Defying Gravity

Expat of the month
  • Defying Gravity
Published on 2014-11-01 at 00:00
My name is Becky and I'm originally from Kansas City, Missouri. I'm an art teacher (which, if you didn't know, are the rock stars of the teaching world). I love my job, especially the fact that it lets me meet so many cool people and see more of the world.

My name is Becky and I'm originally from Kansas City, Missouri. I'm an art teacher (which, if you didn't know, are the rock stars of the teaching world). I love my job, especially the fact that it lets me meet so many cool people and see more of the world.

When and how did you decide to move to Mongolia? Is it complicated to settle down there?

I moved to Mongolia two years ago. I'd been living in Shanghai, China for a two-year contract before that, and it hadn't exactly agreed with me, so I was willing to give something completely different a try, especially since my current school offered me the opportunity to teach secondary. I didn't find settling down here very difficult, but my school provides housing on campus for teachers and I've been blessed with some really awesome friends.

Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you visited?

This is my tenth year of living abroad. I started off teaching ESL in Korea right after graduating college, and have taught art in Bahrain, the Emirates, and China.

What do you like the most about Ulaanbaatar?

It's probably cheesy and unhelpful to say my students (which is the real answer - they are actually the best!) so I'll go with the fact that it's pretty easy to get around, once you know your way. The central part of UB, where I spend most of my time, is not that big, so it's great for wandering around, looking for new restaurants.

How is/was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with the US, your home country?

I got over culture shock here pretty easily; it probably helped that I've lived in Asia for five years. Although I consider Kansas City my hometown, I grew up in the countryside, and I think that helped a lot, too - when cows come moseying down the street it doesn't phase me! There are challenges, though. Winter is much colder in Mongolia than in the American Midwest, and the heating in buildings is centrally controlled - most people can't turn on their heaters until the city decides it's time. In the ger districts, on the other hand, where people are living in felt huts or small houses, they burn coal to keep warm, and the pollution gets pretty bad.

Do you miss anything from your homeland?

My family - it got a lot tougher after my brother and sister started having kids! - and Mexican food. If someone opened a good burrito shop here they'd make a killing!

Any 'memories of an expat' you would like to share with us? Your best souvenir? Or maybe your worst experience?

Last January I went with one of my friends to the Wrestling Palace, the main venue in UB for one of Mongolia's "manly sports". We'd both seen it at Naadam - the biggest festival in Mongolia's calendar - but although this tournament was essentially the same sport, putting it in a different frame made a huge difference! Not only were we much closer to the action, we were also two of just a handful of women in the place, and the wrestlers were not at all embarrassed about changing in front of us! During Mongolian wrestling many matches are taking place simultaneously, and it was a lot of fun to pick out different wrestlers to keep track of and cheer on.

What does your typical day as an expat in Ulaanbaatar look like?

I get up and walk to school, teaching a full day with my fantastic students. Afterwards I go into downtown UB most days for a bite to eat. There are lots of great restaurants, and strangely enough, I've even come to love sushi in this landlocked country! I'll pick up some groceries and after I get home I spend some time on the internet - we have pretty reliable service - and reading on my Barnes and Noble e-reader.

When did you start your blog? For what reasons?

I've been blogging since 2007, but switched over to my account on Blogspot in 2009 when I stopped using MySpace. It was originally kind of a way to keep my family and friends aware of what I was up to, but in the last couple of years I've become a much more dedicated blogger, and would like to someday publish a book.

Did you make new friends with your blog?

Sure! I've been contacted by people with questions about living here and once by a man who wanted to trade postcards. I've only ever met one of these friends face to face, and although it was a little strange having somebody stop their car and say, "Hey, I know you! I read your blog!" I have to say it was also pretty cool.

Why did you register on and what do you think of the website?

When I started getting more serious about my blogging, I naturally wanted more people to read it, and registering with Expat Blog seemed like a perfect way to draw in more readers. Now that I've actually been overseas for a number of years, I have a huge appreciation for the wealth of information you can get from expat blogs, and will definitely be reading up on other blogs listed on before my next move.

Which advice would you give to the other Expat blog members who would like to settle in Ulaanbaatar (or in Mongolia)?

Expect the unexpected, go with the flow, but be willing to make things happen. I've heard expats complain about not having anything to do in Mongolia. I'll admit that it's not as easy here as it is in other countries, but there are plenty of things to get involved in if you put in the effort.

Defying Gravity