More than nothing, less than everythingNovember 6, 2017
Welcome curious reader and thank you for stepping into my virtual page, no need to take off your shoes.
The intent is to transmit an idea to you, a glimpse or maybe nothing more than a distant reverberation of my volunteering experience in Mongolia so far.
Although it has already been 5 months since my life got flipped turned upside down (I hope you sang that), I am still discovering new and fascinating aspects, facets and dimensions to this beautifully complex country. Some are significant, such as realizing that Mongolians never got the chance to fully tell their own story. Most of what we know and believe to be true about Mongolia’s history has been through a 13th century book, The secret history of the Mongols, originally written in Mongol script by an anonymous author and the only surviving copy was a Chinese translation rediscovered in the 19th century. We also learned their history through other peoples’ accounts, mostly the Chinese empire which ruled for centuries and more recently the Soviet-Union, who had significant influence over Mongolia for the better part of the 20th century until its collapse in 1989. Lately, there is an apparent desire and drive to tell Mongolia’s story by Mongolians who want to connect more than ever with the rest of the world, this time, on their own terms.
I have also noticed some minor elements such as realizing that the sound you and I would usually associate with an ice cream truck actually comes from a garbage truck here, reminding people to take out the trash. (I stopped running towards it after day 3).
Furthermore, I get to experience time differently, for instance, when scheduling a meeting with a Mongolian company, I noticed no specific time was agreed upon. My Mongolian counterpart assured me not to worry and jokingly said: “In Mongolia there are only 2 times for meetings: morning and afternoon”. This is now referred to as “Mongolian time”. Another observation is that Taxi fares are strictly based on distance as opposed to time, so theoretically, you could stay stuck in traffic all day as it gets darker, and your wallet wouldn’t get any lighter.
My time here is split between supporting other volunteers with their mandates and working directly with local partner organizations on developing their HR capacity based on their specific needs. Although my title does include the word officer, I don’t carry a whistle and I don’t have to run after anyone, I realized that working with volunteers as opposed to employees comes with some HR advantages. Volunteers are here with higher intrinsic motivation, they want to be here, they want to contribute and they are often already driven and engaged! (The lottery for any HR dept.)
Mongolia is giving me more than I can ever offer in return. It is hard to know or measure the exact impact and significance of what I bring or how sustainable it will be once all is said and done, but this much is true, we are working towards making a positive impact one day at a time, trying to bring something which is more than nothing and less than everything.