July 29, 2010

New Address

Along with my exciting move next month comes a new address. If there is anything you would like to send to me here in Mongolia, like the occasionally postcard, birthday card or jar of peanut butter, here it is:
Travis Hellstrom (PCV)
Peace Corps Mongolia
Central Post Office
P.O. Box 1036
Ulaanbaatar 15160, Mongolia

Oh and just kidding about the peanut butter, I have plenty of that.

July 26, 2010

Dariganga Village Water Project

After seeing several effective projects organized by my Peace Corps friends Esayas, Kara and Lindsay through Water Charity, I thought I'd give it a shot too. The Dariganga Village Water Filter Project's aim is to provide clean drinking water for hundreds of children at the provincial summer camp where I have worked for two years. I'm very excited to be taking part in this project and it's really been a pleasure working with Water Charity. It took less than a week from submitting the application to receive the money here in Mongolia, which is absolutely astounding. I highly recommend working with them if you are a Peace Corps Volunteer anywhere in the world. You can read more about the project at AdvanceHumanity.com, but I've also included some details below...

July 22, 2010

Living A Life of Service

I recently had the privilege of talking with Shannon Ryals from my alma mater Campbell University. She is Assistant Editor at Campbell Magazine and wrote a beautiful piece in the magazine highlighting Peace Corps here in Mongolia. I really hope it inspires others at Campbell to consider this amazing opportunity that our country offers us. It's really changed my life and I hope it changes many more for years to come.

Thank you Shannon for a great conversation and for writing such a nice piece.

July 17, 2010


I just experienced my third Naadam celebration this past weekend, this time with just Tunga and her family which was a nice change of pace. It was very relaxing and tons of fun to spend time together. We watched horse races (with children wearing helmets thanks to Alex's hard work), national wrestling, archery and thousands of people from the community getting together to celebrate, wear traditional clothes, eat their favorite foods, and have a wonderful time.

Naadam festival is an annual summer celebration in Mongolia which is like March Madness, the Super Bowl, and the World Series wrapped into one big celebration every year. It features wrestling, horse racing, archery and ankle-bones, with some basketball and volleyball thrown in there for fun. My first summer with my host family was great. They introduced me out to all the festivities, filled with Coca Cola, meat pastries called huushuur and even a little ice cream or two. We sat in the stands to watch wrestling, stood beside the archers as they shot their arrows and talked with our family and friends while all the horses raced around the countryside. Once the official events had passed, we went to our uncle’s house and ate an entire goat during what was pretty much a family reunion. Every part of the goat was eaten...every part. I mostly hung out with the little kids and played games, while avoiding the popular intestines as long as I could. If you can imagine what intestines filled with fried blood would taste like...it tasted worse than you think, I promise. Two years later, I'm still playing with kids and avoiding the intestines...

Here are some long lost videos from my first year in case you want to check them out!

July 15, 2010

Helping Azgarig

Esayas Wureta served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mongolia from 2008 until 2010 where he worked in Ovurkhangai as a Community Youth Development Volunteer. During his service one of his friends and students named Azgarig became paralyzed during an accident and Esayas has been raising money to help him receive treatment abroad. Here is more from Esayas...

Azgarig Oyunbola is a nineteen year old male living in Arvikheer town in Ovurkhangai province Mongolia. He was my student until he graduated high school in 2009 and began studying medicine in UB at ACH School of Medicine. A few months into his study he became a paraplegic. Azgarig Oyunbola has lost feeling in his myelophafy from G7 till Th2. After various doctor appointments, the doctors informed him that he can not receive treatments in Mongolia and would have to seek treatments in Inner Mongolia, China. He received his first consultation in July of 2010 and has shown significant signs of improvement. Unfortunately the treatments cost thousands of dollars and he still has four more treatment sessions to go, but the funding is lacking. We are taking donations to support his treatments. We would greatly appreciate any contribution. Also if you are a doctor and can assist this young man in his treatments feel free to contact us. To make a donation or learn more, please visit AdvanceHumanity.com anytime. Thank you.

