Sunday, August 10, 2008

 

With the VSO in Mongolia

This year is the 50th anniversary of the setting up of the VSO. As part of their celebrations they invited members of the Oireachtas to become volunteers for a few weeks during the summer.

I have always been interested in working as a volunteer, but generally the minimum commitment was for at least a year and I was unable to find the time for that. This program is just for three weeks so I jumped at the chance of volunteering.

In all there are six members of the Oireachtas volunteering. Myself and Leo Varadker have been sent to Mongolia to work on health service reforms. The others were sent to Africa.

We boarded an Aeroflot flights to Moscow on early Saturday morning and, after a three hour stop in Moscow, changed onto another plane for Ulanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.

The flight was fine. The last time I flew with Aeroflot was five years ago. It was the only time in my life that I was on a plane that had to abort its landing. It seems that the air traffic control guys hadn't told our pilot that there was already a plane on the runway. Anyway we landed safely. So, I was slightly anxious before the plane took off. However, this time around the planes looked better and the service was faultless. It was actually quite a comfortable ride.

When we touched down in the capital we were met by the local office head, who immediately took us for a health and safety briefing. The main concern seems to be the prevalence of pick-pockets. I was fading rapidly and when I got to my apartment I had a quick coffee with my new flatmate (also a volunteer) and then went to bed for a few hours.

I forced myself up at noon and although still tired, I went out for a walk in the town. The weather is about 30 degrees C and the skies are cloudless. Here's a picture of me in Suhkbataar Square with a statue of Genghis Khan in the backgrounds.

Dom in Suhkbataar Square
In Suhkbataar Square

I went out to a vegetarian restaurant for lunch, where I had soya chicken curry. Yes, even in Mongolia there are vegetarian restaurants!

Work starts early tomorrow morning. I'm hoping that I will be over my tiredness by then.

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