Saturday, March 7, 2015

Slow Times in Mongolia

Slow times in Mongolia

            Sorry guys but I have no big, dramatic, exciting things for you this week.  It’s just another week in Mongolia.  I would have said cold, but it is warming up a bit, I don’t have to wear warmup pants and a sweatshirt to use the gym anymore.  The ski club did venture back to the Sky Resort, but it was not as exciting this time.


            It’s more of the same for the most part, as I am in the middle of the long haul.  When teachers refer to the long haul, we are typically (In the USA) talking about the time from Presidents day weekend to Spring Break.  This is normally 6 weeks or so of no breaks, when the kids start to get a little stir crazy from being stuck indoors for so long.  It’s not so bad here in Mongolia even with the double periods.  This is probably helped by the fact that my HS students switched classes in January, so while we are 25 weeks into the school year its only 6 weeks in for my Science 9 and Biology 11 classes.  I've also had my Science 6 kids working on Power Plant presentations that they finally gave this week, and while they weren't bad.  They were not as good as I had hoped.

            The fault lies on both parties here.  Clearly some of the groups did not do enough work, or listen to the instructions.  I also should have been clearer on some parts and should have given more guidance than I did.  I think I was also setting the bar a little too high for some of them.  Mistake one was making the project to open ended, now this works great with older kids, but it can backfire with younger grades.  The reason for this is a lack of knowledge and experience.  The second mistake was not providing more guidance on how to actually make and give a presentation.  I saw far too much reading from the slides, and big blocks of text.  In the future I will model, and then guide them through how to give proper presentations.

            On the other hand my 9th, and 11th grade classes are moving along well.  The Science 9 kids got a number of labs in the first half of the chemistry unit, and while I would like to do more, there really aren't anymore I can do given the specific areas I have to cover, and the materials I have on hand here in Mongolia.  I've got a bunch lined up for the next week or so as we head into the shocking subject of electricity which I have far more personal experience with than I would like.  Their only issue is the bane of teachers everywhere, getting the students to turn in their homework, not to mention show up to class on time.

            The 11th graders are great I just wish I had more labs for them.  They are currently covering the human body, (Cardiorespiratory and Digestive systems) and there just aren't that many labs I can do on those subjects.  I found balloons too late to do an intro activity on respiration at the start of the unit, and I couldn't find any lungs to dissect for them either.  I did teach them how to do a proper lung exam though as the school does have stethoscopes.  It’s been pretty much the same for the cardiovascular system.  I was unable to find any cow hearts to dissect, because apparently the Mongolians ate them all over Tsagaan Sar, and my computer wouldn't run the one virtual dissection I found online.  Thus we had to settle for a video instead.  Whether this is a positive or negative outcome I’ll leave to you to decide.  I was able to make use of the stethoscopes again, teaching the kiddies how to do a complete heart exam.  Next week I’ll be teaching them how to read ECG’s not the most exciting thing, but still pretty interesting.

            FYI- while there were no heart and lungs to be found, apparently the Mongolians ate them all over the Tsagaan Sar holiday.  I could purchase the entire digestive system of a ruminant animal if I wanted to.


            The ASU ski club took their second trip to the Sky resort.  Now given the success of the first trip I was expecting the same or larger turnout.  I figured that the students would turn out in droves to see their teacher (me) crash and fall on his but again.  And turnout the students did, it was glorious, all one of them.  Yes, a single student turned out for the trip, now we still managed five people, one student, three teachers, and one teacher’s husband.  So just in case you are wondering I did not fall this time.


View from the slopes


            Perhaps it was due to a confluence of the stars, or dumb luck, but the gym was locked, and instead of returned to cook my own dinner, I ended up instead invited out to dinner with my excellent neighbors.  I was more than happy to venture out into the hip and exciting nightlife of Zaisan.  Our first destination (Teraza, probably spelled wrong) was completely booked due to International Women’s day.  On the way to our backup location (London Grill) we spotted the Zaisan Gate Hotel, and decided to try it.

            Oh it was completely worth it.  The restaurant is a mix of jazz bar, and hippie coffee shop.  Dark stained wood, green couches, with orange, green, and red, for the table settings.  The service was good, but it does take a little getting used to the differences in restaurant service in pretty much the rest of the world compared to the States.  Here in Mongolia, the server leaves you to your own devices unless called over for something.  This is can be seen as a welcome change depending on your tastes, as in the states as the server can seem to be all over you at times.  Now we were all pretty hungry by the time we arrived and the bread was a welcome bite to eat.  Are Mongolian friend’s response was the breads nice but where is the food.  Apparently most Mongolians consider cuisine that does not have meat, is not really food.  (John you would love it).

Cream of Mushroom Soup

            Yes, I took a few bites before I took the picture, I was hungry darn it.  The soup was delicious, rich and smooth, with cream, and truffle oil drizzled on top.  It has a thick, earthy flavor, with not being over powering.

Pasta Carbonara

            This was Mark’s dinner and no I did not steal a taste.

Some other Pasta dish with Mushrooms, Chicken and Pesto

            This was Kathleen’s dinner and she might have stabbed with her fork if I tried to get a taste.


            Yes it tastes as good as it looks according to Zima.


            Oh so good, beef, noodle, and vegetable goodness.  A slightly salty taste enhanced by soy sauce.  Check out my Tsagaan Sar posts for a description of the dish.

Ox Tongue

            Oh so good, the meat is extremely tender and melts in your mouth.  I think it was braised, but I’m not a chef.  The taste is just out of this world, and what you see in the picture is an appetizer and not a meal.  The salsa is non spicy slightly sweet with a hint of bitterness that pairs very well with the meat.  I would go back just for the Ox tongue.

Cheese Cake

            Mongolian cheese cake, is firmer, and less sweet, than other cheese cakes with a crème Brule style topping.  It is quite good and doesn’t leave me feeling like I just ate diabetes, with cake that good I just had to have a second piece.


            No tasting on this either for two very important reasons.  One I don’t particularly like Tiramisu.  Two Mark and Kathleen were too busy attacking each other’s plates like a married couple, and I didn’t want to lose a hand.

            FYI- Don’t worry they are actually married.  I guess dad learned early on not to touch mom’s ice cream.

The Weather- yes we get snow in Mongolia

            I know you can’t see it, but it is actually snowing.

Mongolian Weddings

            First let me say Congratulations John and Meg.  Now let me fill you in on a few Mongolian wedding traditions.


            Sorry dad but you the groom’s father has to be the master of ceremonies.  The wedding and reception lasts about three to four days.

            Meg your family lucks out as you family gets an odd number of livestock based on the wealth of the grooms family.  Also your dad gets a bucket of glue.

            Oh and I know it’s a bit chilly in Pa right now, but those Mongolian blankets should keep you nice and warm.