Saturday, February 4, 2012


It is the little things that make the world go around. Many times I have these grand ideas of what I should be doing, want to do and will do. However, we live in world, in communities full of people who are also doing. They are doing their part. They are the doctors, lawyers, preachers and teachers of our day. But there are those whom are often overlooked. They contribute so much yet they are often looked down upon or even cast to the side. These people contribute to our comfort and often our health. They are generally humble and pleasant. I speak of the People that clean and cook in our schools.

Today I had the opportunity to “make someone’s day”. Interestingly enough, my day was “made” too. I woke with the idea that today I was going to give these wonderful cleaning and kitchen ladies pictures from our New Year’s party. I got up did my morning routine of meditation, exercise, breakfast& coffee. After getting dressed, I would not let myself forget to put the pictures on my flash. Today I would give something. Not that I don’t usually give, but, today was a special opportunity to give to people who welcome me each day with smiles and “Sain bain uu’s”.

The taxi drivers were so pleasant too. I knew this day was only getting better! I got some money from the bank and went to the print shop. The guy who works in the shop deliberately speaks very fast Mongolian to me. However, I go cause I get a laugh and they are fairly nice to a brotha. Once the wife of the owner finished with my pictures, I hop in another taxi off to school. When I arrive I am greeted with my normal smiles and millions of “Hi’s”, However, I love the children whom interject with Mongolian so I can actually say something other than …Hi, HI, hi, HI….Hello. I met with my managers and teachers about my close of service date, Olympic preparations and distributing books that we received. The meeting was one of the best.

After my meeting I was on a hunt. I printed out three copies of the photos from the New Years Party of the two groups of ladies from the kitchen and cleaning crew. I had in hand, three copies for the Cleaning staff and kitchen staff. First I went to the kitchen /lunch room and gave the pictures. I explained the kind words I wrote on the back in Mongolian and the head chef put it better translation for me. Later, finishing my milk tea and been, I was recharged and on the hunt for the cleaning staff. I found them. On the second floor doing their duties in sheer content. The first lady caught me as I was fumbling for the photos, she knew exactly what it was and I wanted to give it in a gift like manner. So, she pulled me over to the window where she could see better and it also gave me a place to put my things. But, it was the earnest “Thank YOU” and eye contact they warmed my heart. She held my hand for a minute and it was if her "Thank you" echoed at my acceptance to serve in the Peace Corps. Than my friend, another cleaning lady about 50 or so came and sealed the deal with a smile, handshake and traditional Mongolian sign of affection, “The Sniff”! My day was “MADE”! Go make someone’s day.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Cooking In Mongolia is not as challenging as it was made out to be. Moreover, maintaining my vegetarian diet has not been as difficult either. There are many things accessible here in Mongolia. Although I am in an Aimag center, which has a generally good food market, I’d reason that this would be possible in the countryside too. Peace Corps issues a cookbook to all volunteers that is edited each year and all of the recipes are either updated or I would assume discarded if another is similar and better. In the cookbook there are different sections Hoodoo, and Posh-corps. These perspective sections offer alternative-cooking methods for one living in the countryside verses the one living in a town or a city.

My experience with cooking did not start here. Once I decided to become a vegetarian four years ago. I had to fend for my self the 1st year. Besides my aunt who enjoys cooking any and everything thing (Trina) and the occasional veggie dish from T-Hurt (step mom), I had chosen an interestingly independent path. Actually, my friends were good about it too… But it works and I love it, even more in Mongolia. A few of my staple dishes or regulars are Pizza, Apple Cinnamon Pancakes, Fried rice, Curries, Vegetable Soups, Breads, Bagels, Granola, Yogurt and Peanut Butter. Lately I have explored biscuits, cakes and bean burgers. My downfall is that I try them over and over until I get it right, leaving me tired of that particular recipe. Yet, I find that there is a peace and joy in cooking and even more when the cooking is done with and for others.

What are some of your favorite easy recipes? Lets Share!


Clifton A. Hurt

Monday, December 5, 2011


So how do I describe this trip?

It was a good learning experience filled with adventure and brotherhood. Ben, Cameron, Cody and I had a blast. We arrived to the lake in late afternoon with our bags and plans up in the air. We walked through town to gather our last few items from the local stores and headed to our first campsite. I lead us to this one that I knew O so well from my previous travels up to the lake. This first night was good!

