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493Re: Calling M-16 volunteers to Mongolia

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  • the_sun_at_cal
    Apr 15, 2005
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      Are just guessing about staging being in SF, or do you have some knowledge about it? Just
      curious. SF would be SO convenient for me!

      --- In Mongolia_2003@yahoogroups.com, "russianplane" <unlisted@s...> wrote:
      > Hi Jenny,
      > I'm an M-16, too. I'm out in San Francisco, so it seems likely that
      > I'll be welcoming you all into my fair city for Staging. I was just
      > writing my recruiter when your message came in. (I'm subscribed so
      > they come to my email.) I was asking for contact info for another
      > volunteer in San Francisco who is an M-16, too, to see what her plans
      > and packing list were looking like. If I do get her info, I'll see if
      > she'll post here her ideas.
      > I've gone through all the posts on this site and there were a few good
      > messages about packing -- what to bring and not what to bring. I've
      > pasted one of the best below my sig.
      > For preparation, I've got a big list going -- mostly clothes that I
      > think will stand up to a good beating and still keep me warm. I'm
      > planning on bringing an old laptop to use for music, etc, which I can
      > then donate when I leave. I'm a music junkie and couldn't live
      > without my music. It seems like we'll have electricity, as teachers
      > in a fairly good-sized town. I'm assuming a lot there, based on the
      > fact that we'll be teaching at High Schools or what-have-you.
      > I'm trying to keep it simple and light, but I'm a minimalist in
      > general. When I go hiking (3-5 days), my pack weighs in at about
      > 20-25lbs, even snow camping. That said, it seems everyone overpacks
      > and I'm sure I'll be wishing I'd left a ton of stuff at home. Jaime
      > (below) suggests that you can get a lot of local stuff at good prices
      > or ship stuff from home for use later. In my mind, I'd rather bring
      > two large bags with me with all my stuff, rather than trust everything
      > I want to bring to some foreign (or domestic for that matter) customs
      > officer.
      > A friend of mine was Peace Corps Nepal and she's been following my
      > preparations and has given me tons of good advice. She nixed the
      > solar battery charger immediately, which some others on this message
      > board recommended against, as well. I figure its gonna be a bit like
      > living at home and a bit like camping, with more emphasis on the
      > 'living at home' bit. Bring what you want, but bring only a few items
      > of quality.
      > I'd be interested in hearing about your teaching experience and if you
      > have any ideas or plans for adapting your teaching to Mongolia.
      > -Sean
      > From: "jaimeforsyth" <jaimeforsyth@y...>
      > Date: Thu Apr 17, 2003 5:01 am
      > Subject: Just bring what makes you happy!
      > Sain bain uu, Soon to be Peace Corps Volunteers,
      > I'm an M13 here in Mongolia (i.e., from the 2002 PCV group) and have
      > enjoyed reliving all the packing uncertainties I went through last
      > year as I read through some of your emails. The best advice I got
      > from a current volunteer, "Just bring what makes you happy."
      > Other than that, the best advice I can contribute is: Don't spend a
      > lot of money beforehand. It's more fun, less stressful, and much
      > much much cheaper to buy things here (or have them custom-made) then
      > it is to schlep everything here only to find out that you could have
      > gotten something suitable here for a fraction of the price. Also, if
      > you spent alot of cash on something in the States, you'll probably
      > feel obligated to get it back to the US, too, and mailing from here
      > is horribly expensive and carrying additional stuff is no fun either.
      > With that said, I'll try to save you a few dollars and a few pounds
      > of luggage:
      > 1. Vitamins: Once you're sworn in, the PC will provide Centrivite
      > multi-vitamins, Calcium supplements, Vitamin C/E/B6 and Iron
      > supplements (and any other prescription drugs). Just bring enough of
      > those for the summer.
