Category Archives: Mongolia

August Roundup

It’s been a while since I posted. Things have been so crazy and so busy lately that I failed to up with my blogging schedule over the last three weeks. Anyways, here’s an update:

  • Dominic, Peggy, and TK are now on their way to Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt to attend the 2013 AIESEC International Congress. Wish I were going! Nathan and I are the only members of the national team left in Mongolia to keep things afloat and moving over the next two weeks.
  • I’ve been managing various accounts I inherited from the previous team. I am very pleased and happy to report that I am now in the process of bringing in an intern from India and Hong Kong for two organizations in Ulaanbaatar!
  • I’ve been getting to know both the team (who are also my flatmates), as well as Mongolia a bit better. As a group, the team and I went out to Play Time, a live music festival that took place out on the countryside just outside UB. It was great, live music and DJs all throughout the day. Unfortunately, TK lost his wallet on the bus ride going back.

Trying to balance work and life has been quite difficult the last few weeks. I’m very ambitious with what I want to get a lot of things done for work, but I also want to ensure that I have it balanced out, and that I am having fun at the same time. We’ll see how it goes over the next few weeks!

My Reason Why

In AIESEC, we place a rather high premium on expectations. We like to manage the expectations of everyone we work with, from our colleagues, the students and recent graduates who join our programs, to the companies and organizations that choose to partner with us.

I am now in my fifth week of living in Mongolia, and frankly, it is only now that I am understanding why our organization values expectation setting and management so highly. I didn’t know what to expect out of the city of Ulaanbaatar, the country, my role, nor the organization. At the time, I saw this as a good thing, as I wanted to enter Mongolia with a blank slate, without good or bad impressions.

But when I got here, the experiences I had the first few weeks seemed to subconsciously implant a new set of expectations in my mind:

  • Every trip to the Mongolian Immigration Agency will be filled with despair and aggravation.
  • All that members of the expat community seem to do here is complain about life in Mongolia, and whine about how they are all still single.
  • Everything is cheap, except when people find out that you are not Mongolian, then you get charged foreigner-tier prices.
  • Mongolian food is completely and totally different to what I would usually eat.
  • Winter is coming, and when it comes, it really does come. Prepare to die.
  • Internet here sucks.
  • The concept of customer service is not as strong here in comparison to other places I have lived in.

Part of what I find wrong with expectations setting and management is that people are conditioned to expect a difficult time. Or at least, that is how I find it with me. The new set of expectations that evolved in my mind conditioned me to expect the worse, to expect to be frustrated, to expect to get delayed, to simply expect a difficult time. The new set of expectations creeping up in my mind seemed to implant the idea that there was nothing that I could do to counter the difficulties that I was facing.

What I have observed, at least in my case, is that the best way to manage expectations (both pre-departure, and post-arrival expectations) is to ensure that the reason why I came to Mongolia to work for AIESEC is strong enough to overcome both small and big frustrations that come with living and working here.

During my stay in Singapore earlier this year, I met Alex, a good friend and colleague of mine when I was working for AIESEC Singapore. Around the time that I met Alex, I was considering applying for AIESEC national roles in various countries. It was all fun and good, discussing all the possibilities, until Alex asked the most annoying question:

“Why?”

To be frank, I could not answer the question, which is why I got so annoyed, both at him, and at the fact that I simply had no straightforward answer to provide. So, for a good four weeks, I suspended the idea of applying for AIESEC national positions until I figured out the reason why I wanted such a role with AIESEC so badly.

At the end of that four week period, I came up with my reasons why:

  • I want to have a unique and memorable team experience. I want to be able to work with a dedicated and passionate group of people towards the goal of developing both ourselves, and the AIESEC organization in the country that we are in.
  • I want this experience to help me in my career in the future, and I want it to serve as a reference point for me when I make critical decisions as a manager or a leader.
  • I want to live and work in a country that I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to go to, if it were not for AIESEC.

Despite the day-to-day challenges of the role, and the lifestyle changes that I had to make as a result of being an unpaid volunteer, I found that my reasons why have been more than sufficient in keeping me motivated, and in driving me to push on regardless of the difficulties I face, challenge expectations that have developed in my mind the last few weeks, and when possible, change the difficult circumstances that I find myself in occasionally to suit my ends better.

I have an awesome team that has an awesome drive to achieve an awesome vision. I know that what I am doing now will help me in the long run. And at the end of the day, I am also fulfilling my dream of living in another country working for AIESEC. Strong enough reasons for me to come to Mongolia and to keep me here for a year.

AIESEC Mongolia’s National Team is Complete!

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AIESEC Mongolia MC 2013-2014! Back row, l-r: Me, Nathan. Front row, l-r: Peggy, Dominic, TK . Photo by TK

On Friday, the last and final member of the MC team arrived in UB. It is official, AIESEC Mongolia’s new National Team for the 2013-2014 team is now complete and ready to go! After dealing visa issues and delays, this really is a huge victory for us as a team. Needless to say, I am super excited.

This weekend, we went on our first team outing, and first night out as a team, and it was great. Looking forward to working with, living with, and getting to know this awesome group of people over the next year!

