Monday, October 11, 2010

Mongolian Bound (Almost)

Well, here it is - October 11th. After a lot of prep and study I'll be leaving on my trip tomorrow morning. I fly out of Penticton at 6:00 tomorrow morning for a short one-hour commuter flight to Vancouver and from there it's a 2 1/2 hour layover and then a five-hour flight to Ottawa.

I have to spend three days in Ottawa taking pre-deployment training and orientation through CIDA's (Canadian International Development Agency) educational division. The training focuses on the nuts and bolts of Mongolia itself as well as the cultural and psychological issues surrounding full immersion in a foreign culture.

After our training ends on Friday we leave that evening for Toronto to start the journey to Ulaanbaatar via Soul Korea.

It's going to be interesting. During the interview process way back when I applied, the interviewers spent a lot of time discussing the rigours of rural international travel; rough roads, overland travel, sparse accommodations, different sights and sounds etc. I figured what the heck, if I can ride a chicken bus in Guatemala how hard can it be? Once I was picked for the team they followed this up even further with discussions on the limited diet and and all the other difficulties associated with rural Mongolian living - and you know what? I was stoked! I couldn't wait! I love adventure and travel and new cultures and meeting new people and I figured this was right up my alley!

But......since then we've received our assignments. I don't want to suggest it'll be some kind of cake walk because it won't. It'll be long days working with our Mongolian counterparts to assist them and their organizations in anyway we can. But it doesn't look like it's going to have quite the deprivation and hardship that was originally indicated. Some of the other team members hit the ground and immediately start overland travel by bus or train to their rural assignments. My partner and I however, will spend the whole two weeks staying at the equivalent of the Mongolian Holiday Inn. We'll travel during the day to our various credit union locations but each evening it'll be a hot shower, clean sheets and a good wi-fi connection (I hope)'s still a foreign culture, a trip half-way around the world and an opportunity to learn from others while I do my best to pass on some of the lessons we've learned in the credit union system here at home. And if I don't get an opportunity to try fermented mare's milk maybe it just wasn't meant to be :-)

I'll post updates and pictures whenever I have the opportunity - assuming the wi-fi connection allows it - and I'll stay in touch by Skype with friends and family. Hmmmmmmm......maybe the Holiday Inn isn't so bad after all


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