Sumpteretc's Blog

What's on my mind at the moment

Month: May, 2010

On TV again

Well, it looks like for the third time in 17 months, I’m going to be on TV again. A crew from NTV came to our school yesterday and interviewed five of us students about our experiences with Mongolian language learning. The interviews are supposed to air Friday night at 8:00. I don’t have any good way of recording or digitizing it, but if I get a copy somehow, I’ll try to post it.

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How to Simulate Being A Sailor

It’s been 15 years since I was discharged from the Navy, but some of these came vividly alive to me:

1. Buy a dumpster, paint it gray inside and out, and live in it for six months.
2. Run all the pipes and wires in your house exposed on the walls.
3. Repaint your entire house every month.
4. Renovate your bathroom. Build a wall across the middle of the bathtub and move the shower head to chest level. When you take showers, make sure you turn off the water while you soap down.
5. Put lube oil in your humidifier and set it on high.
6. Once a week, blow air up your chimney, with a leaf blower and let the wind carry the soot onto your neighbor’s house. Ignore his complaints.
7. Once a month, take all major appliances apart and reassemble them.
8. Raise the thresholds and lower the headers of your front and back doors so that you either trip or bang your head every time you pass through them.
9. Disassemble and inspect your lawnmower every week.
10. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, turn your water heater temperature up to 200 degrees. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, turn the water heater off. On Saturdays and Sundays tell your family they use too much water, so no bathing will be allowed.
11. Raise your bed to within 6 inches of the ceiling, so you can’t turn over without getting out and then getting back in.
12. Sleep on the shelf in your closet. Replace the closet door with a curtain. Have your spouse whip open the curtain about 3 hours after you go to sleep, shine a flashlight in your eyes, and say “Sorry, wrong rack.”
13. Make your family qualify to operate each appliance in your house – dishwasher operator, blender technician, etc. Re-qualify every 6 months.
14. Have your neighbor come over each day at 0500, blow a whistle so loud Helen Keller could hear it, and shout “Reveille, reveille, all hands heave out and trice up.”
15. Have your mother-in-law write down everything she’s going to do the following day, then have her make you stand in your back yard at 0600 while she reads it to you.
16. Submit a request chit to your father-in-law requesting permission to leave your house before 1500.
17. Empty all the garbage bins in your house and sweep the driveway three times a day, whether it needs it or not. “Now sweepers, sweepers, man your brooms, give the ship a clean sweep down fore and aft, empty all trash cans and butt kits!”)
18. Have your neighbor collect all your mail for a month, read your magazines, and randomly lose every 5th item before delivering the rest.
19. Watch no TV except for movies played in the middle of the night. Have your family vote on which movie to watch, then show a different one– the same one every night.
20. When your children are in bed, run into their room with a megaphone shouting “Now general quarters, general quarters! All hands man your battle stations!)
21. Make your family’s menu a week ahead of time without consulting the pantry or refrigerator.
22. Post a menu on the kitchen door informing your family that they are having steak for dinner. Then make them wait in line for an hour. When they finally get to the kitchen, tell them you are out of steak, but they can have dried ham or hot dogs. Repeat daily until they ignore the menu and just ask for hot dogs.
23. Bake a cake. Prop up one side of the pan so the cake bakes unevenly. Spread icing real thick to level it off.
24. Get up every night around midnight and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on stale bread. (Midrats)
25. Set your alarm clock to go off at random during the night. At the alarm, jump up and dress as fast as you can, making sure to button your top shirt button and tuck your pants into your socks. Run out into the backyard and uncoil the garden hose.
26. Every week or so, throw your cat or dog into the pool and shout “Man overboard, port side!” Rate your family members on how fast they respond.
27. Put the headphones from your stereo on your head, but don’t plug them in. Hang a paper cup around your neck on a string. Stand in front of the stove, and speak into the paper cup, “Stove manned and ready.” After an hour or so, speak into the cup again “Stove secured.” Roll up the headphones and paper cup and stow them in a shoebox.
28. Make your family turn out all the lights and go to bed at 10 p.m. “Now taps, taps! Lights out! Maintain silence throughout the ship!” Then immediately have an 18-wheeler crash into your house. (For aircraft carrier sailors.)
29. Build a fire in a trash can in your garage. Loudly announce to your family, “This is a drill, this is a drill! Fire in hangar bay one!”
30. Place a podium at the end of your driveway. Have your family stand in front of the podium for 4-hour intervals. Best done when the weather is worst. January is a good time.
31. Next time there’s a bad thunderstorm in your area, find the biggest horse you can, put a two-inch mattress on his back, strap yourself to it and turn him loose in a barn for six hours. Then get up and go to work.
32. For former engineers: bring your lawn mower into the living room, and run it all day long.
33. Make coffee using eighteen scoops of budget priced coffee grounds per pot, and let the pot simmer for 5 hours before drinking.
34. Have someone under the age of ten give you a haircut with sheep shears.
35. Sew the back pockets of your jeans onto the front.
36. Add 1/3 cup of Diesel fuel to the laundry.
37. Take hourly readings on your electric and water meters.
38. Lock yourself and your family in the house for six weeks. Tell them that at the end of the 6th week you’ll take them to Disney World for liberty. At the end of the 6th week, inform them the trip to Disney World has been canceled because they need to get ready for an inspection, and it will be another week before they can leave the house.

