4 Walls and a Door

For a minute there, I thought that was all I had left of a home.  This would be because the ger that was my ger was taken down, replaced by another, smaller ger.  It now takes fewer steps to place my cup of tea on my table.  And the door that I thought was small because I had to crouch to enter and to exit is now big in comparison to the smaller door that causes even more crouching upon the enter and the exit.

Reasons given for new ger: because the other one was the government’s; because smaller is warmer in winter; because new is nice.

My day went a little something like this: go into work for an hour and a half before being told to go home for a new ger.  Confused, finding nothing wrong with the current one, I reach my ger in time for my director and a car full of the school’s workers to arrive.  Belongings are stuffed into bags, and my [former] ger sees more daylight than it has in months, what with the felt that was the ceiling and the nylon that was the wall coming down and the sun coming in.

And then there was a stove

I do what I can to help [very little], stare, and take a few pictures.  Lunch time comes: personally, I’m fine eating prunes and watching other people build my home, but I’m called into the middle ger in my hashaa on my way back from the outhouse.  While all the workers go into the last ger to eat, I am relegated to the middle one because I don’t eat meat, so explains my director.  Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt my feelings because it’s my hashaa boys’ home and their parents.  The Mom tells my director that she likes me because I eat the food she gives me.  See, vegetarians can be people, too.

After, sitting on the lumps of felt on the sand, the workers come over to converse when they realize the poles for my ceiling won’t fit into the holes in the round middle holder-upper-thing.  Tegeed, conversation with the foreigner.  One of the workers, despite my informing her that I speak only a little French and Spanish, speaks to me in Russian when I don’t understand the Mongolian.  ‘Alyska, devotchka, where are you from?  Do you have a boyfriend? In America? Do you need a husband? You need a Mongolian boyfriend.’  She asks for English words, namely, ‘New,’ and ‘Nice,’ practicing: ‘Alyska!  Ene new, nice! Nice.’ Eventually they find other jobs that need doing, and I find myself getting more and more tired, so I lie down on my shelter-less table.  The worker-who-speaks-to-me-in-Russian says, ‘How cute.  Alyska!  Go lie down on your bed!’   My bed.  The bed in the ger with no walls and no ceiling, next to the man who’s hammering the round middle holder-upper-thing.  Yet, as one to take orders, I do what I’m told.  And I take a half hour nap on my bed.

The round middle holder-upper thing being held up

‘Alyska!  Get up!  The poles will fit now. Come lie down on this!’  ‘This’ being the white fabric that will become my ceiling.  I obey.  The fabric smells like my Dad after he’s done some work with something mechanical that doesn’t smell good.  I sit up and think about doing something worthwhile, but they tell me to go lie down on the bed in the last ger.  Really, I just sit on the bed and have some tea with my toothless hashaa Emee, whom I am supposed to call Bor-Egtch (Brown Older Sister).

Carfuls of male teachers from the school show up, and my director starts auctioning me off.  ‘Alyse needs a husband!  Alyse, you choose.’  Believe it or not, hands actually go up.  Two married teachers offer to share me.  I’m flattered.  😐 With so many people, my new ger becomes my new ger in no time.  And the bodies depart just as quickly as they came, leaving me sharing tea yet again with Bor-Egtch.  She makes a fire in my new ger, and I return her previous hospitality with tea and some vegetarian pesto rice with spinach and tomato that she takes with hesitation.  When she leaves, she still has grains of rice on her chin.  See, veg food may not be so bad after all.

With the fire she built cooking and my sebaceous glands producing like they do, I guess small gers may not be so bad, either.  At least I have a door.  A door and four walls.  4 walls and a door.

New is nice.

So they say.

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7 thoughts on “4 Walls and a Door

  1. Oh, Alyse! My favorite line is, ” The fabric smells like my Dad after he’s done some work with something mechanical that doesn’t smell good. ” I laughed at loud at that because I know that smell all too well. Sounds like an adventure, but I love that you were even able to enjoy a nap amidst it all. I may share this with my students tomorrow. 🙂 LOVE YOU!

  2. What is the building beside your new ger? And I’m confused by your referring to your ger as “4 walls…” – isn’t it round?
    I don’t know how you were able to sleep with everyone else working on your ger – but then again, when you were a toddler, you could lie down in the middle of the floor with a party going on all around and fall asleep.
    So many funny things in this post – but the husband auction is a little frightening. :-/ (yikes!)
    I love you!

    • The building is the ‘ping’ that will attach to the front to store my firewood, coal, and other things to make a fire and to stay dry while preventing some cold air from entering my ger. Gers are made of walls, like those accordian-like child safety gates. They form a circle, and the number of walls often determines the size (3,4,5,6,8, etc.). My last one was either a 5- or big 4-waller, whereas my new one is a smaller 4-waller. My sitemate’s is a small 4-wall ger (still smaller than my smaller one).

  3. Thanks for the explanation. So you will have a little windblock/breezeway at your entrance? That sounds good. It’s impressive how the community seems to come together and pitch in for projects to help one another out. Excited to hear about your students and programs. Love you!

  4. I agree with your mother…the husband auction is a bit un-nerving. I totally understand the ability to sleep anywhere. I think living in a different culture is tiring or maybe exhausting, and even simple things like making food or shoping for food is not always easy to do. how big is this new ger in relation to you? maybe you could take a picture standing near the door or something to give me a better idea. I will talk to our father about your exhaustion for you. maybe he can provide some relief. love ya. cheryl

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