32-scabby ankle-lack of work-tsaagan tsar

As i rapidly approach the 6 month mark i’m starting to get very anxious about work and how little has happened that i had planned. Since the trip to Beijing in November there have been many obstacles, changing desks/rooms=constant, interpreter missing in action=6 weeks, Christmas/New Year=1 week, Tsaagan tasr=2 weeks, reconnecting computer/retrieving files/reconnecting internet=everyday!!!

When i first began my placement the first thing i wanted to accomplish was getting the 2 designers their own room and making it into a designer haven, pictures up, swatches up etc However the nomad within all Mongolians, that appears to go deep even in the city folk has not let this happen. I did manage to get the designers in their own room and then the next quest was to get a board up on the wall for all of our images, this has never happened and since then we have changed rooms, lost a designer, gained a new designer, lost a designer to the other side of the factory and at present tsaagan tsar hit. It is now 6 months and i feel i have to give in to this constant moving and accept that it is part of the Mongolian DNA to change location constantly. Next week i am hoping to begin training the designers on all things inspirational so they can unleash their inner designers and let the creations flow, i have written up a plan, had it translated and as of Monday we begin with AW11/12 catwalks. Maybe it is meant to be this way, i mean the catwalks do begin this week, well for Womenswear anyway so it could have worked out perfectly. I have lost the flow and on a daily basis i try to re-gain it, as yet unsuccessfully so i’m gonna get strict, the designers are mine at least 1 day a week until August when i leave-full stop!!!!!

So that aside, the work i mean, regular life has become hectic, i guess once you have been somewhere new for a while and met alot of people the social side becomes hectic.                   Last week my birthday coincided with Tsaagan Sar, White Month or White Moon, otherwise known as the Lunar New Year. I was lucky enough to have the week off as i work in the private sector and indulged in daily coffees, some work and a couple of trips to orphanages. The Tuesday was my birthday and i had a relaxing day then in the evening a lovely dinner. My tiny apartment or room became a dining room, half sitting on my bed and the rest on the sofa with  a table inbetween, a friend gave me a kilo of beef for my birthday, literally not metaphorically and so we had stroganoff-a la Mongolia. It was also non-alcohol day on my birthday in UB so we were all well prepared for such an event and had brought in supplies to last throughout the night, beer, wine and the inevitable vodka. I recently discovered that mixing vodka in with jared cherries is yummy and dangerously sweet and easy to drink. As usual the evening’s conversation was filthy just how we like it and full of laughter.

The following day i went with a few others to an orphanage, well its not really an orphanage but a police station where the police bring in street kids to sleep and eat. It was a sad place but kids being kids, they were fun and loveable and wanting cuddles. It was easy to see that there was a heireichy within the orphanage, the strong widdling out the weak, alot of fighting and stealing but also we discovered when we played Bingo, alot of discipline and honesty. Its a strange place where kids grow up fast and have not had alot of love but still crave it and for the most still innocent as kids should be. All the kids were able to read and write and loved to show off their few English words and to show off their games and tricks. The next day we went to another orphanage, an established, funded children’s home, most of the kids have family still but they are unable to look after them for the most part and so they end up at Lotus Children’s home. This place was different, all the kids were clean and helped each other out, the older kids looked after the younger ones as if they were their siblings, but at heart they were the same as the kids from the day before, wanting to play and cuddle. We stayed for lunch, vegi Butz as it is a vegi childrens home, obviously quite rare in Mongolia!!!!  I had brought with me a bunch of coloured paper to make paper chains with the kids but almost straight away they became bracelets and watches, all created by the kids themselves, i had nothing to do with it i just supplied the paper, scissors, pens and stickers and they did the rest. I will definetely be going back to both places during my stay as everyone needs a cuddle from time to time including me.

On the 2nd day of Tsaagan Sar i went to visit a fellow volunteer in Nalaikh, a town an hour outside of UB and as it was Tsaagan Sar and the whole country was moving around visiting relatives the bus was crammed packed. The driver and conductors on the buses earn the profit from the passengers they carry so they like to fit on as many as possible, more than a bus can carry; the windows are frozen, you cant see out and you can barely get both feet firmly on the floor. I arrived in Nalaikh at dusk and it was pretty grim in that light, but the following morning you see and appreciate what Nalaikh has to offer, surrounded by mountains without the brown UB haze and there was a new Buddhist temple on the hill, i love the temples here, they are a becon of light and joy in an otherwise grey ex-communist setting.

Saturday of Tsaagan Tsar a few of us were invited to our teachers house at 10am. It was a beautiful snowy day and a steaming -10 degrees, a perfect setting for White Month. To tell the truth we were a bit scared as we know by now that there will be vodka involved and it wasnt yet even midday. But the great feast we were presented with absorbed the vodka, just as it should be. The other guests were Korean and Japanese students, as tradition dictates there was singing, in Mongolian, Korean, Japanese and English, im always suprised how we are the least willing to sing and the other Nationalities cant get enough of it!!

So the scabby ankle, its not an interesting story but it is a mystery. I woke up last week with a massive, bulbous water blister on the front of my ankle, i had no idea where it came from, my boots dont rub there and i havent injured myself but there it was starring up at me. The following day it had burst, but it wasnt yet ready to, it then re-blistered then burst again then a couple of days ago it started to hurt alot, then it turned yellow and so it was time to visit the doctor. Somehow a mystery blister with no possible cause had gotten infected and is now thankfully recovering, the doctor had some magical gel she put on it after cleaning it thoroughly and within a few hours it felt great again. Thank you mystery gel for curing my mystey blister!!!


About rdamm

I am about to embark upon a V.S.O. placement for one year in UB, Mongolia. I shall be working as a textile designer at Mongol Nekhmel, a textile company that produces cashmere, yak and camel hair clothing and homeware. I shall be sharing the skills i have gained in the last 10 years as a designer, creating connections and helping to open-up the products to the European and Japanese markets, therefore hopefully assisting to bring herding communities out of poverty. The views expressed in this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of V.S.O. www.vso.org.uk www.vsointernational.org
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