Peace Corps Terminology

Cohort = the group of volunteers that serves in the same country throughout the same time period (usually referred to in the context of PST/Staging).

CP = counterpart. A coworker in your host country who helps you do projects.

GLOW = Girls Leading Our World. A girls’ empowerment camp that happens in many Peace Corps countries.

IST = In-Service Training; a week-long training that happens after the first 3 months at permanent site (6 months into service).

HCA = Host Country Agency. The school, organization, or institution that requests a Peace Corps Volunteer; usually the HCA is responsible for the majority of the volunteer’s work as well as his/her safety and (relative) comfort at site.

LCF = Language and Cultural Facilitator. A native-speaking Mongolian responsible for teaching Peace Corps trainees the language and acting as a cultural liaison within their training communities.

LPI = Language Proficiency Exam, a speaking exam given at the end of training, at mid-service, and at the end of service.

M26 = the group of volunteers I am part of: the 26th cohort serving in Mongolia. (Theoretically, this could refer to the 26th cohort volunteering in any country that starts with an M, but for the purposes of this blog — Mongolia.)

PCMO = Peace Corps Medical Office(r).

PST = Pre-Service Training. An intensive, immersive training program designed to get volunteers on their feet linguistically, culturally, and professionally. Occurs during the first 8-12 weeks of service. Posts about PST will be found here.

(R)PCV = (Returned) Peace Corps Volunteer.

Site = the city, town, or village where a Peace Corps Volunteer lives.

Staging = a two-day orientation held in the United States immediately before departure. New volunteers meet their cohort for the first time. Posts about Staging will be found here.

TEFL = Teaching English as a Foreign Language. This is what I will be doing in Mongolia. Posts related to teaching will be found here.

Mongolian/Kazakh Words

Note: The transliterations I provide in this blog are horrifically inconsistent, because there are two or three different non-phonetic ways to transliterate any letter that doesn’t have an exact Latin equivalent, and because even Kazakh-Mongolian cognates sometimes differ in spelling. I’ve done my best to provide the Cyrillic so that you can actually tell which word I’m talking about.

aimag (M. аймаг) = a province in Mongolia; also, a provincial capital.

airag/kumis (M. aйраг, K. қымыз) = fermented mare’s milk; sour, slightly fizzy, and only a tiny bit alcoholic.

arul/curd (M. aаруул, K. құрд) = dried milk curds.

bortsak/baursak (M борцаага, K. бауырсақ) = nuggets of deep-fried dough, somwhere between donuts and funnel cakes in taste and texture. A staple of the Mongolian guest table; Kazakhs also use plain bread.

buuz (M., K. бууз) = steamed meat dumplings.

deel (M. дээл) = the traditional Mongolian robe; a very warm and pretty wraparound robe with a sash, often made with satin fabrics. “Everyday” winter deels are worn mostly by the elderly and at the new year’s holiday (and by cold PCVs in the wintertime), but “fashionable” deels, which can be heavy or lightweight and look more like dresses than robes, are sometimes worn by women at other parties or holidays.

delguur/duken (M. дэлгүүр, K. дүкен) = shop, usually small and family-owned. An ix delguur (их дэлгүүр), lit. “big store”, resembles a department store or a market.

dombra (K. домбыра) = a two-stringed traditional Kazakh instrument.

duu/singil, baur (M. дүү, K. сіңіл, бауыр) = a younger sibling. Also used for nieces/nephews, cousins, and close friends of a younger generation.

emee/apa (M. эмээ, K. апа) = a grandmother, therefore a matriarch, and a good person to have on your side. Everybody listens to emees.

ger/istik ui (M. гэр, K. ыстық үй) = a felt tent, comparable to the Turkish yurt; one of the most common living spaces in Mongolia.

jente (K. женте) = sugar fried with milk and raisins into delicious crumbly bits. A traditional Nauriz dish.

kaz (K. қазы) = Kazakh horse sausage. Salty and delicious.

kelin (K. келін) = a family’s youngest daughter-in-law. According to Kazakh tradition, she does most of the household chores and cares for her elderly parents-in-law; in return, her husband inherits the family’s herds.

khadakh (M. хадах) = a Mongolian ceremonial scarf. Given to an honored guests, left at religious shrines, and tied to objects of cultural significance (e.g. musical instruments). Someone in possession of a khadakh keeps it in the highest place in their home.

koje (K. көже) = the soup traditionally served at Nauriz; contains rice or barley, meat broth, and yogurt.

Naadam (M. Наадам) = the Mongolian summer festival celebrating the “three manly sports”: wrestling, horse racing, and archery. Occurs at different times in different villages throughout the month of June.

Nauriz (K. Наурыз) = the Kazakh new year’s festival, celebrated on the vernal equinox. Read about my experience of it here.

Shin Jil/Janga Jil (M. Шинэ Жил, K. Жаңа Жыл) = the calendar New Year, a social event usually celebrated with a school festival day, evening parties, and toasts throughout the evening.

shul/sopa (M. шөл, K. сопа) – soup.

soum (M. сум) = a Mongolian district, similar to a county; also, the primary town or village of that district.

suutei budaa (M. сүүтэй будаа) – rice cooked in milk to make a kind of soup; for upset stomachs.

suutei tsai/ak chai (M. сүүтэй цай, K. ақ шай) – lit. “milk tea” (Mongolian) or “white tea” (Kazakh). Tea steeped in milk; both Kazakhs and Mongolians drink it like water.

tarak/airan (M. тараг, K. айран) = thin, sour yogurt. It is very delicious.

Tsagaan Sar (M. Цагаан Сар) = the Mongolian lunar new year, literally called “the white month”. A holiday for visiting family and friends, and exchanging gifts. Occurs in mid-February.

tsuivan/kurdak (M. цуйван, K. құрдақ) – a noodle dish! Steamed noodles, meat, and sometimes veggies.

tugrik (M. төгрөг) = the Mongolian unit of currency. $1 US is about 2,000 tugriks.

xashaa (M. хашаа) = literally, “fence”. Usually refers to the fenced-in property where a family lives in several gers or wooden houses.

xurag (M. хурга) – a dish of chopped fried meat; sort of like a stir-fry.

xuzur (M. хөзөр) = cards, both the deck and a specific game.

xuushuur (M., K. хуушуур) = fried meat or potato pasties.

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