Everywhere But Home

News and musings from wherever my crazy life takes me. My body may be back in Illinois, but at least for now, my mind is still in Mongolia.


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Random Ramblings and Cold-Weather Acclimation

Duly noted: chicken tacos do not sit well when ingested immediately after working out. I knew they weren’t going to after the first few bites, but I finished my plate anyway; they were delicious, and I was hungry, and I was going to get my money’s worth. Besides, chicken tacos. An everyday thing stateside, but definitely a treat here.

And I can deal with some gastric grousing, so long as it’s not actual food poisoning. I leave UB in two days, and a train is not a good place to be when your stomach declares war. Not as bad as, say, a bus or an airplane (or worse yet, a meeker – see below), but still not good.

I've been packed into one of these with 22 of my closest friends; I think it legally seats about 14. Thank god it was only for an hour.

The cheapest form of transportation hereabouts, but you get what you pay for.

Besides, I’ve got stuff to do tomorrow: laundry, packing for my trip to UB, making cranberry sauce for Peace Corps Thanksgiving, baking cookies for the friends hosting me, acquiring the ingredients necessary to make said goodies, planning out my lessons for Thursday. Ironically, Thanksgiving is the only day I’m working this week; I don’t have classes Monday or Tuesday, Wednesday is election day (which is a national holiday, unlike in the US), and I’m taking Friday off to travel. Tough life, eh?

I used the first day of this non-work week to have the Americans over for dinner. The high school teachers among us midway through a two-week break, so we’ve been taking turns having everyone over for dinner. I made chili and cornbread, which were very well received by all but the Mongolians, who thought the chili too spicy. It’s the first time I had people over, and I think it went pretty well. I probably won’t play host to such a large group very often, though; there was barely enough space for us all to sit in my room, and nowhere near enough seating. And I think everyone now knows that I mean it when I ask them to bring their own cups/bowls/spoons if they don’t want to eat in shifts. I don’t even have enough bowls for us all to make one do double duty, as the Mongolians do (they don’t have separate words for “cup” and “bowl;” both are an аяга). Besides, that would have meant being unable to enjoy the chili and Nathan’s fantastic horchata simultaneously, and clearly, such things are meant to go together.

It could have been the body heat of so many people in such a small space, or it could have been a variety of other things: the extra layer of tape now gumming up the leaky seals in my windows, the fact that it’s actually stayed above 0*F for the past few nights, someone somewhere cranking up the radiators. But whatever the cause, it is now significantly warmer in my apartment. By “significantly warmer” I mean that my room now averages 75*F, otherwise known as “too dang hot!” It’s at least ten degrees warmer than I’d like it to be, seeing as a comfortable sleeping temperature for me is about 60.

And that’s before my body kicks into cold-weather mode, which it has apparently done. Today’s forecast high was only about 27, but it was a sunny 27, so I dressed appropriately when leaving the apartment: no gloves, hat, or coat, just a sweatshirt over a T-shirt. A short-sleeved T-shirt. I think my little brother would be proud. And no, as I repeatedly told Mongolians, I wasn’t cold.

This week’s teacher lesson is on weather, and for “snow,” I plan on showing them the picture of LSD (Lake Shore Drive, for the non-Chicagoans) during the Snowpocalypse. You know the one:

I really wish I'd been here to see this.

Never mind that this is not a typical Chicago winter, and that I was in a different state at the time. I just want some cold-weather street cred so people will stop telling me to put on a coat. I’ll put on coat when I’m cold, and I ain’t cold yet.

Nor, I’ll bet, are Mongolian babies. We have officially entered what Nathan likes to call “starfish baby season” – the time of year when Mongolian toddlers are so bundled up they can’t move. And I don’t mean they can barely move; they’re legitimately immobile, spread-eagled like a little starfish. Their parents sometimes carry them sideways under their arms, as you might a package. It’s an adorable and hilarious sight, and unfortunately it appears not to have made it onto Google Images. I’ll sneak some surreptitious pictures and post them when I get a chance.

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Questions…

… pertaining to Pavillon Macard des Résidences Mansart, l’Université de Bourgogne:

  1. Why can’t Miami have these kinds of locks, with which you must insert the key from outside (or turn a bolt from the inside) of the door, thus making it impossible for you to lock yourself out?
  2. Why don’t the doors have peepholes?
  3. Why do we have to bring our own toilet paper to the bathrooms?
  4. Why can’t we take showers after 11 pm?
  5. Why have I been logged off of the WiFi four times in the past few hours?
  6. Why is there a McDonald’s within easy walking distances, but no real cafés?
  7. Why do all the sandwiches in the vending machine contain mayonnaise?
  8. Why do the Americans have a reputation for being loud and obnoxious when the the people running through the quad shrieking last night (at midnight) were very clearly French?
  9. Why have college-aged boys not yet learned to go to the bathroom without getting pee all over the toilet and the floor?
  10. WHY DOES THE LARGE SECOND-FLOOR KITCHEN SMELL LIKE CAT FOOD?


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le 25 mai: Observations on French Culture

So we all know that the French like their bread, and their cheese, and their wine. And their cigarettes. None of this was news to me.  However, French culture continues to surprise me, as their preferences in many areas are very different than ours.

  • Pizza toppings. I have yet to see pepperoni listed on any of the menus I’ve seen. Or sausage, or pineapple, now that I think about it. Chicken seems to be popular, however, and I’ve seen seafood and snails. But the most surprising one? Egg. Yes, egg. Cracked right in the middle and baked there.
  • Beverages. Apricot juice seems to be much more common here. And the hot drinks are wonderful. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I had chocolat the first morning. What I received was not a pre-made beverage, but a creamer full of, well, cream, and a smaller one of melted chocolate – the dark/bittersweet kind. With sugar on the side, so I could make it as rich or as sweet as I wanted. Which, for me, meant lots of chocolate and no sugar. YUM.
  •  Ice cream. None of this cookie or candy in ice cream business we have at home. The French like their fruit flavors, it would seem; here’s a fairly typical list. So far, I’ve tried cassis, pistache, and mangue. And raspberry and banana gelato. All were superb.

  • Condiments.

o   Dijon mustard : the French as ketchup : Americans. No, it’s more than that. It’s been in every salad dressing I’ve had so far, and an undeclared ingredient in most of the sandwiches as well. And that was just while we were in Paris! Now that we’re actually IN Dijon, it’s everywhere. You can get it with basil, with honey, with white wine, with tarragon, with extra mustard grains, with nuts, with balsamic vinegar, with coconut and curry powder, with raspberries, with herbes de Provence, with currants… And holy cow is it strong. Sure, it’s not comparable with wasabi, but I still had to stop after every few bites of my sandwich this afternoon while my sinuses were thoroughly scoured.

o   Butter. The French serve bread with dinner, not before it and they don’t give you butter. Mom had to ask for it at every restaurant, and every time they looked at her like she was a little off her rocker, or like they didn’t know what she was talking about.

o   Peanut butter. The French don’t like it, so they don’t sell it. Anywhere. Even at Carrefour, the local equivalent of Walmart. Believe me, I looked.

That’s all I’ve got for now. If I come up with more, I will add them.