Wednesday, September 05, 2007
I excused myself from the eleventh day of my Mongolian language course to attend the opening day ceremony at Baringin Technologin Kolleg (Construction Technology College), the college where I will be working, in the western 'peri-urban' Songino Khairkhain district of Ulaanbaatar. The austere rooms of this socialist-era school building were brimming with new students, the morning groups comprising recruits in various vocational courses in construction, ranging from plumbing (no females), welding and bricklaying to decorating (one male) and architecture. The more balanced gender distribution in construction career choices has apparently turned full circle since the socialist times.
The opening day proceedings in the dusty square in front of the school door, draped overhead with a welcome banner, included speeches by immaculately dressed staff and college director, interspersed with songs by famous Opera tenorist 'Bold' and a pop singer. With two other foreign staff, I was then given a tour of each of the classrooms and introduced in Mongolian with German translation by the director, for the Dutchman and myself. The students responded to the director's greeting 'Sain Bain-uu' in enthusiastic unison with SAIN!
A newly prepared computer room was presented, and arrangements were made to see the living accommodation, where I later met two German speaking Mongolian staff colleagues, one a building materials expert educated in Dresden.
Being the first day of school in all of Ulaanbaatar and Mongolia, the return journey was marked by particularly insane traffic, but I returned intact to VSO courses on Heath, management processes in Mongolia, and an excellent presentation introducing a Mongolian Gender Equality NGO.