      > 2. Sunscreen/bug juice/moisture lotion: I think we got all of this
      > in our med kits (when you first arrive)...Lubriderm moisture lotion,
      > DEET bug lotion (you might want to bring your own), and a thick,
      > greasy SPF 28 sunscreen (definitely bring your own). Caveat: This is
      > from last year; things can always change.
      > 3. School supplies: You can get notebooks, folders, pens, glue, post-
      > its, markers, paper clips, all that kind of stuff in UB, if not in
      > smaller aimags. The only thing that I haven't seen is good quality
      > chalk, blackboard erasers, stapler, scissors. Also, the markers
      > aren't the best quality. Still, who wants to haul all that stuff
      > around? Bring what you can't live without and have a care package
      > sent later if you really can't find it here. There are a few
      > stationery/office supply stores in UB.
      > 4. Seeds: ADRA (an NGO) provides free seeds (mostly vegies, not sure
      > about herbs) and is conveniently located next to the PC office in
      > UB. We just had a big distribution to all the PCVs that wanted them.
      > 5. Wool tights: The women wear wool-like tights under skirts that
      > can be picked up in any market for < $1.40. You can also get other
      > (nicer) options for a little more money.
      > 6. Pillow: If you're at all particular about what you sleep on,
      > bring a pillow. Options here range from flat-as-a-pancake to the
      > Rock of Gibraltar. I bought a travel pillow case and stuffed my down
      > jacket in it for the summer, and that was fine, but was glad to have
      > a 'real' pillow waiting for me in my 'winter' box in UB.
      > 7. Summer (i.e., smaller) sleeping bag: unless you're planning on
      > taking some backpacking trips, you might not want to bother; it's
      > just one more thing to carry back and forth from the States, and one
      > more expense. You can get fleece, cotton, or silk sleeping bag
      > liners made for you here for a fraction of the cost. I haven't seen
      > them, but I know they make sleeping bags here for really cheap and
      > you could buy that or a quilt if you need extra warmth in winter.
      > Recurring theme: You can get almost anything made here for cheap!
      > One PCV just asked if I knew anyone who wanted to buy the sleeping
      > bag that she had brought with her, as she was already worried about
      > the hassle of bringing it back next year.
      > 8. Coats/winter boots/accessories: You can get everything you need
      > here; these people are the experts. Most of the PCVs have had local
      > seamstresses whip together various types of coats or jackets for
      > them, and there are plenty of hats, gloves, and scarves here.
      > Typical examples (these are the low end typical)...Women's long, down
      > coat: $14; Custom-made long, wool coat: $18-$27, fleece jacket with
      > Mongolian designs: $14. (Even if a zipper breaks or seam gives out,
      > you can have it repaired on the spot at a repair shop or by a local
      > seamstress for about a buck.) Traditional Mongolian boots can be
      > bought or custom-made for around $30-35, I think. One thing that I
      > brought which worked better than a scarf at minus 40 was a neck
      > gaiter (aka, neck warmer). As it's just some fleece stitched into a
      > tube, which I'm sure can be made here, but you can probably pick one
      > up cheap at this time of year...or make it yourself. If you have
      > favorite gloves or mittens, I'd probably bring those, but you will
      > certainly have alot to choose from here. (Note on the boots: If you
      > know you have a problem with cold feet and want to take your chances
      > with the high tech boots you can get in America, check out Baffin
      > boots, www.baffin.com . After I was erroneously told that I wouldn't
      > be able to get wos. size 9 shoes here, I bought a pair of Baffin
      > Acadia boots online rated to -94 F (I wanna know who had to test
      > them!), and they're relatively lightweight and were toasty at minus
      > 45; and my feet get cold really easily.)
      > 9. Great things to bring to your training site: Frisbee, hacky
      > sack, deck of cards (Uno is good, too). You will make instant
      > friends of every kid in the area when you bring out the Frisbee.
      > 10. Watch batteries: They have watch repair shops all over the
      > place, at least in UB. Because they usually last around 2 years, I
      > just saved myself the hassle by replacing my battery right before I
      > left.
