During the past two days I was enjoying the annual celebration of Naadam, which is an event centered around the three sports of archery, horse racing, and wrestling. I spent most of my time watching wrestling and was most pleased when two of my students participated. One made it to the championship round in his age group and earned 2nd place! A few weeks ago I worked with a friend to put an article and illustrations about people from my school into a Mongolian magazine. I also had an illustration featured in a reeeeal snazzy Mongolian magazine. You can find this one in most upscale Mongolian cafes or magazine reading places. The piece is a wonderfully researched story about a Mongolian conservationist who lived a long life as a hunter and later spent his life telling people to preserve nature. Here are my Naadam sketches. Sketching out in public brings me a lot of satisfaction and creates magic that wouldn’t happen if I didn’t practice art in public places. I am able to pull people into wonderful interactions that are very special to me and (I believe) others who are involved. My favorite moments are when people notice something to laugh at in a picture that I’ve drawn and then reflect on how the reality is just as amazing and funny when you look at it with the right creative perspective. Imagine Mongolians looking at the 2nd and 3rd to last pictures and pointing out the actual people and and things from the pictures and from reality and having a chuckle. Tying the two together, public art and reality, is a magically interactive process that I feel lucky to create and be a part of.
Speaking of public art, I took a weekend trip to UB and while at the hostel I met a researcher (in the background) on her way back to England from the jungles of Vietnam. Somehow she brought up art and then found ourselves sharing our common interest of doodling outdoors. We went to the main square to draw the upcoming rock show scene and two boys amongst the many to look over our shoulders started speaking with us. One mentioned he was an artist and wanted to draw me so I gave him a sketchbook and pencil and told him, “While you draw me, I am going to draw you.” We drew each other for about 30 minutes and then exchanged the drawings we did. I’ve also printed my first rough draft book with a large selection of my 1st year illustrations and top-of-the-head writing. Right now the book is about 160 pages of unedited illustrations and text. I am going to continue developing the book to cover my two years in Mongolia. I’m pleased with the the first vision, but looking forward to adding more depth and experiences to to collection. This is the logo I designed for my upcoming Agaa Egee program at my school. I’ve invested a lot of time developing the concept along with the help of some old Peace Corps Volunteers. I’ve created a good starting manual to organize the program and also am doing my Masters research to assess the outcomes of the project. My goal is to create a program that builds feelings of connectedness and self-esteem. I’ll write more about that later! Lastly, I was involved in the redrafting and redesign of the new Peace Corps Mongolia language manual. I worked with an excellent team and spent dozens of hours working on the book to create something very creative and helpful for the future volunteers. I was very happy to put in a lot of my illustrations, which are wrapped around amazing language learning content provided by some very intelligent volunteers.
Here are a few photos of my mom’s trip to Mongolia and to China.
Going to a shrine.
In front of the big Genghis Khan statue in Ulan Bator.
The ladies. My mother, an English teacher, and the School Director.
Mom and our guide.
Taking the evening to sketch.
Climbing up a steep section of the Great Wall.
What is she doing!?
In the Forbidden City.
A plein air day near the soccer competition.
At the end of April, my mother and I went to Beijing.
I went to a rock show.
A few nights later, I went to a punk rock show.
In the few days that we were in Beijing we did many things. We spent 2-days hiking and one night camping on unrestored parts of the Great Wall. We rode bikes at night and ate Peking Duck. Of course we went to the Forbidden City. We also spent some time in the National Art Gallery and National Museum.
Now, I am back in Choir and the weather is much better for doing art outside. While I was doing this piece two boys walked up to look at what I was working on. We talked for a few moments before they left. I watched them turn around and walk back to say, “Can you teach us how to do art?”
I’ll be teaching an outdoor art lesson on Monday.
Yesterday, we got our first rain of the year. Let me back up. A week ago I was in the capital helping to update the Peace Corps Mongolia Language Manual for the incoming class of M25 volunteers. Between work I would spend time relaxing at the hostel where other international travelers would wander in from their vagabond adventures. I met an Australian man who was on the precipice of returning home after spending 18 months as a volunteer in Mongolia. A friend and I asked him, What are you looking forward to in Australia? And he replied, Well, the Australian environment is very much like Mongolia especially with the light. It isn’t yellowed like in the Mediterranean. It is piercing.
He continued, But the big difference is the lack of rain. I’m looking forward to spending a whole day sitting inside while it is raining. Ya know, where you can smell it before it hits and then the temperature drops and the whole environment just feels wet while you hear it pour down on the roof. Yeah, I’m looking forward to that.
Yesterday, it rained.
My site is a desolate, desert environment that never quite accepted being a rocky martian landscape or a sandpit. I suppose it was the burr-filled shrubs that played the peace maker and tried to appease everybody and suggested something in between. The only altitude is found from going between upper Choir and lower Choir. I live and work in lower Choir.
I live in an apartment, which at first I was disappointed by because I dreamt of living in a ger during my service in Mongolia. It was just very surreal arriving. I live directly above a meat market and my entryway smells like grease, kerosine, and melted plastic up to the 2nd landing. My flat is in Soviet-bloc housing amongst 13 similar structures, but they are in the middle of an overhaul and painting some of the buildings. Surprisingly, I’ve gotten to appreciate and even love the apartment. I decided that exactly two-weeks ago when the hot water turned on and I took a shower. Also, it is very clean and I have three cushy couches. My free time is spent listening to podcasts and books on tape while illustrating. I suggest picking up a copy of, “Lonesome Dove” or get it off audible.com
(free trial…) it was one of the best American books that I’ve read. Sits in with, “Grapes of Wrath” without a doubt.
As far as the work goes it was very fast at first, but then I pulled on the handbrake and going much slower. I found that my counterpart is young and enthusiastic. We were throwing out ideas left and right and we wanted to do everything yesterday! It was great, but then I thought, “this really isn’t going to work in Mongolia” and I didn’t want to have people look at me and say, “ish-t-fe.” So, I’ve been sitting in on the English classes and then on the art class and sometimes the music class. I avoid the hardcore topics. There are a few teachers who are really open to me being around and we joke around and chat, but then there are teachers who put off a vibe that is between indifference and discomfort. But maybe that is my perceived discomfort of their discomfort do you know what I mean? I think they are under the impression that I am there to assess them, which I reiterate over and over that I just want to learn the students’ names. I’ve even filled out my little notebook with students’ names.
Clubs are going to start on the first of October and I am leaning for art, English, and a guitar club. Right now I am working on building some rapport with the other teachers who might help me out with those clubs.
I’ve ridden a camel and drank the milk. There is one white guy around here, but he seems to be Russian and it is very awkward being in the store at the same time with him. The sky is very blue.