In the morning we rose and gathered our things for breakfast. There was coffee, oatmeal, and whatever else we personally packed. Did I mention coffee was in the mix. I appreciate a good cup of Joe in the morning. The day would be filled with traveling as far north as we could. Little did we know, the Crazy Cliffs lie ahead. On the Cliff’s, that were width of three bricks side by side and other times a bit wider, we climbed and at times crawled toward or destination. However, we did not get as far as we expected on this second day. Yet, our dear friend Ben seized the moment during lunch and while sitting on the shore, he swam in the lakes freezing cold water.

Our living quarters for each night consisted of a 4person tent. After the first night we decided this did not work for us four. Ben, being the height of a NBA center and four huge sleeping bags made our quarters quite tight. So the next day Ben decided to sleep in a scout made tent using a tarp and sticks. Ben is quite the EAGLE. I was impressed with Ben and Cameron’s Knowledge of the out doors and what to/what not to do will traveling as we were.

There was a dog that tagged along for the whole five days. The name of the dog changed many times and as I remember, we never settled on a name. We all had our names for this friendly dog. I’d like to think of this dog as our guardian angle… This dog was loyal for so little food. After the third day or so it was in order to make sure she had water and food. The most impressive event was her hiking up a huge mountain. She went the whole distance. Man, the loyalty of dogs, I digress…

Although it was the end of the summer, Lake Khuvsgol’s water never changes from cold or frozen. I had to take my opportunity to get in while it was cold. So, One day when the sun was, well, not as consistent as I’d like, I took a dip. The water was fresh and clear like being on an island except very cold. I guess it was my only bath during our hike too… It was the Real Deal, Fun, and just enough time in the outdoors for me!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"HOPE CAMP 2011"

July has been nothing short of a blast. Candace, Paul, Michelle, Mary, Amy, Cody, Crystal and I worked together at Hope Summer Camp. There were two campsites. One was at Future School where I work during the school year. The other took place in conjunction with a local NGO at one of the local churches in town. The camps started on July 4th and finished July 20th right before the Nadaam Celebration in Murun. They were four hours a day, Monday through Friday.

Each day of the camp started out with a 30min “Harambee” session. This included the students and volunteers coming together for a time of motivation before we jumped into our day of fun filled English learning(30min), life skills(30min) and afternoon activities(30min+). Harambee, which happens to be my favorite part of the day, included cheers and chants, the theme song, recognitions and a read aloud. (This part of the day camp was modeled after Freedom School, which is very special to me)

Followed by Harambee the students had a 30min English lesson that focused on grammar, speaking, reading and listening. With each grade level the material covered varied. During the life skills portion we had a theme for each week. The first week was communication, second week relationships and third week decision-making. Our goal during this time was to motivate our students to think through various topics of discussion based around the life skill theme of the week.

The day would conclude with afternoon activities. During this time we would share with students through sports and conversation. We played volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, soccer, and basketball. It was important for us to teach our students how to use the proper English for communication within these sports. I must say, this was not a challenge, but very “entertaining” for the students and volunteer teachers.

It has truly been an honor for me to serve and work with so many talented and wonderful humble Americans and Mongolians this summer. I am especially grateful to my two site mates whom jumped in during such notice in a time of need do to some unexpected circumstances. Moreover, Candace and Mary were awesome spirits and motivation for the summer team. Amy, was amazing with her help with the second camp and Mongolian language skills.

This summer I formed a job for a very special student from Murun named Dulguun. She was the winner of the English Olympics. She worked as my coordinating assistant for both camps and did a very awesome job. She went above and beyond her duties and even helped by teaching lessons. It was beautiful for me to see because this was the essence of capacity building. Her peers and the students younger than her respected her as a leader and all agreed that she was humble and very knowledgeable. I was pleased with “Hope Camp 2011”.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Mongolians love seminars. There seems to be countless seminars all the time. I like doing seminars here in Mongolia. Teachers seem to come with a certain expectation that you may not see normally in their everyday character. When it is seminar time though, it is important to have something fun and kinesthetic for a Mongolian audience. If not, they may look at you funny... Having people move works for me…

The Foreign language teacher seminars take place in the city in one of the schools. The local English teachers and soum teachers come to these seminars. Our English seminar was a one in a half-day event, which included all of the Peace Corps TEFL Volunteers and two counterparts whom we facilitated with. The way we divided into to groups was one native speaker worked on two different seminars with one counterpart.

