Thursday, October 30, 2008

Picture Perfect

Using the photo functions in Facebook, we posted a bunch there, then linked them to our blog. Check them out on the right side.

You'll also notice a list of blogs we like. Two are by some friends here in Mongolia, one is by our friends in Seattle, and one is the best blog ever written.

Check out Looking Backward Into the Present. I have really enjoyed the way it's written and the insightful historical perspective. Tom and Jerry is big in Mongolia, so I especially enjoyed reading Is the Overdubbing of the Mammy Two Shoes Character on Early Tom and Jerry Film Cartoons Dishonoring the Legacy of a Pioneering Black Performer? Read and decide for yourself.

I also just discovered Could the United States Ever Become a Third World Country? We're mentioned. Check it out.


P.S. GO PHILLIES!!!! Leslie and I sat through about 50-60 games during our three years in Philly. It was fun to walk out of work on South Broad Street, catch the subway and watch a game. We definately missed being there to celebrate the team's successes this year. So excited for them and Philadelphia. Now, on to booing something else.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Old Apartment

We don’t have internet again yet, much to our chagrin, but we have pretty well moved back in to our apartment now.

By the time our apartment was gutted at the last minute three Fridays ago (time has flown!), we had just enough time to put down the flooring in one room and welcome our guests for our Saturday housewarming party. We felt we couldn’t cancel because we’d already invited them earlier in the week before we knew all the drama that followed. We fixed them some American food including chili and cole slaw, and we had some Mongolian standards such as sausage and cucumbers. It turns out, we probably would have canceled because the elections were the next day (all elections are on Sunday), so many people were either running for something or supporting their candidates. We didn’t have a great turnout and everyone one went home pretty early. At the request of our co-workers, we’ll probably try again for Halloween, but haven’t decided yet.

Now, it looks like we’re all moved back in to our place. Check out the photos.

The view you get in to our apartment is our short hallway (pic wouldn't upload). The first door on the right is the kitchen, which also contains the toilet room. The door to the left is our living room/bedroom. The second door on the right is our laundry room/walk-in closet.

Here we are in the kitchen making some AWESOME fajitas! Leslie made the dough for the tortillas and Nathan cooked them. (Notice the tortilla on the burner. It just worked better that way.) We came up with a packet of fajita mix from one volunteer, another person had a small can of jalapeno peppers, and we found some really decent red and green peppers at the market that were just trucked in from China. The crown jewel of the meal was the homemade sour cream: plain yogurt, a little bit of vinegar, let sit for a few minutes and VIOLA! Who knew it could be so easy?!

This is our new cozy living room. The new flooring they gave us is interesting, to say the least, but it’s new, clean and goes OK with the pinkish-purpleish blankets we have on the beds(s).

Though our walls are pretty bare, the pictures we brought with us, and the pictures, letters and postcards that have been sent have found a new home as decoration on one wall. We had an extra board laying around from what used to be our first, broken bed frame. We bought some rope from the market yesterday and made ourselves a bookshelf.

Take a quick video tour of the mementos wall.

So, there's our "new" place. You're welcome over any time!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Yesterday, the first real snow fell here in Bayanhkongor. It looks like a few inches. We celebrating by cooking a nice soup and watching our new (to us) TV provided by Leslie's theater.

Check out the photos from our kitchen window this morning:

And check out the pictures from our front window yesterday:

It's kind of a weird feeling, but with the snow on the ground, we just "watched" the Phillies' World Series game from the internet cafe in the post office. Good times at 500 tugrugs ($.43/hr). Doesn't sound like much, but it adds up. We could have eaten a decent meal in the couple hours it took them to win. Leslie had to leave early for her first music therapy session with some adults at the theater, so I had to watch the last few innings with fingers crossed alone.

Go Phillies!

The night the lights went out in...Mongolia.

It’s been an interesting week what with all the moving into our apartment that we didn’t move out of and so forth. But, thanks to the Parents Shaffer, we are wired up now. Well, not now exactly – we were wired up for about 10 hours. Then, something went horribly wrong.

Even still, there’s a pretty bright silver lining.

