Friday, April 22, 2011

Paper Airplanes

by Kara

Over the past two years I have been pen pals with a 5th grade class in Woodinville, Wa. They write me letters by hand and send them here and I email them pictures and replies via email. It's been a really fun experience and their questions are awesome - everything from "have you ever been bitten by a yak?" to "do they have Coco Chanel in Mongolia?" They also love asking questions about Mishka (our cat). I think they may want to meet her more than me.

In the last batch of letters they sent me some instructions for a paper airplane experiment. They conducted this experiment and wanted me to do the same so we could compare the results. The experiment basically entails making three sets of airplanes and seeing which type hits the target the most. The first one is a regular paper airplane, the second is the same design but with a staple on it, and the third has some extra flaps cut into the back of it.

I conducted this experiment this week with two sets of my Zumba kids. They may have been somewhat confused at first about why I was having them make paper airplanes instead of doing our regular Zumba fitness videos, but they loved it. Check out this I put together to meet some of the kiddos and see the fun!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Our View

Yesterday I spent the afternoon sitting on our balcony, soaking up the sun, reading, and I have to say, it was delightful. Ever wondered what the view is like from our balcony? Wonder no more. It's of this huge apartment building across from us - beautiful isn't it? (Click on the picture to see a larger version)

Thursday, April 7, 2011


by Kara

It's officially spring! Spring here means extreme temperature changes, wind, snow, and sun (no rain as of yet). Many Mongolians say they hate it. It tends to be when the most animals die, already weakened from the long winter. Though the rapid, extreme weather changes can be difficult to cope with, I'm just happy for the occasional warm days, seeing as how I don't have to worry about my animal dying. I've also noticed that March-May are busy work months. Once summer hits in June my work shuts down and we spend all our time at summer camp. We've got a Peace Corps Closing of Service Conference at the end of this month in the capital and then I will be helping with training the new volunteers in late May (preparing for training) and early June (actually doing the training). This doesn't leave me with a ton of time left at site! As of today I have 26 more days actually working in my office. Crazy. But I'll have more time with my coworkers at summer camp in late June and July. Mark and I haven't figured out when we're actually coming home, but probably late July or early to mid August.

Anyway, here are some pictures showing what I've been up to with work lately.


These are the same kids Tim (our sitemate) and I have been meeting with since the Fall. Our indoor karate class is now an outdoor soccer club!

In the background is the school that our friend Sarah, fellow PCV, teaches at.

English Competitions!

English Pyramid: this is a contest us PCVs organized. Students had to study three topics that we chose and wrote about: the Aztecs, the California Gold Rush, and the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. Tough! Hearing the kids say things like "Tenochtitlan" (which I assured them I couldn't pronounce any better than them) was adorable.
Our sitemates, the judges: Sarah, Tim, and Kaede

Sarah standing proudly next to the English Olympics winners from her school - Naraa, the teacher, took 2nd in the teacher's division, and the girl student took 1st in 9th grade and the boy student took 2nd in 11th grade.

School Cooks and School Doctors Training

One component of this training was providing the cooks with the opportunity to practice cooking new, healthy foods. We supplied them with LOTS of veggies.

One of the many dishes they prepared - meat, onions, peppers, etc. They didn't really know what to do with the broccoli ("flower cabbage" as it's called here) so it was mostly used as garnish, same with the lettuce. We gave them some ideas for how to prepare these the following day.

Chicken, carrot salad, and cabbage salad
A very interesting creation... this is a display of a nearby soum. The big chunk of liver standing up is a huge rock, the hard-boiled eggs are gers, and the river is made of mashed potatoes and kiwi!

Human Trafficking Awareness Training

My counterpart Orkhoo and I did a couple of trainings with high school and college students teaching them about the dangers of human trafficking.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Tourism Trade Fair - Ulaanbaatar

by Mark

This past weekend I, along with 3 of my counterparts, traveled to the capital to attend the 2011 Tourism Trade Fair.  For those that may not know it, my focus in Mongolia has largely been on developing the tourism industry within Arkhangai aimag.  I spent early 2010 training trainers to go out into the surrounding towns and lead sessions on sustainable tourism.  I then spent the summer collecting information (surveys, pictures, bios) on a majority of the ger camps, guesthouses, and other companies involved in the industry in our aimag.  This information was then loaded on to a brand new website for our aimag that my friend and I developed -

Companies could join the site for a small annual fee, and overall we managed to sign close to 20 companies.  As of writing this, we're only about a hundred dollars short of covering the entire cost of the project - and we expect to start making a profit on it as early as next month.  I'm really hoping this project continues in subsequent years, as it will bring a nice additional income to one of the companies I work with.

Having launched that site in January of this year, we decided it would be to our benefit to promote the service that it offers to companies that are in the industry throughout the country.  I developed a poster in English, and brochures (both in Mongolian and English) to be given out during the two day event.

My translator, Jackie, and I spent the weekend walking around UB visiting guesthouses - talking to them about the site and asking if they would hang a poster in their place in return for us adding their contact information to the website (so tourists have an option for lodging in the capital!).  Occasionally we'd travel back to the trade show to check on our other counterparts to see how the brochure-handing-out-action was going.

Overall, we managed to sign four new Arkhangai companies to the website who weren't previously involved.  They were impressed with how much of an effort we were putting into advertising the site, and wanted to take part.  I also managed to get asked by about three different company managers to take a look at their websites and help them re-do them.  We considered the trip a success, and I really felt that Mongolia did a magnificent job of advertising their tourism industry.  I was impressed with the materials, the booths, and the overall creativity/showmanship the companies presented at the trade fair.

The work in the capital was good - but I won't really get into a full blown story on the travel to and from Ulaanbaatar.  Let's just say it involved 19 hours in a bus and/or mikr, being puked on, being inches away from a 3-man brawl mid-travel, and getting back to my apartment at 4:30am.  But hey, these are all gonna be great memories...and I choose to look at the potential future benefit this trip has brought to my staff and the tourism industry in Arkhangai instead.  I'll deem it all a success.  Enjoy the photos below...

This was our booth we shared with two other companies that are on the travel website.    My staff includes everyone but the two women on the right.

There were performances on the main stage throughout the two day event, but with the massive LED screen behind the stage it was nearly impossible to take any good pictures as it just washed out everything in front of it.

A snapshot of some of the business booths down one of the walkways.  I was really impressed with the professional advertising materials and displays that most of the places had.

Some animals out front of the expo hall.  You could ride a yak if you wanted to.  I chose not to.

A restaurant chain in UB called "Broadway" had bought out a whole corner of the expo and had food and drinks for sale as well as many different people in costume.  They brought in fake chandeliers, marble columns, glass tables, etc.  It was a magnificent display.

On our way out we took a photo with some of the warriors that wandered around the expo throughout the weekend.  These guys were intense looking, but were really friendly and easy to chat with.