A Travellerspoint blog

Three days after I had posted my last blog…

sunny -5 °C

…My dad and Annette were standing in front of my apartment at 7.30 a.m.! :-) Really great! Also strange of course, to have them here, in ‘my’ neighbourhood. I believe my dad said to Annette: “This can’t be it... right?” and I believe Annette responded: “Ehm, well, I think so Eric.” Hihi. We had such a great and special one and a half weeks together, it was great to do things together and just to be together :-) We visited Bert’s Ger-camp in Terelj (of course they had to sleep in a Ger), went a few times to Ulaanbaatar, drank coffee in Café Amsterdam and had great Chinese and Korean dinners, visited one of the big markets in UB, travelled in probably the most crowded bus EVER (our estimation is at 120 people in one city bus), saw some of Ada’s work at the Federation of the Blind (where the felt slippers and Gers are being made, and where Annette and I got a ‘best massage’ from the blind) and the Federation of the Wheelchair users and experienced a part of the Trans-Mongolia express by travelling from UB to Zamiin-Ud (just before the border with China) and Erlian / Erenhot in China by train.

While they stayed in Zamiin-Ud, of all places, I crossed the border in an old Russian Jeep together with and on top of about 5 crazy Mongolian women that were about to ‘shop till they drop’ in Erlian and 3 Mongolian men. Luckily I speak eight words Mongolian and one of the women spoke three words English and so I could arrange that I was being brought to the train station (from which I thought I knew how to find the Mongolian consulate) while they were getting out of the taxi at the market in Erlian. Well, from the train station I walked and walked and walked and finally reached the consulate.
While I was waiting I got to speak to a Mongolian girl who was talking Italian and because of which I was completely surprised: standing in China, at the Mongolian consulate, hearing two Mongolians and one European looking guy talking Italian with each other?! But they were really great people, working for an Italian company in UB, and after we left the consulate because we couldn’t do any visa applications that day because the internet wasn’t working, and asked me to have Chinese lunch with them. So nice :-) great food (hot pot!) and great company. After lunch I went to check in at my hotel, had a look at that huge market where all Mongolians go to shop, and at night I had ‘dinner’ with them at the KFC haha; that’s what you get when you’re travelling with two guys I guess. Then we had a beer together in their hotel room which was also really nice.
The next morning I was the first one at the consulate, standing outside from 7.30 a.m. while the consulate was only opening at 9 / 9.30. But, it was a good decision, because at the time they opened there were about 20 people waiting. We did our visa application and I could come with them to their hotel as I already checked out that morning. We spent the rest of the day with talking, having lunch, picking up our new tourist visas (jeeej!), I read something and they slept, and then we left for the train that would bring us back to Zamiin-Ud.
In the train they do the passport and visa control which takes about one and a half hours; they come to check your tickets and passports, then the next official comes to pick up the passports, takes them out of the train to an office, the train is locked and you as passenger has to wait all the time till they come back and give your passport back. Then everybody really wants to get out of the train to go to the bathroom or eat something. I said goodbye to my new Mongolian and Romanian friends and met up with my dad and Annette again :-) we had dinner in Zamiin-Ud and could share our stories and at 9.25 p.m. we took back the night train to UB. The next morning was great because snow had fallen that night so the whole country was beautifully white; we could see a lot of the country from the train :-)
Back in Mongolia we had a few days together, in which they visited the Gandan monastery in UB and did some shopping, I worked a few days at the health centre and that Friday we went with Ada to see some of her work. Unfortunately they left already again last Saturday morning very early but it was really really great to have them here and bringing them to the airport was fun because Ada had been able to arrange one of the hospital ambulances and driver to drive us to the airport :-)

And now I am back to work of course! Slowly I and Ankhaa are able to contact all Xoroos and get back a huge number of questionnaires and some stories which is really nice! So this weekend will be “data analysis weekend” so that I can discuss preliminary results with some of my team members and stakeholders next week. I am wondering what comes out of all the questionnaires!

