Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hey so I've finally gotten the mailing address so here it is for you all.

Mercy Corps branch office of Sukhbaatar
Baruun-Urt, Sukhbaatar aimag
Mongolia (via China)

Мерси Кор-ын Сүхбаатар аймаг дах төлөөлөгчийн газар
Сүхбаатар аймаг, Баруун-Урт сум
Монгол улс

I'd put both the english and mongolian addresses on there, the farther you get from the capital the fewer people will understand the english and I'm pretty far out here

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hey all,
So the big news is that I now have a job and place to live for the next two years. I will be living in the Suhkbaatar aimag center of Baruun Urt. It's one of the eastern aimags so I will truely be living on the steppe. The city is 550km east of UB about 350 km of the road is paved and the remaining part is an "improved dirt road" they tell us it's an 8-10 hour ride by bus. Suhkbaatar is traditionally known for its silver work. The best jewelry etc all comes from this region. I'm told that the terrain is pretty flat with some rolling hills getting more deserty the farther south you go toward the Gobi and more forestly the father north you go. I'll be living in an 3rd floor one bedroom appartment that has running water and electiricity. There is one other M-20 (an english teacher) that will be moving out there with me and there are 3 other M-19s that are already out there, two other teachers and a health volunteer. Of course the only other Alex in Peace Corps Monglia will be in the same town with me :-p

I'll be working for the Mercy Corps office in Baruun Urt. Mercy Corps is an international non-profit development agency that does agro-business development, specifically working with herders here in Mongolia to develop sustainable herding practices and improve dairy production methods (so i might become an expert on milking yaks) . During training we met the MC country director, a British expat who was very capable and runs a great organiziation, so i'm looking forward to working with the organiziation. As far as i can tell i'll be working with small business development, the "specifics" on the info i have now are kind of vague, the plan for the first couple weeks is to come up with a work plan that everyone is happy with. Tomorrow we are meeting our supervisors before leaving for Suhkbaatar later in the week.

As for an update on how training went, it ended very well. I passed my language test with the Novice High rating required by PC. Our CED symposium project was a success. We have about 25 people come to our training seminar. Each of us talked about a different topic (marketing, branding, networking, accounting etc) and we worked in conjunction with a couple of the local development NGO's in town. They each talked a little about thier agency and we had a lady who successfully set up a bread making business talk about how she does the things that we talked about in our sessions as a way to show that people actually do keep accounting records and it does actually work and the audience seemed to like it.

That's about it so far, I'll post more in the coming weeks after I've settled in

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I've finally found some time to sit down and actually write an entry for this thing. Life on the whole is pretty good. Amazingly they are telling us that we are about half way done with PST. I guess that means that I need to be updating this more often, the good thing is is that we just got an internet connection at the house so it will make that a lot easier. Anyway here are lots of details on my life, im sure i'll have missed things so feel free to comment and i'll fill in the details

My host family has been really good so far. My host mother does legal work at the government building, my host father is an art professor at the college here and specializes in ceramics and pottery and from the two TV interviews/showcases we have seen he seems to be pretty well known for it. I have 3 host siblings, a brother and two sisters. The brother is 20 and works at the TV station as a graphics designer guy. The older sister is 18 and is home from the University of Education in UB and the little sister is 12 and is a typical 12 year old girl. We live in a smallish 2 bedroom apartment. I have my own room with bed, table and a small wardrobe. The only down side to the apartment is there is now hot running water. There is cold running water, but that doesn't make washing anything very pleasant. The result is washing yourself and your clothes in a tumpon (round plastic tub about 2 feet in diameter and 8in deep, mine is green). It works well enough; the only hard part is not splashing water everywhere in the process. I generally do my hair a couple times a week or so and then throw in a trip to the bathhouse for a hot shower occasionally. Tumpons are also used for washing clothing by hand, I've done it twice and I'm not a fan. It's not difficult it's just a long involved process that takes lots of time. The result is that it is amazing how many days you can wear a shirt before it actually starts to smell and you actually need to wash it.

The food has been decent as expected. There are really only so many things you can do with meat and noodles. It isn’t bad by any means it’s just repetitive. We do make our own noodles though. There are a couple really good dishes. Khuushuur is a kind of large fried ravioli with minced meat, onions, potatoes and such inside. Another is a variation on that idea are Byyz (boats) which are more of a stuffed dumpling which are then steamed. Tsuivan is a kind of noodle dish with meat peppers and potatoes. Everything is eaten with ketchup. The ketchup is here is a little spicy so it helps to add flavor to everything which is the only real issue with the food. But you'll all be glad to know that my host mom is feeding me lots and lots of food, I'm pretty sure I won't need to eat this winter after this summer (So much for this weight we are supposed to lose...).

The Training is going pretty well. We have 4 hour Mongolian sessions every morning and then the afternoon sessions are divided between Sector training (that’s the business development part) and Cross-Cultural training.

The cultural training so far hasn't been all that exciting, a lot of it has been pretty general and not very interesting, though we did visit a ger last week and were taught how to chop wood, build a fire and clean out the stove in the ger. There have been some useful bits of info, but just nothing ground breaking.

The sector training has been really cool. Once we got some of the requisite lectures about the general state of the economy etc out of the way we started visiting different businesses and NGOs to see what they do. A fair number of CED (community economic development) volunteers work at business development NGOs. We did a practicum work day at one of the more well known NGOs Development Solutions and we got to talk with small business owners and discuss their plans and then throw in our thoughts on what they were doing well and what they could improve on or things that they hadn't thought of. The two businesses we talked to were really excited after our discussion and hopefully they'll implement some of our ideas. We started a case study of a sewing shop in town that makes uniforms for construction and security workers etc. We'll be doing a formal evaluation of their business in a couple weeks. So it will be interesting to see what they do with our ideas over the summer.

We are having our site placement interviews this next week so I’ll get to throw in my opinions on what kind of site I’d like to be in. I'm thinking I don't want to be in UB so my other options are the aimeg centers, though not the one I’m in now. They are trying to put more PCVs in gers so there is a greater chance that I'll actually live in one, which I think would have its pluses and minuses. Pluses being that you are living in a ger and have a hashaa family (a hashaa is a fenced family compound and PCVs who live in gers have their own ger within a family’s hashaa) and can get into the community more easily as well as having generally more support versus an apartment where you are kind of on your own. The down side is no running water and those -30 degree mornings in the winter when everything resembling liquids have frozen don't really sound like fun at all (well the first few sound like fun but I’m going to bet that they stop being fun really quick). Generally I'm not really wedded to anything in particular so I'll just see what happens.

That's about all the news for now. I'm sure I'll think of something as soon as I leave the cafe here, so that will have to wait till the next post.


Monday, June 8, 2009

The info so far

For those of you who may not have gotten the latest info on my Peace Corps situation I'm going to Mongolia. The original plan, as some of you will remember, was Morocco but PC called and offered me this project and I accepted. I'll be flying out June 10th for Ulanbaatar. From there we are going to the aimeg of Zyynmod for pre-service training (PST), the first week of orientation we'll be in a dormitory and then move into home stay accommodation for the remainder of the 10 week training. I'll be doing Community Economic Development, specifically Small business advising. What exactly that will be I have no idea. From what I can gather I could be anything.

As of now I'm still in Denver, packing mostly. History has shown that I'm pretty bad at updating things like this, but I will do my best to update regularly. At the very least I will update when there is something interesting to share. I have been told that I will likely be out of touch during training so if you don't hear from me often for those first few months it's not because I don't like you, I'm just without an Internet connection (or I just don't like you :-p).

All for now, will fill in the details as they come in.