Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mega post and Mom was Right


     Another day, another 1,850 Turgiks.  This week was a fairly average week for the most part, teaching, coaching, grading, you know the standard teaching stuff.  I’d say the highlights were the freshmen complaining about watching videos in class so I cut them out.  So of course now they are begging to get some videos again.  They are still a good bunch though, a little chatty at times, but show me freshmen that aren’t.  They are good kids so I don’t mind, I also freak them out when I caught them watching the Erza vs. Kagura vs. Minerva fight from Fairy Tail during lunch and say how I liked that episode.  Cue their shocked face.

Here is a video of the fight

     I know there is a bit of an ass pull at the end and the clothing damage is a bit much but it’s still a pretty good fight.

     FYI- It was a bunch of girls watching it, not the guys.  I think the girls watch it for the plot and friendship, the guy’s well we like it for the fights and well you’ll see what the female designs look like if you watch the video.  The guys were more interested in talking about the end of the History’s Mightiest Disciple Kenichi Manga which finally ended Sept 17.  They really need to make the rest of it into an anime.

Now the sixth graders were a different story.

     “Ok, guys we have a lot to do today, so you need to sit down right away.  The sooner we get started with the notes, the sooner you can go to the lab and work with the microscopes.”
Cue- (Ignore the narration)

     The kiddies were great, we blew through the lesson, and headed over to the lab to learn how to use the microscopes.  Honestly I have to say I was really surprised at how well they did, nothing broke and they made their own slides.  The kids even focused the microscopes correctly.  In case you are wondering I did not just let them run wild, I used a heavily scripted directed walk through.  It still worked though and the kids had a lot of fun looking at their own slides and homemade slides.
Oh, but there is more, the next day I’m stuck trying to figure out what activity to use for bacteria as there are not many for middle school kids.  This is when I realize, that I have some Mongolian yogurt in the back of my refrigerator.

     I can have my students examine the bacteria growing in my Mongolian yogurt that is 11 days past the expiration date and I already have a lab premade for that.  Cue another happigasm from the kiddos and we are off to the lab.

FYI- Mongolian yogurt looks more like a vanilla milk shake than yogurt

     The lab again went off without a hitch and I was again surprised by how careful they were with everything.  Oh and the kids did not think expired yogurt was disgusting although one girl did ask to have some for a snack.  She quickly changed her mind when I told her about the expiration date though.

     This next one is for John and any other foodies.  I don’t know what it is but it tastes good.
You are looking at what I had for lunch two days this week.  Near as I can tell it’s some kind of meat bun (lamb I think) with some veggies mixed in.  Oh so good……

But wait there is more…..

     It is some kind of carrot slaw made without the most disgusting ingredient known to man, mayonnaise.  Oh so good I could eat this stuff all day.  The rest of lunch is either mashed potatoes or rice.

Another slaw I've been served

     If you have been reading this long, you are most likely thinking, get to the dam point and tell us how mom was right.  So it goes something like this….

               “Chris I am sure that other teachers will be arranging trips and activities while you are in Mongolia.”
               “Yes, but I don’t want to wait for something is still a possible unknown.”

     With one week to go I am now part of a group of teachers taking a trip to the countryside over the upcoming fall break.   Specifically the 5 day trip will involve 3 days of horseback riding.  I’ve never ridden a horse before….. This is going to be interesting.

Some pictures from the brochure

Oh and Dad was also right

               “When am I every going to need a sport jacket?”
               “What if you get invited to the embassy or something?”
               “Yeah right, like that is going to happen.”

     Well it did happen, the teachers and a date got an invitation to the Marine Core ball if we want to attend.  It does sound interesting, now I just need to find a date.

Grand Med Hospital

     I was going to end the blog here, but the teachers got a tour of three non-state run hospitals today so I thought I would fill you guys in.  Now the first of the three hospitals is located about three quarters of a mile away from the school just up the street from where I take the cross country kids running sometimes.  The school is located where pictures are.

     If it weren't for the Mongolian language signs, it would fit right in with some of the posh private hotels found in the west.  It’s also quite new obtaining its license in 2009 with all of the doctors coming from South Korea.  The English slogan on the back reads as follows.

               “You no longer need to travel abroad for costly spinal surgeries.  Our hospital presents an opportunity for you to save on the following costs.  Consultations, Visas, Airfare, Hotel, Diagnostic fees, travel costs for a caregiver.