The planning phase for this series of seminars was rather simple for me. My second year TEFL star Alison worked a lot with the English language teachers association of Murun to help smooth the schedule out. Thus, my part in the preparation and planning was to copy the Seminar DVDs and prepare my personal presentation materials. The previous week included me working with my two counterparts. I worked with Odna on our seminar entitled “Listening in the English Classroom” and I worked with Sanaa on “ESL Websites & Computer Basics”. Our planning was very smooth. Sanaa and Odnaa came with so many ideas.

English Olympics followed the seminar days. I truly enjoyed the amount of work that there was to do during this period. I was very happy when this whole period was over too. The Good news…The family whose yard I live in has a 10th grader who has been working really hard. Her English is amazing and she would many times come and make me practice with her, mainly, because I work at the competing school and did not have time during the Olympic rush… However, She won the 11th Grade Olympics! The first week I met her I said, “you will win this year…”

I am Happy!

Monday, March 21, 2011



Alcohol Awareness was such a success for our crew here in Murun. There were many things we were able to accomplish together.

Things we did:

-Had a Poster Contest between the schools

-Met with the Mayor and all of the district social workers

-We got the Alcohol video played on the local television.

-We showed the alcohol movie to our students and counterparts and lead discussion.

-We visited every school in the community and shared out materials and gave presentations.

-We ended with a big all school community concert in the main theatre.

This week was an important week for me. Although, alcohol abuse is something that happens all around the world, its impact on the lives of many close to me had me motivated to work hard and bring awareness to the rising abuse in this city. I really enjoyed seeing the reactions of my students when the watched the movie. (which was in Mongolian) My music club students performed their hit song “Freedom” by Eddie James at the "Finale"(if you will). When teaching the song, I explained in my limited Mongolian that they are free to do many things with their lives. Moreover they have the choice to decline alcohol… It was a good week.

At my school I put up a poster that read “ It Ok to say NO”. The students really liked it and they did not take it down for weeks after. In the pictures you see my students the adult lady is my school training manager. The great thing about the current situation is that many young educated Mongolians are shying away from over consumption of alcohol. This is such a good thing.

Going into it, the first years (PCVs) of my crew, did not know what to expect and we were surprised to see how much support and work is already going forward on the alcohol abuse situation here. Next year will be a great year also.


What are your views on Alcohol consumption?



Monday, September 13, 2010



Today I woke up nervous and excited about what was about to take place. There seemed to be both a sense of anticipation and also excitement as my fellow trainees and I prepared to perform for our supervisors and the rest of the team that makes up Peace Corps Mongolia. Today was also the day that some would last see there training mates until IST (In Service Training). This was truly a “Bitter Sweet” day. Among the many performances including traditional mongolian dance, speeches and songs was a performance by Ellie,Ashlie, Leon and myself. It was hard to get our performance together at first but it turned out just right. So many people complimented us, it really warmed my heart.
It seemed like right after all of the excitement and our last meals in UB restaurants we were torn apart. Many of us went to the inline skating party/social. The party was fun and full of laughter and dance. After being at the party for a few hours, I decided to go back to the dorms and pack. I packed until the early morning. At about 4a.m. Cameron woke me up to say goodbye to the first from our training bunch to depart from UB to their new home in the Gobi.Man, it was like leaving home all over again, saying goodbye to these people I had spent most of my time with in mongolia up to this point. I witnessed five of my training crew leave before it was my turn to travel to my new home. Three new site mates and I got on a small plane and flew for an hour to our northern mongolia home near the lake. This was a new Beginning!


