Around the World in Less Than 80 Days

Hello from Mongolia, where my first official trip as the Asia-Pacific Project Manager is coming to an end. I’ve spent the last few days working closely with the US Embassy team here, and participating in a US-funded kindergarten opening on the Mongolia-China border, which you can read more about here. Now, I want to share my travels and give you a glimpse into the life of an SoA project manager in the field (and you’ll get a peek at the amazing culture and vast landscapes Mongolia offers).

Landscape just outside the capital, Ulaanbaatar (UB). Mongolia is one of the most sparsely populated nations in the world with only 4.3 people per square mile.

Before arriving in Mongolia, I made a few stops along the way, which, according to my itinerary, would only take a few hours—40 to be exact (cue the world’s smallest violin). My first stop was Istanbul, where with some good luck and planning, I managed to find Chris VanJohnson, our deputy director of operations. After some much-needed coffee and a quick stop in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, we were off to Ulaanbaatar.

View of Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia is known as the “Land of the Blue Sky,” with 260 days of sunshine a year. But don’t let that fool you—UB is also the coldest capital in the world with temps dipping to – 40°f.

Soon after arriving, we met with the US ambassador, the Civil-Military Support Element (CMSE), and other members of the US country team at the US Embassy. We discussed the new kindergarten opening and the impact our donation of school books would have on the students and on the relationship between the US and Mongolia in that area.

Chris and I discussed Spirit of America’s capabilities and the new US-funded kindergarten opening in Zamiin-Uud with the US ambassador to Mongolia. Photo Courtesy of US Embassy Ulaanbaatar.

The following day, we departed Ulaanbaatar with the CMSE to make the eight-hour drive south through the Gobi Desert down to Zamiin-Uud along the Mongolia-China border.

We ran into some camels while driving through the Gobi Desert.

While in Zamiin-Uud, we were able to visit with the governor and his staff. He highlighted how important the kindergarten opening was, and arranged for us to interact with some of the local herder communities.

With the governor and deputy governor of Zamiin-Uud, the US CMSE, and a local representative from the Department of Education.
Had the pleasure of meeting with Zamiin Uud’s oldest herder and his family. Growing up on a farm, I felt right at home with his goats and horses. Mongolian people are very welcoming and hospitable.
Mongolia is home to one of the world’s last surviving nomadic cultures. We visited with local herders while sampling Mongolian food and tea in their “Ger,” a traditional tent dwelling.
We also got to experience first-hand the local mode of transportation.

After visiting with the locals, we took part in the kindergarten opening. It was so rewarding to see how excited the kids were about their new school and the books we provided. Representatives from the Mongolian Ministry of Education, the governor of Zamiin-Uud with other local officials, and the US ambassador all attended and emphasized the importance of educating Mongolian children in Mongolia.

Terrell and Chris with the US ambassador. Behind them are some of the the children’s books SoA provided to help enhance English literature skills and promote early-childhood education.
Reading “The Hungry Caterpillar” in the newly opened kindergarten. This new school will allow Mongolian children to attend school in their own country instead of crossing the border into China. This is essential to preserving Mongolian culture and safe-guarding the country’s democratic values.

Unfortunately, our time at Zamiin-Uud had to end, and it was time for Chris and I to catch a ride back to the capital.

We caught the Trans-Siberian Railway, the longest railway line in the world. The train has lines that run from Moscow and the Russian Far East all the way into Mongolia, China, and North Korea.

All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick off my field time with Spirit of America. On-the-ground experience is invaluable to understanding the mission of our US partners, local dynamics, and how our support makes a difference. The impact Spirit of America’s support to the US mission and the local communities our US partners seek to help is evident.

Now, I’m off to the Philippines to support our deployed US troops, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the fight against ISIS. With some well-planned layovers, I’ll also get to stop in Guam and Hawaii to meet with US partners and see how Spirit of America’s resources can be utilized to support their mission. I’ll update you on the rest of my travels soon.

Around the world in less than 80 days!

By the time I return home, I will have literally traveled all the way around the world ensuring our efforts are making a difference. None of this would be possible without your ongoing support and generosity. Thank you for joining me and Chris on our journey. Please know that a small donation can lead to big changes in all corners of the world.

Until next time,

T

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