     So first thing I had to do is put on these neat little booties over my shoes when I stepped inside.
As you can see the floors are a nice marble to, very posh.

     Continuing with the posh theme there is an internet cafe and bar on the top floor that also has a nice view of the surrounding area. That’s Zaisan in the middle and school is behind the buildings on the right.

     The forest you see in the background is where I went hiking a few weeks back and that’s Frank (the guy on the tablet) one of the computer teachers in the foreground.

     Now the next picture is going to need some explaining.  The hospital has a variety of rooms and services including Internal medicine, traditional medicine, each with their own wings, pain management, rehabilitation, OBGYN, surgery, dental and VIP services.  They offer standard rooms which include a TV, couch, and minibar, and VIP rooms which are nicer than some of the hotel rooms I’ve stayed in.  The PR lady giving the tour was very excited to explain how the paint and floors were antibacterial, the curtains were fire proof, and all of the other safety features.  In all it was quite nice and I would have no problem seeking treatment there.  Now it comes to the cost, a VIP room is 130 dollars US and the standard room 100$ dollars US, a fraction of what you might pay in the states.  How do they do this you ask, honestly I have no idea but I think the prison (seen below) right next door has something to do with it.  Maybe that is where jerk ass insurance workers and lawyers are sent.

     Now don’t worry its only minimum security and holds a lot of juvenile offenders.

Inter Med Hospital

               The Inter med hospital is even newer with its grand opening only a few weeks ago.  It is just as nice if not nicer than the Grand Med, but it is a little further away.  All of their doctors are foreign trained and they speak English.  The facility was built by the Australians with numerous little bells and whistles built into the walls to reduce infection risk.  Not that they told us what those were, they did mention their new electronic medical records system and how it was easy for them to share all of the information with whoever needs it, no word on HIPA compliance though.  It alsohas a partnership with the Korea University Medical Center.

     The hospital offers the full range of medical specialties including an ER and a Cuban dentist.

Surgery suite

Listed below are some of their prices in US dollars

Basic package- $154
Doctors visit
Eye exam
Chest X-ray
Abdominal ultra sound
Blood type
Liver function
Kidney function
Lipid profile
And two of the following cancer markers

Comprehensive package- $1,772
Doctors visit
Dietician consult
Eye exam
Dental exam
Hearing test
Pulmonary function
Bone density scan
Esophageal endoscopy
Gynecology exam
Thyroid and abdominal ultrasound
Prostate ultrasound
Cardiac CT with contrast
Chest CT with contrast
Abdominal CT with contrast
Brain MRI
Stool exam
Blood type
Anemia screening
PT time
Liver function
Pancreatic function
Diabetic screening
Kidney function
Lipid profile
Cardiac profile
Thyroid function
Mineral function
Liver, colon, pancreatic, gastric cancer markers
Breast, prostate cancer markers
Liver virus

Songdo Hospital

               The final hospital on the tour and it looked more like you would expect being outside of the US, not that it was bad, just different.  Not much to say about this one as it was more barebones compared to the previous two hospitals with a regular costing about $30 a night.  The one highlight would be trying to use the elevator and overloading with just four people.  It was rated for 6 people or 450kg, I don’t think they planned on three former American HS football players getting on at the same time.  The rest of the tour we used the freight elevator.  Darn tiny Mongolians.

Basic testing- $243
Doctors visit
Blood type
Liver function
PT time
Viral tests- Hep A, B, C, H. pylori, HIV
Cancer markers- ovarian, prostate
Urine and stool
Pulmonary function
Chest X ray
Bone density
Sonograms- abdominal, thyroid, prostate
Pap smear
Eye test
Hearing test
Dental exam

Gold screening test- $919
Everything in basic plus the following
Cancer- liver, stomach, colon, breast, stomach
Pulse wave diagnostic
Stress test
Brain MRI with contrast
Chest CT
Abdominal CT
Pelvic CT
Ca score

     Wow this week’s post was a long one, I will leave you with this.  The weather forecast for tonight and tomorrow morning is 1 to 3 inches of snow.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Long Week

September 21, 2014

               Sorry for the late update everyone.  I know last week’s was a little early, but it’s now Sunday night and a bit later than I planned on getting to this.  However to make up for it I have a lot of pictures.  It was a short week this week with PD (professional development) on Friday, but I still had plenty of work to do with a field trip with my freshmen and tests in all of my classes.  Now to begin we have some of the missing pictures from my hike to Bogdkhan Uul, and no I don’t know why they have mysteriously reappeared on my memory card.



