Finishing up In-Country Training
on Alienor in the Land of Blue Skies (Mongolia), 29/Sep/2010 03:53, 34 days ago
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Sadly it has been five weeks since I last posted on here due to the fact that my computer decided to crash... Thankfully I have managed to to stay relatively 'sane' considering our lives revolve around our laptops, and am thankful to be able to start posting again.Our In-country training ended on the 10th of September and was full of more interesting events...Employers WorkshopWorking in a new cultural environment is far from easy, and the Employers Workshop couldn't have made that any more clear. But despite the challenges that this entails, the rewards can make it all the more worth it. Throughout the workshop we got to meet our employers and interpreters, going through various presentations and activities for both sides to prepare for the difficulties that are bound to arise.One activity required us to split into teams with at least one VSO from the West, at least one from South East Asia, and two Mongolians including an interpreter and a counterpart. We then had to write down on post-it notes what we expect from the volunteer/vso/interpreter/partner. How simple could that be? But no, the cultural context changes everything. We were told in the initial lecture that Mongolians like to 'beat around the bush' whereas Westerners like to, often too abruptly, get to the point when it comes to work. It seems understandable, seeing as we have become so impatient and used to obtaining things or completing tasks so quickly, that Mongolians are more polite in their professional approach. However, when it came to the task, we realised that we were writing single words on each post-it i.e. we expect patience and tolerance but the Mongolian counterpart wrote an ENTIRE essay over several post-its! When we asked for a translation of what she was writing (at this point running out of post-its), the interpreter summarised said essay as meaning - we expect patience and tolerance...Graduating at language schoolThe final week of training also meant going back to language school to finish up the 'survival' Mongolian language course. We had a lovely graduation ceremony where we were presented with a certificate by the director of the school, and a giant bar of Cadbury's chocolate.We then managed to get a couple days extra classes to make up for what we had missed, and ended up witnesing the 'back to school' ceremony. We didn't really understand what was going on until we saw the Director's assistant climbing out of our class window. Obviously we were completely engrossed in this more thanMongolian grammar, and realising that he was setting up a banner outside, ran out to join in the fun.It was rather incredible to watch as bouquets of flowers were handed to the smartly dressed teachers neatly lined up in front of the school after they put their hands on their hearts to sing the national anthem. A Mongolian student sang Norah Jones while another chose a Mongolian song. And then we joined in the party to enjoy some hot mutton khushoor, 3 in 1 coffee and gherkin-filled toasted sandwiches. It was memorable...Networking Event at StringsTo celebrate the end of our training we had a 'networking event' so that VSOs could meet people working for other agencies and make some new friends. There were volunteers from Australia, Japan, Korea and Germany, but also expatriates and some brave people who are just doing there own thing.Strings is a club out West of UB, and has its own in-house Filipino rock band which sing covers of popular songs form Lady Gaga and Shakira amongst other popular artists... We had a lovely buffet dinner and danced the night away. It was all well-behaved until some of the vols had their first vodka experience (which so far have sneakily managed to avoid).Brunch = Barbecue = Karaoke = ClubSunday was supposed to be a lazy day with just brunch, but of course brunch later turned into a barbecue at Dave's Place (the English pub), which later turned into Karaoke, and later turned into more dancing to Lady Gaga at a club called River Sounds... The Mongolians absolutely love karaoke! It was really fun to enjoy singing some classic songs which of course included Abba as well as a marvelous duet with Filipino volunteer Franz to 'My Endless love'...