So I just realized I've been too busy talking about festivities, day-to-day living, and embarrassing moments, and haven't really touched on what I am doing here work-wise... my apologies. Throughout the summer, me and my fellow business volunteers have spent our afternoons learning about the business culture in Mongolia, and what types of jobs we could potentially be doing over our time of service here. For CEDs specifically, our trainers thought it would be a good idea to show us rather than talk about it, so we've taken a lot of field trips over the past few weeks. Here is a little taste of what we've been up to.
Earlier in the summer, our trainers set us up for an afternoon to visit several micro-businesses in our small town. One of my sitemate's host mother is our town baker, so we visited his house, where she does all of her baking, and got to see what she did on a day to day basis. We also visited a farmer out in the country who grows several different kinds of vegetables, so it was cool to see that up close and personal. Mongolians face a big challenge with their winters being so cold, they really have to make the summers count. A lot of families who rely on agricultural jobs to survive are really hit hard when there is a harsh winter or "zud."
Last week we were lucky enough to spend 2 days in the capital city of UB. It was a long 2 days but totally worth it. Our group all met at our school at 6 am and shoved into the meeker (Russian microbus) and took off on our 3 1/2 hr road trip. Going to UB is a pretty big deal here; over half of Mongolia's population lives there and it is a literally a whole new world. They have restaurants, coffee shops, and shopping isn't too bad either. We started the day off by visiting a meat packing factory. We got a nice tour and got to ask questions about how their business operates, and what challenges they face. We tried out our rusty Mongolian, but we had a translater answer the more difficult questions. Next we were off to Mercy Corps, which is an international NGO who's focus in Mongolia is economic developement for rural businesses, support for traditional herders, support of local organizations, and access to commercial financial services. Afterwards, we visited a business incubator, which is a program that offers developmental support to local entreprenurial businesses. This particular incubator specialized in art. They offered work studios to local artists at reasonable rates, set up exhibitions for them to have their work on display, and helped them to secure loans. It was really cool and interesting to see the different types of Mongolian paintings and sculptures. We visited a few more businesses throughout the two days, and enjoyed all the luxuries and spoils of UB living; HOT running water, toilets, and internet access to name a few. All in all it was a great trip, and we were the envy of all of the other PC sites.
For the past 7 weeks, each of the business volunteers have partnered with an different NGO in Darkhan to volunteer with for a few hours every Thursday, and learn more about the organization and try to add to its capacity in some way. I got partnered with World Vision, which is an international Christian based NGO. They work a lot with youth in the area, sponsoring children and providing them with better education, safety, food, and medical care. My visits there typically include an hour on English tutoring, and assistance with whatever the staff is working on that day. Overall its been a great experience.
On August 15th, Anthony and I will get our site placements, along with a new address for sending letters and packages. Thank you to all who have sent cards and letters so far; it warms my heart reading them and truly makes my day =)