      > 11. Duct tape: So far, you can't buy it here, and it's infinitely
      > useful.
      > 12. Photo album: Your host family and every other Mongolian you meet
      > will love to see the pictures of your family and friends. They're
      > more interested in people than scenery.
      > 13. If you bring a sports magazine (with pictures of NBA players)
      > and a teen magazine (with pictures of the latest pop princess...last
      > year it was Britney Spears) you will make a teenager or ten very
      > happy. (note: basketball is very popular here and most towns will
      > have at least one basketball standard for the boys to play. Even
      > poor people also often have satellite dishes, and are familiar with
      > some NBA players. One little boy asked me if I knew Allen Iverson.)
      > 14. Wire hangers: Easy to pack, and almost everyone's home in the
      > US seems to have a bunch from the dry cleaner. Handy to have,
      > especially since they bend into lots of different shapes for lots of
      > different uses. Even furnished apartments don't seem to have many
      > hangers to speak of, and in a ger, it's easy to bend them to hang
      > anywhere. You can buy plastic hangers here if you need to.
      > 15. Tupperware: Pack anything that needs protecting into tupperware
      > containers. They're great to have afterwards for storage, especially
      > since the cheap Chinese ones here aren't leakproof.
      > 16. Toiletries/make-up: You can get everything you need here
      > including American toothpaste and toothbrushes, and I'm starting to
      > see floss occasionally. For women: they have all your cosmetic
      > needs...all of them. They even have Revlon, Estee Lauder, and
      > Clinique products if you don't want to try the Swedish or Korean
      > brands. Tampax tampons are available, but they're more expensive
      > here.
      > 17. Dried fruit: I've seen raisins, apricots, and plums pretty
      > regularly.
      > 18. Food: I saw someone had a list of everything s/he would bring.
      > Everything on the list can be found in UB ...maybe not every time you
      > check, but on a sort of regular basis. There are times when we're
      > out of Skippy/Jif peanut butter or macaroni and cheese or whatever;
      > but you just learn to grab things when you see them, even if you
      > don't need them at the moment. UB has a good selection of fresh
      > fruits and vegetables all year round; it's more hit or miss in other
      > places.
      > 19. Plastic egg container: Only 1 volunteer seems to have found one
      > of these in Mongolia, but since you get eggs piled in a plastic bag,
      > it's a very handy thing to bring (from a camping store).
      > 20. Plastic insulated mug and spoon: It was a hassle to find a
      > spoon when you just wanted to have some noodles in your room, or to
      > stir the ubiquitous "Coffee King". Having an insulated mug that was
      > bigger than 6 oz. and had a handle in which your fingers actually
      > fit, would be a nice thing, though not a necessity.
      > 21. 1 liter, wide-mouth Nalgene bottle: It must be the unwritten
      > rule, because I think every single PCV has one. Besides the obvious,
      > they're also handy to use as measuring cups. I brought 2 for some
      > reason, but really only needed one.
      > 22. Solar battery re-charger: I have a brand-new, never been opened
      > one that no one here seems to want to buy from me. One of the
      > problems is where to put it where it can get 12 hours of sunlight
      > (not that you have nearly that much in the winter) while you are
      > away. If you have a ger, you don't have any windows either. The
      > perception of one person who used one was that the batteries were
      > never fully charged. You can buy an electric battery charger here
      > that will charge 4 AA batteries in about 4 hours, and you can
      > probably get that much electricity in one day even in the smallest
      > soum (town); that is, unless the power's completely out, which it can
      > be for a period of days every now and again. You can supplement by
      > bringing a family-size box of batteries that you can draw on when you
      > need to. You can buy Western quality batteries here for the regular
      > retail price, i.e., not as cheap as from a US shopping warehouse.
      > The Chinese ones available everywhere are terrible.
