Here’s a hoping this isn’t a train(ing) wreck

Apologies for the delay since my last post; we were busy celebrating this little holiday called Zul Sareen Bahyer. You people might refer to it as Christmas. We say to each their own.

Anyways, prior to Christmas week I ventured into unknown territory here in Mongolia: I held my first trainings at work, and dare I say, made progress! Really. The trainings were originally planned to happen in late October, but then we had other project workshops going on then, so I got delayed until November, but then we had other project workshops going on then too, so I got delayed again until December. That’s how things work in these parts. Then Wednesday morning (the morning before my trainings were to begin), my counterpart (the Mongolian woman I work most closely with) told me that the training room was booked for Friday morning (Day 2 of my training) for a training she was holding that had been rescheduled. It was a training for pregnant women, and she argued that the pregnant women couldn’t reschedule because they were pregnant and uncomfortable. I argued that I couldn’t reschedule because I do not speak Mongolian and my interpreter was going on vacation for two weeks the day after the training ended. Long story short, her argument won, so I wound up shortening Day 2 of my training and squeezing a whole day into a half day. So it goes.

Anyways, the workshop covered Volunteer Recruitment and Management, as I am tasked with the creation of a Community Health Volunteer Program for the District in which I work and live. This was the first step in getting that program rolling. Day 1 covered the basics of volunteers…who they are, what they do, who they aren’t, what they don’t do. Then we broke it down a little further into how volunteers could help in Bayanzurkh and what issues they could address. The morning session was great – really interactive, people were interested, we were learning and learning is fun! Then the afternoon hit. The post-lunch, God this is boring, afternoon. Even I felt it. It dragged. Who designed this course? Oh…it was me. Damnit. So yeah, learning point of the day: revise the afternoon session before offering the training again. On a positive note, the afternoon did involve the creation of a Role Description for the volunteer, so we left Day 1 with a tangible document to be used for the volunteer program.

As for Day 2, we started late and thus hurried a bit through what would have been the morning session. Turns out that was a good thing though, because (I hate to say it), like Day 1 afternoon, it was a bit b-o-r-i-n-g. Learning point #2. The afternoon was the saving grace, as the energy level returned once we started work on a training plan that the clinics will use for the volunteers. Each group was given a specific health topic to develop a training plan for; those training plans will ultimately be combined into one large training plan that the entire district will then use as the foundation for further training plans. They were interested, engaged, and kept asking for more time. I felt like a hero. They liked it, they really liked it!

So yeah, we started on a high note and ended on a high note which I suppose is preferable to the alternative. As for me, the trainer who had never really given a training before, I learned a lot. There are parts of the training that I will keep and use again; there are parts that will make their way straight to the recycle bin. I suppose that is the way it goes. It’s also one of the beauties of working in a context where progress takes time, work is slow, and patience abounds.

Alas, here are some photos of the wonderful participants. There were 25-26 of them from each sub-district of UB and a few NGOs we’re partnering with on the project (don’t they look enthralled?):

And here is one of my wonderful interpreter. She is unbelievable in terms of how quickly she can work. As the Mongolians speak, she is directly translating to me what they’re saying while at the same time listening to what’s coming from their mouths next. Sometimes I catch myself not listening to what she’s saying, but rather staring in awe as she continues to hear things in one language and spit them back out in another. It’s incredible. Not to mention she’s a wonderfully kind person, so that helps too.

Working through an interpreter is challenging on a number of levels. It’s really weird not being able to communicate with my colleagues on my own. At times it feels like I have reverted to infancy in that I listen to things being spoken right at me, and I have no idea what is being said. Along the same lines, it’s really, REALLY weird that I feel my brain learning new things not by being taught them, but simply be hearing them day in and day out. That’s a new experience for sure. So yeah, it’s not easy having to work through an interpreter, but I am thankful everyday that I have a great one to work with (not all volunteers can say that). I’m lucky for sure.

Anyways, the volunteer management training went well but can be improved for sure before it is offered again next year. In the meantime, onward I go to the next sets of trainings…they just keep multiplying from here!

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