Thursday, October 21, 2010

Alcohol Awareness Week

Some of the planning committee with the Alcohol Awareness Week sign

by Kara

One of the coolest things I've been a part of in Mongolia...

Last week was Alcohol Awareness Week in Mongolia. This is an initiative that was started by Peace Corps Volunteers this year. It was started to raise awareness about the effects and consequences that alcohol use has on people's lives and on their community as a whole. Mongolia is fortunate to have almost no problems with drugs other than tobacco and alcohol; "hard" drugs are virtually non-existent. However, alcohol abuse is rampant here. We just wanted to take a week to get people thinking about the role alcohol plays in their life, in their family, and in their community.

PCVs in towns across the country planned events. In our town my sitemate Sarah led the effort, but all of the volunteers were involved. My counterparts (coworkers) got especially involved which was really awesome. Altogether the week was planned by PCVs, Government officials, the Police Department, the Children’s Center, and the Health Department. The week’s activities included (but were not limited to) a poster and essay contest for children, lessons about alcohol use from the Health Department at all of the schools, and a survey about alcohol for students (my counterparts and I did that!). To publicize the week’s events the planning committee was interviewed by the local TV station!

The most exciting part of the week was the rally on Friday. This video that Mark made explains it best:

One of the posters that was entered into the poster contest. It's even 3D!

Click on this to see a bigger version - it shows ALL the students who attended the rally!

A class with the poster they made. They even made matching badges for the event. (The little yellow circles on their shirts.)

Bonus points were awarded for Japanimation style posters. (Not really)

The parade!

More signs

"Архи" (the word on the sign) means alcohol

For Your Information: Statistics About Alcohol Use in Mongolia*

  • There is one store selling alcohol for every 273 people in Mongolia.
  • 22% scored positive on AUDIT (8% F; 39% M) meaning they drink at a hazardous level.
  • 13.6% are alcohol dependent (5% F; 22% M) based on the Composite Informational Diagnostic Interview (CIDI).
  • 7.7% of males age 15-19 drink more than 60 grams of alcohol a day
  • 18.6% have been in serious fights with injuries due to alcohol
  • 15% have been arrested due to alcohol
  • 20% regularly spend money on alcohol that they need for food and other essentials
  • 10% have significant marital problems due to alcohol consumption
  • The average male spends more than 32,000 tugrugs a month on alcohol (that's about 30% of a minimum wage salary or 16% of my salary which I think is an average salary)
  • 18.6% will be admitted to the hospital due to alcohol or alcohol related injuries.
Drinkers are:
  • Twice as likely to have depression
  • Twice as likely to have excessive stress
  • Three times as likely to have a heart attack
  • Four times as likely to have a serious head injury
  • Five times as likely to have cirrhosis of the liver
*All statistics were taken from the Epidemiological Study on the Prevalence of Alcohol Consumption, Alcohol Drinking Patterns, and Alcohol Related Harms in Mongolia published by the Mongolian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization, 2006.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Circus

by Mark

Last weekend the circus came through town.  Our first thought (well my first thought anyway!) was "Are there going to be animals?!"  No.  However, there were acrobats, jugglers, clowns, a contortionist, and all manner of "circus-like" music.

We managed to get front-row seating due to our Mongolian friend Ochgo telling the front door man that we were foreigners and we needed to get in early to get good seats!  We love her.  And we were happy to use our "foreigner" status this time.  It wasn't long before there were another 75 kids crowding around us to watch.

Not only did we feel like we were mere meters from the acrobatics, myself and our sitemate Tim actually did get involved.  Tim was asked to participate twice.  Once to assist in swinging the large jump rope, and another time he was in charge of clashing a large cymbal to the floor as part of a random collection of sounds performed by people in the crowd.  This was also the "event" I took part in (oh there are pictures below!).  My role was to hold an old abacus (yes, the ancient calculator using beads) above my head and shake it, and my butt, as fast as I could.

Overall the evening was entertaining.  Enjoy the pics!

There are 7 guys involved, 2 ropes, 5 jumpers!

Click on the pic to enlarge it, that is 1 larger guy with two guys on his shoulders and one wrapped around his waist - and he's still managing to jumprope!!

Uh yes, 3 guys jumping simultaneously to jumprope!

Does anyone else think it looks like her head is coming up through the table? 

She is balancing on a pole with a bite rag - yes, just her teeth are touching anything!

