As much as I can write about Mongolia, as an American I can only scratch the surface on what it means to be a Mongolian today, the challenges Mongolians face, and their daily lives. So I hope this is the first in a series of interviews I’ve been conducting with counterparts I work with, to find out about their lives, what they feel is important to Mongolia and other little minutiae that came up in conversations. Thanks to those who sent me some really insightful questions to ask!
My first interview I conducted with my English teacher Dorjbat, who I work with at School #3. She has always been a huge help to me at site, answering her phone when my landlord has something ‘urgent’ to talk about, helping me at the tailors and we have been team teaching together for about two years now. We have been doing projects ranging from a pen pal exchange to using more interactive listening exercises in class. As a note, her nickname is Dogii, which is what I call her in the interview below.
So Dogii, how long have you worked at School 3?
I have been working here for 13 years, as an English teacher.
You have lived in Uliastai your entire life, what’s different about growing up today from when you were growing up?
There are many different things. When I was a child. It was very difficult, to go to school, no taxis , usually walked to school. Now there is much more transportation, bus, microbus, and students go to school very easily . But when I was a child, students studied in secondary school, students studied very well. Now they can’t study well. Less good behavior in my opinion.
When you were a teenager, what did you do for fun?
In summer we would go to a ger camp, out in the countryside. That was fun for me. We played sports games like volleyball and jump rope. Now students can spend their free time in many different ways. We didn’t have many options for fun.
How did you decide what you wanted to study?
When I was in secondary school, I really liked and wanted to be a Mongolian language teacher, because I was good at Mongolian lessons. SO I thought I wanted to be a Mongolian language teacher. When I graduated from secondary school I couldn’t enter a university for that subject. So after graduating high school I entered a training for Mongolian script teaching and typing. Then I went to Erdenet [the third largest city in Mongolia ] where I was an elementary school teacher. After that I entered Orkhon Universty as an English teacher and to become a teacher was my dream. My dream did come true, but a little different from what I thought.
How did you meet your spouse? How did you meet him ?
My husband lived very near me in Uliastai, and when met him and he saw me , he would visit very often hoping to get introduced. That is how we originally met.
When did you get married? How old were you? Where did you get married? What was your wedding like?
I got married in 2003. I was born in 1974, so I was 29 when I got married. I got married in Uliastai. It was a traditional Mongolian wedding, in a small house.
How many children do you have? When were they born? How did you decide what to name each?
I have three children, two daughters and one boy. I asked a lama , a buddhist monk what to name my children.
Do you have any hobbies or special interests? Do you enjoy any particular sports?
My hobbies… I have no special hobbies, but I have interests in learning how to cook different types of food. I enjoy volleyball and also tennis or pingpong.
What’s your typical day like now?
In the morning I prepare breakfast for my family members… sometimes I take my son to the kindergarten, sometimes my husband does this.. Then I go to my work… then in the afternoon I work at some documents at school . In the evening I cook dinner , watch TV , help my daughters do their homework… many things!
What is your favorite part of Mongolia?
Of course the countryside. I really like it. Living in the countryside is very peaceful and there is fresh air, its not crowded.
What are some things you would want Americans to know about Mongolia?
I would want Americans to learn about Mongolian traditions… like holidays and some old traditions. They are very important to many Mongolians.
If you were given $1,000,000, what would you do?
I would spend this money to travel abroad, and improve my language skill.
What is your dream? If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?
I believe in an ECO friendly world. I always tell my students to be clean, not throw litter out on the street, so I believe in many things about keeping our environment clean and having a green world.
I’m curious, in your work you have worked with many volunteers. Do you like work with PCVs?
Yes I really like, its very important for me. I can’t imagine my work without a Peace Corps volunteer. Because teaching English is very difficult especially grammar. When I work with PCV volunteers, they always help with teaching skills, not only my students but also my language skill. When they return home I really miss them! ( Awww thanks Doggi 🙂 )
What’s your favorite Mongolian tradition/food/item/concept that every child should experience?
I think , especially for every child that grows up in the city, they don’t know about the Mongolian countryside, and how they live. They don’t know the traditional Mongolian names for baby animals and how to herd animals. Children should know about the countryside life and herdsman life. Children who live in the city should learn about children who live in the countryside and what they can do. Children who grow up in the country side are very hard working, strong and healthy, and know their culture very well. All children should experience this.
What’s one thing that’s difficult for Mongolians right now?
There are economic problems, things are expensive and teachers and doctors salaries are very low. That is difficult.
Where is one place you’d like to see?
I would like to see many places… this is hard but I would like to see Washington DC
What are you opinions on dogs? There is a popular book in America called “The Art of Racing in the Rain” which says that Mongolians believe that dogs will become humans in the next life… is this true? What do you think ?
Ahhhhh there is a Mongolian tradition where if my family has a dog and the dog dies, we will cut off its tail and it means that we hope that it will be a human in the next life. Mongolians really love their family dogs, cause we do believe that they are honest peoples friends, and are also very intelligent.
But Dogii, most Mongolians seem very scared of dogs …
Oh yes, some dogs are very strange. Because they need to protect their yard and family, they are very aggressive towards strangers, which means many Mongolians are very scared of dogs.
Thanks Dogii, those are all my questions!
Oh tiim yy? [Mongolian for : oh really ???] That was easy !
[A note on transcribing : Dogii’s English is good, but I did fix some grammar points she made while she was speaking, while still I trying to keep it in her ‘voice’ .]
I hope you enjoyed this! Let me know if you have any questions you would like to have asked in future interviews !
Till next time – V.