Experience a heartfelt journey of Nori Kobayakawa, who volunteered at the local University in Mongolia. From acclimating to the cultural landscape, contributing diligently to the educational program, to exploring the vast steppes and traditional Mongolian practices, Nori’s narrative encapsulates the essence of altruistic exploration and the fostering of cross-cultural connections in the heart of Ulaanbaatar. The tale also warmly touches upon the local support received, the striking openness of the Mongolian populace, and the enriching exchanges that transcended beyond the classroom.
1.-How was the local ABV Coordinator and the support provided in-country (airport pickup and drop off, orientation, introduction to work, availability, other)?
The ABV coordinator was fantastic. There was no issues. She was very attentive and took very good care of me while I was in Ulaanbaatar.
2- What was the most positive surprise you experienced?
At the program: The enthusiasm and how I was welcomed by the students and faculty
At the accommodation: It was quite comfortable with little inconveniences.
About the country: The openness of the country and the people were quite friendly.
3- What was most difficult/cultural shock to experience?
At the program:
There was no materials for the classes. I had to put together the daily presentation material, the tests and the homework. The first week had some sleepless nights getting the material together so I could teach the 2 separate 3 hours classes at a college level.
At the accommodation:
The only difficulty was some of the variety of the food. But there were no real issues. When I wanted to eat something a little bit different, I could find it.
I did not find much difficulty. I always go with the flow and adjust as necessary. The biggest challenge was when I participated in a Mongolian wrestling match against the 55 year old monk at the horse branding ceremony.
4- Any tips for future volunteers, give as many details as possible…
The temperature variation can be an issue if you are not prepared. In the morning it could be around 0 degrees C and get up to above 15C in the afternoon.
No tips here. I gave a lot of my time preparing materials for the classes over and above the 6 hours of teaching each day.
Similar comments are above under clothing.
4- Other things volunteers should know, about what to bring, what to do in country, what to eat, transportation, other:
a. I was able to walk to my program so daily transportation was not an issue. Taxis/local drivers are readily available. It is best to have the location you want to go to written in Mongolian. Anybody can be a taxi driver in Ulaanbaatar. They charge you by the kilometer. Best to know about how much it should be to where you want to go. I was warned some drivers may try to over charge but, I did not have this problem
b. The homestay food was very simple. Milk is a stable of the diet. I had rice in milk, Yak milk and fermented mare milk. They like to eat the meat of the bones used to make the daily soups and porridge with vegetables. There was a Pizza Hut and an Irish Pub Restaurant near by for when I wanted something different to each. I brought a couple of pizzas back and everyone enjoyed it.
c. I was able to arrange 3 tours with Sarah of ABV. One trip was staying in a ger for two nights and helping prepare and participate in the Colt Branding Ceremony. The other 2 tours were to Hustai Nat’l Park to see the wild horses and Terejl Nat’l Park.
5- Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial):
The teaching experience at at the University was an amazing experience. While teaching 2, 3 hours English classes daily, I was able to learn much about the traditional Tibetan medicine being taught to develop future traditional medicine doctors. I was also able to experience their practices through massages, cupping, realignment, bloodletting and herbal medicines.
I enjoyed the local cuisine, urom – custard cream, salted milk tea, fermented mare milk -airag, Mongolian dumplings – buuz, deep fried meat pie – huushuur, boodog – cooking goat with hot rocks (I was also able to hold one of the hot rocks as part of the ceremony), bantan – meat porridge, lavsha guriltai shul – noodle soup, bin – fried bread and finally aaruul – dried curd (a daily snack).
Mongolia is a very beautiful country with vast open areas with no people in the steppes. I was able to arrange 3 tours with Sarah of ABV. One trip was staying in a ger for two nights and helping prepare and participate in the Colt Branding Ceremony. The other 2 tours were to Hustai Nat’l Park to see the wild horses and Terejl Nat’l Park with the Chinggis Khan’s statute.
I hope to go back to Mongolia to experience their biggest festival, Nadaam, in July.
6- How would you describe your accommodation, meals and security in detail:
The accommodation was comfortable, meals were good and security was never a concern.
7- What was your favorite memory of this trip?
Program: Successfully completing the required curriculum for the students and giving them their grades.
Country: The vastness of the open areas.
Tours: Spending a weekend in the ger.
8.- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling, who helped you?
The communication with ABV was smooth and no issues were encountered. Sarah answered any questions I had.
Website Information: Gave me the necessary information before I left.
9 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?
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