15 October 2007

New Digs/The 9to5

Posted by JonHaley under: Mongolia .

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Moved into my new, permanent apartment a few weeks back. Nice spot, pretty central, good neigborhood, lot’s of shops, bus route, etc. It’s your typical pink Russian monolith from the 60s; curves around in kind of an L-shape that appears to go on forever. Obviously a little beat up and worse for wear, but damn good enough for the likes of me, maybe even too good! Flat has four rooms which I am sharing with two other volunteers currently: Jude another young computer guy from Toronto and Rob a ridiculously polite guy from England who is working on promoting volunteerism within Mongolia.


Other than that not much more to describe: Good views (9th floor), built in health club (9 floors!), lay down bath, stand up toilet (no toilet seat!), heating from cast iron radiators ranges from hot to “open your damn window for a few minutes”. Elevator is straight out of a camp horror movie complete with rays of light shining in from the floor, walls, ceiling, etc. and disconcerting snapping cable sounds. There are many far worse places to live in the city, especially as a volunteer who’s supposed to be living on par with the general population, so I feel pretty lucky. Details such as having no toilet seat, not much furniture save a bed and kitchen table, and a leaky sink pale in comparison to the stuff we do have: HEAT!, electricity (most of the time) and hot water (a lot of the time), a kick-ass wet-clothes spinner, and half way decent oven. Stuff not to be taken for granted given that (something crazy like) 40% of the population of the city maintains a very tenuous relationship to these “essentials” on a day to day basis.

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Started work at VSO Mongolian a couple weeks ago as well and, to be honest, things have been terribly slow. I’m supposed to be helping out the Program Office (ie the staff who set up and run the volunteering programs in Mongolia), by fixing up their IT equipment and computers, doing some basic computer training, and setting up external (internet) and internal (intranet) websites for them to allow current volunteers to share information and documents. I also have the secondary responsibility of helping other volunteers and their partner organizations develop their IT capabilities and put together websites.

In reality, VSO Mongolia is a well off organization, and VSO in general is not hurtin’ for bucks either, so they should be hiring out a Mongolian IT professional (there are many and good) to help maintain their equipment and do other general IT tasks, VSO UK which has a web development department should be doing the website stuff, and I, as a volunteer, should be working full time with Mongolian groups to empower them with training, and information so that they can research and find their own Mongolian IT pros to take care of their IT tasks and web development long after I have gone home.

Would that it were: I’ll try to make the best of things and make the most of my chances to work with real Mongolian groups employing whatever Fabian strategy I come up with to change the scope of my placement . As per usual, though not much makes sense in the world of “Int dev”.

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3 Comments so far...

Alan Says:

17 October 2007 at 4:23 am.


I caught a picture in the slideshow where you’ve got some Cholula in your kitchen… that’s hilarious. Did you bring Cholula to Mongolia or are those pictures from Cuba? Also, I love Sriracha sauce… you know, the one with the rooster on it. Do they use that there?

Sara and I leave in a little over a week. Can’t wait, dude. Any luck getting your stay extended?

Adios, amigo. I’m supposed to be practicing my Swahili, so here goes “goodbye”…



JonHaley Says:

17 October 2007 at 10:24 am.

Cholula is available around here, for some strange reason. No gallon jugs of Tabasco or Frank’s, but I’ll make it…

Daniel Mwisunji Says:

8 November 2007 at 10:09 pm.

Hi Jon,

I am a Kenyan (ex- VSO Kazakhstan) coming to work in Mongolia as a UNV (scheduled to travel on 16 arriving on 18 Nov). How is Ulaanbaatar? (The culture and people)

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