If having a school vacation does just one thing, it turns my brain into mush. I could easily just not post this week, but I have been doing so well posting once a week that I would kick myself if I didn’t attempt to post something. So here goes, what I call I my Mongol Thoughts… things I think about during my day or week, that I wouldn’t think anywhere else but in Mongolia.
First off, having a school break is freeing. I don’t have school, my ordinarily fuzzy schedule is non-existent. So I have gotten back into a yoga routine , and I think my body might be limbered up enough to try to start running again. It helps that its gotten safely above zero degrees temperature wise. I organized my schedule of studying for the GRE to perhaps take it in the summer. I don’t have specific plans for grad school, but its nice to have one part of that odious process under my belt. Not going to lie, I’m enjoying the free time, mostly for the me time.
I found a new shower house that opened up across the street. Lots of people in my neighborhood live without plumbing so shower houses are how most people wash especially during the winter. You basically rent a small room with a shower for 30 minutes, and they range in scale from gross to disgusting. While most are good with cleaning the floors, almost no one cleans the ceiling, which in a consistently steamy space is incredibly conducive for mold and just general nastiness. So to find a new place, that is clean and actually has water pressure. I’m in heaven. The new place even has treadmills! I asked the attendant if they worked , and she replied “They do, but no ones interested, so they will probably going somewhere else”… Maybe I can convince her to keep them 😛
As the only person in an apartment in my aimag (province) , I was given a large amount of stuff that previous PCVs have left behind. This includes a large library, back when people still brought books on their PCV journey, large amounts of boxes full of knick knacks, and a large pile of clothes. All this stuff basically takes up space and after several generations of volunteers not taking that “Complete Works of William Shakespeare” , I’m now in the process of passing stuff along. My major victory this past week was getting rid of that large pile of clothes to the local Red Cross. The next project will be to get all of these books to the local library, where they will be accessible to everyone not just the local PCVs.
I will say this for the past PCVs that were in Zavkhan … they were a bunch of smarties. I have been perusing books that are basically textbooks in biological anthropology and high end classics. I have never seen so many copies of “Confederacy of Dunces” in place. PCVs… always got a ton of reading done!
While its been a vacation for me.. For most of my counterparts and some students they have been studying throughout most of this week for yet more Olympic exams. Today I went to help grade tests for 9th class, 12th and a teachers test, which is 5 hours I will never get back. With instructions like “render in your own vernacular” for the teachers test, which apparently means to translate into your own language (which I would have never guessed) , it was even more of a pain to grade then usual. At least this was the last time I would have to grade these things… one of the many lasts of my Peace Corps service.
While these last couple posts have shown an exasperation with the emphasized testing culture, it does give me a bit of room for thought. Recently I read a book called “The Smartest Kids in the World” by Amanda Ripley, which analyzed different countries education systems and explores why some are successful and some aren’t. While the book has its logical faults, I admired the use of the authors take of following American exchange students as they attended schools in Finland, Poland, South Korea and foreign exchange students in places like Minnesota and New Jersey. It was an interesting examination ..are kids successful in school because of teachers? Because of academic rigor? Because of cultural expectations ? I tend toward an amalgam of those things. But what got to me was each “successful educational system” wasn’t perfect and saw a need for improvement. Prime example is South Korea – an hyper academic culture where kids study for 15 hour days, which as it turns out isn’t conducive to happy healthy kids. Also due to the amount of out of school studying students do , teachers aren’t inclined towards professional development. These sets of thoughts gave me the round about idea that if one of the best producing academic systems in the world is allowed to question itself and want to improve… Mongolia will be alright. Just a thought.
Meanwhile, I feel like I’m in a good place considering I’m leaving soon. I found a middle path of finishing out the last two months of school strong, and being excited for traveling after. My brain is swimming equally with possibilities for Frisbee Club , English Activities for classes and hostels in Moscow and Prague. I’m looking forward to seeing family and friends, while enjoying my time with my pals here. It’s a balancing act but a good one. Hopefully I can maintain that for the last couple months here in Mongolia. If not , I know having some tea with honey muffins that will make everything ok 🙂
I will leave it at that, till next time – V.