If you’ve been keeping up, you’ll know that we share an ADSL internet modem with our NGO neighbor by running a network cable out their window and in through our window, into our apartment. When they’re not around, they are kind enough to swap out their cable from the modem so we can use it. Also, we had a brand new 280 gig external hard drive crash with almost all our music, pictures, movies and TV shows.

Leslie’s folks sent us a care package to help solve these problems and more, but since it had been six weeks since they sent it, and we’d received other packages with much earlier departure dates, we were pretty sure it had been plundered - arrgh.

Last Friday, after a pretty short, but trying week, we got the package we’d been especially waiting for. – We convinced ourselves with half-empty glasses that certainly, since it had come so late, things would be missing. Also it had been cut open, re-taped and had a bunch of Chinese writing on it. But, much to our surprise, our faith in humanity had been restored. In it, not only was there peanut butter, warm socks, assorted dried fruit, hair ties, and a PILLOW, but there were two couple hundred gig external hard drives (flash, no moving parts), and the crown jewel of the package – a wireless router. Ta-da!

My body was buzzing, I was so excited. Really. We jumped around, high-fived, screamed like little children and then got to work putting it all use. We made a date with the director of the NGO and he let us set up the wireless network. Twenty minutes later and viola! Poof! Abracadabra! Shoot-bang! We both had internet at the same time. We mused about starting an internet café and all hassle this new device would circumvent. All was right with the world and we were wired to it.

Meanwhile, our dead hard drive sat lonely in the computer bag like a genie in a bottle ready to be coaxed back to life. But instead of rubbing it, we put it in the freezer compartment of our mini-fridge. As the theory goes, there were some moving parts in our hard drive that either got gunked-up with dirt or had been jostled around enough that they were quite connecting right to make the magic happen. When you freeze it, those minuscule, microscopic parts shrink enough to do its thing. Sure enough, it worked! We now have over a hundred gigs of mind-numbing entertainment back at our fingertips.

Soon, we were watching old episodes of “The Office” from our hard drive and ravenously downloading free NPR podcasts with the newfound glory of our wireless router – and we could do it from anywhere in the apartment! We checked our email, sent mocking messages to our friends on Facebook, and taunted our mere mortal site mates. We had conquered the power of the interwebs, moo-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Then, around midnight that night, the world went dark. Our NPR podcasts stopped downloading. No more taunting on Facebook. There was no signal from the modem. What happened? What happened?! Leslie jumped up and checked the locked door of our neighbors, who were of course not there working at midnight. Oh, bother. Rats! Dodbabit!

No problem, we told ourselves. It’s late. We’ll figure it out tomorrow. Then tomorrow came and went. And then Sunday came and went. Still nothing doing. Then, early Monday morning when our neighbors returned to work, Leslie ran over there to reconnect the router. Surely a cable was unplugged or the power had come loose from the wall, as can happen. Maybe the modem just stopped, as can happen. Whatever it is, it will be an easy fix. Soon enough, we’ll be able to find out what stupid thing Sara Palin said now or whether oil was selling ridiculously high or ludicrously low these days. We’ll absorb all of Terry Gross’ “Fresh Air” and almost know the news and pop culture answers on “Wait…wait… don’t tell me”. It would be just a matter of minutes be we’ll be able to read all the interesting happens with Shane Victorino and the rest of our NL Champ Phillies as they prepare for the World Series. Yes, easy fix. No problem. Reconnect a cable, that’s the ticket.

That was not the ticket. Soon, she discovered no life in the dead white box; the giver of inter-continental joy; the bastion of normalcy; the way we get our news. Then she plugged the network cable directly into the modem – forget the router, let’s go straight to the source. It logged on just fine, but nothing was downloading. After a while, we learned that the internet was down in the whole town, so there was hope yet. We’ll just wait it out. Yet another tease.

But what’s the deal with that wireless router? Was the whole thing fried? Did Carl Cassel explode it with his awesomeness?