Well, and because pictures say more than a thousand words, I will try to upload a lot of photos from the past weeks ;-)


Posted by reneebhs 08:14 Archived in Mongolia Comments (1)

Researching and enjoying Mongolia

snow 0 °C

So, I saw a chance to write a piece again :-) Weekend #8 in Mongolia.
During the past weeks I mainly focused on developing a good (final) internship plan and arranging all things for my data collection. Also not especially the most interesting things to write to you about in detail, from day to day ;-) but now, after a few weeks, it’s maybe nice to give an update again.
Last week I heard that I officially can “GO” continuing my internship, which is great! Before I heard that, I already continued with all my activities here of course :-)

Also because of Jacqueline’s request for a brief outline of my research and what I would like to reach with it, I will write a little bit about my actual study here in Nalaikh. In the beginning of this year, Duya, the addiction nurse from the Mental Health and Addiction Cabinet of the Nalaikh District Health Centre, had indicated the need for treatment or support programmes for family members of heavily drinking or alcohol addicted persons in Nalaikh. She pointed out that existing support and treatment programmes are focused on the alcohol using person him- or herself and that only one past project also focused on the relatives of these persons (by offering information to them on the effects of alcohol (ab)use in the so called sobering-up centre at the police office in Nalaikh). Thus, when I came with my question about possibilities of conducting a research at the Nalaikh District Health Centre, preferably in the field of social health, these two ‘needs’ were combined by Ada. In order to find out what the family members of heavily alcohol using persons experience, feel, find important or need, due to this alcohol use or alcohol problem, I try to reach as many family members as possible and ask them (through a questionnaire) about these experiences, feelings and needs. Hopefully, I will be able to, based on the outcomes of the research, advise the addiction nurse and the health centre on important indicators to include in support or treatment programmes to offer to these and other relatives :-)
Based on the outcomes of my short pilot study, together with Duya I developed a questionnaire which I took to each of the Xoroos of Nalaikh last week. Nalaikh has 7 Xoroos and last week I visited each of them together with all my interpreters (at the moment, I work together with Ankhaa, Odno and with Tamiraa somtimes ;-)) which is nice. So the data collection has started. I hope some interesting and useful results will come out of it!

And besides all these work and study activities; last week Saturday it was beautiful weather again so we decided to do another part of Ada’s and my plan to walk from Nalaikh to Ulaanbaatar in parts. Wytze, one of the two other Dutch men in Nalaikh, also joined that day. We took the bus to the ‘toll gate’ of Ulaanbaatar and from there we walked through the big Khashaa-area all the way up to the planetarium and decided that it would be nice to walk back via the other side, via the ski area. Only we did not know that a huge fence forced us to walk all the way back via deep valleys and steep hillsides. Anyhow, it was really beautiful again and so warm that I could walk in a t-shirt that day!

Last Friday evening was also nice; Ada asked me to join her to a party from one of her Mongolian friends, who has a transport company which exists for 5 years now. So all kinds of business partners and other friends were invited and I could come as well. The party was in Ulaanbaatar, on the 16th floor of a huge hotel and conference centre (so we had a beautiful view!); it was nice to see how such a Mongolian business party is organised, with opera singers, live music, ‘stand-up comedians’ and a lottery. We met some really nice people there, had a great dinner and just had a nice evening, something different than sitting at home with a red wine ;-)

For the rest: I applied for my Chinese visa two days ago as I will have to leave the country and come back with a new Mongolian tourist visa. So next weekend I will be travelling to Erlian, just across the border in China, and hopefully I will be able to apply for my visa there and get it back in one day. Then Tuesday evening I will be travelling back to Mongolia to start with the second half of my internship period ;-) The great thing is that I don’t have to travel all by myself, but that this Wednesday my dad and his girlfriend are coming to visit me here! I’m really really excited to see them, to show them a little bit around here in the area and to travel together with them till the border of China :-) (and back again from there)

So, ‘see’ you again in a few weeks!


