I am in a new apartment this year. This is cause for celebration. Actually I moved at the end of last school year. It is much nicer than my old apartment and close enough to the school that I can walk which is great because that means that I don’t have to deal with Mongolian traffic five days a week. It takes about ten minutes to walk school even though it looks as if they are right next to each other. I will probably be sad about this in the winter when it is nasty cold but I keep telling myself that I managed in Alaska and I can manage here.
My landlord speaks English. This is a good thing because about a week after I moved into my new apartment the hot water turned off. How water is provided by the city and is generally turned off in the middle of June but this year it was the first of June. Lest you think that a cold shower in June is acceptable I will point out that the first weekend I had to be without hot water it snowed. I was pissed. Here I am paying crazy amounts of money for an apartment and there is no hot water. So I started harassing my landlord. When I would try and shower at 5:30 in the morning and it was one degree above sleet he would get a call. Throughout the day when I had a moment, he would get a call. Three or four times in the evening, he would get a call. This seemed to have little effect on the situation as a whole but was somewhat cathartic for me. Then I had the brainstorm of telling him that if there was no hot water there would be no rent. I am not sure that that was a bluff on my part (I hadn’t had a decent shower in about two weeks at this point) but he folded. Two days later workers arrived to install a hot water heater. Not just a little boiler as I had in my old apartment but my own tiny little hot water heater hooked up to my shower. It took five hours to install and they put in the hoses backward (hot is cols and cold is hot) but I didn’t care. A hot shower… Bliss.
It is now the middle of September and I still don’t have hot water in my sinks (which makes dishes a pain. I have to boil water first and then wash them. Nuts to that!) so all in all the epic battle of wills concerning my hot water needs was worth it.
I live in Marshalltown which is apparently the Ritzy complex to live in and I have to say that it is really trying hard to be impressive. Unfortunately “impressive” includes way more gold leaf than you want to know about and landscaping that included fake flowers. I mean it. They planted fake flowers. I know that the whole idea of landscaping is a fairly new one here but shouldn’t common sense at some point reign? A unique and quirky part of my Mongolian experience and that I can’t help shaking my head over it every morning. On the plus side my apartment does not reflect the general tackiness of the place and I am really very comfortable here.
The road I live on is a main road for Japan town (the part of town I live in) but because my building is the only thing past the first turn off a mile or so away there is little to no traffic. That means that it is the only place in the city that is safe to run at. This means that I am constantly passed by runners on my way to and from work. The same group passes me almost every day and I strongly suspect that they are the Mongolian national track team. There are also less likely people running down the road. Old men in traditional garb, middle aged women power walking backward and occasionally a man herding sheep down the street. I am coming across some interesting new locals living here.
I accidentally broke the glass door leading out of the building the other day. Since I have been there it has been propped open. Now I know why. There is no such thing as shatterproof glass in Mongolia and when the door swung shut behind me all of the glass in it shattered. I wasn’t hurt but I was both shocked and embarrassed. I found a security guard at the gate but since all I could tell him was “Door… door… door … bad… no!” in Mongolian needless to say he just gave me a look that told me he was about to fetch a butterfly net and went back to his breakfast. I tried to pantomime it next and he nodded gravely at me as if he understood. Eventually he must have understood or more likely someone else told him about it as it was all cleaned up when I got back from school.
The incident has made me really touchy about shutting any glass door in the school lest I accidentally cause a door to shatter on a child. That wouldn’t be the best start to the year. It is fire drill season at school which is always hilarious. Every time we do one I have this mental image of a scene from Kindergarten Cop where the teacher is running out of the building with a kid under each arm and the rest of the class following while screaming. Of course it is nowhere near that disorganized but scorched cupcakes this morning had us out on the field for a good twenty minutes. This is a big deal when there are three year olds around. I was helping with the preschool class because my students line up with their classroom teacher once we are in the meeting place. Trying to contain 15 three year olds in an open field for 15 minutes was an adventure in itself. And of course the whole thing was complicated by the fact that I had chosen today as the day to wear really high heels. That being said the fire department here responds insanely fast which is a miracle considering the traffic (people don’t pull over for emergency vehicles here) so I actually feel pretty safe.
I am off to enjoy my weekend. I hear rumors of a salsa dancing party at the American Ger’ll tonight…