Glass Posters and Surprise (!!!) School Break

This week has been interesting to say the least. I’m on the cusp of a vacation, and I think I made the decision to do a larger project at the end of this week in the hopes that it would make time go by faster. Of course, as with any type of project, stress happens and dealing with hiccups is a constant part of the process. The project in this case was our towns Culture Fair, done in conjunction with a local NGO and the Education Department. Last year we did this culture fair and it went very well, and I think we were able to repeat that with the same success this year. All schools were assigned different countries to make posters on, create presentations and then be tested on what they have gleaned from their peers posters. Its always interesting seeing what kids come up with , and its clear that these kids really enjoy it. Many academic contests in Mongolia are strictly tests and don’t really exercise creativity or researching and presenting information, so I think this Fair fills that gap a little bit. Below are some or the more interesting posters at the contest. As you can see some teams got REALLY into it… like is one made of glass??

My school was only able to field two teams due to a physics Olympiad (test) occurring the same day. Despite our small showing, one of our teams, Team Malaysia, won the trivia portion of the competition. I’m so glad they came away with a certificate, they worked so hard. Those four girls were basically stuck in a small room all week with me, and they did an awesome job creatively using materials, successfully compared their Malaysia to Mongolia and studied up on the other countries participating in the fair.

After the competition, I did feel a sense of relief . It seems like a small deal, but looking back on it, the competition took a lot of energy. There was a multitude of logistics to carry out, from coordinating and communicating between the foreign language methodologist to local NGOs , to all 5 schools in the aimag center, including multiple teachers and students. Compiling the note taking sheets for students, extra information for the student groups , as well as organizing judging sheets. Overall 67 students participated in this years Culture Fair with teachers from each school attending and helping us out. Of course all the local PCVs came and helped out as well… So who knows it might happen again next year. Hopefully I can just put all of the materials on a Google drive folder somewhere so it can be easily done next year… cause events like this are hard. Communication is rough here, and mistakes get made. Skills as administrators and communicators are still being developed. But like I told another PCV, “We could make this easy. We could make it small and just do all the work. But then what’s the point, the struggle is what makes it a learning experience”. Even for me. Actually especially for me. Heck, I learned InDesign for this!

All in all, I’m glad I got a good bunch of work in before heading off for vacation. This vacation has been in the works for a long time, mostly due to the numerous Peace Corps rules for out of country PCV travel (planning an itinerary, filling out leave requests , rinse and repeat) . When I started planning my trip in October, I asked some of my teachers when the school winter break would be, that’s when I wanted to go… and no one knew. Multiple question and answer sessions with multiple teachers and administrators revealed that they wouldn’t know when the break would be. The education ministry just hadn’t announced it yet. One teacher did pull me aside and said that most quarters are 9 weeks, with each tenth week being a week off. As this was the most logical answer I got, I worked it out with my training manager that I would be gone during this time, missing a minimal amount of school days and settled in knowing when my vacation would be.

Unexpectedly the PC grapevine exploded when just last week, the education ministry finally announced that this mysterious break would be this upcoming week. A good 5 days before the vacation would start. Unfortunately for other volunteers, lots of break plans, either to visit friends or to travel got interrupted. Its easy to get angry. I was lucky enough that my shot in the dark worked out, but it really makes me realize how plan oriented a culture I have been a part of before coming here. I have found that Mongolia is very rooted in the present. If you ask someone to do something the day after tomorrow,   its not considered an urgent task. But if you ask someone to do something now, not only are they not stressed, they do it. It always blows my mind. I can only hope that one day I will be as composed when put under pressure. Not to say that the relevant government bodies shouldn’t start getting into the habit of planning the year from the get go – but it is an undeniable strength. Accepting the present is something I hope I can take with me when I leave this summer.

Speaking of accepting the present, I doubt that I will write on this blog the upcoming weeks while I’m traveling. I might take some time to myself, or the bright sun and warm beaches might inspire me to write more. I can’t say. All I do know is that I’m traveling with some pretty cool people, and I’m excited to see my family. I might cry when I touch down back home. Or when I eat my first guava in a year. Or when I go swimming for the first time in a year. You can bet on it, there will be tears at some point. But happy ones 🙂

Hope this finds you warm! Soon I will be! – V.

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