Tim attempting to show the clowns that he knows how to swing a jumprope properly.

Me shakin' my "abacus" - oh and you can see Tim in the corner waiting to slam his cymbal into the floor!

Check out the high-flyin' antics of this crew...and note the outfits and hair-do's...these guys were serious!  Oh and there definitely weren't any safety nets or harnesses.  Like I said...serious.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Trade Fair Photos

If you'd like to see photos (loaded on to Facebook) of the 2010 Arkhangai Partnership Trade Fair, click here.  The final tally for the 3 day event was 212 businesses, totaling 228 million tugriks in sales (roughly $175,000).  It was quite a successful event!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Distributing Wheelchairs

by Mark

Though I wasn't there for this particular event, I felt it was an important task that my co-workers were involved with and I was quite proud to hear of the results.  An organization from California that focuses on distributing wheelchairs to disabled persons around the world, partnered with their counterpart organization here in Mongolia.  Together, last month, they visited Arkhangai and Zavkhan aimags, giving out 89 wheelchairs to individuals aged 3-88.  My Mercy Corps office staff (those involved in the FIELD project that works with disabled person's organizations in the community) was tasked with organizing the events where these were given out.  Enjoy the pics...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

We moved!

by Kara

The woman who owned the apartment we were living in, who also happens to be Mark's coworker/translator, decided she wanted to sell the apartment -- a long time ago. After months of knowing we might have to move she found a buyer -- Mark's other coworker! However, first, our coworkers had to find us a new apartment. This process turned out to be, well, quite a process. First, the people who bought the apartment wanted to move in on Saturday, September 25 (which was only a few days after they officially bought the apartment) because it is a good day in Mongolia. It being a "good day" means it's lucky for things like hair-cutting ceremonies (see last post), weddings, and moving. It's not that if you move on a bad day people think they're likely to have the truck break down on that very day, but maybe if something bad happens in general, following the event, the fact that you moved on a bad day could be blamed. Anyway, they wanted to move that day but alas, we had nowhere to live. Sorry new homeowners.

Actually, it appeared they found us an apt pretty quickly. I got my hopes up about this new place because it had a fridge. (And a full-size oven AND a hot shower! -- hello Posh Corps!) But then when the owner found out we couldn't sign a 12-month lease she pulled out and the search continued. We thought we had another - alas, it fell through. Another two were visited. They wouldn't work. Finally, we found one! And to sweeten the deal the owner said she'd leave the fridge there. I let my hopes get up again for this promised fridge.

When moving day came along the whole deal almost fell through again but somehow, Mark's coworkers managed to keep it all together. Unfortunately, the owner decided at the last minute to take her fridge with her. I'm over it now, but I was pretty sad for about 10 minutes.

Moving itself went surprisingly smooth! We had seven of my coworkers and one of our sitemates there to help. But Mark and I were amazed at how much stuff we've collected over the past year. A major part of it is due to the fact that we're currently holding all of the things passed down from volunteer to volunteer, so we have tons of books and DVDs. Plus, if there's ever a natural disaster, we have to be the keepers of extra blankets, a kerosene stove, flashlights, candles, etc. Plus, we hoard food like you wouldn't believe. (If you see something you want here in town you buy all of it immediately, as it may never appear again.) Seriously though, I can't believe how much stuff we have.

Despite all of this, we loaded up my coworker's truck with all our belongings and furniture in 45 minutes and - get ready to be impressed - we unloaded it into our new 3rd floor apartment in 23 minutes flat.

We unpacked it all into our new, small apartment over the weekend and we're pretty much settled in now. Our new apartment is kind of similar to our old one but with a few differences. This one is only a one-room apt, with a separate kitchen and bathroom. Actually, there's a little toilet room and a separate shower room. The shower is way nicer than our older one (we're sooooo happy to have a hot shower again) except that we realized it leaks if you're not careful. Our second day in our new apartment included being yelled at (I'm not exaggerating) by the neighbor who lives below us because it leaked into her apartment. Fun. Anyway, our new apartment also has a bigger kitchen and appears to be warmer than our previous apt, which is going to be awesome in the winter. Overall, it's going to work just fine for the next 10 months or so. (Though I'm still terrified to take a shower and face the wrath of the scary neighbor again.)

The mess of stuff ready to be moved out in our old apartment.
All of our worldly possessions in this country precariously perched  on my coworker's truck.