Sunday, August 30, 2015

Simple Meals and Mongolia's "Starbucks" Stand-in

All I had on hand was Bacon. It was Tasty!!
While I greatly miss how grocery shopping is executed in the U.S., there is something to be said for the simplicity of cooking in Mongolia. If you have meat and vegetables available, then you can make a decent and tasty meal.

In olive oil, fry up some meat with onions. Add water and bring to a boil, all the while adding salt, pepper, and some Vigora brand Universal Seasoning, my favorite thus far. Seasonings and spices come in small baggies here, unlike our small shakeable jars (shopping for them is impossible if Z is not with me). Then add the veggies (cleaned, peeled and cut up). Root ones first: carrots, potatoes and the like. Finally, some cabbage. Cook until everything is tender, then serve. (Mongols would also add rice or noodles--but I was craving LOTS of veggies and no wheat for this pot.) I had some random left over kidney beans in the fridge, so I threw them into this pot. Oh, and the smoked Russian string cheese was a nice side. Zorig and I finished the entire pot!

There is no Starbucks in Mongolia. Totally fine by me as Starbucks coffee is overly strong and bitter tasting to me. The stand-in for Starbucks is Tom N Toms. From their website, they are a chain coffee shop with stores mostly in Asia. I had my first Tom N Toms yesterday, an iced Americano. It was good. A curious, but nice touch, about coffee shops in this country is that they offer "sugar water"-- If you are being served, they will bring both a small server of cream and another of sugar water. At Tom N Toms they had both white and brown sugar water to choose from at their self serve station. Sweetening an iced drink has never been so easy. 

I am drinking less coffee since arriving to this country. Part of that is because, like everything else, our coffee maker is small. Just a 2 cup pot instead of the the 4-5 cup pot I had in the U.S. (oh...i know it says 10 or 12, but we all use bigger mugs these days!). I have those two cups in the morning and then move to drinking water. ASU provides filtered watered machines in our teacher lounges, as well as in the Teacher Barracks, er Housing, I mean. :)  I've visited a few of the apartments in the ASU Housing and have to say they are quite nice. 

As for school, I think this is going to be a GOOD year. The teachers have all been welcoming and supportive; the admin team is most capable and decisive, while also being supportive of everyone and their development. The students ARE adorable. 80% of our students are Mongolian, 5% are Korean, and then the rest are from a number of other countries, including: U.S., Canada, Australia, Taiwan, China, Japan, Thailand, Germany, South Africa, etc. With two days of Specials classes under my belt, I can say that working with 2nd through 5th graders will be an easy transition for me. They are FAR more curious and inquisitive than the older kids I've worked with, or rather, more outwardly expressive of their curiosity (the inner critic hasn't come into play just yet). BUT, the little kids, the PreK through 1st graders are going to take some practice and work. First of all, they have either NO English, or very little. Communication is difficult. And keeping them engaged or entertained is outside my comfort and knowledge zones. This is where I will stretch and grow this school year. 

Yesterday ASU bused all interested staff out to Terelj National Park for a staff retreat. We could hike, horseback ride, or generally just hang out and relax. Whatever our fancy was. I did partake in a one hour horseback ride and finally got to RUN free on this steppe. It was exhilarating! 

I snapped this shot from the middle front seat of the bus (a smaller bus, not traditional U.S. style bus. These probably seat about 20-24 people--if they put down the fold up middle seats)--which is where I rode for the ride back to the city. No seat belts required (except the driver put his on for driving past the police station), the passenger front door had to be opened from the outside, oh....and the speedometer didn't work at all. But the view was exceptional!

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