      > 23. Laptops are great because it can be your journal, stereo, video
      > game, and DVD player depending on what type you have. You can store
      > all your CDs on it, and bring small battery operated speakers, or buy
      > some here if you will have electricity in your site. Buy a padded,
      > snug-fitting, zippered pouch to store it in; and ALWAYS keep it
      > zipped up to protect it from all the dust here. I talked to someone
      > living in a ger and he never had a problem due to the cold; he used
      > coal during the coldest parts of the winter, which retains its heat
      > much longer than wood. You can also buy small gel packs that can be
      > heated and put in with the laptop (in the laptop's insulated bag) at
      > night if you think it will be a problem. (I haven't had to test this
      > theory) As far as theft: I brought a laptop lock which I've never
      > used, but it's good to be concerned about theft. Some of the
      > volunteers who have been victims of theft from their ger, never had a
      > problem with their laptop, because in a small soum, you cannot
      > possibly show up anywhere with a laptop without it being obvious that
      > you took it from the volunteer. Most thefts were children stealing
      > money or anything that looked cool and was small enough to hide. And
      > if you don't live in a ger, you will probably have a good enough lock
      > on your door that anything inside is safe. Yes, you have to be
      > willing to accept risk if you bring it, but there are alot of long,
      > winter nights to consider and I haven't yet heard of anyone who was
      > sorry they brought it. Also, the PC has a technology initiative, so
      > you could also use your laptop as a teaching tool and introduce your
      > local Mongolian friends to the possibilities. While most are too
      > poor to own one themselves, more and more are available in schools,
      > internet cafes, or gov't sponsored student computer rooms. The PC is
      > offering a computer workshop in a couple weeks for PCVs and one each
      > of their community members who are interested in learning how to
      > train other people on computer skills.
      > 24. Heavy-duty ziploc bags are great for all sorts of things. For
      > example, rice and sugar come in cheap, plastic bags that are easily
      > broken.
      > 25. Books/magazines: Pack everything you could possibly want, or be
      > willing to donate to the PC library, into boxes and ship to yourself
      > at the PC office in UB via the "M bag". This is the slow boat to
      > Mongolia, anywhere from 2-6 months but it's only $1/lb. It's only
      > for printed material.
      > 26. Musical instruments: Half a dozen of our group brought guitars
      > or fiddles and I haven't heard any complaints and they were great to
      > have around. If you have an expensive instrument, I'd keep it at
      > home and find something cheaper to bring with you.
      > 27. Dispelling rumors....No, you will not have to forage for wood,
      > nor is it likely that you will have to chop it if you don't want to.
      > Wood is so scarce in most of your communities that you will probably
      > have coal at least in the winter, or maybe some will use dung at some
      > point (really, it smells more like the vegetation it used to be than
      > anything nasty). The few forests are being depleted so rapidly that
      > it's illegal to cut the wood in most cases, though that law is
      > thoroughly ignored; still, it's not a good precedent to set for the
      > PC to have the volunteers illegally taking wood if you happen to live
      > by one of the increasingly rare forests. The PC has arranged with
      > all sites to have fuel and water supplied. In reality, some people
      > get their water brought to them and some get it from the local well.
      > (One volunteer joked that the only foraging he had to do was the
      > verbal foraging to try to talk his director into having fuel
      > delivered in a timely manner.)
      > 28. If you need something desperately and don't have anyone to ship
      > it to you; REI, LL Bean, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble will ship
      > here. Amazon, for one, is great if your package doesn't arrive in a
      > timely manner; they'll re-ship it for free.
      > 29. Things I saw in emails or on lists that you don't need to bring:
      > lighters (readily available because cigarettes are so cheap); hammock
      > (unless you have other ideas besides stringing it between 2 non-
      > existent trees); slippers (e.g., you can buy toasty wool felt ones
      > here); extra bandannas (they have the same made-in-China ones here
      > that we get in the US).
