Saturday, October 8, 2011

Integration into the Community

Integrating into the community is an integral part of a successful PC experience.  Building personal relationships is a big part of this integration process.  I have many counterparts here at First Secondary School of Arvikheer that I consider friends, and really helps my ability to be a successful volunteer!

My first year here I was a little reserved and shy (hard to believe I know especially for those who know me well:)), not attending the teacher camp out weekend prior to the start of the school year and other events.  However, I always enjoyed the parties and celebrations, though felt most comfortable with the students at the dorm!

This year I am expanding my horizons and getting out of my comfort zone more by becoming more of a team player as part of the teacher/social worker/school employee group.  The camping trip in early September was great fun and helped the foreign language teachers and I get to know each other a little better!  These women are not only my counterparts, I consider most of them my friends as well, which is the Mongolian way.  Co-workers are your friends and your social network here! 

No wonder, since school personnel spend so much time together!  Case in point.... the city wide Teacher/Staff Competition between all 5 secondary schools here in Arvikheer.  This event was held yesterday, and my school won first place!  Though events often seem very last minute and thrown together to me, they come together quite nicely.  All staff and teachers (myself included and only a few were missing) assembled in the school gym at 5 pm Friday.  There we practiced our opening number (which I wish I had been able to film instead of participate in because it was great!!!) for hours.... I also wanted to be on the "darts team", so we practiced.  We had one dart, a dart board and over a dozen people..... not the most useful practice....Oh no, I thought, this is ridiculous....

Close to 8 pm, I said I needed to go because I was meeting my site mates whom I had not seen nor talked to much all week.  Later I found out that the practice continued till 10 pm, by which time I was heading home.

Saturday started late as usual.  We were to meet at 8:30 a.m, which turned out to be more like 9:45, where all school teams assembled on the town square, a few words were said by some local government folks then we marched through town with a police escort, each school group with a member holding the school flag out front.  We proceeded to the outskirts of town where we had cars, meekers and buses (each department had to arrange their car) with numbers on their windshields and we lined up and proceeded (again with a police escort) to the outskirts of town, near the river, in an open field area for the games.

Each school set up their own area, marking it with the rocks all of us picked up and made our square with.  My school had two lovely tents, one where we put our stuff, some folks had to change clothes, and the other was our "hospitality" tent, where we drank airag frequently.  I must say that particular airag was the best I've tasted in Mongolia, not too sour or fermented tasting.

The first competition event was the performance and everyone in school took part, with four different musical numbers (including a surprise performance rap by a young teacher and a history teacher who had debuted their rap at practice.... and it was the winning piece I believe!), and a twist and shout type song where the dart team was featured ...I really felt a part of the school and the team!  I even felt badly that I did not score in darts (one throw and I had scored consistently during practice that day...) Oh my, I felt competitive!!!
First Secondary School marching!

 After our big win, the celebration continued at school, where we toasted (with vodka), enjoyed the food we won, apples, candy, pizzas, cake, etc... and danced!  I was in the early group going home around 8:30.... exhausted from the cold windy day out doors and my legs were tired from so much standing. However, I do feel fully integrated:)

tug of war was so awesome, I wished I was on the team!!!

the Amazing Dart team!  some of us are even smiling:)
though it's usually "all serious" in official looking photos.....the lighter side

gymnastics competition, which is more like "dance/aerobics" routine
the celebration continued in our big room at school!

We're Number ONE!!!!
Director in center with Foreign Language Dept. (some of them..and me:)

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