Ruby is taking a break from her acting career in the UK to help with running the summer camp in Mongolia this summer. These are some of her first impressions.
I arrived on Children’s Day, a happy accident due to changed train timetables, and it couldn’t have been a more special introduction to Mongolia and to Lotus. The children performed a concert with loads of traditional Mongolian dancing, a sprinkling of hip hop and even a bit of ballroom from the littlest movers. I didn’t get a single picture or video as I had a gorgeous pudding of a baby plonked in my arms as soon as I arrived and he was interchanged for several other gorgeous puddings as the day went on. I was so impressed by the kids’ enthusiasm to perform and the unspoken agreement that everybody would participate in some way, even if just for the final number and a bow – I didn’t spot much of the surly embarrassment I see in some teenagers in the UK!
The family atmosphere was palpable as we made our way up to the ceremonial ger on the hill for a special celebratory feast. I was impressed by the co-operation I witnessed from all the children; everybody got stuck in to help serve the incredible spread put on by our beautiful chef, babies were passed around like presents so somebody else had hands free for another task, and even the tiny toddlers waited patiently until every last person was seated and we’d given thanks for our meal before tucking in to the food waiting in front of them. Everyone dipped in and out of singing a yogic chant as the food was being dished out, a calm lull that underscored the busy action and gave a sense of the deep togetherness of the group. Some friends and supporters of Lotus arrived to give out presents for Children’s Day, as the kids spilled out to play and enjoy their sugary spoils. I was given a tour of the grounds, introduced to the horses and new puppies, and enjoyed my first cuddle sesh with 4 month old Baatam Tugs (the youngest addition to the Lotus family). I left Lotus with a big, full heart, squeezed in the boot of someone’s car along with a massive dog and approximately 43 children to travel the bumpy road back into town, driving through a shallow river and waving to cows wandering through petrol stations on route. Welcome to Mongolia.
I’ve been out at Gachuurt for almost 2 weeks now, and I’m settling in well to the Mongolian way of life and to my home for the next wee while. It’s a treat to open the door to your ger in the morning and be welcomed with the sight of the green mountains around you, the blue sky above you and a small person waving and shouting your name across the field. The kids are class – really switched on, funny, helpful, adventurous, playfully crafty, bold – and I’m witnessing a maturity and strength beyond their years in lots of them. I do have to be very careful who I trust to teach me Mongolian, though…
So far it’s been a big project to get the gers cleaned out and ready to welcome the larger volunteer groups, but we’re making progress and should be good to go for Monday when the first group arrives from Hong Kong. Chef was unwell for the first week of my stay so I was put to work in the kitchen (the bulk of my Mongolian vocabulary so far is root veg), but luckily for the children and me she is back and I’ve returned to my happy place, washing the dishes. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with more activities with the kids, as the summer holiday boredom is already setting in. Tomorrow I’m attempting the first dance class, must update the playlist as I’ve been repeatedly shamed for not knowing the latest rap artists and I can’t bear being any more uncool. The horses have run off again but some of the boys were away to retrieve them this morning so hopefully I’ll be getting my first horse riding lesson soon!
Eris has been an absolute superstar and endlessly helpful.
I’ll endeavour to take more photos and videos of what we get up to and keep in touch about the volunteering experience overall. Attached are a few of the snaps so far. Thank you for everything you’ve done to get me here, and for running your organisation with such a great blend of efficiency and passion – I’m very grateful for the opportunity.