Observation & Analyzation in Mongolia

Mongolian farmer with lettuce harvest

The below post is from the final months of my 2010 internship in Mongolia. The first part of the internship was 3 months in Ireland. I was 29 & this was my first solo international adventure.


As I quickly approach the end of my 2-months in Mongolia, I find myself trying to evaluate my experience.

Was it worth it?
Did I learn enough?
Would I recommend this internship to someone else?

My Mongolian home

My time in Mongolia has, well, not been the best.

It’s difficult to spend my time sick & trying to heal my body.

Delivery water truck to Gachuurt community storage tanks

The severe dehydration as a result of traveler’s stomach, makes it difficult for me to think & function.

I easily become tired & often at a lost for words.

My daily swims in the Tuul River helped tremendously to feel refreshed

After Ireland, where I could visually see my daily progress & hard work in the garden, my purpose here in Mongolia has been uncertain.

At most times I feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the gardening project.

So many things can be done, so much information can be shared.

Where does one begin?

A family from Ondershill, a small village in the middle of the Gobi Desert

The majority of my gardening knowledge is from childhood summer evenings & personal experimentation.

I’m comfortable farming in the Pacific Northwest & now in Ireland where the climate is very similar.

A typical home in Gachuurt, Mongolia where average temperatures range from -28°F to 81°F

Mongolia is different from what I know.

Average temperatures range from -28°F to 81°F.

How does anything grow in the sand?

Watermelon growing in Gachuurt, Mongolia

With internet access at the Asral Centre in Ulaanbaator, I’ve discovered information that can enhance the production of the gardens here in Gachuurt.

Armed with this new knowledge I’m compiling a report on proper crop care, soil health, & crop rotation, along with ideas for next year.

Stressing the soil with repeated plantings of potatoes is a common sight in Gachuuurt, Mongolia

I’m presenting this information as clear & concise as possible, but how the information will get to where it is most needed is unknown.

Thus, I worry if I am succeeding.

My homestay family with their harvest

The IE3 International Internships’ “Handbook for a Successful Internship,” provided to all interns, prompts me to,

Try to quit worrying about whether you are ‘succeeding’ & just be an observer of yourself & others, knowing that you can ‘analyze’ the experience later if you want to.

With not speaking the local language, I definitely find myself observing.

Cucumbers growing in the middle of the Gobi Desert

I discover aspects of culture that I do not understand & do not agree with – both within my own & Mongolian’s culture.

These moments cause me to be thankful & humble.

An impressive, and delicious, example of Mongolian food preservation

At times the smallest thing, something that I feel should be universal, causes me to yell inside my head: “Don’t you get it?!?!”

Our Gachuurt neighbor in front of her prolific polytunnel

Perhaps I am the one who does not “get it.”