Christine: Opening a Learning Center in Mongolia

Christine Mildenberger (third from right) helped to set up the learning center in Sükhbaatar
Christine Mildenberger (third from right) helped to set up the learning center in Sükhbaatar

A motivated team of our capability program set up the learning center in Sükhbaatar, Mongolia. Christine Mildenberger, one of the participants, tells about her impressions about the intense days in Mongolia.

The adventure started on October 15th with our flight to Mongolia, although the last five months had also been very challenging for all of us: Before leaving for Mongolia we had set up our mission statement at the beginning of May (which was also the first time we all met in person), worked together on the business model, created a business plan and finally did the investor pitch.

Amar and Tunga from BOOKBRIDGE Mongolia gave us a warm welcome at the Chinggis Khaan airport in Ulaanbaatar. Our trip started with a two night stay at Zayas hostel (a good place to be with a very nice host) in the center of Ulaanbaatar and we were taken really good care of by Amar, Tunga and Alta. They showed us the capital of Mongolia and introduced us to Mongolian culture and its traditions. We visited a dinosaur exhibition, a Buddhist temple including a chanting ceremony, went horse riding in the National Park, climbed up the Chingis Khan statue and looked at ancient exhibits at the museum, bargained with Alta at the Black Market, watched a traditional Mongolian performance with singers and dancers and enjoyed a lovely welcome dinner with traditional dishes such as lady soup (soup with noodles and chicken) and dumplings („Buuz“).

After these two amazing first days we travelled to Sükhbaatar in Selenge province to see „our“ learning center and of course Lazzet (Head of the Learning Center), Nergui and the other tandem partners for the first time. We arrived in the dark at our ger (yurt) camp where a very friendly and hospitable family took care of us and made us feel comfortable. Besides cooking for us they also stoked the ovens in the Gers, keeping us nice and cozy during the cold night.

On the way to Sükhbaatar
On the way Sükhbaatar

On the first day at the learning centre we agreed on a schedule for the week, getting busy with printing and handing out flyers, mingling with the local community, sorting books, visiting schools, banks and other companies, designing and producing a sign and very importantly, organizing the opening cermony. Besides all these activities we also invested a lot of time and effort into building up a personal relationship with Nergui and Lazzet, the teachers of the learning center.

Once the day’s work was wrapped up, we would leave for a shower in a public shower house and then enjoy an evening of cultural events our Mongolian hosts organized for us. We visited a herder family in their ger, learned how to cook the famous dumplings (Buuz), saw a Shaman ritual and – definitely a highlight – were invited to Lazzet’s parents’ ger. They even slaughtered a sheep in our honour and spoiled us with traditional food, making us feel extremely welcome.

A moving moment: The opening ceremony of the learning center in Sükhbaatar
A moving moment: The opening ceremony of the learning center
Looking back at our week in Sükhbataar, the most emotional part was the opening cermony. It was very moving to see how interested the children and teachers were in what we had built up with our local partners and friends. It felt good to see how much the local community appreciated our work.

After six busy days in Sukhbataar our yellow bus took us back to Ulanbaatar for two more days of spending time together until we finally had to say goodbye to Amar, Tunga and Alta to go over the bridge back home. Being part of a team 24 hours a day for more than ten days with hardly any solitary moments in unknown surroundings can be very challenging. But somehow it felt strange to be back at home without the team, a team leader and our daily check-in and check-out routine in the first few days. We are all looking forward to meeting again in Basel for our last module!

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