Mongolia suffers from some of the worst pollution in the world in the winter months.
Many Mongolians live in homes called gers (yurts). The winter nights in Mongolia sometimes drop to -40 degrees Celsius. To combat the cold, Mongolians who live in gers burn coal. The coal pollutes the air. Until recently, the clouds of pollution were so dense and black that the nearest building couldn’t be seen. However, just before Chris and Wanda’s arrival, the Mongolian government passed a law banning the burning of raw coal, which partly improved the situation in time for their first winter. Nevertheless, the pollution was still severe, so Chris and Wanda prepared by purchasing masks for each member of their family to wear outdoors.
All winter, the family wore masks every time they left the house. Sometimes, it was challenging to fit the masks on the children. It was important to maintain a tight seal, otherwise the masks would be rendered useless. Chris and Wanda decided to keep their children indoors over the winter months to protect them from the pollution.
When China announced the presence of COVID-19, Mongolia shut its borders and airports. The government mandated that children stay indoors. Nine of the twelve months that they’ve lived in Mongolia, Chris and Wanda’s children have been largely indoors creating unforeseen challenges.
The university where Chris teaches switched to online lessons, so the master bedroom doubled as his office. His workload drastically increased due to the need for both recorded video lectures and daily Zoom meetings.
When summer finally arrived some COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. The children were allowed to go outdoors. Chris and Wanda have been taking language classes, alternating care for the children and studies. With public spaces now open, the family are now able to interact with local Mongolians. They hope that their children will start to make friends and feel more at home.
As fall approaches, Chris is preparing a month of online lectures before the university re-opens for in-person classes. Chris will also begin taking a second Master’s degree online to expand his teaching repertoire. Wanda will home-school their children again. She and a group of parents she’s met hope to reinstate a home school co-op. Local church is also set to re-open and they’re looking forward to opening their home again to students and friends.
COVID-19 has presented unforeseen challenges but Chris and Wanda are hopeful that life will return to normal and Mongolia will feel evermore like home.