This is kind of an extension to the post I did yesterday, so read that one first (it’s directly below this one).
So after our placement ceremony, of course all of us were feverishly looking through the packets that we were given about our place of work. Turns out I’m replacing a PCV who extended for a third year, and who will be living in UB. So it’s been pretty cool getting to know the town through him and my new site mates. Funnily enough, I have all male site mates which is not unlike my entire summer with the Zuunmod crew (minus Ashley!), so it’s not gonna be a problem. Speaking of Ashley, she’s on the east side with me, so we’re going to be making lots of visits, me thinks.
After a few more days of trainings, we left for UB on Tuesday morning. I was quite sad leaving my host family that day, to be honest. I feel like I’m starting over, like reversing back to when I got to Mongolia, with a new home, new city to get used to, etc, except I don’t have the safety net of a family to live with. My Mongolian family came to the school to say goodbye, along with Ashley’s host family who I’ve been close to as well. Turns out Ashley’s Mongolian cousin is from the town that I will be living in, so she’ll come visit in September. After many goodbyes and promises to visit Zuunmod (which I totally will!), we gathered our things on the bus and left.
In UB, although I’ve been there before, I again had the comfort of my host family to guide me, but not this time. We went on a tour the first day, but I quickly became confused as they showed us where the markets, movie theaters, and restaurants were. I was actually thinking of Ellen at that point, because I’m sure she would have known where we were going!
Of course, there was an alternative to the walking- taxis! The drivers didn’t know any English (most taxis aren’t even legit taxis- they’re just cars), so we got to use our mad Mongolian skills. I did pretty well, considering, and even if I didn’t know the name, you can just say “go straight, go left, go right”. Most importantly, I didn’t get ripped off! Whoo, go me! :)
The next day we were to meet our supervisors. They gathered us in a room not unlike the gym in Zuunmod (actually, the school was a carbon copy, including the placement of the bathrooms. I suspect the Russians built them?), and put all of us PCTs on one side. They called out our Aimag (province), city or soum (small town) and the place where we were going to work. My supervisor is a doctor and the head of the hospital, of which this is her second or third year (I think). She used to be the head of the pediatric unit before that. She’s a super nice lady, and her English is pretty good and we were able to have good conversations!
Last Friday was our Swearing-In Ceremony. During this summer, we weren’t actually Peace Corps Volunteers, but rather Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs). A woman swore us in who was from the US Embassy, using the same oath that people who work for the government are given. After speeches and lots of translation, us M21’s (we are the 20th group of Peace Corps Volunteers in Mongolia) put on a show of traditional songs and dances. Everyone did extremely well, and I got some pretty awesome shots since I was in the front.
Later that night, the M20s had organized a party at a skating rink (roller, not ice, but STILL it was awesome!), of which most of us drank, skated (not such a good combo), and danced our hearts out, because we knew that it was the last time we would all be together until the end of our service. I thought a lot about the future, hoping that we would all make it to the end, hoping that our sites will treat us well, and hoping that we can make some sort of difference in this country.
Ah, and we have cell phones now! It’s been a real blessing, because apparently we’re one of the few Peace Corps countries to get them because of how remote we are. We’ve been told multiple times that this is one of the hardest PC countries, if not the hardest, because of the language, remoteness, and the weather. Texting has been awesome these past couple days, because I’m already missing the Zuunmod crew. Those boys (and Ashley) were such a good support system and I’m going to have to keep tabs on them and make sure they’re not getting into any crazy trouble. ;)
Anyway, early the next morning, Sarah (our soum-er, who is about 5 hours from us in the city), Nate and I packed up in a pretty sweet charter bus headed to the east. The ride was about 10 hours, and my supervisor said the driver was “hurrying”, so I’m guessing the ride can be quite a bit longer. Most of it was fine, and I didn’t get sick, yay! We also saw some camels on the way, along with the typical goats, sheep, and groups of horses. The land also became flatter and flatter. The end was the most interesting, because we had no idea when it was going to end. All of a sudden, a large stone pillar appeared as we went over a small hill, and in the distance we could see the outskirts of the city. As we drove past, my supervisor pointed out my apartment building, the square, the hospital. It was a lot to take in, and I’m still trying to find my way around.
Now I’m all moved in. My apartment is seriously awesome, and although there’s not much water pressure, I’m thanking the stars that I actually have running water. I start work tomorrow, and my counterpart, the nursing supervisor is to walk with me to the hospital. I’m going to be working with her and two other counterparts in a room. I’m nervous, of course, but I’m really excited to start working with them.
That’s about it for now… I hope everyone is well!