6 November 2007

Missing Missives

Posted by JonHaley under: Mongolia .

Extra-narrative Aside:

Had some site issues last week, for which I apologize. My super-budget Italian web hosting company (“Largo Magnifico“) basically took a little holiday, unbeknownst to me. But were gettin’ her back together, slowly.

While the technical troubles might be excusable my “blogastipation” as of late is largely my own fault. It stems more from an abundance of disjointed thoughts and ideas without a common thread and little motivation to give up my perfectionism and proclivity for logorrhea, than from any real busyness. I hope to address this in the future by picking a specific topic and writing a few choice words (<500) on it along with a few decent pictures. Hopefully, this will be a little easier to digest and make things a little more regular.

Back to the regular:

About two and a half months in now and rolling right along. My job is still a source of major frustration, and I am annoyed here and there by a few minor details of daily life (being foreign, being monolingual, having fewer choices than I’m used to), but overall I have embarrassing little to complain about as a “development volunteer” in the “developing world”. It’s hardly even that cold! October was uncharacteristically mild in UB, and I’ve only needed to bust out the long-johns and gloves a few times so far.

When I was doing my training in Canada, before I knew where I’d be going, there was quite a lot of preparation and discussion about keeping one’s expectations reasonable (i.e. low). It makes some sense as most of the people I was with were planning on living for up to two years in some pretty “intense” locations around the world. I was all like, “Effin’eh, hardcore! I’m going to be doing something really challenging (and hopefully meaningful).” So it is with some disappointment and puzzlement that I’ve found myself living in a comfortable flat with many modern conveniences (no furniture, but c’mon it’s hardly roughing it), working a pretty easy, quaternary sector job far removed from any sort of poverty or disadvantage, and pulling in almost twice the average single income monthly salary (about $200/mo plus another $140 for my share of the rent. The $200 amount is supposed to be proportional to the standard of living and on par with what a Mongolian would make, but I’m really not seeing it).

I guess the overall question with this is “Does it make me a better or worse volunteer?” I obviously could be living in far worse situation, probably in a ger on the outskirts of town with no water and limited electricity (this is the case for some VSOs working with NGOs in the ger districts, and for almost all of the Peace Corps vols, interestingly). Equally possible, I could be living far better than my current middle class lifestyle. What my job is and creating a living situation that commiserates with and is favorable to my activities here while being as modest as possible is really the key issue here. Living in poverty is not cool and electing to live in poverty for the sole purpose of moral atonement or superiority is even less so. I have to keep my needs to a minimum, act in the best interests of my position and ensure that I am doing everything I can to make my time here as worthwhile and fruitful as possible.

Now that every last shred of sympathy and concern for me has been erased from your mind (complaining about having nothing to complain about is rarely easy or helpful), I’ll just say that I probably haven’t seen nothing yet and I hope to keep thinking about this sort of thing and maybe writing it down occasionally.

2 Comments so far...

riv Says:

9 November 2007 at 8:29 am.

anything you write informs continue to critically think but on another level just feel.

Alan Says:

10 November 2007 at 9:17 pm.


Dude… We’ve been in Kenya for two weeks. The Swahili language courses were pretty short, but we’re managing! It’s freakin’ awesome here. The internet is ridiculously slow and we have to travel hours to get something that’s even reliable. Keep in touch, dude! We just updated our blog with a picture of our house… More to come later!

Oh… extend your stay in Mongolia yet?

Kwaheri 😉

-Alan and Sara

%d bloggers like this: