Where are you?
We are staying in Michigan. Our home church has a house that is used for displaced people (usually immigrants who are settling in the area or cross-cultural workers like us). It was available when we were heading this way in March for, what we thought, was going to be a few weeks, maybe a month. And here we are, several months later. We expect to be here for a while and are so grateful for their hospitality!
Why aren’t you in Monoglia?
It’s not for lack of trying. When we left at the beginning of the year, it was because our daughter’s school was closed and Cory was unable to attend classes so we thought it’d be a great time to sneak out of the country for a short visit to the US when no one in Mongolia would miss us.
When we went to confirm our return flight in February, we found it was cancelled. As was the flight we rescheduled. Then Mongolia CLOSED THE BORDER. The only flights in or our are special evacuation/repatriation flights that are really hard to get on.
To get on one of these repatriation flights, you need to register with the Mongolian Immigration or Emergency Commission then they prioritize who should return. Priority goes to Mongolians who are elderly, young, sick, pregnant, and students. Healthy, middle-aged Mongolians–or non-Mongolians–have not typically been allowed on these flights yet.
There was a flight scheduled from Seoul last week but we couldn’t make any affordable connecting flights from the US to Seoul work in the time allowed so we didn’t attempt to book tickets.
So we’re still in the US.
You can do a lot through zoom though, right?
Some of Cory’s classes have been available via Zoom or Skype. The quality of these transmissions hasn’t been great but the bigger problem is Mongolia is 12 hours ahead of ET so he’d regularly have classes in the middle of the night. Deferring his student status seemed like a better idea for our family’s collective sanity.
Most of our friends and the people Jen volunteers with don’t have a wireless (or wired) connection at home and can’t afford data plans that are good enough to sustain video calls. So we chat a bit through Facebook Messenger but it’s slow and discouraging.
When will you go back?
When they let us.
We’ve recently been told that the border will remain closed until June 2021 but it may still be possible to get on one of the repatriation flights, once all the Mongolians who want to go back have booked their tickets. Maybe. There’s a flight at the end of September but we think (based on hearsay) that there are still around 1100 Mongolians in the US waiting to be repatriated so it’s unlikely a American student and his family would (or, really, should) get priority over them.
How bad is the virus in Mongolia?
Because of the swift and intense border closures, combined with the mandatory 35 day quarantine (21 days in a hotel, 14 days at home) upon arrival, Mongolia has done an EXCELLENT job containing the virus and, at last count, there were roughly 300 cases, most of which people had recovered from and been released. So their efforts are working.
What’s your daughter doing for school?
We wanted her 4th grade year to have a little transition as possible, despite a looming international move that can’t be scheduled, so we’re homeschooling. We didn’t trust the local US schools to be able to maintain whatever in-person schedule they started with the whole year with every student, and if we are able to move back and have to quarantine for 35 days, homeschooling can be as consistent (and flexible) as we need it to be.
Cory’s taking the lead at homeschooling right now because he’s more patient and I’m feel the pressure of all the other things that he doesn’t feel to the same level. So he’s homeschooling and I’m doing the other things.
What do you enjoy about being back in the US?
The people, obviously. It’s been awesome to spend extended time with family and we look forward to the possibility of spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with family this year. The pandemic has made connecting with friends more difficult, that’s been a huge bummer. But it’s also allowed our introverted selves to hunker down and get some of the space our souls so desperately need right now.
The food. We’ve been enjoying familiar cereals, cheese, rice kirspie treats, ice cream, my mom’s meatball recipes, a variety of fresh fruit that is nearly always delicious, as well as Mexican, Thai, and American Chinese take out to name just a few things. Yum! And now we’re working on increasing our exercise and being intentional about our eating because, yum.
The stores. It’s been SO nice to shop in familiar stores that carry the same things pretty consistently. Brick and mortar stores, combined with Amazon provides SO MANY choices and easy returns. It’s been lovely. And we went a little overboard, so we’re dialing it back now, because eventually we’re going to have to try to figure out how to pack or get rid of everything we’ve accumulated.
The water. We’re currently a block away from a small lake and a few miles away from Lake Michigan. So we get to see the water, play in the water, boat on the water, enjoy the water. Mongolia is land-locked and the nearest lake of any size (growing up near a Great Lake has definitely set the bar high) is 14+ hours away. So we’re loving the water.
The language. I love being able to communicate with people easily and freely. I love not having to rehearse what I’m going to say to a shop keeper or compose simple sentences with limited vocabulary like I’m in preschool. This, of course, is also counter-productive as it makes learning Mongolian more difficult because I don’t have to use it frequently and can’t practice easily with locals.
How is your cat?
We are thankful that the friend who had agreed to house-sit for us and take care of our cat, Sevsger, for three weeks is fine now that’s been extended to nine months and will likely be over a year. We have good internet and she’s got a quiet, free place to live so it’s working out well for all of us.
Sevsger did get sick once, and she had to make multiple trips to the vet, but is doing much better now.
We’ve connected with our local animal shelter here in Michigan and fostered three kittens until they were able to be adopted. That was fun, and also made us realize three kittens is a lot of kittens. The day we gave them back was an emotional day. This did not stop me from being tempted to respond to the post I saw this morning about the five kittens that need to gain weight and be socialized for a few weeks. I didn’t respond, but I wanted to.
Do you have any questions for us? Comment below and we’ll update the post with answers 🙂