Baking cakes and earthquakes!
on Sarah in Mongolia (Mongolia), 11/Jan/2010 09:44, 34 days ago
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I have hit the 2 months at placement mark and I am finally feeling like I know what is going on and I am able to get things done. A lot of this has probably hinged on me taking lots of initiative because my boss has not been in work this week.One of the big things I did this week was work with one of the other VSO volunteers and organise for them to shoot a program on my organisation. He organises and runs the Voicebox English childrens TV show in Ulaanbaatar and they needed some show ideas and I suggested they come and see our projects. It was really good fun touring the projects with the Voice box guys and it was a crazy day! We started with the financial education for girls program which I hadn't seen before or had much input in. It is a program MEA runs in high schools around Ulaanbaatar that teaches 15-18 year old girls about saving, bank accounts and other money matters. It seems like they really enjoy the program and that it is a skill most Mongolians are lacking.From there we headed to school 29, the only school for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, where we recorded the ECO classroom - an environmental educaton environment which is interactive and tactile. They have plants, animals and a curriculum created specifically for these children. The kids there are great as well and really enjoy having visitors. Of course the saying never work with children or animals really played out here. As we were wrapping up the guinea pig was chewing on the birds perch and somehow managed to release the two parrots! You can imagine the absolute insanity of 3 foreigners who speak no Mongolian/mongolian sign language, 8 children who are deaf and 4 Mongolian teachers running round the corridors chasing two birds! Eventually one of the guys coralled the birds with a scarf and we were able to head out.Our final stop of the day was the Book Ger project, one of my favourite projects we do. The women who runs it is an absolute sweetheart and I have done a lot of work on this project, and I am getting further involved in this project in the next few months. Basically we set up reading rooms in outlying Khoroos (areas of Ulaanbaatar) usually in ger districts, where the kids have no room or place to play or do homework or read. They also have no chance to get to libraries due to the cost of using the library and the cost of travelling to the city. The kids absolutely love these rooms and there must have been around 15 kids there when we arrived.It was a fun day filming with the guys, but it is also always great for me to get out to the projects and meet the kids. They have promised to take me to the countryside to see some more projects and to see the rural schools.I am also working on a load of proposals for different projects and English classes all keeping me occupied. We have been asked to submit a proposal to the US embassy to improve women's leadership and economic opportunities. I am really excited to get to come up with a project on women's rights and leadership as it is something I am passionate about. Fingers crossed we can get the funding and I can be involved in planning and implementing this project as well.Although I may not be getting much law or advocacy work here, I am learning lots about education, human resources, project management and team work so it is definitely a useful thing to be doing.Aside from work our ex-pat pizza partys have started again on Friday nights and we had a leaving party on Saturday night for another volunteer which is always a sad event. It is so cold outside right now (around -40) so I avoided going out at the weekend during the day and just did laundry and worked on my baking. I have now worked out how to make chocolate cake, although I still have to work on the icing. Between altitude, different ingredients and a dodgy oven it is a little bit of luck and a whole lot of determination to work out how to cook things here. I have worked out cake, Irish stew, spag bol and Sunday roast. I am also working on banoffee right now but it is not right just yet!There was great excitement on Saturday however as at about 3pm an earthquake hit Ulaanbaatar! It wasnt reported on any news channels anywhere, but lots of volunteers and Mongolians felt the ground shaking for 2-3 seconds. It was very exciting for my geeky geology brain, but unfortunately I missed it! We have also just received a VSO warning that there is a cyclone expected next week from Siberia, woohoo! what a crazy winter!I have been drafted in to a couple of VSO things including giving fundraising training for VSO volunteers and the child protection committee so that will be interesting and keep me busy. Along with that Amnesty International want me to do some training on debating and communications skills, so that will be very interesting as well.