Farewell - Flippant reflections of my time in Mongolia


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March 15th 2011
Published: March 29th 2011
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My farewell at NamasteMy farewell at NamasteMy farewell at Namaste

Happy party after a huge dinner!
The daily battle is almost over
I am not sure which volunteer once said to me that every day in Mongolia is a battle. It is.

Just to walk around UB is a battle. The temperature, the dust, the crowds - especially the drunks, the uneven and slippery footpaths, crossing the road on green pedestrian lights cars rarely heed, and the strange language all make for a difficult commute.

And working? The lack of urgency, planning and organisation is hard to cope with each and every day.

And as a result of these battles, I have never held so many negatively-themed conversations in my life. It will be a definite relief for me to return home and shed this overt cynicism.

But first....one final vignette to sum up......My final day in Mongolia was a highly memorable one. I decided to front up in person to Korean Air to plead for an excess luggage allowance. Lucky I did as my flight time had been changed the following day and so I needed to leave Tuesday night, rather than Wednesday! When I was going to be notified of this change, god only knows! So my farewell drinks became
My farewell at NamasteMy farewell at NamasteMy farewell at Namaste

Jo and Becky (at the far end) were missing from the other group shot!
my true farewell. My passport was delivered to my apartment by one of the VSO staff (less than 2 hours before I left!) and my fellow volunteers later helped me carry my bags out of the apartment and into the awaiting taxi (Golden Axe, the driver from my camel festival trip)....a perfect farewell (and Korean Air gave me a 15kg additional allowance)!

So looking forward.....here are some of my fears and reflections

How will I.........?
• drive - I have never had such a long break from driving.
• cross the road safely. I gave myself a terrible fright one day in January in Darkhan. I found myself having crossed the road obliviously looking exactly in the wrong direction. I was lucky that day and hope I can quickly get back into the swing of things in Australia.
• flick on a switch? (everything is upside down here - as it is in many other countries)
• operate a dishwasher?
• deal with the variety and range of products in a supermarket? And microwave meals?????
• deal with coins?

What I won't miss
• the door knocking technique - excessive and persistent
• not understanding
The rubbishThe rubbishThe rubbish

My Darkhan apartment stairwell after a weekend when the cleaning lady chose not to turn up!
much of what is being said around me
• my hard mattress
• the screaming baby next door
• the fights - screaming matches between couples inevitably right outside of my apartment
• being a freak - can't wait to be just another face in the crowd in Melbourne
• the broken glass and rubbish
• all manner of bodily fluids on the footpath - frozen and otherwise
• my placement - the boredom and frustration
• the ice, the winter temperatures and the time required to dress and undress (and facial tissues freezing in my pocket)
• static electricity, dry skin and using massive amounts of moisturiser
• the dust
• carrying toilet paper all day, everyday
• the emphasis on image and appearance
• my twin tub washing machine wrecking my clothes
• the clothes I have left behind. Just like when I did my 6 months around the world, it is no fun wearing the same clothes for months on end - so I have left most of them in UB for charity - the recipients won't be so sick of them.....yet!

What I will miss
• the brilliant, clear blue skies
• the cost
Manual labor #1Manual labor #1Manual labor #1

The blue bin is the only warning for vehicles and only protection from vehicles for this worker removing snow and ice from the road.
of living - like hair cut and color for less than A$7
• the simple life - essentially being resourceful such as the fun of making meals out of limited ingredients
• Darkhan, it was the centre of the universe
• the volunteers and ex-pats in Darkhan, UB and the rest of Mongolia - and our Indian and Asian group dinners
• my Mongolian language teacher, Suvdaa
• my interpreter, Altai
• my foster Mum, Duya
• VSO staff - especially Bishrel who managed to always stay cool in a crisis and competently sorted out all types of volunteer issues whether they were her responsibility or not
• Mongolian honey, Russian sunflower bars, sea buckthorn juice, and fresh meat and milk
• BBC World news - how will I live without my daily dose of Rico Hizon's Asian Business report and Aaron Heslehurst's infectious enthusiasm over movements on the stock market?

Thanks to Mum and Dad (many times over), Scott, and Kerrie & Brendan for the care packages sent over the past 7 months and all of you for the blog comments and messages, FB messages, emails and Skype chats. Having contact with friends at home has been really important
Manual labor #2Manual labor #2Manual labor #2

A group outside the UB parliament buildings - breaking up the ice and then shovelling it up!
in (hopefully) retaining my sanity.

Thoughts looking ahead.....
• I will continue to work on fund raising activities for the Darkhan Hospital psychiatric ward. This month we were awarded more than US$300 by the Friends of Mongolia to purchase art and craft materials for the clients to use during their daily occupational therapy sessions. All of the Mongolian volunteers were ecstatic. Now we move on to seeking funding for new beds!
• I won't rule out living and working overseas again but I am really looking forward to settling in Melbourne for the time being
• I still want to take the Trans-Siberian from Beijing to Moscow, so I expect to one day return to Mongolia for at least a short visit
• I never want to be out of Melbourne for another spring racing carnival
• I do not expect to complain about Melbourne's winter weather again (at least not in 2011!)
• And in case it has not been clear over the past 5 years of blogs, I LOVE MELBOURNE!


Additional photos below
Photos: 11, Displayed: 11


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A partially de-iced footpathA partially de-iced footpath
A partially de-iced footpath

It is safer than it was before, but still a tricky surface unless you concentrate!
Man-holeMan-hole
Man-hole

This is one of the most common sights in UB - the uncovered man-hole. A particular danger for the unwary and especially at night!
Sukhbaatar under wraps!Sukhbaatar under wraps!
Sukhbaatar under wraps!

When it starts snowing and welding needs to be done.....the largest cover available needs to be used. In this case, it is the Dutch flag!
Sukhbaatar under snowSukhbaatar under snow
Sukhbaatar under snow

And still the work on flimsy scaffolding continues!
Sukhbaatar and surroundsSukhbaatar and surrounds
Sukhbaatar and surrounds

The nearly finished product!


29th March 2011

Hi there
Hi Mez...fantastic tales from your experience...thanks for including me in the email alerts. Catch up in wonderful Melbourne once you're settled...cheers, Ev
30th March 2011

Thanks for the work you have done for My country and my hometown. Much appreciated.
30th March 2011

welcome back adventurer
i do not believe you! I give it a maximum of 12 months before I'm invited to another round of farewell drinks for Merryn. Enjoy the hot showers! S
30th March 2011

hear hear!! (there, there....)
hi Merryn I don't often get a breather to read your blog entries but I'm pretty sure I've told you before that I think they're awesome - insightful, humorous and cutting enough without being totally pessimistic I was nodding away to many of your comments - although when I looked at your photos of your lviing conditions, I guess our siuations aren't all that similar, what with me living in an epat paradise. But I agree - there' no place like home! can't wait to get back ... just gotta find my ruby slippers. PLease let me live vicariously through you - tell me about all the gigs you get to, people you catch up with, etc. miss you
31st March 2011

bodily fluids?
Bodily fluids, frozen and otherwise, on the footpath? ewwww

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