Posted by reneebhs 13:38 Archived in Mongolia Comments (4)

In Nalaikh for exactly one month...

sunny 17 °C

... but it feels much longer! As I am writing this, it’s Thursday evening. During dinner I said to Ada, it’s exactly 4 weeks ago that I arrived in Mongolia, but it feels much longer already. Yes, she said, but you’re also much more than adapted to the Mongolian lifestyle already. Well, I guess that true probably ;-)

It’s going well here; since my last update I mainly worked on my internship and research plan and tried to discuss many aspects of it thoroughly with all people that are involved with the project. It’s starting to look like a real project now, hihi. So during the week I’ve been busy with talking to people, trying to get available information on all kinds of aspects of the project, translating everything from Mongolian to English together with my interpreter (which I ‘borrow’ from Ada at the moment), and with my thinking-writing-thinking-writing process together with Ada. She’s a great mentor, although pretty strict ;-) (but that’s fine!) and together we work hard to make the project successful. Hopefully it will really work out that well.

Last weekend I didn’t do that much worth telling, besides that I worked on my internship and research plan a lot but in quite a relaxed way. Furthermore, Ada and I cooked nicely, drank some red wine and played games :-) The weekend before I would go to Terelj, to visit Bert’s Ger camp (Dutch man with a Mongolian family who started a Ger camp 15 years ago and makes the best cheese!), which we also did, but also decided to stay over a night. Bert would come to pick us up in Nalaikh as he was on his way back from Ulaanbaatar to Terelj. At a certain moment he called that he would be a little later and if we knew a good place to park a car for one night; on his way to Nalaikh he saw a car of Mongol Rally standing next to the road which had kind of broken down. So he took the four people and the car and drove to Nalaikh, we parked the car in the Khashaa (private territory of a family, usually) of one of Ada’s friends and we drove with the seven of us (in one Landrover) to Terelj. These four people were of my age, so it was really nice talking to them :-) One came from San Francisco, one from Montana, one from Manchester and one half from Mongolia, half from Oxford  Three of them drove from London to Ulaanbaatar, in about two months.
On the way, we made a short stop at the ‘Turtle rock’, which is really amazing, check out the picture! Around 3 p.m. we arrived in Terelj at the camp and first we had some sort of late lunch which was really good, and then I walked a little bit with two Dutch people who arrived at the camp that morning. The other four wanted to walk in the mountains but as I was on my flip-flops I thought that wouldn’t be such a great idea to come with them ;-) Around 7 we had dinner and after that we did some vodka-game at the fire outside; cold but so beautiful! That night was my first night in a Ger; also reeaally cold but also really nice! The next morning we left at the end of the morning, I had a nice shower at home (hot water on the weekends!) and we had a nice rest Sunday.

I will upload some pictures of Terelj and the Ger camp and I finally took some pictures of my apartment, so then you get an idea of where I’m living (or actually, most of the time sleeping) at the moment; it’s a real nice place. Oh and Magda, when I saw your new fish on Facebook, I felt so connected hihi, I also have fish here!

Well, that’s it again for the moment. I’ll write again soon 

Xxx Renée

Posted by reneebhs 17:21 Archived in Mongolia Comments (5)

Meetings, Mongolian “micro’s” and beautiful nature :-)

Day 15!

sunny 21 °C

As I am writing this, it is Friday, the sixth of September (already!). Now it's about six o'clock in the evening; today I had my first Mongolian language class! Nice ;-) it seems I can also actually learn some Mongolian hehe. My teacher asked if I experienced a culture shock haha, and I laughed, but it was actually a real question... I don't experience culture shock, although some things are of course really different from the Netherlands. Queues don't exist, people don't phone when they can't make appointments and buses are so full that you hardly can breath.
Last Sunday, all children in Mongolia had their great school year opening (1 September). It doesn’t matter which day the first of September actually is: the opening is always on the first of this month. So all children, parents and teachers were dressed up and actually always especially buy new clothes and get new haircuts for this official opening. Busy on the streets!