Yes I think that is a Ger roof for the Entrance

Yes that is a Camel, a Bactrian to be exact.  Don’t worry Dave it’s not the one that you and Joy are getting.

And now a real Ger.  Don’t ask why it is on wheels because I don’t have a clue

Now for some shots from around Zaisan (that’s the part of the city where I’m living)
I didn’t know that Autospa had a branch in Mongolia.

               I’m getting used to living in Mongolia and slowly making the necessary adjustments to not having access to certain things, dryer, dry cleaner, dish washer, etc….. Speaking of things like that I manage to make a bit of a fool of myself on Friday, after we were given the instructions for the next homeroom activity.  The students are making a quilt out of old fabric that will be raffled off to raise money for local orphanages.  To make a long story short my question was how I can help the students with their sewing if I don’t know how to sew myself.  The last time I heard anything about sewing it was in Medical school and they weren’t talking about fabric.  All eyes turned to me and one of my fellow teachers asked me how I put buttons back on.  Um… the dry cleaner was my reply.  I was then told that several teachers could give me lessons, and not to worry since most of the kids would know how to sew.

               Anyhow you know your living abroad when you get excited over a new grocery store.  It’s a little further away than Good Price but it has a decent selection.  I don’t know if I will use it that often, but it’s nice to know that it is there.  It doesn’t have almond milk and a few other things I normally buy.

John you will have to tell me if these are any good

The Golden Buddha outside the store, that I have yet to get over to and explore.

And now the bottom of the Zaisan Monument that was under construction when I went there.

               And now for the local manholes that need covers, and that the locals think nothing of.  I made it a point to highlight them while running with my Cross Country kids and they just shrugged and kept going.  However story goes that a teacher that was at the school several years back broke both her legs falling in one.  These are on the way to my normal grocery store.

               Next up is my field trip to the river with all of my students cut out of the frame for obvious reasons.  It was a scant 15-20 minute walk from the campus, and they were great the whole time.

               It is a nice little spot, but as you can see while it would be easy to get the boats in the water it is far too shallow and rocky to row on.  I also think there is significant spring flooding given how flat and broad the river bank is.  Sadly the plans for Mehargs Mongolian Rowing Team must be shelved.

               I’ve been steadily expanding my exposure to the restaurants of Ulaanbaatar, and today was brunch with a number of teachers.  We also had two tourists that one of the teachers met recently who are in Mongolia for a month.  It was a German theme, (probably due to October Fest coming up), with the waitresses wearing the Dirndl.  The food was more lunch than brunch, but it was still really good.  I had hash browns, some kind of pasta bacon veggie dish, mushroom gravy soup thing, chicken, peppers carrots and cabbage, croissant with blueberry jam, raisin cinnamon roll, some kind of melon, some other kind of melon with black spots in it, some other thing with bacon in it, and water.  I was more interested in eating it, than figuring out what it was.  Oh and the entire buffet was 24 dollars.  After all that food we enjoyed a nice stroll down to center city and hit the bus to get back to the school.

               I got some tips on my upcoming trip to Terelj over fall break that I have yet to actually schedule.  Oh and I might be trying some rock climbing soon.  In other vacation news I’ve got my plane tickets to and from Thailand so if anyone has any advice on where to Scuba Dive or what to see I’m all ears.  Well that’s about it for now.

FYI- Today’s high 50 F Low 24 F

PS- With the Scottish Vote now over maybe now I’ll get something else on the news.  I also have some interesting news for the Californian’s.  It turns out that most of the teachers that I know from the school are from California, specifically Mendicina, Nappa, and East Bay.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Quiet Week


            I don’t really have much to say this week sadly and not much in the way of pictures either.  It didn't help that this week was pretty busy as well with sports, committees and school activities getting into full swing.  It wasn’t all bad and I do have some little tidbits to share with you.

