AIESEC Mongolia’s National Team is Complete!

IMG_0612

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

photo(6)

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.

Trying to learn Mongolian


Mongolian is a hard language to learn. I’ve been trying to learn a few words, and this is what I have so far (disclaimer: pronunciation may or may not be accurate):

Mongolian Pronunciation English
Сайн байна уу Sain bain uu Hello
Баярлалаа bayarsla Thank you
үнэтэй вэ? init vei How much?
Баяртай bayarstei Goodbye

As you can see, Mongolian’s a bit more difficult to learn compared to other languages, as the writing is in Cyrillic rather than the Latin alphabet that English speakers are used to. I learned how to speak Bahasa Indonesia through reading the Indonesian subtitles on DVD movies that I watched, while Spanish was easy to learn, provided you memorized how conjugations for each word and each tense worked.

None of the members of the AIESEC national team in Mongolia are Mongolian, so there are times when we have to rely on our members to translate for us, and even do the simplest things like read letters, or talk to a taxi driver via phone to tell them where we want to go!

Learning Mongolian will be a challenge, but hopefully we’ll be able to pick up some more useful phrases, and at least be able to have a brief conversation in the language!

First Week in Mongolia

Today marks my first week in Mongolia, and what a week it has been!

So much has happened since I stepped off the plane. Time has gone by so quickly that it feels like I’ve been in Mongolia for more than a week! That being said, this blog post will be a bit disjointed. It won’t capture everything that has happened over the last week, but I hope that you’ll be able to get a glimpse of it.

The flight

The Cathay flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong was delayed for two hours because they, in the words of the pilot, had to “change the plane’s batteries,” which was concerning! Fortunately, the flight went smoothly, and I was able get enough sleep to mitigate the effects of jetlag.

Flight to Ulaanbaatar

The flight to Ulaanbaatar

I had a six-hour layover in Hong Kong. During my six-hour stay in Hong Kong, I had some time to eat breakfast, and take a shower (which would prove to be a smart decision later on). Afterwards, I boarded the MIAT Mongolian Airlines flight to Ulaanbaatar. The flight was quite bumpy, we were frequently in turbulence, and the landing was a bit scary. I’ve been told that this is normal, given UB’s weather situation.

Summer Youth Leadership Conference

Immediately upon arrival, I was fortunate enough to get picked up by Tenger, one of the chapter executives of AIESEC IFE. He and his family took me (and my luggage) straight to the venue of AIESEC Mongolia’s Summer Youth Leadership Conference, which was outside of Ulaanbaatar proper.

954866_10152931652730541_1032352475_n

One of the gers that delegates to AIESEC Mongolia’s Summer Youth Leadership Conference stayed in.

The conference venue was in the countryside, pretty much right in the middle of nowhere. The facilitating team and the delegates stayed in concrete gers, which is supposed to be the traditional dwelling of nomads in Mongolia. The gers we stayed in weren’t exactly “traditional” as it was concrete. The normal/usual gers that nomadic people use are essentially heavy duty tents that help them survive through the winter.

SYLC 2013 Delegates. Photo by Nami.

SYLC 2013 Delegates. Photo by Nami.

The conference itself was awesome. It was very different from AIESEC conferences that I have attended in Canada, as well as the conference that I attended in Singapore. The delegates seemed to be really interested and really engaged in the conference. The parties weren’t bad either!

Bits of UB

Ulaanbaatar (or UB) was at first, very intimidating. It’s very different from any of the major cities that I have lived in previously. Crossing the roads, getting a “taxi,” and even taking a shower is completely different (as the hot water has been turned off for our district for the next few days).

We’re fortunate to have the flat situated right in the middle of the city, making day-to-day work and errands easy and convenient.

The city was at first very confusing for me, but from my point of view, the key to being able to get around in UB is to ensure that you know where your landmarks are.

State Department Store (also known as Nomin)

State Department Store (also known as Nomin)

The State Department Store is one such landmark, as the MC flat is very close to it. The State Department Store (aka Nomin) pretty much has everything you need, but there are places you can go to that are much cheaper.

Sukhbaatar Square, which is basically UB’s city centre, is another landmark. The Square contains Mongolia’s parliament house, as well as a massive statute of Chinggis Khan.

Mongolian Parliament

Mongolian Parliament at Sukhbaatar Square

There are tons of statues in UB. In Sukhbaatar Square, the most noticeable ones are the statues of Chinggis Khan, and Sukhbaatar (Red Hero).

Chinggis Khan

Chinggis Khan

Charlie Party

And finally, a video from the farewell party for our former MCP, Charlie. Members of AIESEC Mongolia gathered at the national team’s new flat to send her off just hours before her flight.

And that’s all I have for now. I’m aiming to blog more about life in UB as well as my work for AIESEC in the coming days. Until then, see you later!