Once we arrived in Moron with all of our things we were greeted by more counterparts and directors from our various host agencies. My manager flew into Moron with me. We were met by the school director and two other english speaking counterparts. These people were amazingly nice and full of excitement...ME TOO! When we finally grab all of my luggage we put it in the directors Toyota 4 runner and went to lunch at the Dul Hotel in Morons center of town. The restaurant was awesome and had a nice menu. I was so happy to see spaghetti on the menu that I had to try it. It was good. The best part about this date was sitting and talking to my director with english speaking counterparts to help translate. He expressed how happy he was to finally have me here after much preparation. Moreover, he shared with me his vision for the future of the school. It was amazing to know that as the school is expanding in many ways he wants to give the students many new opportunities and this is where I come in... After finishing lunch I with three of my counterparts arrived at what my home for the next 24months. The Crib is truly a PAD! This wooden house is like top of the line type stuff and it is worthy of a Cribs/How I'm living video type production which will be coming soon. I After signing some papers and talking for a while I was left alone in my new home. I could smell the aroma of milk-tea that was sitting on the table. I could see the hashaa dog in the yard watching my doorway. I could felt the warmth and care of my neighbors as they continued their daily activities occasionally checking to make sure I was OK throughout the day. I was at my new home!

The of city Moron is a beautiful place. It is down stream of Lake Khuvsgul and is surrounded by a beautiful view of rolling hills and mountains in the distance. The cities square is filled with stores shops and a Hotel. Moreover there is much construction going on within the city. Within my first few days of living in Moron their were many tours. But I must say that one of the best was a trip to the river with a third year volunteer Patrick. He took Cody and I twice in one day and it was worth every bit of it. The river is backdropped with mountains and horses that are herded by a family whom lives in a ger hind where most of my pictures were taking. The river seems to usually be filled with families whom come and enjoy the beauty of it. They eat, swim and enjoy this beautiful nature. I went out a few days later and set reading for about four hours. Needless to say, I finished the book I was reading...LOL!
On the edge of town is the big sports complex where huge shows are held. In front of the building stands three large statues of mongolian strong men. Wrestling is a big part of mongolian culture and sport. I found out through the history teacher at my school that Khuvgul has many men that went on the be wrestling champions. Furthermore, my school director noted that there are many scientist and doctors and famous teachers that come from this province also. I am impressed with the history of this beautiful and rich land.

(Journal Entry)
Wednesday Morning I woke up to the sound of my small black Nokia's alarm that I set for 6:45a.m.. However, I quickly hit the snooze button and slept until 7:15a.m.. Once I really arose from my sleep, I prepared water for my morning coffee and wash-up. I got cleaned up and listened to some music to spice up the morning. I departed from my home at 8:15 with my guitar on my back and work brief in hand. Traveling down the street toward the cites square I briskly walked past parents and their children all excited and on their way to school. Many people watched me for they had never seen a black person in real-life before. I assume mostly movies and sports is where most mongolians get their view or portrait of black men or black people in general...Oh! And pop culture!
When I arrived to the school there were many children, parents and school staff standing on the front lawn of the school. There were sounds of excitement that filled the air. Hands clasped as teachers greeted one another and said congratulations. This was the start of a new chapter... I could smell the perfume as people walked by. I was finally notice by a fellow language teacher as I traveled slowly up the schools steps. I was told to come inside of the school. My friend Odna helped me with my things while telling me I looked nice in my traditional mongolian styled shirt. Odna and I followedas teachers went into the teachers lounge and greeted each other with mmore hugs and kisses, shakes and good ole Mongolian congrats.
At 9:30a.m. The opening ceremony began. There was music played by the music teacher on the casio keyboard which was amplified through the schools sound system. There were songs sung by the melodic voices of the 2 MCs and than there were presentations. The director was awarded along with some of the older staff and than the newbies. I was among the group of newbies, and I stood out the most...LOL. Following the awards I was to deliver a speech in english and than mongolian. Than I would sing and play on guitar the mongolian song I worked on all summer during training. I was pumped and prepared. As I deliveredmy speech the audience that covered the front lawn of the school was completely silent.Using my most native sounding tongue I delivered the same speech in mongolian. There were bright smile and a posture of encouragement at my attempt to produced un-english accented mongolian. Than I sang... This is what won the points. For the rest of the day I was flooded with “Good Jobs” and statements of that sort. My english counterpart Odna told me this was a good way to get mongolians to like you. Learn a mongolian national song... The day was smooth after that. The schedule was not finished yet so I did not teach. Instead, the director took the new social worker and myself to every classroom in the school and reintroduced us. This was the first day...