            I finally made it to the bank and finalized my banking situation after a fashion.  It was on the way back that I began to feel like a secret agent man, with 6 different IDs, NJ driver’s license, PA driver’s license, US Passport, Mongolia alien registration card, and my school ID.  The four different currencies in my wallet didn’t help either, American, Mongolian, Chinese, and Japanese.  Now Patty, Colleen, and Brian can probably explain that this isn’t a secret agent man thing but a now your living overseas thing.  Now on the topic on currency the Mongolian currency (tugrik) is all paper.  The current exchange rate is around 1800 to 1900 to the American dollar.  So far I’ve used 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 1,000, 500, 100, 50, 20, and 10.  Apparently there are 5 and 1 tugrik notes, but I have yet to actually see them.  One of my fellow teachers has stated that he is using the notes 1 tugrik notes to wallpaper the bathroom in his house in California.  Now of course this means that a big stack of bills that would make any gambler jealous might only be worth a few dollars.  I used a stack of 100, 50, 20, and 10 tugrik notes to pay for lunch and it looked like I had a thick role in my pocket.  In case you’re wondering lunch is 4000 Mongolian (around 2.20 American).

Mongolian currency

            This week was also the yearly ritual of Beat the Teacher night, sorry I meant Meet the Teacher Night, or as my school calls it Curriculum night.  We had a rather low turnout which from what I've been told is fairly typical.  I had 8 parents stop by over the course of the night and the entire event went well.  It was a little awkward with the two parents who couldn't speak English, but the kids were there to translate so I managed.  I did enjoy the free dinner though.  The big low of the night was when I knocked my laptop off the desk breaking the power cord and wrecking one of my USB ports.  (I got a replacement charger from the school)  The rest of the computer is working fine though and I am really glad I spent the extra money for a solid state hard drive.  It fact the entire setup is working great, my little mini projector is a champ running through the entire day except for the last few minutes of my sixth grade class occasionally.  It’s the best 300 bucks I ever spent, I don’t know what I would do without the little guy.

            Now if I can just figure out where to get a Nintendo Wii controller and hook it up to the computer.  No, not for games but there is a way to make a poor man’s smart board with it.  While I've taught with a smart board before I can get by without it, but it would be cool to mess around with on occasion, Diagramming slides, interactive web games, labeling diagrams, etc.

            Cross country is in full swing and the team is actually pretty big around 25 kids across the middle and upper schools.  I know it’s nothing compared to some of the teams I've coached in the past, Moorestown, CBA, but the entire secondary school is only 220 kids.  That means we have ten percent of the student body on the team.  That kind of size is unheard of in the States.

            I took my ninth graders outside for a lab this week and the only word I got from the administration was to take pictures of the kids doing science for the website.  The last time I tried that in NJ I got the third degree.  I’m taking the same class off campus to a river next week and all I needed was an extra chaperone.  Wooohoooo we are doing science now kiddies.

            I have a long weekend of grading and a few errands ahead of me so I am posting this early.  If anything exciting happens in the city tomorrow, I will let you know.

Send Cookies, or muffins, or scones, or …. Well you’ll figure it out

PS- Oh I almost forgot my latest cooking experiment.

            1.5 cups of Thai long grain rice
            1 can of canned beef
            1 cup frozen vegetables
            A bunch of water
            A dash of milk
            Garlic powder
            Cayenne pepper
            Deli mustard

            Throw everything in a pot and boil until cooked.  Well it took an hour and the results were well I don’t think Arbie would eat it.  The rice was still under cooked, the meat disintegrated, and the vegetables the less said the better.  I don’t understand though rice is a starch and pasta is a starch.  When I do the same thing with pasta it works pretty good and only takes 10-15 minutes tops.  So I had cereal instead, I mean that is impossible to mess up.

PPS- Send muffins, aaahhhh muffins

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Settling In

September 7, 2014

               Life has more or less settle down for the most part, the schedules are finally complete, and lucky me no changes for my homeroom or classes.  The fun for this week was trying to come up with interesting lab activities for the students, which is harder than it looks even though I teach science.  My first activity was a bust, when I discovered that the lab didn't have any of the solutions needed to detect carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins.  However I had a bit of an epiphany, and had the students do the same thing with their own senses, tasting, sugar, corn meal, vegetable oil, maple syrup, salt, and ground up nuts, for their component nutrients.  They might have thought some of the substances were disgusting, but in the end it worked well enough.  My second activity though took a bit more doing, measuring the effects of temperature and pH on per-oxidase.  The first try was a bust since the hydrogen peroxide was a year out of date, and apparently you can’t by liver in Mongolia.  (Sorry John, no duck liver goodness for you)  So anyway I found a way to do it with potatoes instead, and the school got me some hydrogen peroxide.  The second try was a success, even with the following line from one of my students who tried to help by opening one of the new bottles of hydrogen peroxide.