      > 30. Most volunteers suggest that you bring socks and underwear,
      > including a pair of good, silk long underwear from home; as the
      > quality is not as good here for those kind of things or in the case
      > of silk (or other high-tech fabric) long underwear, I haven't seen it
      > here. Quick-drying hiking socks from EMS, REI, or any good outdoor
      > store will be a good investment.
      > 31. If you have a favorite hat with a big brim, bring it. The
      > temperature got up to 110 degrees F one day last summer and the heat
      > wave seemed to last for a really long month. Having a wet bandanna
      > around your neck when it's that hot is also helpful.
      > 32. No, there are no McDonald's here, but there is a little store
      > that has a pretty accurate fake "7-11" sign. There was a fake
      > McDonald's called "MonDonald's" (i.e., "MONgolian mcDONALD'S), but
      > McDonald's attorneys got in touch and made them change it
      > to "RonDonald's". Mongolians have never heard of McDonald's, so it
      > was pretty much a waste of time.
      > 33. SARS: Mongolia is being amazingly proactive in preventing the
      > spread of the virus. New or possible cases are reported every day (I
      > think we only have a couple confirmed), most of the population is
      > wearing face masks (a very odd sight on the streets), the biggest
      > open-air market in the country is closed indefinitely, public events
      > are cancelled, all the bars and discos are closing at 10 (can't quite
      > figure that one out), and all the buildings have their door handles
      > wrapped with gauze soaked in some disinfectant, i.e., they're wet. I
      > can't imagine that it would be able to spread to the point that we
      > would get evacuated. (Cross your fingers)
      > 34. Thermarest self-inflating air mattress: It's likely that you
      > will have plenty of chances to sleep on floors, and if you mind, this
      > is really comfortable to have and packs up pretty compactly. You can
      > also buy the 'chair' accessory, made out of nylon, that will turn
      > your mattress into a comfy floor chair, which is easily portable for
      > travel. Even though I live in an apartment, this is my most
      > comfortable chair (sad to say). The mattress is also my guest bed as
      > most of us(all of us?)don't have an extra bed or maybe even an extra
      > couch for guests.
      > 35. It's hard or impossible to find good quality cotton t-shirts;
      > bring them from home if you like to wear them.
      > 36. Splurge on some good quality sunglasses with all the appropriate
      > UV protection; there's alot of sun here!
      > 37. If you get the same amount of paperwork that we did, it would be
      > handy to bring a lightweight, durable folder with dividers to keep it
      > all straight. You might be able to find something you like in UB,
      > but you won't get there for shopping for some weeks after you arrive.
      > 38. Hiking boots: You don't need really heavyweight boots, as
      > you're mostly walking around on bare ground (or very uneven
      > sidewalks),i.e., it's not particularly rugged, just a bit uneven,
      > dirty, and often littered with broken glass. There are plenty of
      > shoe repair shops if you wear something out or something breaks, as
      > people can't easily afford to buy new things. In the winter, you'll
      > be switching to insulated boots anyway. They also sell all sorts of
      > variations of lighter weight hiking shoes/boots here (both cheap
      > Chinese and Western quality).
      > 39. Teva (or Teva-like) walking sandals: Best investment I made.
      > Good for walking on rugged surfaces, wading across streams, hiking
      > small mountains, and using sketchy-looking bath houses. And they're
      > very lightweight.
      > In general, pack for the summer as if you are going on an extended
      > camping trip; i.e., pack light. Also, bring an extra duffle bag to
      > carry all the extra stuff the PC will hand out during the summer:
      > filters, books and folders mostly, and anything else you accumulate
      > over the summer. Everything that you don't need for the summer can
      > be sent directly to the PC in Ulaanbaatar, clearly labelled "Winter
      > gear - leave in UB" or something like that, so you don't have to deal
      > with it until you leave for your permanent site.
      > I've rambled. Hope some of this was useful to you and will look
      > forward to eventually meeting all of you this summer.
      > Bayartai!
      > Jaime
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