July 13, 2010

Summer Camp

This year's summer camp was amazing, crazy, rewarding and exhausting. We did a tremendous amount of work in preparation for the camp this year, but after last year's camp I really was only prepared for ten days of craziness. Instead I would end up staying for twenty, which felt something like training for running a mile and then trying to run two miles. We (all of us Peace Corps Volunteers, Mongolian English teachers and friends) did a great job I think, but it was truly exhausting. 

Since it was an English language summer camp we had language classes in the mornings (two 1.5 hour classes), followed by swimming, 1.5 hours of life skills, 1.5 hours of speaking and then evening activities like scavenger hunts, capture the flag, dances and other crazy things. Our first ten-day camp had over 90 children and 10 teachers, while the second camp had over 130 children and 10 teachers. We also had assistant teachers who helped a lot, but considering last year's camp only had 60 kids this was quite a step up. 

We had a tremendous amount of Peace Corps support for our camps thanks to Alex, Elaine, Todd, Claire, Terrence and Lindsay. Everyone did an amazing job and it was a lot of fun to be together, especially considering it was our last big project/activity together before Alex and Elaine finished their Peace Corps service and went back to America (they left the week of July 12th). I loved being with everyone, my fellow Volunteers, our Mongolian friends (Nema, Tunga, Enebish, Aldermaa, Khisgee, Tumbee, Sege, Tuvshee, Anuka, and Bocha) and especially all the amazing kids. Thank you all for making it so enjoyable, you all are  so great. We will miss you like crazy Elaine and Alex!!!!

To see more pictures from camp, visit Facebook and Google Photos.

July 11, 2010

Helping Aiman

This is a guest post by Matt Becker
Peace Corps Volunteer in Community Youth Development
Bayan Olgii, Mongolia (2008-2010)

Matt, a good friend and fellow Peace Corps Volunteer here in Mongolia, has a very important project which I would like to share. His closest friend in Mongolia (Agii) has a sister named Aiman who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. Matt is raising money and awareness to help Aiman, if there is anything you can do (including sharing any medical expertise you may have in this area), please contact Matt anytime. Here is a little bit more from Matt, who was willing to take some time to share his thoughts with us. 

July 8, 2010

Exciting Move

I suppose one of the biggest challenges right now, for many Volunteers including myself, is transitioning through the end of our service. I will be extending for a third year as PCVL, but since I will not be at site in many ways this feels like leaving my home and starting all over again. I'm sure it will go well, but it's always a little uncertain when you start something new and you're not sure what to expect.

I look forward to next year, to helping the new and current Volunteers, in helping everyone improve our Peace Corps post, in celebrating the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps and the 20th anniversary of Peace Corps Mongolia and I also look forward to starting work with the World Health Organization and other great organizations in UB. It will be a certain change of pace for me (moving from the slower and easier pace of living in the countryside), but I think it can also be really enjoyable to be in the city with people who I love being around and to be engaged in work that is definitely worth doing. It's exciting and challenging at the same time.

July 5, 2010

Water Charity

This is a guest post by Kara Estep
Peace Corps Volunteer in Community Youth Development
Tsetserleg, Arkhangai (Mongolia)

Kara, who we mentioned last month with her Mongolian Helmet Project, is also working to provide better facilities for children at her local summer camp. Here is a little bit more about her project.

July 1, 2010

District 9

District 9 was incredible, amazing. I knew very little about it before seeing it, which is my favorite way to watch fantastic movies. I knew that it involved aliens coming to Earth above South Africa and living like refugees. In case you haven't seen it, I won't tell anymore than that since that's all I wanted to know.

It's a brilliantly written, acted and directed film which touches on everything that makes us human and inhuman. It has my highest recommendation and I really appreciate all the things it has given me to think about, even though that has also made it hard for me to sleep that night...