               “Mr. M the hydrogen peroxide must be good my finger is burning” as she spills some on the desk.  Cue my head adding another dent to the wall.  Even with that the lab was a success and my students got to do something fun and interesting.

               The second interesting story from the classroom involved a homework assignment where my students had to research a new technology that fixes an environment problem or increases the planets carrying capacity.  Student number one begins to explain how in China companies are breaking down iron oxide to create oxygen to sell to highly polluted areas.  Well the first thing that popped into my head was this

and this

               I then proceeded to explain to my student that what he came up with wasn't exactly correct or really feasible.  Not to be deterred I was shown this.

               Cue @#$#%&&*$#@@$^&*()^&%^%$$, and well I guess you really do learning something new every day.

Chris 2, Mongolia 0.5

               Continuing with the theme, cross country practice added a few more eye opening discoveries this week.  Friday practice is the long day where we take the kids on a longer slower run.  As with most kids new to a running sport, they all take off with a sprint or fast jog even a couple of the newbies from the middle schooler.  I had the lead spot out of the coaches so I didn't have to worry as some of them fell behind, and fully expected most of them to fall back.  Two of the HS students pulled away slightly no surprise there, but one of the middle schoolers was matching their pace.  I was fully expecting her to fall back, but the student maintained the pace for the entire 4 mile run and then wanted to do more when I went back out for the stragglers.  I don’t know what they put in the water or food here but I want some.  (The basketball coach is having a field day with this though.  I don’t think those kids will ever be able to live it down)  On a side not I darn near twisted my ankle in some kind of pot hole, and I might have added to the students vocabulary a bit.

               In other news I think Ulaanbaatar got at least a third of its yearly rain today, with a pretty heavy downpour for a couple of hours.  I had the unfortunate task of slogging through it to finally get my bank card and do some shopping.  The bank was supposed to be open from 9:30 till 5:30, but curse my luck it was closed.  (I wonder if it had anything to do with the rain turning the formerly dusty streets into rivers of mud.  Oh and one of the intrepid Mongolian drivers decided to use the nicely paved side walk as a road.)  The supermarket by the bank, named Rosie’s by the teachers was less than desirable for the most part.  The selection wasn’t as good as Good Price, nor were the prices and I’ll have to shopping again tomorrow.  The store did have one thing going for it though

              They were overpriced but I got my cookies, Chips Ahoy to be exact.  I can do my grading and lesson planning in piece.

               Ok, I get it, Blah, blah blah, just get to the hiking pictures dang it.  That is what all of you are thinking about.

Bogdkhan Uul

               Bogdkhn Uul, is the first state park formed in Mongolia, back in 1783, and is a short walk from the school.  Our intrepid hike leader, one of my fellow new teachers led the hike, leaving at 6:30am from the school.  Now I thought we were going on a short hike and would be back by 11am at the latest, and boy was I wrong.

Yes that is actually frost on the ground

               We did see a camel as well but for some reason the picture didn’t save on my camera, along with several others from the front of the park.

The path up into the mountains

View of Ulaanbaatar

Stream along the path

            We saw a number of birds and critters along the path but my camera just didn't have the zoom to really get any good shots.  I did however find this random image.

Yes that is a shoe and no I have no idea why it was there.

Random rock slide

Another shot of the path and yes it is as steep as it looks

               The woman with her back facing the camera is one of my fellow teachers who loves taking pictures of birds.

Clearing at the top of the path

                Now these were me testing out the macro function on my camera and I thought they came out pretty good.
Oh and this sign would have been more useful at the beginning at the hike.

I can’t read it, but I get the idea.

               I don’t know the distance we hiked but, we went up about 800 meters or so in altitude and I could definitely feel it by the top.  As for the time, I didn't get back until almost 2pm, and passed out for 2 hours after that.  The only other thing I got done that day was laundry and my first attempt at ironing.  It wasn't perfect, but I didn't burn anything so I count that as a win.

John is not going to like this.

               Yes I took pictures of my dinner last night, at a French place in the city.  The filet was tough and a little gamey.  The mushrooms were great, and the potatoes weren't good, but they weren't bad either.  The best part was the chocolate cake for desert and the conversation.

Have a good week everyone.

                PS- Aunt Pat, Bortsog the Mongolian desert- and I haven’t had it yet so send brownies anyway.