Last weekend it was beautiful weather again; about 25 degrees I guess, and Ada and I went to Terelj to see something of the surroundings. Terelj is one of the Xoroos (kind of “sub-districts”) of Nalaikh and we went there by “micro”, a small van which should actually take about 14 people but which took 25 that Sunday. Add this to the great Mongolian roads and you have a wonderful bumpy ride ;-) Anyhow, Terelj is a tiny farmers-village but is beautiful and the surroundings are really nice. Last Saturday we decided to go for a walk and took the Nalaikh-bus to Ulaanbaatar but got out close to Khonkhor and walked through the mountains. So beautiful! We even saw the Trans Mongolia express passing by :-)
After walking through the river, as we couldn’t cross it differently, we walked back to the bus stop and took the bus back to Nalaikh.

The week before this week I spent my time with meeting all kinds of interesting people in Nalaikh and Ulaanbaatar as a preparation for my internship; we talked with the addiction nurse and the managing doctor of the mental health department of the Nalaikh District Health Centre, with the director of the centre, the director of Amnesty International Mongolia, the deputy governor of Nalaikh, the project manager of the 10 year mental health programme of Mongolia, and the director of the Mongol Urkh Psychotherapy Association. All really nice and interesting persons :-)
This week I officially started my internship and the starting-up phase went well; although I have to get used to the Mongolian style of planning meetings and appointments, to the fact that almost all interesting documents need to be translated from Mongolian to English, etc.

About a week ago I also moved into my own apartment, which is about 100 metres away from Ada’s apartment. Really nice! I have to personalise it a little bit but it looks good! I’ll try to make some nice pictures and upload them as well. Oh, and I didn’t tell about our water-thing here (for the Zwolle-people: it’s almost the Harm Smeengekade guys ;-)) Throughout the week we don’t have hot water (if you have any water at all) so every other day I take a ‘shower’ by boiling water, filling 4 times a 1,5 litre bottle with cold water and add some boiled water, and then stand in the bath tub while creating my own shower. Normally in the weekends there is hot water again so we can take a real shower, hehe. The washing machine is also funny (Meike, I think I do understand now what you had to do in Surinam!) as you first need to fill one reservoir with hot water, add soap and your clothes of course, start the machine, drain the water when the programme is done, add fresh cold water, rinse, drain the water, add cold water again, rinse again, drain again, take our your laundry and put it in the centrifuge, start this programme, and then you’re done! (and you’ve been busy for about 2 hours)

I also wanted to let you know that I don’t have Wifi anywhere (in the office I do but somehow my iPhone doesn’t connect to that network) and I always have to go on the internet after working hours in Ada’s apartment. So my responses are not as quick as I would like them to be and unfortunately I can’t send whatsapp’s...
So: I'll definitely send you e-mails back as soon as I have found the time and 'peace' for this hihi, but it might take a while!

Thinking of you again :-)


Posted by reneebhs 03:05 Archived in Mongolia Comments (3)

Mongolian update

Day 4 of my stay

sunny 22 °C

Day 4 of my period in Nalaikh! Although it feels like I've been here for a much longer period already.
Last Thursday morning at 6 a.m. I arrived at the airport and was picked up by Ada and one of the ambulance drivers of the Health Center in Nalaikh in an ambulance Mongolian style! Quite strange, to all of a sudden walk in Mongolia and be in the apartment of Ada, but also very special of course! Nalaikh is nice and the surroundings are beautiful, the apartment is perfect, the neighbours are really friendly and the neighbourhood is also nice :) Next weekend I'll be moving to my 'own' apartment which I will rent from the daughter from the ambulance driver, and which is around the corner (and looks amazing!).
Ada and I did quite a lot already in these few days; from travelling with the local bus to Ulaanbaatar, meeting the director of the hospital, meeting up a few times with our interpreter, walking a few hours in the Xoroos (districts) of Nalaikh accompanied by at least 30 street dogs, shopping at the markets in Nalaikh and Ulaanbaatar and having a real Mongolian lunch :) all really nice experiences!
Although I still need to get used to the idea that I'm actually staying here for a few months, I'm really enjoying my stay so far and I'm looking forward to kind of start my (preparatory) work here in the health center.

Thinking of you! :)


Posted by reneebhs 21:10 Archived in Mongolia Comments (4)

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