The tradition of respecting men

Mongolians believe that a man is the shelter and support of the family, and they very much respect men and fathers.

The head of the household’s seat is in the honored part of the tent, and nobody else may sit there. A man is the support for his wife and children and must love and take care of them. In the old days, women respected their husbands and spoke to them with the formal pronoun of address. Some women in the countryside still use that form.

When they make food, they give the best portion of the food to the head of the house. If the head of the house or father isn’t home, they follow the custom of placing the best portion of the food in his bowl.

Children obey their fathers and always respect them. Children bear their father’s name, so if they do something bad, their father’s name is mentioned. So, children try to think of their own as well as their father’s name and live correctly. It is taboo for children to drink vodka, smoke, or say bad words in the presence of their parents. The father is also to be an example to his children and has the role of teaching them. There is a saying, “A father’s teaching is gold.” There are five features of what kind of a person a head of household and father must be.
1. able to see far ahead
2. thoughtful and wise
3. gracious and merciful
4. friendly
5. courteous

A woman doesn’t touch a man’s head; if she must touch it, she asks first. Also a woman doesn’t put on a man’s belt. A man’s hat isn’t placed just anywhere; it’s placed in the honored part of the tent. It is always placed with the opening downward. Mongolians don’t step over a hat or belt. They believe that a man’s soul is in his hat and belt. When men sleep, they take off their belt, tie it, and put it under their pillow. This is connected with the belief that they must be ready at any time to put their belt on. They put their belt on in a clockwise direction.

It is taboo for men to clean up or burn trash.

The Horse-Head Fiddle

The horse-head fiddle is the national instrument of Mongolia. It is impossible to understand Mongolians apart from horses and the horse-head fiddle. The horse-head fiddle has two strings but it has the power to declare all the life of the universe, as well as its joy and pain. Not only people but livestock are touched by the horse-head fiddle. When the horse-head fiddle is played, livestock that have rejected their young take their young back. The playing of the horse-head fiddle even has the power to make the horses’ gait and neighing come alive before one’s eyes. Mongolian people very much respect horse-head fiddles and place them in the honored part of their tents.
The horse-head fiddle has its origins in the pi-pa instrument from the early Hunnu period. Earlier, the pipa had heads in the shapes of crocodiles, dragons, and garudas (the king of the birds). Later, the instruments were made with the head of a horse, and were called horse-head fiddles. There is a legend about this.
In the territory on the eastern border, there was a young horseman named Namjil. He sang very well, so the people of his territory called him Cuckoo Namjil. Cuckoo Namjil went to the western border to do military service. While he was doing military service, there he met the daughter of that territory’s chief and fell in love with her. When Cuckoo Namjil finished his time of doing military service and returned to his homeland, the chief’s daughter gave him a horse as a gift. That horse had hidden wings and flew. The girl gave him her horse and instructed him to fly on that horse and meet with her.
Cuckoo Namjil came to his homeland and raised livestock with his parents, but at night he visited his beloved on his flying horse. But the slave-girl of his territory’s chief noticed that every night he went someplace and came back at dawn and secretly was observing him.
One time, when Namjil went at night, came back at dawn and entered his house, he forgot to hide his horse’s wings. That slave-girl came beside his horse, saw the hidden wings and cut them off with scissors. When this happened, his horse died. Namjil was his dead horse and was filled with grief. Then he took his horse’s mane, tail and skin, and made a horse-head fiddle. Later he carved his horse’s head and immortalized it.