I’m officially a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV). I flew home on 1 August on a direct flight from Beijing. This time my suitcases were under the 50 pound limit as I mostly carried home my Mongolian clothes, gifts I received, and all of the goodies I bought in Ulaanbaatar. 

July was simultaneously a slow and fast month. It was pouring during the Naadam festivities. Then during one weekend, my entire town lost power. Last time this happened Mongolians had been forewarned about it and had told me, so I could pre-download movies and charge my external battery. However, this time, there was no warning. My closest friends had either left for the countryside or were in the city. I was standing in a dark supermarket with other Mongolians looking glumly at what we could buy that wouldn’t require electricity to prepare: a jar of pickles, canned fish, carrots, crackers. Ultimately, I dropped my shopping basket, walked out, and went straight to the bus station to buy the next ticket to the city. 

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Trying to avoid getting drenched at the Naadam stadium.
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A ride around the government square.
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Went out for dinner with Tuya’s family. 

Clearing out my apartment was a month-long process. For future Peace Corps Volunteers in Mongolia, don’t wait until the last few days to begin organizing, donating, and selling your items.  You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll accumulate. My apartment wasn’t going to have another Peace Corps Volunteer living in it so everything had to go. 

Peace Corps offices around the world have a special bell which volunteers are allowed to ring when we have successfully completed our service of two-years. It signals the end. My group decided to wait until everyone had finished their end of service interviews, medical exams, and other miscellaneous paper work in order to ring the bell together. We were a little too enthusiastic as a piece of the bell fell off.  

“We came in together, we’re leaving together.”

 

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With 5 out of 9 of the Yeruu gang/my training group from 2016.

 

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Returned Peace Corps Volunteer 🙂 

Now I’m happy to be home, but my time in Mongolia will be with me forever. 

Watch my video at the top for my last summer in Mongolia. 

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Lake Khövsgöl with the Junior Rangers

In June, I traveled to Khövsgöl Lake to help at a Junior Ranger camp hosted by the Mongol Ecology Center.

The arduous trip took seven-hours to Ulaanbaatar, followed by another seven-hours to Erdenet, and ending with a 5 hour drive to Hatgal in Khövsgöl.

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The 25-minute rest stop between my town and Ulaanbaatar.

Due to Mongolia’s ever turbulent weather, my bag was packed with a combination of rain gear, clothes for when it was hot during the day and clothes for when it got really cold in the evening.

While growing up I didn’t attend any camps as a child. Every season, I was always on a sports team, but camps I didn’t do. I was lucky to always have a parent at home and close friends nearby. As Tina Fey jokingly wrote in her book Bossypants, “I never went to summer camp, as I was neither underprivileged nor Jewish nor extremely Christian nor obese.” So consider this my first. 

The Junior Ranger camp was a 10-day event. First, we had to wait in Hatgal for the rest of the campers to arrive from Hanh soum. A small amount of campers are from Hatgal but most arrived from Hanh soum. The soum is further north up the lake. Their drive took 14 hours through the rain. All the kids were young with the youngest being 9 and the oldest being 12.  Once we were all united and introduced, we hiked to Murun where our camp site was on the eastern shore of the lake.

The boys slept in gers, the girls all slept in one large house, and the adults slept in two A-frame houses.

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The group of adult leaders consisted of three Peace Corps Volunteers, two Americans visiting from Texas (who are related to the founder of MEC), and three Mongolian high schoolers.

The point of the camp is to make campers environmentally conscious and to love and protect nature. Click here to find out more about the program and of Mongol Ecology Center. Activities included:

  • Water monitoring
  • Wild onion planting
  • First aid kit training
  • GPS training
  • Leave No Trace
  • Trash pick up
  • International special protected areas and tourism
  • Developing environmental projects to pursue at their schools
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Need advice for how to entertain 30 children or more? Just find a long piece of rope. They’ll be entertained for hours playing jump rope, limbo, etc. etc. etc. 
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Picking up trash at Wishing Rock.
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Hiking through the woods to Wishing Rock.
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Volleyball games everyday, all day. 

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Monitoring the water from the lake.
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Chuka and the Executive Director of MEC, Chimgee. 

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Additional games and activities consisted of:

  • An hour and a half of English lessons every day. Me and Chuka were in charge of the 5th graders
  • Felt making
  • Yoga which I led every morning 
  • Mental and emotional lessons
  • Volleyball
  • Disco night 
  • Jump rope
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Felt making with Bolor.

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Hiked to the top of the hills for wild onion planting.

The first half of the week was very busy but tapered off at the end. When the kids were busy and the adults weren’t needed, we went hiking, took naps, and even went swimming in the lake. The lake water was 12’C. There’s no WiFi and all the kids had to hand in their phones at the beginning of camp. We found various ways to entertain ourselves (e.g. when the kids were inside writing an essay, the rest of us were down by the lake skipping stones and seeing who could throw the most rocks into a hollow tree trunk). 

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The camp ground on the eastern side of Lake Khövsgöl. 
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A 6th grade camper.
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Skipping stones over the lake.
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Swimming in 12’C. 

The Junior Ranger program is meant to be enjoyable and exciting. However, the kids did have to write an essay and take a test to prove that they did learn something and were paying attention during the sessions. There was also no tolerance for unruly behavior. One camper was sent home for faking heat exhaustion. 

On the last day of camp, kids got certificates. The kids who placed the highest in their test scores received an automatic spot in the program for next summer. We took a boat across the lake back to Hatgal. We spent an hour hugging and saying goodbye to everyone and went home with scarlet skin from sunburns due to the wonderful weather we had all week. 

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Hanh soum kids before leaving for home.
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Sometimes I woke up at 7:30 AM to enjoy the surroundings while the kids were still sleeping.

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Peace Corps Mongolia

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When you have to sit through a very long meeting in Mongolian.
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When PCVs feel underappreciated by their HCAs.
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When it’s spring and sand storms are a thing.
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When a student who has been mute all year suddenly reads perfectly or answers a question fluently.
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When it’s finally the weekend and you don’t need to answer those “Where are you?” messages.
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When you find someone who can speak fluent English.
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When you put on a Mongolian deel.

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When you have a great idea for your school and it’s got some traction for a day or two but then slips away as people lose interest.
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When it’s the COS lottery for who gets to go home during week 1 or week 2.
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When the people you work with believe everything they read on Facebook.
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That determination you feel when your second year begins.
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When you’ve got to mingle but you have no idea what anyone is saying.
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When you begin work at your HCA.
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When you go to the countryside for the weekend with your school.
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When you try to make a dash to the store next door before anyone sees you. 
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When you’re in the Shangri La. 
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When you can say a sentence in Mongolian.
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When you arrive at staging and meet your friends who are embarking on the same crazy adventure as you.
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When you’re finally on that plane back to America.
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Whenever you go out in public.
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When you make it to COS.

 

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When you go shopping after a really long time and something actually fits you. 

 

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When you’re in the city and you’re debating if you really should spend all your money on food and drinks.
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When no one tells you anything.
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When it’s the middle of winter.
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When you have a terrible singing voice but everyone at karaoke says otherwise.
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When you get that call or text saying your package from America has arrived.
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When people go “OY” or whistle for your attention.
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When it’s only Monday.
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When you have food poisoning or any other ailment that brings you down.
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When people at work are surprised that you’re still here.
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When nothing is going according to plan.

 

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When you think sticking a face mask on will solve all your worries.
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When you haven’t seen your American friends in months.
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When people back home ask if you really ate a goat’s head.

 

 

This is simply a humorous post about PC Mongolia.