Sumpteretc's Blog

What's on my mind at the moment

Month: April, 2009

Easter package

We had a second Easter celebration today. My in-laws had sent a box of Easter goodies to Michigan to be brought to us by some visitors last month. Unfortunately, the person who was carrying said goodies had allowed his passport to expire, and so the package didn’t make it to us. Fortunately, however, he paid the exorbitant shipping that the USPS demands and , when I returned home from school today, I found a note saying that we had a package waiting at the central post office. A short bus trip later, Elijah and Joel were excited to see the box chock full of eggs, candy and toys. Since we were unable to find plastic eggs locally, this was the first chance they had to really have an egg hunt.


Lonely Planet says that one of the five most commonly used words in the Mongolian language is маргааш–tomorrow. I’m beginning to think they’re right. A few weeks ago, we hired a carpenter to build new cabinets for our kitchen. We had heard that he did good work but that there had been some issues with timeliness. He promised that he could have the cabinets done in 7 days. I raised an eyebrow at that, but paid the deposit and let him get to work. It’s been multiple 7 days since then. Since we need to move in to our new apartment this week, we’ve been leaning on him pretty heavily for the past week or so. At first, we couldn’t even get him to return our phone calls, so I made a trip out to his house. He said they were finished and he would install them–tomorrow. Since then, almost every day, I have heard him say “Margaash.” Finally, one day, we called him and he said he had a small vehicle, so he could bring the cabinets in two loads. I said, “Great! Meet me in 20 minutes.” When I got there, he had half the cabinets. So far, so good! Then he started in to a story about a power outage at his house, which meant that he didn’t actually finish the other cabinets but he would bring them… tomorrow. The next day, I got a text saying that the power was on, but for some reason, he would have to bring them… tomorrow. Today, he called and said he was bringing the rest of the cabinets, and could I please bring another 200,000 tugriks so that he could buy the counter-top which would be installed two days later? I went to the apartment. He had a few more cabinets but not all of them. He would have the other one finished by tonight. I asked if he would install them tonight. He said it would be too noisy, so it would have to wait until, you guessed it, tomorrow. Since he would already be coming tomorrow, he would just wait and bring the other cabinet tomorrow, too. One of my friends said there’s a saying in Mongolian, something like “There are a thousand tomorrows.” I’m starting to feel like I’m about halfway through a round of 1,000.

On the plus side, we checked out the new Kenny Rogers Roasters today. A little pricey, but a nice taste of home… or, at least, of the Philippines.

New teacher and blessings

On Monday, we started a new term at our language school, so schedules and teachers got moved around a little bit. I was somewhat nervous about what the new arrangements would be. Last term, I had two main teachers–Aijan and Uranchimeg. Aijan is a Kazakh believer who speaks English relatively well. This is a great help when I get stuck on some new grammar or trying to figure out some unfamiliar word. Uranchimeg is the owner of the school. She also speaks English well, although she usually waits longer to let me puzzle things out in Mongolian. Because Uranchimeg has other responsibilities at the school, I often had substitute teachers during last term. I knew, then, that it was unlikely that I would have her as a regular teacher during this trimester.

When the new schedule came out, I still had Aijan for five lessons a week, for which I was very thankful. My new teacher was Tonga, who I believe had been away from the school for a month or three. She is an older teacher, also a believer and she speaks English quite well. She teaches me four times a week. That leaves one lesson in limbo. As far as I can tell, that means I will always have a substitute teacher for my first class on Thursdays.

This morning, I had my first experience with this. I can’t remember the name of my teacher, but she spoke hardly any English and never showed much recognition to anything I said in English. I assumed then that she would review old grammar, run me through a few review exercises or maybe just give me a test. But, no… Her assignment for the day was to teach me blessings (ёрөөл бэлгийн үг) for various occasions, such as what to say when someone is playing chess or shearing sheep or boiling water or reading a book. Because she spoke no English and I speak little Mongolian, this presented a huge challenge. Here are a few guesses of what some of those blessings are.

When someone is milking an animal, say “full container.”
When someone is churning the fermented mare’s milk, say “oil ride high.”
When someone is shearing sheep, say “sharp scissors shear sheep very well” (surprisingly, that’s not a tongue twister in Mongolian).
When your children give you something, hold it high and say “Grow as tall as this.” Okay, that was a total guess based on my teacher’s pantomime.
When someone is sewing, say, “Every action.” What?!?
When someone sneezes, say, “God grace/favor/mercy.” Hmm, sounds familiar.