It’s interesting how out of diversity comes opportunity. When we left Leslie’s parents in May, we brought all parts of our computer but its power supply. There was no turning back to get it after we got to Buffalo, so we went across the parking lot from our hotel to a Best Buy and claimed ourselves a universal charger with myriad tips for all your PC laptop needs. Back in Mongolia, a light bulb went off in my head. I got it! I rifled through the computer bag for the supplementary charger tips. I eyeballed what looked like the right size and connected it to the charger. I then picked up the dead carcass our reneging Netgear and with one sweeping and dramatic movement of my hands, I breathed electronic life back into it.

It turns out that the old universal power strip on the floor of the NGO that only had two of the five plugs in working order fried our AC/DC adapter but left our precious router unharmed, for now. We’ve sent a friend on a hunt in Ulaanbaatar for the appropriate adapter. If we can’t find it, we’ll have to wire something up.

Here’s to hoping…


We polled 100 people and asked “what ARE the craziest things that HAVE happened to Nathan and Leslie in Mongolia.” OUR SURVEY SAYS!

10 – Having to bathe in a tumpun for 2 years

20 – Having Leslie’s schedule changed 4 times and never being informed

25 – Spending the first 4 days at site without any of bags

40 – Being left at the ger camp by the families for several hours after the “storm of the century!”


So there we were last friday, preparing for our first Mongolian party. We waited this long because we ran into a few snafus with our landlord. The short story is that we have been caught in the middle of a real live family feud!! Two families built our building and it became a battle of who should own it. The former landlord and his family lost out. Therefore, as of October 1st we had a new landlord. Now it’s Friday, October 10. We figured we were in the clear. Sadly, the feud had not yet ended.

I arrived for work at the children’s center at 10am. At approximately 11 my coworker, who speaks a little English, informed me that the former landlord would be arriving to my apartment at 1pm to pick up “all his capital,” or property, if you will. No real proof on this, but it seems the former landlord waited until just before the election, in which the new landlord was running, to pick up all of his “capital.” In this case, the new landlord needed to take time out of his election to provide us with an entire apartments worth of new property! I asked my coworker, which items in the apartment belong to the former landlord? She didn’t know. She also didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. I informed her I needed to call Nathan. She thought that was unnecessary.

The next step was going back to the apartment. I texted the former landlord and asked for him to list his items so we could prepare them for him. Rather than respond in text, his wife arrived at our door. In her nearly perfect English she informed me, “Everything that is not the BUILDING *as she smacks the walls* is ours! THIS *pointing to the carpet* THIS *pointing to the faux wood laminate*! We will be back at 1pm to pick it up!”

With this new helpful information we began cleaning the apartment! We swiftly removed everything we had spent the last month arranging out of the dresser, desk, shelves, and refrigerator. We moved everything, including the food in tumpens, into half the second room where we had taken up half the floor so people would not take those things.

Some of my favorite moments of the day included a moment we called , “REALLY? The curtains? You’re taking the CURTAINS?”

Another moment entitled “So, you’re going to roll up the pre-cut-to-fit-the-room laminate?”

Or the moment where Tysen said goodbye to our kitchen.



And my personal favorite, “please tell me he’s not really taking the door nob!”

On the up side they did NOT take the doorknob. They simply removed it so they could take the fabric off the door, which is there to keep the apartment warm. Also, fabric that was precut for the door, and they will probably never use it!

Please enjoy the tour! Please notice how they didn’t take the photos of our family we hung up behind Nathan! Thanks!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Please stay tuned. We are experiencing technical difficulties

It has been a few weeks since we posted because of some technical difficulties. The main difficulty is our lack of internet and the fact that our apartment was sold underneath us. Oh, and though we were permitted to stay there, the old landlord wanted everything he owned out of it, including the fridge, the dressers, book shelves and even - and I'm not joking - the linoleum flooring. He took everything. So, it's been a process trying to procure us some new stuff. We'll post more when we can. We made a video of our sad circumstances. All and all, it turned out for the best, though, because much of our new stuff, including the flooring, is much better.

Go Phillies!
Go Obama!

A shout out to my Uncle Dan in Florida, just for saying hello's sake. Miss you.

And a big thank you to my uncle Steve in Portland who just sent us some books, peanut butter, candy and lots of newsy, fun things.