Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The past 2 weeks have been a rollercoaster of activity. Let’s start at the beginning….

Last Monday at work, I was informed that I would be doing 8 hours of finance training on Wednesday and 8 hours of Marketing training on Thursday to local families/business groups. 36 hours is not enough time to create a training program and have it translated. Needless to say, we did the training and it went ok. The finance training was difficult, but the marketing went well and the group was very active in the discussion. I had each person complete a worksheet about their company and then create a basic marketing plan. It was well received and I have been asked to teach it again in the spring. The end of the week was busy with the launch of a new newspaper in Khentii. My NGO is assisting/underwriting a newspaper and I was asked to help in layout and to write a weekly article about business. The paper has been suspended due to financing issues at the moment, but a solution appears to be forthcoming.

Ashley continues to teach copious amounts of English to co-workers and co-workers children/relatives. She has been doing 3 hours a day pretty steadily. This week she is also doing fitness testing of local offices and planning a nutrition class. We may start teaching a cooking class, if there is enough interest in it. I teach usually 90 minutes of English each day, assuming the students show up.

Last week, we went to UB for a Peace Corps Thanksgiving celebration. The PC staff obtained turkeys and each volunteer brought a dish, so it was a giant potluck. The food was amazing and the company even better. In a surprise to many PCVs, I scored 2 touchdowns and had an interception during the PCV football game. We played ~8vs8 touch in a parking lot in front of the ambassador’s house. It was frigid, but fun. Prior to that, we spent the majority of our time shopping and meeting/eating/drinking with friends. I had pizza at least 3 times and a full English breakfast every morning. Also, the beer selection is much better in UB. There are 2 excellent Mongolian beers (Gem dark, and XarXorum) that are readily available there. The shopping was mostly done at Narantuul, which is a huge outdoor market. The only problem is that we were shopping for winter clothes (boots/coats) in sub-zero temps…not a good combination. My feet were numb from trying on boots in the freezing cold and Ashley was shivering trying on coats. One of the "fun" parts about Narantuul is the expectation to barter. Bartering is a long process that involves multiple competing sellers and may result in a few dollar reduction. Due to the cold and our need to hurry, we did not barter (the prices were good enough and we spoke Mongolian to sales people), but I anticipate bartering next time we go. We did get what we went for. However, I still want to get a camel hair sweater and Mongolian traditional boots. (I bought Russian wool-lined, black leather with buckles boots.) We stayed at UB Guesthouse, which was very nice, though we were in a dorm room with many others. Below is a picture of the traditional mongolian boots that I want to purchase (probably different colors though). I think they would be great for shoveling snow and walking to Starbucks for coffee on a snowy morning.

Unfortunately, each time we walked outside, we initially had to cough. The smog is very thick in UB, especially in the early morning during this time of year. There is a gray haze over the city and often the neighboring mountains can not be seen, which is unfortunate because they are snow-capped now. Actually, we have noticed a considerable amount of smog in our town after breakfast and after dinner, particularly if there is no wind that day. Coal is the primary fuel source for this part of Mongolia, so black/gray smoke is very common. If anyone has seen

This week I have been working with a coworker on translating a long, complex English business document into Mongolian. His English is fantastic and it is still a challenge, primarily due to the run-on sentences and use of business jargon. The lesson from this exercise is that if you are writing a business document that will be translated later; please keep the sentences (and grammar) simple.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Note: this post contains graphic content, may not be suitable for all animal lovers

They are an ever-present, though often neglected facet of life in Mongolia. Most hashaas (fenced yards) have at least 1 guard dog. The purpose of this dog is to bark at intruders and potentially scare away (or attack) unwanted guests. These dogs are often large and aggressive and rarely chained-up. One of the first things that we were taught in training is how to “deal” with these dogs. Almost every dog in the country knows “JOVE”, which when yelled at a dog, sends it away. We were also advised to carry a few small rocks when outside the city to use as projectiles if a dog gets too close. (Note: we were advised to throw the rocks near the dogs, not necessarily hit it.) In our city, there are large packs (~12) of roving dogs that are homeless. They remind me of a gang and they often tussle with other roaming packs. If a dog has a collar, it is supposed to signify that it is “owned”. Some of the pack dogs have collars, but most do not. The dogs patrol the trash bins/dumping sites and eat whatever scraps they can find. Due to the harsh winter climates, only the hardy stray dogs survive. Therefore, most of the dogs are large (50lbs+), very thick, short hair, and mutts. I read that initially Tibetan Mastiffs were used in the country, but that lineage as been diluted. Spaying and neutering are very rare in smaller towns. Therefore, every year, there are many packs of puppies found around town. Many of them don't make it through the winter. We were told by the vet that the most humane way to put a dog down here is with a bullet. There is 1 vet in our town and he does not spay/neuter. For population control, semi-annually, the police department conducts a dog round-up and execution. Any stray (or perceived stray) on a particular day is gathered and shot. Unfortunately, dogs with homes are inevitably caught-up in this practice (such happened to a previous PCV here). Vaccinations are also not common, but can be obtained in UB. House dogs are VERY rare in our town; though we do know of 2 Mongolian families that have them (1 in our building and 1 is a co-worker). Also, females dogs are less desirable because they can become pregnant and black dogs are the best (according to superstition).

Ashley and I have had 2 experiences with dogs, here are their stories:

Buddy: In front of the hospital was a sick dog that Ashley saw everyday at work. She occasionally fed it. Over time, it became sicker and unable to walk. We brought Buddy home to build up his strength and get him over his illness (he was an older dog). After researching his symptoms and one of our friends talked to the Vet, we were told that he had heavy metal poisoning (fatal). His cognitive abilities became increasingly impaired (unable to balance, etc). He lived with us for about 1 week before he left (walked back to the hospital). Ashley found him dead in his old spot.

Bear: Last Sunday, I was walking home from a friends’ house when I saw a very tiny dog in the street (not the main street, but a busy enough thoroughfare). I picked him up and moved him over to in front of a neighboring building. Many people were walking past him and there were no other dogs in the area. It was below freezing and he was shivering. When I put him down, he followed me all the way back to our apartment (2 buildings away). I had seen this dog the day before near the post-office. The amazing part is that he crawled up the 3 steps into our apartment building, given his tiny size. I showed Ashley and we decided to take him in for the night, feed/water him, get approval from our landlord, and talk about it the next day. We got landlord approval and decided to keep him. The convenient part is that one of our fellow PCVs’ host family will watch him (in their hashaa) when we go out of town. They have 2 young dogs and 1 old one (all excellent dogs, very nice to people). We named him Bear (he is all black except that his nose, tail, chest, and 4 paws are tipped in white). He weighed about 1.5 lbs when he came (less than 1 kilo of potatoes). Based upon his size and appetite, we estimated that he was 4 weeks when he arrived. He is still drinking milk, but starting to eat solid food. It has been very cold the past few nights (less than 0F) and he shivers when outside for more than a few minutes, so we doubt that he could have made it more than a few more days outside. He is very cuddly and affectionate. He is becoming paper-trained and we are working on chewing. Overall, he is a good puppy and is sleeping on my lap as I type this. We don’t have a plan for the long-term and frankly, he may not be with us that long, so we are enjoying each day as it comes.