four more took the oldest students.  All together, we have about 80-90 students coming to these lessons!  Our turnout is FABULOUS!

I am in the group that teaches the oldest students.  I find it challenging and rewarding all at once!  We give a total of 10 forty minute lessons.  My partner, Leo, and I will team teach six of those lessons.  The other four are spent alternating solo teaching sessions.  Today was the first of my two solo sessions.   I think it went really well!  Unfortunately, our unit topic is sports so I am out of my league.....but the students don't know that....I hope!  I spend all of my free time lesson planning and meeting with my partner to make sure our lessons will go off smoothly.  It is a real dose of the eventual reality once I get to my site.

Speaking of site placement.....  We find out VERY soon!
Tomorrow, August 3, is my site placement interview.  This is my chance to speak with a Peace Corps official about where I would like to be.  Honestly, I don't really have a preference.  Wherever they place me I will work hard and be the best volunteer possible.  I have the chance of living in a ger, an apartment or a two-room house.  Both the ger and the two-room house will not have running water and require a fire to stay warm in the winter.  This mean....chopping wood....something I really don't want to do.  But time will tell where I end up!  They make our site announcements on August 15 when all the trainees reconvene at our training site.

Martha Stewart...in Mongolia?
For those of you who know me, it is a commonly known fact that I LOVE and ADORE Martha Stewart.  She has everything I want.....gorgeous homes, a good sweater collection and the ability to cook really good food.  Sometimes I humor myself and try to cook.  Usually I would rather just throw a hot pocket in the microwave and call it good. Mongolia has no microwaves or hot pockets.  This boy needs to learn how to cook!
Yummy huushur made by my host mom!

Our training site had a cooking class the other day.  We bought the necessary groceries and went to the house of a trainee whose dad is an accomplished cook.  We made huushuur (The Mongolian version of hot pockets with mutton and green onion).  The filling is easy to make as is the dough for the "pocket."  The tough part is filling the pocket with just the right amount of filling and pinching it shut.  There are a variety of ways to pinch huushuur.  Some people make it Martha Stewart gorgeous with a fluted edge.  Other just roughly pinch the edges together and others, like myself, just sort of push the edges together and throw it in the oil.  This results in a lot of splattering oil as the filling pops.  Needless to say, I was put on cleaning duty and pushed out of the kitchen.  That was fine with me!  I could eat our huushuur without having to work too hard!

About one week ago one of the mothers of a trainee wanted to show us how to shoot a Mongolian bow and arrow.  I didn't take bow and arrow class at community college and I was a little scared about the whole thing!  We all met up and watched this old man shoot an arrow with a rubber tip at a line of cloth balls.  After he hit them, he let us go!  Surprisingly, it wasn't that hard for me.  I managed to hit the balls all three times!  Only one other person did that.  It was a good feeling!
My bad attempt at trying to be an archer!  Watch out Robin Hood!

I also climbed the stupa hill again.  It was sunset and the lighting was GORGEOUS!  I enjoyed the walk up the hill and the sunset was so visible and so gorgeous.  The golden prayer wheels were glistening with the pink and orange hues that were given off by the sun.  It was very peaceful and gave me time to think, sort through my crazy thoughts and go home relaxed and ready to face the next day.
The gorgeous stupa at the top of the hill.

I will keep you all posted on the results of my LPI and any other information that I feel would be fun to pass along!  I hope you are all well!


1 comment:

  1. Don't stress about the LPI. You're going to be amazing and you'll probably get a higher score than you even think! Although I do worry about your ability to behave considerately. I mean...seriously.

    It sounds like your PST might be slightly cooler than mine was, so for that, I'm a little jealous. :-)

    Hang in there! Almost to swearing in!! I'm so proud of you!!!!!