I realize it has been a while since my last posting but I hope to cover the following points:
- The End of PST (Pre-Service Training)
- Swearing In as a Peace Corps Volunteer
- My new life as a PCV
For those of you who are current PCV/Ts or RPCVs, you know how long, challenging and rewarding PST can be. Every day is filled with learning Mongolian, preparing last-minute lesson plans and teaching English. By the end of each day I was absolutely exhausted!
I was lucky enough to get a little reprieve from PST by being called to go to Ulaan Baatar for a few days for a medical check up. It was very last minute! On August 4, our Country Director came to my training site to do interviews. She informed me that at 1:30 that afternoon I would be accompanying her back to UB for a medical appointment. Needless to say I ran back to my ger and literally threw clothes in a bag. Off to UB I went. I was allowed to ride in the Peace Corps vehicle which was very comfortable
I spent August 5 through 8 in UB as I underwent a few evaluations. This gave me a lot of time to site see and walk around a very cool city. Unfortunately, this meant I missed the host-family appreciation weekend. My training site and their families all went to Amarbaysgalant Monastery. It seems like they had a great time......even without me! I hopped on a bus on August 9 to head back to my training site.
Friday, August 12 was, essentially, the end of PST. We had our LPI (Language Proficiency Interview) and TAP (Trainee Assessment Packet). After those interviews were completed I would be finished with training. Unfortunately, my body decided to have fun with me! I woke up Friday morning and felt really sick to my stomach. I spent the entire morning throwing up whenever I would move or think. Oh what fun! Fortunately I had both of my interviews relatively early. My TAP started at 11am and by that time a fever hit me so I was sweating and shivering during the interview.
In between my TAP and LPI I went to our local café to take a little nap. This nap lasted for quite a while and someone woke me up at 1:50pm to tell me that it was time for my LPI (which started at 1:45). My teachers told me to just go home but I literally ran and sat down for my LPI. The proctor was very nice and very helpful as I struggled to gain enough mental capacity to speak in Mongolian for 30 minutes. Finally, I was finished with that interview and went home to sleep.
I spent my last weekend at site hanging out with my host family and friends. Many games of huzer were played and I had a few shots of vodka in celebration. On Monday, August 15, all 12 of us went from our site to the training center in Darkhan. It was a bittersweet day saying goodbye to our families but......by the end of the day we would all know where we would be living and working for the next two years.
That Monday seemed to just crawl by. All 66 of us were eager, scared and excited to know of our placements. We received the results of our LPI and I ended up getting an Intermediate Low which is a step higher than the minimum of Novice High. I was very happy with that result and it felt like all my hard work paid off! Anyone want to chat in Mongolian?!
Finally the time came for us to go to the big children's park in the center of town. That park had a HUGE map of Mongolia divided in to the the different aimags (provinces). One-by-one they called our names and announced our site and our school. I watched my friends and colleagues walk to the far reaches of the map. From Bayan Olgi to Choibalsan, all the aimags were covered. Finally it came time for my announcement. The winning site is.................Ulaan Baatar! I was so happy when they finally announced it. I will be working at a private university for the next two years to help the teachers and students improve their English. I am not alone in Ulaan Baatar. There are many other PCVs there and the main Peace Corps office also calls UB its home.
We all spent that night reading through our welcome packets which contained a wealth of information about our sites and schools.
The rest of the week was spent learning about medical issues as well as safety and security issues. Finally the big day came.....swearing in!
Friday, August 19 was the big day for all of us. It was the day we had been waiting for since we got our invitations to become Peace Corps Volunteers. At 10am all of us walked to the Darkhan theatre in our finest Mongolian clothes. The ceremony began at 11am with speeches given by our country director, the US Ambassador Jonathan Addleton, and two members of the Mongolian Education Ministry. Here is a link to a press release about the swearing in ceremony.
The rest of the ceremony consisted of the Ambassador administering the oath to us. It was a moving moment to repeat after him and officially become volunteers. After that, speeches were given in Mongolian by new PCVs and there were many talents displayed with traditional Mongolian dancing, singing and instruments. All of this was performed by the new PCVs. I was honored to watch all of my friends go up on stage to sing, dance and have fun.
After the ceremony, which lasted two hours, we were treated to a wonderful reception. There was SO much delicious food! Unfortunately, we couldn't stay too long because we had to load up our buses to go to UB at 2:30. 55-or-so volunteers loaded buses to head to UB before they flew or rode in a meeker to their respective sites.
This is the last picture of the Khutul trainees with our school director and Language Instructors. I miss them already!
I was lucky and got to move in to my new apartment that Friday evening. It was a relief to finally be someplace I can call "home" for the next two years and begin unpacking my bags. I felt like it was Christmas as I opened up my winter bag that had been in storage for two months. It contained many sweaters, a very warm down coat, long underwear and some well hidden beef jerky from my family. Oh....it also had three rolls of duct tape so my Uncle will be proud!
My Life as a PCV
So far things are going really well. I would consider myself moved in to my apartment and settling in to a routine.......for now. I have met with my school supervisor a few times to discuss how I can be of help to the university. He is very excited to have me and I am quite excited to start working. My first official day will be Monday, August 29 when I give a presentation to English teachers about how to improve their English and how they can best help their students. This is what the Peace Corps drilled in to me all summer and I am glad to put it to use.
For those of you who know me, I am not a great cook. I enjoy baking (who doesn't?!) but dealing with full meals scares me. Back in the states I would eat box after box of Mac-N-Cheese or just go out for dinner. This isn't really an option here as my Peace Corps budget doesn't allow it. Fortunately, the Peace Corps volunteers have compiled a fantastic cook book that will get me through the next few years.
Yesterday I made a really good loaf of banana bread and then made a large pot of rice and beans which will be my staple until it runs out. I made way too much......so it might be a while. Where are hot pockets when I need them?!
I will make another post this weekend and give you a tour of my apartment. It is pretty fancy!
Let me know if you have any questions of certain things about which you are curious! I enjoy sharing my experiences with you!