Saturday, April 3, 2010

My Recent Trip to UB

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

by Kara

At the end of March Peace Corps paid for me to take a visit into the coldest capital city on earth, Ulaanbaatar. Here’s a quick summary of how it went!

I went in for a five-day training on how to implement a life skills book (developed by PC Mongolia) that’s about HIV/AIDS and STIs in a summer camp setting. In short, we have really great resources but actually putting them to work is difficult. This training allowed us to spend a week with a counterpart (aka co-worker) learning about life skills lessons, interactive facilitation methods (i.e. not lecturing at kids, which is very common here), and more about HIV/AIDS/STIs. I brought a counterpart who just started at my organization in February so I was a little unsure of how things would go, but it turned out really well. He’s our Child Development and Participation Specialist and he’ll be spending all summer at camp with kids. He’s 24 years old and has a lot of enthusiasm and energy, which kids love.

While the majority of the time at this training was really focused on work, it was simply nice to spend time with other PCVs. It’s really comforting to talk to one another about the ups and downs of work and life here in Mongolia. Plus, we watched over ten episodes of Glee together. Oh, and I went sledding on this awesome hill. Note, plastic bags work just as well as sleds. And the last night of the training the Mongolians organized a party involving dancing, games, and performances. The PCVs, myself included, performed a mash-up of Baby Got Back, Don’t Stop Believin’, and Dancing Queen. My counterpart was pretty much the MC of the event. The Mongolians sang some songs for us too, which included my counterpart doing the traditional throat-singing, which is pretty cool (it’s not easy). The Mongolians also orgaized what I consider awkward games (i.e. people having to act out animal mating rituals) but since I was only an observer (my PCV friends had to participate, not me), it was fine by me.

This is also how I spent a lot of my time during our training - eating! Our training was held at a hotel and they cooked pretty good meals for us the entire time. And between every meal was a tea break and a snack. Essentially, I ate every two hours for a week. And didn't have to do any dishes!

That's my counterpart, Awarzed, on the left, hard at work during a training session.

Yep, that's us, singing and dancing to our rendition (mash-up) of Baby Got Back, Don't Stop Believin', and Dancing Queen. Needless to say, I'm pretty sure our counterparts loved our performance.

Another photo from the dance party - my counterpart Awarzed dancing with my friend's counterpart.

I also spent a few days in UB before and after the training going to a couple of meetings and hanging out with friends. As always, when in UB I spend a bunch of money and eat delicious food. Oh, and I got to see Avatar in a real theater! It was awesome! Seriously, this movie theater is as nice as any I've seen in the U.S. and I really didn't know much about Avatar before going in, and I left thoroughly impressed. 

My last full day in UB I went to Narantuul, the huge black market in UB, with some friends. Unfortunately, as were leaving the market, my friend got pick-pocketed. However, we managed to chase the guy down and actually get the wallet back. The money was gone, but she was happy to have her wallet. Later that night we went to a hot pot restaurant (delicious!) and had a wonderful, relaxing dinner and enjoyed a bottle of wine and good conversation. Unfortunately, that evening ended with my same friend getting pick-pocked again – twice in one day – at the restaurant. The restaurant owner apologized and didn’t make us pay for our dinner he felt so bad. Also, PC is helping her out with some of the money she had stolen. Still, it made us all ready to return to our more comfortable small towns. Unfortunately, we’ve heard of numerous pick-pocketing instances in UB lately. I’m not sure what to make of it. Perhaps it’s because tourist season is approaching or because some people are getting more desperate because of the poor economic situation in this country (because of the horrible winter we’ve had). Or maybe we’ve just been here long enough to let our guards down. The good thing is that for the most part, most of these incidences don’t involve violence.

My friends Megan (left), Aleta (right), and I at dinner.

Anyway, that’s the short summary of my recent trip to UB! I hope I didn’t make UB sound too awful. It’s a pretty interesting city and I like a lot about it.


Anonymous said...

Hello! I'm a PCV in Ukraine and I would love to chat to Mark to share some Community Development experiences and discuss some (if any) environmental projects. Can you e-mail me at! Cheers!

Herrien said...

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