While We Were Gone

Our whole family was out of Mongolia for one week, June 8-15, spending time in Thailand.

During that week our hot water was shut off and our eMart had a fire and has been indefinitely closed. These two things have created a few complications for us.

The Hot Water that Wasn’t

First, we left Thailand to return home on a hot and humid morning, traveled through multiple airports, with too much luggage and arrived home to discover that we couldn’t take showers.

It’s not that we didn’t try, but the cold water is ICE cold water that HURTS when you try to shower in it. We found ways to clean our bodies (like soaping up, jumping under the ice water until we were ready to scream, about 5 seconds, and most of the bubbles were off or filling the tub part way with ice water then pouring boiling water in to try to offset it) but we couldn’t enjoy the relaxing full-body shower and hair wash that we so desperately wanted after all that travel.

The hot water shut-off happens every summer so the government can clean and repair pipes throughout the city. There’s a schedule for different neighborhoods but it is, at best, approximate. Most people can expect to be without hot water for 1-2 weeks. Last year, one of our teachers was without hot water for a month.

Because the hot water was shut off some time while we were gone we didn’t know how long it had been off so it was hard to guess when it would be turned back on. It does help that we knew it would happen eventually so we weren’t super-frustrated…we just wanted to shower. And it’s actually really nice that it started while we were gone and wasn’t during the hotter part of summer when we would have needed showers even more than normal. And we still had cold water, so the whole situation was much less bad than it could have been.

It came back on Thursday. So we went almost a week with dry shampoo and altered morning routines, which really isn’t that long. We survived and it’s (probably) over for another year.

eMart Had a Fire

eMart is the Korean version of (sort of) Walmart. It’s smaller than most WalMarts and doesn’t have much along the lines of furniture or automotive but it’s an easy one-stop shop for most of the groceries and home goods we buy. It also has smaller shops on the few floors above it where we buy books, get cash out of the ATM, get our hair cuts, and pay our phone and cable bills, and get the occasional coffee or Burger King.

We saw on the expat Facebook group that there had been a fire in eMart while we were in Thailand. This, in itself, is mildly terrifying. Mongolian businesses have this habit of having only one door unlocked during business hours. So, while there maybe three different exits with 2-4 doors at each one for people to go in and out, only a single door is unlocked at each exit. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’m shocked no one was injured as people left the building because hundreds of people trying to leave through three doors is a recipe for a stampede and people getting squished. But, according to the signs outside the building that let us know it’s closed indefinitely, no one was injured during the evacuation.

That said, we’re having to alter our lives a bit to accommodate for this loss (whether it’s temporary or long-term). There are other shops we can buy most groceries at, and we used them somewhat regularly before, so that transition is easy. They are much smaller, which means less choices, but also means we spend less money, so it’s not all bad.

Our one concern is where we’re going to buy meat. eMart had a nice meat section that resembled the meat sections from home. Everything was nice and wrapped up in plastic and we didn’t see animals hanging from the ceilings. I assumed they had similar meat-handling protocols as our stores back home and we felt relatively comfortable buying meat there.

But, now we can’t.

If we buy it anywhere else, I think I get to point to the hanging animal I want and have to tell the butcher what part of that animal I want to buy. Then I have to take the to the meat grinder/processor and pay that person to grind it. I am ignorant in the ways of meat chopping and processing. Also, I can say “cow” but I haven’t yet learned the parts of cows, so my language is insufficient for the task.

But, now I have to learn, so I will. I’m choosing to look at this as an opportunity to learn something sooner than I would have if I was creating my own learning schedule. There’s a small butcher shop in our neighborhood and a really large butcher shop about a mile away; I’ll try to take pictures when I go because the bigger one is like nothing I’ve ever seen before and I think you guys would enjoy seeing it too.

Any suggestions on what part of a cow I should buy and grind for taco meat?

We’ve already found another place to pay our phone and cable bill, we’ve been to lots of other bookstores, and ATMs are all over the place. We will probably just wait to get our hair cut until it reopens, assuming it does.

I know these things could happen anywhere, but I think the fact that they both happened here, within a week of each other, and the fact that it doesn’t seem like a big deal to us is indicative of where we live and how we’ve changed since we’ve moved here.

Living is always an adventure; and it’s good to be back home.

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