I am now a Registered Alien

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I am slowly, but surely, navigating the Leviathan that is the Mongolian Immigration Agency. Very happy that everything has worked out, and that I’m now considered “legal” in the country! Dominic figured things out for us at the beginning, and now I’m starting to better understand how things work, so hopefully in the future things will be much easier for the interns and other AIESECers that come to Mongolia in the future!

Naadam

I’m really glad that Naadam is a long weekend. Naadam (Наадам, literally “games”) is a traditional Mongolian festival. Also termed “the three games of men” (“eriin gurvan naadam,” эрийн гурван наадам). Typically, the games comprise of wrestling, archery, and horse racing.

We only managed to see the wrestling portion from wide screen TVs, but one of the other aspects of Naadam is that it literally is very festive. People here use the holiday as an opportunity to spend time away with their families in the countryside, leaving UB almost deserted! There were fireworks from Sukhbaatar Square that we were able to watch from our apartment window.

Pre-Naadam Festivities

We missed the kids dancing but at least we got to see them towards the end of their portion!

We missed the kids dancing but at least we got to see them towards the end of their portion!

We took a break from work today and went to Sukhbaatar Square to observe pre-Naadam festivities. We missed the part where the kids were dancing in the square, but we did get to see the military parade (well… the people who were practicing for the real thing tomorrow).

Texting on the job: This guy was clearly in practice mode.

Texting on the job: This guy was clearly in practice mode.

Military Parade Practice at Sukhbaatar Square

 

Raluca

Swag from Raluca: wine, the Romanian flag, and a traditional Romanian drink. Wine will come handy after planning is done!

Swag from Raluca: wine, the Romanian flag, and a traditional Romanian drink. Wine will come handy after planning is done!

Earlier today, I had the chance to talk to Raluca, one of AIESEC Mongolia’s interns. Her AIESEC internship just finished, and she will be returning to Romania tomorrow. I really valued talking to Raluca, she talked to me about her experience living in Ulaanbaatar, and gave me tips on how to deal with businesses and NGOs in Mongolia.

She left me (and the national team) a parting gift. FYI, the water bottle doesn’t contain water, it’s a traditional Romanian drink (which is really, really strong!).

Thanks, Raluca! I hope that you enjoyed your time in Mongolia. Have a safe flight back home, and thanks for the swag!

Lost in translation

Mongolian is difficult to learn, and given that I’ve only been here for three weeks, my Mongolian language skills are still very limited.

I was just at Nomin at State Department Store looking to buy a water filter. So I went around asking the staff that worked there where I could buy a water filter. Many of them don’t speak English, so I literally got passed from one person to another, until they gave up because they didn’t understand me, and I clearly had no idea what was going on. So what I had to do was to call Tergel and Amy by phone.

I called Tergel to ask them which floor I could find the water filter. When I got to the fifth floor (where the appliances section was), I managed to get in contact with Amy. Amy talked to the staff there, and we passed the phone back and forth as Amy asked about the water filter, and then told me over the phone what kind of water filters they have, what I need to know in order to purchase a water filter, etc.

I haven’t purchased a water filter yet, but at least now I have a clearer idea. Also, at least I now know where to go!

Thank you, Amy and Tergel!

Planning Week

Our first ever full team photo! Peggy, me, and Dominic (in person), Nathan (on the laptop Skyping in from Manila), and TK (on the corner, taking the picture from his laptop all the way from Bali).

Our first ever full team photo! Peggy, me, and Dominic (in person), Nathan (on the laptop Skyping in from Manila), and TK (on the corner, taking the picture from his laptop all the way from Bali).

We started our Planning Week on Monday, and it’s been pretty intense. We’ve been having long discussions on our team’s vision for AIESEC Mongolia, what we as a group want to work towards and achieve, and our strategies for meeting our goals for the organization.

Nathan and TK discussing critical issues during transition… lol!

Planning Week has been made a bit interesting as a result of two members of our team still not being in Mongolia, and getting their visa applications sorted out, as well as getting our own individual alien registration processes finished. Since last week, at least one member of the team has been bouncing back and forth between the Ministry of Education, the Immigration Office (conveniently outside of UB, near the airport), and the printing shop (whenever the Ministry or Immigration demanded extra documents). I’m confident that everything will work out, after all, three of us are already here. Frankly, it’s just a question of timeliness, and how quickly the people at the Ministry and Immigration get things done.

Regardless of the side issues we have to deal with, Planning Week has been very exciting so far. Tomorrow, we’ll be delving in deeper on the type of strategies we want to pursue in order to reach our team’s goals for the organization, as well as our individual goals for our respective departments and roles. This will definitely be an exciting week!

Term has started

AIESEC Mongolia 2012-2014 team (from left to right): Peggy, Hien, me, and Dominic. Photo from Dominic's phone.

AIESEC Mongolia 2012-2014 looking into the distance… or more likely, distracted from the camera (from left to right): Peggy, Hien, me, and Dominic. Photo from Dominic’s phone.

So this week, we had the final farewell party for the last remaining member of AIESEC Mongolia’s 2012-2013 leadership team. Hien left UB early in the morning this Friday bound for Finland to complete her university studies.

With this in mind, our term as AIESEC Mongolia’s leadership team has officially started. We are now in charge. A bit daunting, but exciting at the same time. There’s a lot of work to be done, and we’re still waiting for two more members of the team to arrive, but we’re ready to go.