As per usual, its been ages since I last wrote. I’m terrible at keeping up my own resolutions of keeping in touch and general 3rd Goal Activities. For those lay people, the 3rd Goal of Peace Corps is the one that says that one part of our job is to help teach Americans about Mongolian culture. Which I’m determined to do this year. So watch out – super informative posts incoming! In the meantime let me update ya’ll on my life…
I finally arrived back in Zavkhan about two weeks ago now. I have a new apartment, which fortunately had all of my stuff moved into it. I will forever be indebted to my school workers for arranging that for me while I was away training the new trainees. While its been a little discombobulating moving into a new place and figuring out the quirks , its nice to come back to work and realize that I have made friends and have a direction to my work that wasn’t as apparent my first year. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Lets rewind
So at the beginning of July, me and my travel buddy arrived in Darkhan to partake in our role as Peace Corps Trainers for the second half of Pre Service Training. This means that for four weeks, we would co teach classes with Mongolian Technical Trainers on topics like cultural norms and values, technical aspects of our work and other topics that we felt were relevant to someone about to live in Mongolia for the next two years. I was a Cross Culture Trainer, which basically meant I got to teach the fun stuff like “Culture through the Arts” and “Cultural Values”. I even taught the waltz one session…. honestly , more like supervised. Overall , as someone who went into training a little half heartedly (for a variety of reasons), being a trainer ended up being a very rewarding experience. Meeting all the new trainees refreshed my mind as to where I was last year and how how much i have realized about myself. More then I thought that I would out of this process. Still remains to me seen whether I get out of this sane of course, but I still have some hope. Another positive side to being a trainer of course was being able to see and spend quality time with people in my cohort. I have always felt close (in my way) to this small group of volunteers, but we spend so much time apart, it was nice to see everyone.
Pre Service Training finally wound down with Site Announcements and the Supervisors Conference, where we finally met our new sitemates . My site in particular had a grand total of 5 (!!!) new people placed here, with 4 being in the Aimag center, and one out in a soum about 45 minutes away. In total, we have 8 people in our aimag. It was a huge release when I saw how many people were coming to our site. I see a lot of collaboration in our future. After the conferences and the trainings and the announcements, we finally bused it down to Ulaan Baatar with the newbies to get settled in some nice university dormitories. The next day they were sworn in as official volunteers at the Ambassadors Residence. Due to the huge size of the group and constraints with the space, most of us trainers went back to the dormitories for some downtime and heard about the ceremony afterwards. We heard good things about the various performances, speeches, and the Swearing In Ceremony even got broadcast on Mongolian TV. Its all very fancy compared to how I got sworn in… in a gym in Darkhan. No regrets! But I did hear the appetizers at the residence were uh-mazing… there is absolutely no resentment there 😛
The following week the trainees got flown/bused/driven to their various sites across the country, yet our cohort stayed to wait it out til our Mid Service Training. During this week of downtime, me and another volunteer got the opportunity to volunteer with the Mongolian Center for Gender Equality. Its an awesome organization, and was so pumped to have the week to work with them. Basically the organization works with victims of human in trafficking in Mongolia and helping those victims during the repatriation process. While this incredibly busy , staff of 4, was helping advise the Mongolian Government on how to revise their “Plan of Action” towards TiP issues, we were asked to help fill out a survey from an American university, about some of their work and helping them get linked with a global network. It was really fulfilling work, and even involved a trip to the US Embassy to talk about some of work they do regarding TiP issues. I was a great week and I’m indebted to the PC Office for helping us make that connection. Hopefully I will get another opportunity work with them in the future.
All the while, I must mention that I did have a good time. I stayed at the pretty ‘social’ hostel in UB, and got to spend lots of quality time with my M24 cohort. We indulged in movie theaters and popcorn and KFC and dark beer and cheese… pretty much a rinse and repeat of all of those things. Its amazing how excited I can get over something like eggplant… or lettuce. Mmmmm lettuce.
ALL of that was the lead in to our Mid Service Training. Now going into this, again I was a little reluctant. I had already gone through half of PST as a trainer, and now I had to go into ANOTHER training ? Well, this one turned out to be my favorite training so far. The ‘ger’ camp we stayed in was super swank. They were basically round hotel rooms with showers and running water and all that good stuff. Oh, and the beds… with real comforters. The ‘food’ was amazing, I easily gained several pounds over the course of a couple days. I would have paid good money to live there! As for the ‘work’ part, I thought the trainings were relevant and useful. We got time to ‘plan’ and talk about this upcoming year, both in sectors and in regions. Of course, as I was sitting in my “West is Best” group, I was looking around and thinking “we are a pretty cool group.. too bad I won’t ever see them ever!”, which speaks to the size of this massive country. Yet the discussions and the ideas we all had made me cautiously optimistic for this upcoming year. Finally, we were allowed to be our casual, silly selves. We even were allowed to wear ‘smart casual’ , as versus ‘business casual’. Whats the difference ? Couldn’t tell you. I was just stuck with the travel worn clothes I had carried with me all summer.
Unfortunately all good times must come to and end. Soon we were off to UB, then off to the airport/bus station, to be scattered across the country. As a cohort we won’t see each other again until our Close of Service Conference which will happen in April. Which I know will come by so fast. Since I have been back at site I have already started mulling ideas for projects, having meetings and taking names. School has started up again and clubs are starting to take shape. I was handed a deflated soccer ball and asked to start a football club. I will take signups for English Club this upcoming week and will meet up with some NGOs as well. As people say in Mongolian, “life keeps turning” and I’m along for the ride.
Before I sign off on the above, I have a couple more announcements that I couldn’t figure out how to fit into the above narrative (pshhhh if you can call the above a narrative).
- My Close of Service Date… aka my COS date, the day I remove the shackles of Peace Corps and become FREE !… lol just kidding 😛 , will be around late July or August of next year. From there I will start my slow journey home, stopping off at various jungle waterfalls in SEA and European breweries to fully recuperate from two Mongolian winters. As those plans start forming, I will keep you all updated.
- Also I scored an Intermediate Mid on my language proficiency interview that I took this past MST. Which is super impressive, considering that I haven’t really studied, and scored with a Novice High at the end of my PST, the PC requirement for volunteers. Needless to say, I’m feeling good. Lets see what happens when I do study 😛
I will be updating this more regularly this upcoming year, and hope to talk more about the different projects we do here and how they form, as they happen! Such is the magic of the internet. As always I hope this finds you all well!