For the last 8 months, Linda Nordin has been BOOBKRIDGE fellow in Mongolia. In this article, she writes about her time in the provincial town of Sükhbaatar and its learning center.
This is blogpost number 8, equal to more than 8 months in Mongolia and this adventure is soon coming to an end. Lucky for me I have loads of adventures left before I’m heading back home. Adventures such as at 3 weeks of travelling discovering more of the beautiful Mongolian Nature, BOOKBRIDGE summer camp and the annular Naadam festival which has been celebrated for at least the latest 800 years (according to Wikipedia).
What have happened since the last post? First of all I have done my last move. I left my students in Murun 3 weeks ago and as usual it was hard to say goodbye to my students and to my new friends. My last day of Murun was spent with my great students and with Lkhama, playing our favorite games, eating candies and some nice cookies. I received beautiful gifts from my students and after three moves in Mongolia soon a quarter of my suitcase is full of gifts. Giving gifts is a very strong culture in Mongolia and can be given at any time such as at celebrations or if you visit someone’s home. For example when we entered the classroom today one of my students gave me and Lazzet a sausage each, he must have missed that is more common to give apples to your teachers.
Mongolian gift culture
For a few weeks ago I went out on a hike by myself and after an hour I had a group of 10 year old boys as company. They joined me for around two hours, showing where to walk up for the great hills, how to make wishes from the top of the mountains and every now and then they were sure there were a place in shadows where we could rest. I had only packed a banana to share and sharing a banana between 8 persons is not a lot. When I returned back home I had received a walking stick, a feather and two stones they found during the hike and they also bought me a lollipop and an ice cream.
Another example of giving gifts it’s when I visited a herder family and the small boy of the family showed me his secret place where he hides his candy (in a Mongolian boot on the side of the goat shield) and then he gave two of his candies to me even if we had only known each other for an hour. It makes me very happy to see that these small children, that don’t possess much, are so open to share and give to other people. One of the reasons of why I like Mongolia so much is because of the people who live here. How so many of them share their food with you, open up their homes and make sure that you are doing well. As a guest in Mongolia you are always taken care off and people are always open to help you.
Back where it all started…
So where am I now? 320km north of Ulaanbaatar (the capital of Mongolia) and only a few kilometers from the Russian border there is a small city called Sükhbaatar. It has a population of around 20,000 people and was built in the 1940s with a high influence of Russia since it’s the last stop on the Trans-Mongolian railway before entering Russia.
It was in this Mongolian city that my BOOKBRIDGE adventure started 2.5 years ago. I was a part of the BOOKBRIDGE Capability Program 6 where we supported community hero Lazzet to set up her own learning center. It was a strange feeling to be back, to walk on the same streets and shop in the same stores and meet old friends, it created the feeling that it was only yesterday since I was here the last time. At the same time it felt like I had never seen the city before since I have learned so much more about Mongolia and myself since my last visit.
Step by step the longest march can be won
If someone would tell me 2.5 years ago that I would live and work in Mongolia for almost 11 months as an English teacher I’m not sure I would had believed them. I remember how sad I was when the capability program ended and how I was longing to be back here. I’m so happy and grateful that I have always been encouraged by my family to follow my dreams and I want to say to all of you whom are reading this blog post that if you have a dream don’t hesitate and go after it. Many steps can be very scary to take but it’s by trying new things and challenge ourselves that we learn and develop!
I now need to finish this blog post and heat up my hands with a cup of tea. It’s already mid of May so the central heating has been switched off however the crazy Mongolian spring decided that it isn’t time for summer yet and today it’s been snowing and my room is freezing. I spent the weekend in almost 30°C warm Ulaanbaatar and can’t really get me head around the 30°C temperature difference as a result of a 4.5 hours car drive. Wish me good luck for my last 2 months here in Mongolia and let’s hope that this was the last snow day for this Mongolian spring!