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Nowhere else in the I have experierenced such hospitality!   (published in Mongolia)

August 16, 2010 by   Comments(0)

Coming from Scotland I thought I was used to the freezing cold and had my fair share of interesting customs. However, nothing could have prepared me for the culture shock of Mongolia. The winter here is bitterly cold but almost always with a blue sky. I feel privileged to have seen the mountains surrounding Ulaanbaatar covered in snow and the Gobi's frosty morning sunrises. Mongolia is unlike any country I have ever visited. From the remoteness of the countryside spotted with the occasional Ger camp to the western-feeling Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is a country where you feel as though you have travelled hundreds of years in a matter of miles. The traditional living of Ger families means that they are extremely welcoming; nowhere else in the world have I experienced such hospitality. Travelling through the Gobi and sleeping in a number of gers it always amazed me how willing a family were to give up their homes and beds to visitors, not that we took them! The smell of snuff, taste of Mongolian vodka and warmth of the Ger stove will forever remind me of the friendliness of Mongolians, despite their huge losses of livestock from the freezing winter. If you're visiting Mongolia you would be a fool to miss out on a Gobi tour. Mornings spent sliding down a frozen river, watching eagles hunting and locals wrestling provided me with some of my most memorable moments. Experiencing a Ger for the night is a must; it is the only way to fully understand Mongolian customs away from the bustling capital city.

Coming out of the Gobi and going to work at BTV, one of the country's newest business news channels, was almost as big a culture shock as leaving home. On the 15th floor of a modern looking tower block, owned by a sumo wrestler, the channel hosts its daily news broadcasts and ...

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Nowhere else in the I have experierenced such hospitality!
Nowhere else in the I have experierenced such hospitality!

Southgobi   (published in Mongolia)

August 16, 2010 by   Comments(0)

Southgobi – Umnugobi Province


The Mongolian government established the Great Gobi National Park in 1975 and  UNESCO designated the Great Gobi as the fourth largest Biosphere Reserve in the world in 1991. Mongolians consider that there are 33 different Gobi, where sandy desert occupies only 3 percent of the total territory. The area is often imagined as a lifeless desert like in many other parts of the world. Gobi Desert is a land of dinosaurs and it is the home for camel breeders, rich with wildlife and vegetation. Dinosaur skeletons and their petrified eggs have been preserved here to the present day. Wild asses, camels, snow leopards, mountain sheep and gazelles flourish here, as do different types of flora.


Eagle Valley (Yoliin Am)                                    

Gurvansaikhan Mountains are three rocky hills, the highest of which is 2815 metres above sea level. The eagle valley, a protected site in 1965, is 62 kilometres north-west of Dalanzadgad, in the centre of South Gobi aimag’s very wide entrance, it narrows gradually into a remarkable gorge. A spring two or three kilometers long winds its way through the defile and in July, freezes into a thick corridor of ice that stretches along a considerable distance. Following the canyon to the high rock walls has breathtaking dramatic scenery, and no doubt is one of the most beautiful places in the country.




Khongor Sand Dune (Khongoryn Els)                     

This is ...

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My Host Family Experience   (published in Mongolia)

August 16, 2010 by   Comments(4)

My Host Family Experience


Erika Penner


The past few months living with my hosts, Odno and Ankha, has been an incredibly rewarding and educating experience. In term of its rewards, I have been better taken care of here than back at home. Odno never fails to leave a delicious breakfast waiting for me when I wake up and has always worked hard to accommodate my hectic schedule. I remember how thrilled I was, the first night I arrived, to find that tea, coffee, bread and jam were waiting for me on the counter whenever I should need them. My internal clocks were off that first night and for many nights thereafter, and it was such a relief to have something to snack on when I woke up at 4 in the morning starving (no surprise, since it was lunchtime back in Canada).


 Odno and Ankha have also provided me with a comfortable mix of company and privacy. Back home, I live on my own so I’m used to having a lot of space to myself. I was a bit nervous when I first arrived at my host family’s apartment to find that 4 of us would be living together in the small space. I needn’t have worried. Odno and Ankha have always been careful to give me my privacy, and I’ve always been able to find quiet and refuge in my room when I’ve needed it. I have a lovely soft bed (apparently this is something that Odno and Ankha purchased specifically for volunteers, as Mongolians typically sleep on much harder beds than Westerners are used to), a big window, lots of lovely plants, a TV for when I want to turn my brain off, and lots of space.


In terms of my Mongolian education, Odno has been the perfect teacher. She is, in fact, a teacher of the Mongolian language. When I first arrived, she taught me some key phrases. I wanted to write them ...

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My Host Family Experience
My Host Family Experience

Memorable moments in Ghana. By Caroline Bratt (2 week special volunteer, Akuapem Hills Ghana, June 2010)   (published in Ghana)

August 16, 2010 by   Comments(0)


Before the jet lag kicked in two of my host family's daughters encouraged me to come fetch water with them, and I enthusiastically said yes. We went three times to the pump and during the third trip back I was spilling a lot more water than the first two trips. I can still remember how cheerful the kids were while they waited for their turn and helped the younger kids lift buckets of water on to their heads at the pump. I learned many new hand clapping games and many new friendly faces that laughed with me while we waited our turn to pump water from the faucet. 




Another memorable time was the first time a big rain storm fell over the village. Some of the volunteers and I ran out with the kids in the town and played football and danced in the rain. I remember how clean and refreshed I felt after a tiring day of work and humid heat. The kids were all so happy and excited to be playing and slipping over the muddy ground; when I was with them I felt like I was six again. The fields of green grass, that came up to my head, and banana trees that covered the landscape, gave the community energy and faith as well as spirit making the people look so welcoming and blessed. I am happy and thankful that the community gave me the opportunity to live like them and be another family member in their home.




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Memorable moments in Ghana. By Caroline Bratt (2 week special volunteer, Akuapem Hills Ghana, June 2010)
Memorable moments in Ghana. By Caroline Bratt (2 week special volunteer, Akuapem Hills Ghana, June 2010)

When to visit in Ethiopia   (published in Ethiopia)

August 16, 2010 by   Comments(0)

Ethiopia can be visited at any time of year. People are often advised against traveling during the rainy season, which normally runs June until early October, but with Lalibela being accessible all year through this is less of an issue than it used to be.  Indeed, having traveled in Ethiopia at most times of year my self, I actually feel the rainy season is my favorites period, partially because there are fewer other tourists at sites such as Lalibela, but above all because the scenery is so much more impressive when the countryside is green and well watered.  A lovely time of year is September trough to early October, when the whole country is a riot of wild meskel flowers.

The most popular time to visit Ethiopia is between October and January, when the rains are over but the countryside is still quite green. Many travelers try to schedule their trip to coincide with important festivals such as Ethiopian New year, Ethiopian Christmas, Timkat and Meskel.  The European winter is also the best time for birds, as resident species are supplemented by large numbers of paratactic migrants.

One area where travel options are restricted during the rains is South Omo.  The rains here typically fall in April and May, but they may run earlier or later, for which reason March and June are also probably best avoided, as are the short rains in October.


To anyone who has traveled elsewhere in Africa, Ethiopian food comes as a welcome revelation . instead of the bland gristle and starch that is the standard restaurant fare in most African small towns, Ethiopia food is deliciously spicy and you can eat well virtually anywhere in the country. Contrary to many people’s expectations, most of Ethiopia is fertile, food is easy to find, and ...

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When to visit in Ethiopia
When to visit in Ethiopia

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