Sunday, September 29, 2013

Nosy Neighbor Night

I've been meaning to talk about the Acceptable Range of Normality for a while now.  One of the wonderful things about being an expat is the fact that this lifestyle appeals to the black sheep of the world, and while we don't always "fit in" back home, put us all together and we manage to get along pretty well.  For the most part, anyways, and that's where my hypothesis comes in.  Over the years of living overseas, I've come up with a theory I like to call the acceptable range of normality, and it goes something like this:

See, normal is a created idea.  Within any given group of personalities, there are both "boring" and "interesting" individuals, and we all fall on a continuum that ranges between "so-boring-I-want-to-chew-my-own-arm-off-because-it-would-be-less-painful-than-listening-to-you" and "when-I-say-you're-interesting-what-I-really-mean-is-that-your-quirks-are-kinda-scaring-me-and-I-think-I'll-leave-before-the-voices-in-your-head-decide-to-get-rid-of-me."  In other words, at one hand, you have walking valium, and at the other end, a walking nightmare.  The thing is that you want to have enough quirks to be interesting and endearing, but not so many that you scare small children (or adults), and the range in which you can accomplish that depends on the population you're in.
Tov Aimag vodka, erotic Mongolian painting from Geek, and Bhutanese festival mask
So in the population of expats, you've got a lot more wiggle room on the quirky side of the spectrum.  No one bats an eye if you talk about your bowel movements.  You can also have a display on top of your refrigerator like the one above, and the only thing that people will question is why you have vodka (because they know you're Mormon...and the answer is obviously that you want to collect the little bottles with the names of the provinces you've been to, and your friends are glad to drink them for you).  And although we definitely have people that fall outside the range working at our school (I won't name any names in case they find their way here at some point - if my six loyal readers want to hear stories, they know where to contact me), for the most part, we have an incredibly copacetic staff this year.
photo by the Lasagna
This is one of the reasons I decided to join the social committee this year.  I ended up planning a lot of events with my friends last year, anyways, so I figured this year I might as well do it for the school and have something to put on my resume.  As a result of some conversations that I've had with people, I ended up organizing the first (possibly annual) teachers' apartment Tour of Homes (aka, Nosy Neighbors Night).  Because it's kind of fun to visit other people's apartments and see what they've done with them.

Anyone who was interested had to provide a drink or a snack, and preferably open up their apartment, although I made this optional, since some teachers live off campus but were still interested in participating.  At the appointed hour (5 pm tonight) everyone congregated in one hallway for 15 or 20 minutes, drinking, snacking, chatting, and seeing what the participating teachers had done with their apartments.  Then we went to the next floor for about the same amount of time, moving through the building until we'd seen 13 different apartments.
also by the Lasagna - I was too busy pan-frying my flat bread to take pics.
It went over really well, even if I say so myself!  We had really good participation, and not only was it cool to see other apartments and show off your own, it was great to have a chance to socialize with teachers from across the school (nearly all of whom fall within the acceptable range of normality - phew!).  Now that we're in two different buildings, the secondary and primary teachers don't mingle as much, and activities like this give everyone a chance to get together.

That's not to say it was perfect.  There were a lot (and I mean a LOT) of desserts being served.  If we do this again next year, Engrish suggested assigning each floor a dish - salad, soup, dip, dessert, etc.  I am obviously not the most organized person in the world (I keep trying to tell people that), and I felt like I kept having to send out additional emails with information I'd forgotten before.  But I was really proud of my first attempt at organizing a school-wide social event, and happy that nobody seemed to notice the fact that I hadn't vacuumed my carpet or scrubbed my kitchen floors (which desperately needed it).

Also this weekend: another circus in UB.  The last circus I went to had me questioning if I was becoming jaded, circus-wise.  I'd seen SO many great performances in the early part of the year, and things were starting to feel pass√©.  I had to wonder how different this circus would be, but that didn't stop me from going.  It was originally slated to be performed at Bayangol Restaurant, with dinner and drinks served with your showgirls...yes, I said showgirls.  How different could a circus be?  This wasn't any old circus - it was the Cabaret circus, with international acts from a number of countries, including some showgirls.  I felt like the overall tone was a little more mature, but that didn't stop people from bringing their kids (once it had been moved from the Bayangol to the State Circus and the price went from 150,000 tugrugs to 20,000), including some students which I saw, and more which probably saw me, since the magician pulled me and Squeaker up to help with his act.  Was it different? Did we enjoy it???  Hell yeah.  For starters, there were a HELL of a lot more male acts in this circus, my personal favorite being the guy in the clip above.  The only female contortionist they had was a black American girl with gorgeous curves, and what she did amazed even the Mongolians.  I want you to think about that statement for a second.  This is a country where contortionism is one of their major performing arts, but what this girl did was in a different league.  She bent herself into pretzels, and then twisted them around.  It was incredible.  Squeaker's reaction - particularly to a couple of muscle-bound men who were lifting each other while only wearing tight pants - guaranteed we'll be catching the next circus that comes into town.

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