Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Driving? No. Water? Yes.

After our Thanksgiving Dinner at Rosewood
I often get the following question from stateside family and friends about my new life in Mongolia: "What has been your biggest surprise?" This reminds me of the question I got numerous times before departing the U.S.: "What do you think you will miss the most?"

Surprisingly, what I predicted I would miss is not missed; and those things which surprise me are everyday mundane things I could not have predicted. Allow me to elaborate on my answers here.

My prediction was that I would miss having the freedom that came with owning a car, and being able to drive wherever I wanted, when I wanted. On the contrary, I do not miss owning or driving a car at all. Nor do I miss the cost of a car loan and the required insurance to accompany it. 

I ride the school bus to and from school, there are public buses that run all the time, and one can hail a taxi from nearly anywhere (or call one if you need one off the beaten path). Each of these options is affordable. The school bus is free. A ride on the public bus costs just $0.25. And taxis charge $0.40 to $0.50 per kilometer, no matter how long it takes to travel the distance. It can be frustrating to spend 30-40 minutes traveling less than 4 miles, BUT it's comforting to know that the meter isn't ticking upwards. Sometimes I do think it would be nice to have a vehicle to LEAVE the city....but that doesn't constitute incurring the costs that come with it. At least not yet.

Now......as for what has surprised me, it all revolves around personal hygiene. First and foremost, I miss the public water in the U.S. And I don't mean for drinking. I mean for bathing. The water here is hard and I'm yet struggling to find the best shampoo/conditioner for my hair. I had shipped myself three of my favorite shampoos and conditioners, but they are all of the volumizing type and NOT something that works well with the hard water. They make my hair lifeless and flat. Also, my hair seems to get oily fast. I've tried the apple cider vinegar rinse I read about online. It does seem to help. This weekend I came across Suave Daily Clarifying shampoo at my nearest Good Price market--wow.....never thought a cheap, ordinary, everyday brand would be so great! I'll be heading back over to that market this weekend to stock up on this!!

Secondly, the cycle of bathing is different in the winter time. When Zorig first told me that I could NOT shower/bathe everyday come winter, I thought he was kidding. What an absurd thought! BUT......after being scolded numerous times by him AND putting the topic out there for my fellow American Wives to weigh-in on....it turns out he's correct. Not only is Mongolia a COLD country, it's also very DRY (yes, drier than it was in Colorado!). Add to those elements the pollution, and well, one has to use different tactics for protection. You need your natural oils to keep you moisturized and to protect against cold and infection. I am in the process of adjusting to showering/bathing just 2-3 times per week. However, I wash my face every morning and night and wash my hair more frequently (occasionally skipping a day here and there).

Here you also learn that being healthy and smart *should* trump fashion and vanity. Zorig teased me because I did not wear a hat for the 15 minute walk to our Thanksgiving dinner on November 28th. It's true....vanity overtook my smarts. My hair looked especially good and I wanted to keep it that way for pictures with Zorig and Enji. I'm happy to say I am satisfied with the pictures we snapped at the end of the evening. I DID wear my hat for the walk home.

I recently had my first illness since arriving on July 2nd. I'd say that's pretty good. As teachers know, an elementary school is a petri dish of bugs and illnesses. Add to that my constant interaction with books touched and passed around, well, it was bound to happen. I was sick for about 2.5 weeks. I think this was my first *real* cold in years. Classic rotation through the symptoms: sore throat, fever, cough. It wrapped up with a sinus infection (probably from the pollution?) and a dry cough. I am now fully recovered and was glad that my body healed itself. Of course now Zorig is under the weather. Oh the joys of living together and sharing germs along with the kisses. :)

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