Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Mid-Service Training (MST)

After our vacation in Ulaanbaatar, the summer seemed to rapidly draw to a conclusion. The last event of the summer was in the last week of August in the form of MST, one of three Peace Corps seminars that happen during service. This seminar is unique because it occurs in the middle of service around one year after we swore in. It is surreal to realize that Sally and I have been in Mongolia for 15 months with only 11 more months left in our service. Where has the time gone?!? A year from now, we will be back in America.
Хос Хад (Twin Boulders) the namesake of our resort
The site of this year’s MST was in Terelj National Forest about 50 km outside of UB.  The area is incredibly scenic with a picturesque forest, huge sandstone boulders, and large mountains with rocky overlooks. Peace Corps usually does a good job of treating its volunteers to some comfort at these seminars, so we found ourselves in a quaint resort that was half hotel and half ger camp. Sally and I opted to stay in a hotel room where we had to comforts of running water and heated floors.

One of the best aspects of these seminars is getting to see all of the people in our cohort who survived the summer of PST last year and the harsh winter. When we came to Mongolia so long ago, there were about 75 people in our cohort. Now the number has dropped to somewhere in the low sixties. Something that always surprises me about our cohort is what a great group of people they are. Being naturally introverted, I expect to dislike a number of my fellow PCVs, but the reality is that at this stage of the game there aren’t any bad people. Everyone is dedicated to the service of others and committed to Mongolia. I have jokingly said that the most annoying aspect of PCVs is that they are too nice, so that even when you want to dislike someone you have no basis for it and are forced to confront yourself instead.  
View from a cliff face on a nearby mountain
So while the cornerstone of our MST is important PC workshops and seminars, the reality is that we got to spend a lot of time with friends catching up and hanging out. Sally finally went horseback riding. I went hiking and bouldering. We both enjoyed seeing so many of our friends again.  MST offered an opportunity to realize yet again that every problem and difficulty that we have in Mongolia is experienced almost equally among everyone in our cohort. Living and serving in a foreign country can be incredibly difficult, but this reminds us that we are not alone. (Although it is a lot easier for Sally and me since we have each other.)  

After a few days of the revitalizing seminar, we returned back to site in plenty of time for the first day of school with the brutal realization that this is our last first day of school in Mongolia.


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