So here we are again; back in Darkhan for our “Final Center Days,” before all the volunteers are swept off and sprinkled across Mongolia to our sites. The big unveiling of our site placement took place today at 4 and the anticipation was built up heavily. We took a mini field trip and walked over to the local Children’s Park, where there is a giant map of Mongolia painted on the ground with all of the 21 aimags (provinces). One by one they called us up and announced our placement and we walked over and stood on the map and waited for them to reveal our other site mates. Anth and I were placed in the Govi-Altai aimag center in the southwest region of Mongolia. I will be working for a government agency and Anthony will be working for a youth development center. We are both really excited to get there, but its pretty far out. We have to take a plane to get there, or a 60 hour bus ride, so flying it is. The rest of the week will get us acquainted with our new work supervisors and we will get yet more training on how to integrate into our agency and become a successful volunteer.
Javkhlant & the LPI
Leaving Javkhlant was harder than I imagined. We’ve been kept really busy this summer, so it really flew by, especially towards the end. Last Thursday we had our language proficiency interview (LPI), which was nerve racking to prepare for. We are required to be at the “Novice High” ranking, so the test consisted of a one-on-one interview for 30 minutes with a native Mongolian speaker. They audio recorded each of us and today we got our results and I ranked Novice High. Not that it means much, but I’m glad that its over and I’m where I need to be. I spent a lot of time with my business site mates and I’m really going to miss them along with my host family. Before I left I presented my host family with a parting gift, which consisted of about 10 pictures I had printed out over the summer with all of us, in a photo album I bought for them. They immediately took 2 pictures out and put them in frames so that was really awesome! They were really sweet and got me two matching Mongolian dolls, or as they referred to them, "Brittany & Anthony" dolls. They went all out and made a bunch of food. They even got me a cake, made sushi, and attempted American style pizza. Ketchup was used as the sauce and they topped it with pickles..... its official, they now get all my love FOREVER!! They also got me a dream catcher type thing with a really pretty picture of 4 animals on it that respresent my 4 Mongolian sibling's animals on the lunar calendar. Don't know if that is a coincidence or not, but I thought it was pretty cool.
A few weekends ago, we all celebrated Host Family Appreciation Day. It was amazing and very eventful and one I won’t soon be forgetting. To celebrate we each got to bring one family member for an overnight camping trip to a nearby monastery. Now I may be playing it fast and loose with the word “nearby;” it was a very uncomfortable 3 ½ hour trip each way in a meeker with all 18 of us, all of our bags, sleeping bags, tents, and food for 2 days, but we made it. The monastery was amazing and one of the largest and most important in Mongolia. After touring it we set up camp near a river/stream and some mountains with incredible views. Our teachers got to come with us and one of them brought her two adorable daughters, who are 5 & 11, and we became fast friends. Five of us business volunteers brought our teenage sisters, and they all got along great. I brought along my sister Zaya, who spends a lot of her time cooking my meals and cleaning the house, so I was happy to let her have a break from that and visit the monastery, which she had never been to before. They taught us some Mongolian games and we taught them how to throw a football and play catch. We cooked dinner and continued to play as the sun went down. We had a bonfire and played music and talked and sang and joked with each other. It was a great bonding experience with our families and teachers, and also my site mates. To me it was perfect. My teacher Baigalaa gave me the nicest compliment I think I’ve ever gotten. She is my age and always really happy and positive. She said she had been watching me all day and she thought that I was funny. She said that I “give smile gifts to everyone,” and that made my heart melt. As night grew nearer, our sisters said they all wanted to sleep in the same tent, and asked me if I would kick Marty out of his tent so we could overtake it. He agreed and 4 of our sisters and I piled into one tent. We goofed off and acted silly and they talked about boys. Just as we were starting to fall asleep, it started to rain lightly. A few hours later as the rain picked up, our driver came and knocked on everyone’s tents that we should all go inside the meeker and it was dangerous and the river could flood. After about a ½ hour of figuring out what we should do, myself and the other volunteers refused to sleep in a meeker with 18 people, so we restructured ourselves into the dry tents, and the Mongolians slept in the meeker at their insistence.
This is us and all of my sitemates at the monastery with our one family member we got to bring with us.
We will be staying in Darkhan until Friday, then off to UB until we can get a flight out to our site. Mongolian address to follow soon =)