Mongolians know how to party well. I left my house at 4:15 p.m. To arrive at the directors party that started at 5 p.m.. My colleagues and I road the meeker up through the hills and unpaved roads to arrive to a place that overlooked the city. It took us 37mintutes to get to this place that overlooked the city. 15 minutes before we arrived it started to rain. When we arrived the rain stopped and we were welcomed by the other teachers whom arrived before us. There were about 15 of us in the meeker. When we got to the restaurant we easily filled two tables.
The tables were filled with various were filled with various kinds of salads, juice, water, vodka and beer. There was potato-ham salad, fruit salad, and array of candy.(Let call that candy salad)There were orange slices and melon slices too. I smelled the fresh scent of oranges and could not resist eating them along with the melon next to them on the platter. These fruits are rarities in mongolia... My fellow attendees also indulged in this nice array of fruit. There was so much salad I thought this was the main course. After eating the melon in front of me I was quickly passed the apple raisin salad that also included dried/candied pineapple. It was delicious.
Following our large indulgence we (our table) was called to the front yard as another group filed into the restaurant. The school director was giving tours of his camp/ resort grounds. At this point my good friend Odna decided that it would be good to translate what he was saying for me. The directors land was awesome. We started outside of the first building which was the directors (gwonz) or restaurant. This is the building where we would have the banquet and party. The foundation was shaped in the style of a huge mongolian ger. We than headed to the sacred tree in his garden. Here there were two trees growing together intertwined. He expressed that this was a symbol that peace dwelt within this/his soil.
I was quickly captured by the marvelous sight of a rainbow in the sky with the sun shining brightly on the left-side and the city down in the distance below. After this sight the director focused our attention on Khuvguls black goats. He than showed us the well that was dug when they first developed the grounds, sharing that the water was rich in minerals. Amusingly, he was soaked by a loose hose when he opened the door. I know it is unorthodox to laugh at your new boss but I had to get a picture of it. It was truly funny. Following the well he showed us that there were many cabins and gers for people to stay in. Later he lead us to the house that was currently used as the resort museum. In front of the house stood the skin of a bear that he and others captured years ago. I took so many pictures with people in front of this creature. It was fun. Once I finally got inside of the house I was amazed at the beautiful artifacts and cool mongolian things like chess sets, and ancient thermoses and photos, etc...
Now the party really began. There was a program of singing and speeches. This lasted for 2 hours. While this was going on the main course meal was being served. There was rice, meat, vegetable salads with an egg on top. However, my plate included two eggs and my friend Odna gave me her salad. I was so full. After eating I was called to the platform to sing. I sang a mongolian traditional song and “My Girl” by the Temptations. It was a fun experience! After the last of the singing and speeches the man of the hour got up gave a speech and proposed a toast. The custom was for him to give the toast speech and than go to each table and touch each glass before anyone drank. Needless to say it took a while for him to get around to all 74 attendees.
Drinking is a huge part of mongolian culture. At about 8:30 dancing started. We started with the mongolian waltz. I figured I should get on the floor early so I would not look bad later... So I did! I was the third guy on the dance floor with my partner. Everyone was shocked that I knew how to waltz. This was something I learned during the summer training. By this time I had come out of my suit into more comfortable clothes jeans and a nice sweater. AT 10:30 I thought the party would slow down...LOL...Yeah Right! My new friends and co-workers we just starting. Vodka was now being taking back like water! LOL! Furthermore, the party was moved outside. It turned into a outside dance party with a bond-fire on the directors basketball court. There was a wood pile the size of a small house which was lit by the director. It was as if a whole new party began...After another hour of dancing I decided to retreat to a small stomp to take a break. I was quickly pulled back into the dance circle by my counterparts. I was done & done (EBD), but I smiled and danced anyhow...
@ 12a.m my friend Odna said we should leave, and boy was I ready. However, I thought it was a trick or something because we went back into the banquet hall and set down and ate cake. People began to trickle back into the large room and as they did my directors wife provided more bottles to each table. I was amazed! But after the cake we did leave. Under the midnight sky full of stars we traveled home. The scent of wet grass and smoke filled the van as my counterparts sang mongolian songs. It was a time well spent... Saturday I slept until 1p.m. Not uncommon for me on the weekends and I did even have one drink...LOL!

Clifton A. Hurt
Peace Corps Mongolia