on Sarah in Mongolia (Mongolia), 30/Jun/2010 02:45, 34 days ago
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I have had a busy week or two here in Mongolia! In the past 2 weeks I have helped my colleagues write two proposals, done some work for the National Aids Foundation and organised and helped facilitate marketing training.In the last two days I have organised a discussion and debate between students at Methodist College Belfast (my old school) and my debaters at MEA. The discussion covered topics like traditional clothing, what music they listen to, what team they support in the world cup and what is their school day like. It was a fantastic opportunity for my students to learn about Northern Ireland. In the debate the topic was countries should ban the import of goods produced by child labour. It was great for my students to see experienced debaters in action and to practice debating against native English speakers. Apparently the Northern Irish kids really enjoyed it as well, which is a relief! I did this as part of my Global Action project which I have to do as a VSO Youth for Development volunteer.We also had our work picnic at the weekend. It was an interesting experience to say the least. It all started out fine, with a Mongolian barbecue (Khorkhog) which was very tasty. But from the moment we arrived until the moment we left everyone was drinking heavily. I found it to be a very unpleasant atmosphere, as when I refused to have any more alcohol it was not accepted by my colleagues and they tried to force me to drink more. It seemed a real waste of resources - MEA paid for the alcohol, and there was no point to the event other than to drink. There were no activities, no walking, nothing. We camped overnight and had breakfast the next morning and the drinking just continued. Alcohol abuse is a real issue in Mongolia and the culture of heavy drinking just aids this. It was a real shame that what could have been a great outdoor event was wasted.However it didn't ruin my weekend. On Saturday I got the bus up to Darkhan where some of the other volunteers are based. Drakhan is the second city of Mongolia, but is isn't really much bigger than a large town. It is in the middle of the countryside about 4 hours north of UB with the road passing through some beautiful scenery. Darkhan has much more greenery and open space than UB has and it was lovely to get some more fresh air. The Darkhan volunteers took good care of me, introducing me to the range of Koika, Peace Corps and other ex pats living there and giving me a great tour of the place. Darkhan has some interesting sights including the standard Ovoo's etc, but also they have the only suspension bridge in Mongolia, a Buddha statue and a childrens park. The childrens park is pretty amazing, it is huge and has a number of play parks, carnival rides and even singing animals along the footpath. Of course there were no kids there when I went but I could imagine it is great for kids. It was really nice to get to spend some time in another new place, and to see the countryside vols.I am currently preparing for my big summer trip! I get 6 weeks of holidays now because MEA closes for the summer. I have lots of exciting plans including visiting Chinggis Khan's birthplace (and the local spa!), visiting Khuvsgul again (this time in summer), visiting the reindeer herders, experiencing naadam in the countryside, visiting my colleagues family in the countryside and hopefully visiting the Gobi desert! I hope to come back with lots of stories, pictures and not too many insect bites!