So, what would you say you do around here?

School directors are political appointees in Mongolia, so they sometimes get replaced after an election, as mine was.
Which is how I ended up in the new director’s office a month after starting, being asked the Mongolian equivalent of “So, what would you say you do here?”

My new director and I are on good terms now, and I thought it was probably about time I answer that same question for you.

As symbolized in this Teacher's Day card, I mostly stand around looking pretty, and I think the students are really responding to that.
As symbolized in this Teacher’s Day card, I mostly stand around looking pretty, and I think the students are really responding to that.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I am under the Teaching English as a Foreign Language umbrella, but that doesn’t really describe what I do on a day-to-day basis, or even what my big goals are supposed to be. Peace Corps conveniently breaks down what we are trying to accomplish into three goals:

1. Build capacity in whatever way we can, mostly improving people’s English but also teaching life-skills like how to be good at google search and convincing people drinking water is healthy.

2. Help Mongolians understand American culture (hopefully in a positive light).

3. Help Americans understand Mongolian culture (which is what I try and mostly fail to do here).

Having cake at work is critical to properly integrating.
Having cake at work is critical to properly integrating.

On a day to day basis I work with the six English/Russian teachers (my counterparts, or CPs) at my school (by the way, James and I work at different schools), and help them improve their English. Most TEFL volunteers team-teach a lot of classes with their counterparts, but at my school, I don’t do as much of that. Now I have a lot of clubs and specialized classes, which I really, really enjoy. I am completely spoiled in this respect, because it means I get to work with a lot of motivated, smart, funny kids and more importantly, I get to create my own lesson plans. Real talk: the books the government gives teachers to use are pretty awful. I spend a significant amount of time helping my CPs rewrite the books to make them useable. My biggest gripes with the textbooks are that they use both British-isms and American English almost at random and focus on weird, ultra-specific vocabulary.

The winners of our school English mini-Olympics! It was a weekend and no one told me we were all dressing up.
The winners of our school English mini-Olympics! It was a weekend and no one told me we were all dressing up.

An average day can include anything from a 5th grade speaking and singing club, coffee break English practice for my CPs, beginner’s English for adults, Olympic English for 12th graders, to American movie club (my most popular club by a mile). There’s plenty more, but if you want a full list, e-mail me.

A rare scene of high-schoolers paying rapt attention in class.
A rare scene of some high-schoolers paying rapt attention in class.

When I’m not at work-work, there are always plenty of community events going on. Schools like to hold song-and-dance competitions and seemingly random parties for teachers, so that between both James’ and I’s schools, we have a pretty packed schedule. We don’t technically have to attend all community events, but I take integration pretty seriously and because so much of our work here depends heavily on being considered upstanding members of the community, I try to at least turn up for most things.

School's field day way back in September.
School’s field day way back in September. Let the games begin!
During a weekend judo competition  in the school gym.
During a weekend judo competition in the school gym.

A lot of people we talked to and blogs we read before coming to Peace Corps told us to prepare hobbies and plenty of movies because there is a lot of free time, but so far the opposite has been true for us. I am honestly looking forward to getting a couple of days off for New Year’s just to catch up with some reading.

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